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Instant Pot Kısır (Spicy Turkish Bulgur Salad)

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ORIGINS: 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 kısır salad preferred in southern areas of the country, which is a bit spicier and features southern standbys like cumin.

Instant Pot Kısır Salad

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!
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Turkish
Servings: 2 meal-sized bowls
Calories: 388kcal
Cost: $1.38 per bowl

Ingredients

Salad Base (to pressure cook)

  • 1 cup cracked wheat 150 g; see Note 1
  • 1 small onion, diced 150 g
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste 15 g
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste aka biber salçası 15 g *optional
  • 1/2 tsp cumin 1 g *optional; see Note 2
  • 1 cup water 240 g

Kısır Additions (to add after pressure cooking)

  • 1 Roma tomato 150 g
  • 1 cup parsley 30 g
  • 3 scallions 15 g or 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper 3 g
  • 1 tsp fine salt or 1½ tsp kosher salt 6 g
  • 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 10 g *optional
  • 1 tsp sumac *optional

Instructions

  • Add cracked wheat, diced onion, tomato paste, pepper paste, cumin (optional) and water to the Instant Pot.
  • Use “Pressure Cook” setting (“Manual” on older models) for 5 minutes at High Pressure, or use the “Rice” setting on Low Pressure for 12 minutes. 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.
fresh vegetable ingredients for kısır salad

Recipe 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.
turkish kısır salad made with dalia (cracked wheat)

Kısır Salad Base

The first 6 ingredients of this recipe (the “Salad Base” in the recipe card above) 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 these roasted eggplants.

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 that’s probably what it is (ie. 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.

Celebrating Spring!

turkish bulgur salad with parsley, tomatoes, and sumac

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.

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!

Nutrition, Cost, and Emissions Information

Each meal-sized portion of kısır salad is 388 cal, costs $1.38, and releases 474 gCO2e of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Calculation for full recipe as written (2 servings):

Feel free to contact me for sources on the nutritional and carbon emissions information presented here. Note that I am not a nutritionist and guidelines on this page are provided for informational purposes only.


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