Kisir is a flavorful whole grain salad of bulgur wheat, fresh herbs, veggies, pomegranate. Make this Turkish salad recipe for a tasty and healthy meal!
Meals made with healthy whole grains and fresh, bright herbs are enjoyed in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Of course, the healthiness of dishes like Mediterranean barley salad, tabbouleh, and Pomegranate barley salad is only one reason they’re so popular.
Whole grains are hearty, filling, and they add great flavor and texture to any dish they’re added to. Healthy, hearty, and flavorful defines this popular Turkish bulgur salad perfectly.
You may see the diced pickles in the ingredients and wonder, but trust me, when mixed with the pomegranate and mint is essential in this salad's flavor profile! Recently I brought this to a family potluck and even kids aged 4 and 6 LOVED this salad!
Cuisine: Mediterranean / Turkish
The Republic of Turkey is one of a few countries that lies geographically across two continents. With 3 percent of the land occupying Europe and the remainder in Asia, it’s easy to understand why its population is so diverse.
Turkey lies just north of the Middle Eastern country of Syria and west of the Balkan Peninsula, so Turkish cuisine has Middle Eastern, Asian, and Mediterranean influences. This makes for some incredibly flavorful food with heavy focus on fresh herbs and whole grains.
Course: Main Dish
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Kisir is a fine grain bulgur wheat salad with its primary flavors coming from fresh parsley, mint, tomatoes, and chili paste. Other ingredients in the barley salad can vary from family to family, but pomegranate, cucumbers or pickles, and spring onions are common.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur is a cereal grain made from either red or white wheat, but most often durum. Also known as toasted cracked wheat, named for the production process. This includes parboiling, cracking, toasting and then rolling the kernels.
There are four varieties of bulgur, based on the texture; fine, medium, coarse, or extra coarse. The finer the grain, the less cooking time it needs.
For this bulgur wheat recipe, you'll want to use fine grain bulgur wheat, also known as #1 Fine. I usually purchase mine at a local Middle Eastern market. You can also find Bob's Red Mill Red Bulgur in most markets and pulse several times in a food processor to create a finer grain.
- Pomegranate Molasses
This ingredient is included in kisir salad recipes In the southern parts of Turkey, where spicy and sour flavors are more popular. Northeastern Turkey versions usually call for lemon juice, which you can certainly use in place of the pomegranate molasses if you wish.
Optional ingredients for Turkish barley salad
Using the traditional kisir ingredients of flat leaf parsley, bulgur wheat, tomatoes, lemon, and olive oil, kisir is delicious, but it's a bit too similar to Lebanese or Greek tabbouleh.
The flavor is very fresh and clean tasting, but in my opinion, there isn't a lot of additional texture or flavor going on. So, I like to add other vegetables and ingredients to boost the flavor.
This is where you can get creative with your kisir salad! Because I really like spicy, sour, and sweet flavors together, this is what I added to my barley salad:
- Biber Salcasi - This Turkish red pepper paste can be made with or without spicy chiles. I prefer the one with a little heat. Basically, the condiment is to Turkish cuisine what tomato paste is to Italian. I'll be sharing my recipe on how to make it soon with you!
- Pomegranate molasses and arils
- Chopped dill pickles
Want to serve your Turkish salad as a complete meal?
Bulgur salad is very filling, but there's no reason you couldn't add some meat to the kisir! Chop up some souvlaki, or harissa chicken for a heartier meal.
Kisir Recipe FAQ
While bulgur wheat shouldn't be eaten raw, technically, you don't have to cook it. A simple 15-minute soak in boiling water should be enough to soften the cracked wheat.
Generally speaking, whole grain salads taste the best when they're fresh. Freezing fine grain bulgur may cause the grain to become soggy when you reheat it, but you could try it!
Just be sure to freeze it in a tightly covered, freezer safe container or zip top storage bag.
Kisir (Turkish Bulgur Salad)
- 2 cups fine bulgur wheat (See Note 1)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses or lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp red pepper paste (See Note 2)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 green onions chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes chopped
- 2 dill pickles diced
- ½ cup mint leaves (loosely packed) chopped
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley (loosely packed) chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- pomegranate seeds (arils)
- Lettuce leaves
- Place bulgur wheat and salt in a 4 cup measure and pour the 1 ½ cups boiling water over. Stir well to mix and cover with a lid or a plate and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in pomegranate molasses. Set aside to cool.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat add the olive oil, tomato paste, red pepper paste and cumin. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Let cool.
- In a large bowl mix together the bulgur mixture with the cooked paste mixture. Stir to coat the grains thoroughly. Stir in the green onions, tomatoes, pickles, mint and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds and lettuce leaves.
- If using a coarse grain bulgur, pulse it in a food processor or high speed blender until it's the consistency of fine cornmeal. I buy a 20-ounce bag of Sadaf Bulghur #1 Fine from a Middle Eastern market, or you can buy fine grain bulgur wheat at online retailers. If unavailable, Bob's Red Mill Red Bulgur is readily found in most markets in the States and can be pulsed to a finer grain in a food processor or Vitamix blender.
- Biber Salcasi - Turkish Red Pepper Paste, is a wonderful paste that can be found with or without chiles in any Middle Eastern market. I prefer the one with a little heat. Made from red bell peppers and chiles, it is to Turkish cuisine what tomato paste is to Italian.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.