Kisir is a simple, flavor-packed Turkish bulgur salad. It has some similarities to tabbouleh but with it's own distinct and delicious tart-savory flavors. Great as a meze dish or a side.
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I first had kisir in a Turkish restaurant in London a number of years ago. It was described on the menu as a Turkish tabbouleh with pomegranate, but it almost seems to sell it short. I know the description was mainly because this Turkish salad is less well known, but it's worth enjoying it for it's own tasty qualities.
Don't get me wrong, I am a big, big fan of tabbouleh. But kisir has some definite differences. And I don't mean that in a negative way - the differences are what makes kisir as special as it's Lebanese cousin.
What is bulgur?
Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and cracking (or grinding) wheat berries. It's most typically made from durum wheat, but can vary, and it can be either small or large pieces. Being wheat, it's not without carbs, but it is a whole grain and high in both fiber and folate.
How is kisir different from tabbouleh?
If you look at the list of ingredients, you will probably recognize that many are in tabbouleh as well. But there are two key differences:
- The dressing for kisir is much thicker. It still includes lemon and olive oil, but also has tomato paste and, usually, pomegranate molasses.
- While some versions of tabbouleh you'll see overseas are heavily bulgar-based, traditionally it's a very herb-dense salad. Kisir uses a much smaller amount of herbs, cucumber and tomato.
Some versions of kisir use a kind of semi-spicy red pepper taste alongside the tomato paste, but I for one don't feel this needs to be spicy.
You could, in theory, skip the pomegranate molasses which is basically a syrup made from pomegranate juice. However for me it's an essential part of the flavor and it's easier to find than you might think (you can get pomegranate molasses online, if you can't find in store - affiliate link).
Kisir is traditionally served as part of a meze platter, where lots of small plates are served together at the start of the meal. However, it would be equally good as a side dish to grilled meat or vegetables, for example. It holds up well to transport it for a potluck or boxed lunch.
However you serve it, kisir is an easy, versatile salad that's packed with flavor. The soft bulgur is deliciously tart from the dressing, with just enough crunch from the cucumber to add texture. Be sure to add it to your to-make list!
Looking for ideas to serve with kisir? Try these:
- Lamb kofte.
- Roasted eggplant with tahini.
- Lahmacun (Turkish flatbread/pizza).
- Some bread with hummus (like Ottolenghi's recipe), muhammara and/or baba ghanoush.
- Plus see the Turkish recipes and Middle Eastern recipes archives for more ideas.
Kisir - Turkish bulgur salad
- ½ cup bulgur 85g (fine if possible)
- ½ cup water 120ml, boiling hot
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (UK: tomato puree)
- 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tomato
- ½ Persian cucumber or ¼ English cucumber
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 spring onion or 2, to taste (scallions) - optional
- Put the bulgur into a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water to give a layer of water over the bulgar of around ½in/1cm. Set aside to absorb the water around 10 minutes while you prepare everything else.
- Meanwhile, mix together the dressing ingredients - the tomato paste, olive oil, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice.
- Dice the cucumber and tomato relatively small and finely chop the parsley. Slice the spring onion in thin slices, if using.
- Once the bulgur has absorbed the water, drain off any excess water then mix through the dressing. Add and stir through the tomato, cucumber and parsley (plus onion, if using).
- Serve there and then or chill until needed (best served room temperature).
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