Instant Pot Kısır (Spicy Turkish Bulgur Salad) - Earth to Veg
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Instant Pot Kısır (Spicy Turkish Bulgur Salad)

Kısır is a meze or appetizer salad enjoyed throughout Turkey. Every region has their own version of this dish, and really, the only constant is bulgur or cracked wheat. This recipe leans towards the variety of kisir salad preferred in southern areas of the country, which is a bit spicier and features southern standbys like cumin.

Turkish kısır salad made with dalia (cracked wheat), in a grey bowl nestled with a white tea towel.

Celebrating Spring!

As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I’m not a salad person. However, spring, to me, is THE season for salad because the weather is finally getting warm enough to eat cold meals. When you see this gorgeous bowl of colour don’t you just feel a spring in your step?? Dkm.

And kısır is actually ok with me because I absolutely love the texture of cracked wheat. When cooked properly, it’s got the perfect amount of chewiness and bite to add texture to any dish and make it more interesting. I prefer cooking it in the Instant Pot because it yields a consistently awesome result without having to keep watch over the stove and worry about burning or sogginess.

For an even simpler no-cook recipe, give Hiyayakko a try; it’s a Japanese cold tofu dish that involves absolutely no heat at all.

What You’ll Need

Kisir Salad Base: The first 6 ingredients of this recipe (the “Salad Base” in the Recipe Card) make a great base for many other salads and meals. On its own it’s also a tasty side to serve with this Turkish Lentil Soup or this Roasted Eggplant Casserole.

The ingredients for kisir salad base are laid out on a grey countertop.

Feel free to experiment to come up with your own take on bulgur salad and please let me know in the comments what you have tried!

Bulgur vs Cracked Wheat

Both bulgur and cracked wheat come from wheat berries that have been, well, cracked. This reduces their cooking time while preserving all the nutrients of whole wheat.

suraj brand dalia (cracked wheat)

Bulgur or burghul is just cracked wheat that has been parboiled and fully cooked. That’s why you’ll see some recipes that simply call for soaking it in boiling water to rehydrate before eating. This makes it more convenient than cracked wheat, which has to be cooked for a longer time. Bulgur is more common than cracked wheat in Turkey, likely for this reason.

Also, bulgur comes in many different colours (yellow, brown, light, dark, etc.) and sizes. It usually comes in different grades depending on how small it has been ground:

  • #1 = fine
  • #2 = medium
  • #3 = coarse
  • #4 = extra coarse

Oftentimes you can even find “extra fine” bulgur. For kısır, #1 (fine) is used, although you can substitute more coarser grinds; you’ll just have to soak the grains for longer.

Confusingly, sometimes brands will label bulgur as cracked wheat on the same package even though these terms aren’t interchangeable. If you see “bulgur” on the package and it’s from a Middle Eastern brand such as Ziyad, Reis, or Özsarı, then it’s safe to assume it’s been precooked. If you see only the words “cracked wheat” or “dalia” (the Hindi word for cracked wheat, as it’s common in Indian cuisine) then make sure to cook it fully before using.

Step-by-Step Process

Water being poured into an Instant Pot filled with kisir base ingredients.

Step 1: Add all of the Salad Base ingredients (cracked wheat, diced onion, tomato paste, pepper paste, cumin) and water to the Instant Pot.

All the kisir base ingredients are mixed well in the Instant Pot.

Step 2: Give everything a mix. Use Pressure Cook setting (“Manual” on older models) for 5 minutes at High Pressure. Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes.

Chopped fresh vegetable ingredients for kısır salad on a wooden chopping board.

Step 3: Meanwhile, prep the rest of the rest of the ingredients: chop the tomato, parsley, scallions, and gather the spices.

Parsley, green onions, and spices are layered on top of the salad base.

Step 4: Release any remaining pressure in the Instant Pot and open the lid. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Taste for salt and spice level.

Make Ahead & Storage

Fridge: Kısır salad can be stored in the fridge (using an airtight container) for up to 5 days.

Freezer: I haven’t tried freezing this salad yet, but because of the amount of fresh raw veggies in this salad, I don’t recommend freezing it as the texture may become soggy once defrosted.

Recipe FAQs

What is Turkish bulgur made of?

Turkish bulgur, also known as bulgur pilavı, is a popular grain used in Turkish cuisine. It’s made from cracked wheat that has been parboiled and then dried. The process involves removing the wheat bran and grinding the wheat kernels into coarse, medium, or fine grains, depending on the desired texture. To prepare Turkish bulgur, the grains are typically soaked briefly in water to soften them before cooking. They are then cooked in a mixture of water or broth, along with various seasonings such as onion, garlic, herbs, and spices. The result is a fluffy and flavorful grain dish that serves as a versatile base for many Turkish recipes, including pilafs, salads, and stuffings. Bulgur is a nutritious and high-fiber ingredient, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. It is commonly used as a healthier alternative to rice or couscous and is a staple in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Is Turkish bulgur healthier than rice?

Comparing the health benefits of Turkish bulgur and rice depends on various factors, including the specific type of rice and how they are prepared. Both Turkish bulgur and rice are nutritious, but their nutrient profiles differ. Bulgur is made from whole wheat kernels and retains more nutrients, including fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, compared to refined white rice. However, brown rice or other whole grain rice varieties can be more comparable in terms of nutrient content. Bulgur also contains more dietary fiber than most types of rice. It also has a lower glycemic index (GI) compared to white rice, meaning it has a slower and steadier impact on blood sugar levels. Note that brown rice or basmati rice also have lower GI values compared to white rice.

What happens if you don’t rinse bulgur wheat?

Rinsing bulgur wheat helps remove excess starch on the surface, resulting in a fluffier and less sticky texture when cooked. If you skip the rinsing step, the cooked bulgur may be slightly stickier or clump together. Rinsing bulgur wheat can also help eliminate any residual dust, dirt, or impurities that may be present.

More Instant Pot Salads

For other salad recipes, check out this Chinese Cucumber Bean Curd Salad or this Russian Olivier Salad. Both involve cooking components that can be done in the Instant Pot to eliminate any stovetop use (though stovetop instructions are included as well). They’re perfect for the upcoming summer months when it’ll be too hot to turn on the stove.

What’s your favourite sunny weather salad? Share with me in the comments below!

Closeup of kısır salad with parsley, lemon slices, and tomatoes in the background.

Recipe Card

Did you make this recipe? Please consider leaving a rating below to let me know how you liked it.

You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @earthtoveg, I will shout you out in my Stories!

A grey bowl filled with kisir salad is garnished with parsley sprigs, lemon slices, and tomatoes.

Instant Pot Kısır Salad

5 from 1 vote
Author: Kelly
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Turkish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 meal-sized bowls
Calories: 413kcal
Cost: $1.38 per bowl
Use an Instant Pot to perfectly cook the base of this Turkish kısır salad while you chop the veggies. Then just toss everything together for an easy spring salad!
Print Recipe

Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.

Equipment

  • Instant Pot (or similar pressure cooker)

Ingredients

Salad Base (to pressure cook)

  • 1 cup cracked wheat see Note 1
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste aka biber salçası *optional
  • ½ tsp cumin *optional; see Note 2
  • 1 cup water

Kısır Additions

  • 1 Roma tomato
  • 1 cup parsley
  • 3 scallions around 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fine salt or 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper aka pul biber *can sub with chili flakes
  • juice of ½ lemon or 2 tbsp şalgam suyu see Note 3
  • 1–2 tbsp pomegranate molasses *optional; see Note 4
  • 1 tbsp olive oil *optional
  • 1 tsp sumac *optional

Instructions

  • Add all of the Salad Base ingredients (cracked wheat, diced onion, tomato paste, pepper paste, cumin) and water to the Instant Pot.
  • Use "Pressure Cook" setting ("Manual" on older models) for 5 minutes at High Pressure. Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prep the rest of the rest of the ingredients: chop the tomato, parsley, scallions, and gather the spices.
  • Release any remaining pressure in the Instant Pot and open the lid.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Taste for salt and spice level.

Notes

  1. If you have bulgur instead of cracked wheat, there is no need to use the Instant Pot since bulgur is already cooked (see “Bulgur vs Cracked Wheat” section below). Just put the Salad Base ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour over 1 cup of boiling water. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Cumin is often found in kısır recipes from the south of Turkey. I happen to prefer this version with a little cumin, but nothing wrong with leaving it out either.
  3. Şalgam suyu is a sour Turkish drink made from fermented carrots.
    • I was inspired to sprinkle in some şalgam after reading Somer Sivrioğlu’s kısır recipe in the cookbook Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking. His version calls for pickle juice.
    • According to M. Ömür Akkor in Ottoman Cuisine: A Rich Culinary Tradition, “in 16th century, janissaries used to eat salads prepared with turnip juice, cucumber, radish, onion, garlic, and vinegar.” I thought this added quite a nice flavour to the salad.
  4. Pomegranate molasses, aka nar ekşisi, is a Turkish condiment traditionally used in kısır. It also adds a bit of sweetness. Feel free to substitute any of lemon, şalgam, or pomegranate molasses for each other, but it’s necessary to have at least one sour ingredient in there for kısır’s signature flavour. You can also try substituting balsamic vinegar for the pomegranate molasses. I haven’t tried this myself, but I heard it’s a decent substitute.

Nutrition

Calories: 413kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 1264mg | Potassium: 868mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 2413IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 5mg
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