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March 16, 2018
What’s the difference between bulgur wheat and couscous?

No, this isn’t a trick question. Bulgur wheat is truly a completely different ingredient from couscous, even though many people confuse the two. In some areas of Greece, both words are used, referring to the same ingredient: bulgur wheat, which in reality has absolutely nothing in common with couscous. What do you say we take a look at the differences.. and the very few, similarities between the two….

Bulgur and couscous may come from the same “base”… wheat, but they have many differences. One of these is that bulgur is considered a whole wheat. Before it is packaged, it needs to be crushed and partially cooked. Of course, its varieties can differ as to size and color (depending on the shades of the wheat it comes from). It is a main ingredient of Mediterranean cooking and Middle Eastern cooking, which somehow was able to find its way into some dishes in faraway India. Apart from the traditional tabbouleh, you can find it in various salads, pilafs, fillings and even cooked in different ways or… spicier ways. This doesn’t mean that bulgur can be used exclusively in savory recipes. There are many sweet versions of it that are very interesting!

Bulgur and couscous

Moving on to couscous, which contrary to bulgur is not a whole wheat cereal. It is an ingredient made from durum wheat semolina (hull removed). In the past, the first preparation was made with millet; A term which implied in essence, its composition which consisted of small round spherical grains. Spheres which could also come from various raw materials, such as corn or even peas! For the most part though, it is semolina that is sprayed with water and is then boiled in broth, water or steamed in order to get it to become larger in size and become fluffy.

On the market, you usually find the refined couscous, without this meaning that there aren’t companies which offer it in its most raw form (which also gives it a darker shade). Whatever the variety of wheat, its shape remains the same and you could say that it looks like small balls which remind you of small pearls. It is a traditional ingredient that is used in the kitchens of Central, West and North Africa, while you can also find it in the Middle East (just like bulgur). It is used to make salads, while it is a first class side to meat, poultry and even beans! Do you want to know about its sweeter version? It exists and it is made by adding coconut milk, sugar and cinnamon. Couscous comes in different sizes and made in different ways. The larger size, you could say, leans more towards a pasta, while there is a pre-steamed or dry couscous, that is mostly found in the Western cuisines.  

In my kitchen, you can find both of these wonderful ingredients, cooked in a variety of super delicious ways! Following, I have collected some of them for you..

Bulgur wheat

How to cook bulgur wheat by Greek chef Akis Petretzikis

Spinach mushroom and bulgur phyllo pie

Spinach mushroom and bulgur phyllo pie by Greek chef Akis Petretzikis

Tahini and Bulgur Velvet Soup

Tahini and Bulgur Velvet Soup by Greek chef Akis Petretzikis

Bulgur Salad with Chestnuts and Pomegranate

Bulgur Salad with Chestnuts and Pomegranate by Greek chef Akis Petretzikis

Couscous with ginger and hazelnuts

Couscous with ginger and hazelnuts by Greek chef Akis Petretzikis

Chicken with couscous and chickpea salad

Chicken with couscous and chickpea salad by Greek chef Akis Petretzikis

Meatballs and couscous

Meatballs and couscous

Moroccan lamb with couscous

Moroccan lamb with couscous

How many different kinds of dishes using couscous or bulgur as a main ingredient can you come up with? Which one of these do you prefer and which recipe would you highly recommend for me to try? I’m waiting for all of your ideas, recipes and comments!

 

Akis

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