Gluten-free kisir – Turkish bulgur salad
Kisir is a very tasty and fresh Turkish bulgur salad. When I studied in Istanbul in 2012-2013, I ate it several times and I love it. After I came back from Turkey, I took Turkish classes for a while and my Turkish teacher taught me how to prepare kisir myself. When I learned how to make this recipe, I didn’t eat low FODMAP yet and I used bulgur. Now, I cannot eat that anymore, so I went out to find a gluten-free replacement for bulgur. The recipe that I am going to share with you is for gluten-free kisir.
Kisir is a simple and easy dish that you can prepare beforehand. It is a perfect side dish and great to serve at a BBQ or potluck dinner. I also often prepare a large serving of gluten-free kisir on Sunday, so I can take it with me to work during the week. It is a very easy meal for a meal prep!
The ingredients of the gluten-free kisir
Kisir has several main ingredients. Next to that you see that everybody gives their own twist to the original recipe by leaving certain ingredients out and adding others. The main ingredients for kisir are:
- The most important ingredient is of course Turkish bulgur. For this recipe, you use fine ground bulgur, which is called köftelik or çigköftelik bulgur. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find gluten-free bulgur yet, but there are a few other gluten-free options that you can use as a replacement. For my gluten-free kisir, I use either gluten-free couscous (made from corn) or millet. Both are yellow grains that soften when you boil them. I feel like they are a little more wet and mushy than bulgur is, but if you drain them well after cooking, they make a very good replacement for bulgur.
- Tomato paste and pepper paste. These are used together to make a paste that you stir into the bulgur. This gives the kisir her beautiful orange color. The pepper paste that is used can be found in a Turkish supermarkt and is called biber salçası in Turkish. The pepper paste comes in two versions, a spicy version (called acı in Turkish) and a mild/sweet version (tatli in Turkish). I used to always pick the mild version, but lately I fell in love with the spicy pepper paste. It gives your kisir a light spicy flavor and I love that. It doesn’t matter which version you pick, it depends a bit on whether you like spicy or not.
- Pomegranate syrup. Pomegranate syrup is sweet and a little sour at the same time and is very important for the flavor of kisir. You can also find this in the Turkish supermarket and it is called nar ekşisi in Turkish. Pomegranate syrup is also great to use as a dressing over salads, so it doesn’t have to end up somewhere in the back of your pantry after you made this recipe. If you cannot find pomegranate syrup, you can replace it with some extra lemon juice, but according to my Turkish friends kisir is no kisir without pomegranate syrup in it!
- Turkish green peppers. Turkish green peppers look like red sweet peppers, but then they are green. You can buy them in the Turkish supermarket. Make sure to check that you don’t buy spicy green peppers by accident because they usually sell those too and they will make your recipe very spicy 😉
- Seasonings. Kisir is usually seasoned with onion, pul biber (Turkish red pepper flakes), fresh parsley, lemon juice and sometimes also fresh dill or mint. To replace the onion in this recipe, I used the green part of spring onion. I also add garlic-infused olive oil for some extra flavor. You can buy pul biber cheaply at the Turkish supermarket. If you cannot find it, you can also replace it with some ground chili pepper. Fresh parsley and lemon juice are also a must. Some recipes also add fresh dill or mint. I personally am not a great fan of this, but if you like these flavors, you can definitely add it.
- Vegetables. Next to the Turkish green peppers, some more veggies are usually added to kisir. In most recipes tomatoes are used and sometimes also cucumber. I use both because I like having some extra vegetables in my meals. Kisir is usually served in a leaf of lettuce. I use iceberg lettuce, but you can also use a different kind of lettuce, like romaine lettuce.
As you can see, a trip to the Turkish supermarket is quite necessary for this recipe. I definitely recommend trying to find a Turkish supermarket. Here in the Netherlands, the ingredients are much cheaper there. I go to a Turkish supermarket on a weekly basis for fruit and vegetables because they are so much cheaper there and I save a lot on my groceries like that.
I am not sure how the availability of Turkish supermarkets is in other countries. If you don’t have one nearby, you can also try checking out other supermarkets that sell foreign foods.
Don’t be afraid to use seasonings, like salt, pepper paste and lemon juice in this recipe. Bulgur absorbs flavors easily and if you don’t add enough seasonings the dish can taste bland and that is a shame! For the gluten-free replacements, gluten-free couscous and millet the same is true. So use those spices!
Will you let me know if you have made my gluten-free kisir recipe? I would love it if you would share your creations with me using the hashtag #karlijnskitchen on Instagram or by tagging me through @karlijnskitchen.
Kisir is a very tasty Turkish bulgur salad. I made gluten-free kisir for everybody who can’t tolerate gluten well. It is just as good as the original!
- 200 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) gluten-free couscous / millet (or bulgur if you tolerate wheat)
- 3 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp pepper paste
- 2 green Turkish peppers
- 1 tomato
- 200 g (1 1/3 cup) cucumber, diced
- 2 spring onions (only the green part)
- A handful of fresh parsley
- Juice of 1/2–1 lemon
- 2 tbsp pomegranate syrup
- A pinch of red pepper flakes (can be replaced with chili flakes)
- Pepper and salt to taste
- Optional: a small handful of chopped fresh dill or mint
- An iceberg lettuce
- Prepare the millet or couscous (from now on I will only write millet, but the instructions are the same if you use gluten-free couscous or bulgur, when you tolerate gluten) according to the instructions on the package. You usually prepare couscous by pouring boiling water over it, leave it for 10 minutes with a lid on top of the pan and drain if necessary. The millet needs to be boiled and then drained.
- Drain the millet well and put it into a bowl to cool down.
- Heat three tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil in a pan. Add the tomato paste and pepper paste and fry this shortly while you stir.
- Add some pepper, salt and a splash of water, so it turns into a nice paste.
- Heat it until it starts to bubble a little.
- Turn off the heat and add the paste to the cold millet in the bowl. Stir everything together. The millet will get a nice orange color now.
- Chop the parsley (and the mint or dill if using) and cut the green peppers, tomato and cucumber into cubes. Cut the green part of the spring onions in rings.
- Add the pomegranate syrup, juice of 1/2 lemon and a pinch of pul biber and stir everything together. Taste and season with extra salt, pul biber and lemon juice if necessary. You shouldn’t be scared to season this dish. Millet, couscous and bulgur can all be a bit bland and easily absorb flavors. Therefore, it is important that you taste the dish several times and add seasonings whenever necessary.
- Finally add the green peppers, tomato, cucumber, spring onion and parsley to the kisir. If you use dill or mint, you can add this too now. Stir everything together and taste again if extra seasonings need to be added. You can also add some extra pepper paste if you want to make the kisir a little more spicy.
- Cover the bowl with kisir and put it into the fridge. It is best to make the gluten-free kisir a few hours before you want to serve it, so the flavors have time to develop. After a few hours of waiting, the kisir will taste best!
- Taste the kisir one more time right before you are going to serve it and check if some more salt, pepper or lemon juice has to be added. Serve the kisir in a leaf of iceberg lettuce.
Check the notes about the ingredients above the recipe to find out more about certain ingredients and where to buy them.
You can store the kisir in the fridge for 2-3 days
- Prep Time: 30 min
- Category: Salad
- Method: Chopping
- Cuisine: Turkish
Keywords: kisir, gluten-free kisir, Turkish food
Do you love Turkish recipes as much as I do? Then make sure to check out my other low FODMAP Turkish recipes too!
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