In an excess of zeal to remain tidy (or to get tidy, rather), I discarded the bag and can no longer recall whether it was bulgur (bulgar, bulghur, ..) or cracked wheat.

bulgur or cracked wheat

Cracked wheat is "raw". Bulgur is parboiled. Some recipes call for one; other recipes for the other.

How do I determine whether a particular container has bulgur or cracked wheat.

Possibly, the difference in use is small. Might one boil and adjust the cooking time by tasting (as if seeking some kind of al dente)?


Luckily the methods provided by Tesujin and by FuzzyChef give the same answer. It is bulgur. In an update I (or anyone) could post pictures comparing cracked wheat next to bulgur—perhaps with bright light to make the translucence evident. Meanwhile I'll check-mark Tetsujin's answer since it provides a method that anyone can use, not just me for this particular sample.

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    On a side note, I also use jars for storage. And when the bag has some pertinent information, I cut out the piece with that information and drop it into the jar together with the food. This can be the name of the food, or, in a jar with dry pasta, the cooking time. I also had to learn the hard way before I started doing it :) It works better for me than writing on the jar.
    – rumtscho
    Jun 1, 2021 at 18:17
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    @rumtscho 1/2 Ah, yes indeed. I've been diligently cutting the labels and taping them outside the jar. Even bulgur seems to turn slightly if forgotten in a cupboard for two years. Intuitively it could last a longer time. I guessed that the (little) oil that's in there goes rancid. This is all to say that along with the label, I found it critical to also cut and paste the expiry date. For spices, the expiry date is absolutely critical.
    – Sam7919
    Jun 1, 2021 at 19:49
  • @rumtscho 2/2 I now choose spices not by my interests that day, but by which ones are fresher, because even if a spice is only halfway (one year) to its expiry (which might have originally been two years), I can still detect a different aroma and flavor.
    – Sam7919
    Jun 1, 2021 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


Cook some of each.

The one that's done in 20 mins or so is bulgur. [I tend towards 1:1.6 bulgur:water, 15 mins simmer, 15 mins rest.]
The one that eventually needs more water adding & takes at least another half hour is cracked wheat.

…then label them ;))

Alternatively, the heat-free method.
Soak both overnight in excess water. The edible one is bulgur.

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    Ah, neat! But... do you mean that you don't discard the water in which you cooked bulgur? I assumed we treat it like the water in which we boil pasta (discard), rather than the water in which we prepare porridge from oatmeal (boil until the water left is very low). Do you keep the water because too many nutrients would otherwise be lost, or is either option possible?
    – Sam7919
    Jun 1, 2021 at 19:44
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    I cook it like I cook rice, rather than pasta. There's no water left to discard, it's all absorbed. I started doing it this way because someone suggested it might be easier… it was, so that's what I still do ;) Also, most times I cook it, it's part of a pilaf etc.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 2, 2021 at 6:16

Based on the appearance, that's bulgur (we eat a lot of bulgur). #3 size.

The bran on cracked wheat is more opaque and sometimes more colorful. In bulgur, it's translucent as it is in your photo, and hard to distinguish from the endosperm.

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    What do you mean by “#3 size”? Is it just a specific brand’s designation, or is it some regional/national/international standard for sizes/grades of bulgur? On quickly googling, I see some Indian brands using that kind of notation, but I’ve not come across it myself as far as I remember (in NW Europe).
    – PLL
    Jun 2, 2021 at 12:20
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    How nice to read a way to distinguish them visually! After googling "cracked wheat" and looking at the resulting images, I see that, in addition to having many grains of different colors and not looking translucent, cracked wheat looks simply dusty, which is to be expected after having been cracked but not washed. Bulgur's color is not just uniform and translucent, but is quite clearly discernible by looking as if it was washed—a side effect of having been parboiled. In your experience does "dustiness" indicate a jar has cracked wheat and not bulgur?
    – Sam7919
    Jun 2, 2021 at 19:13
  • Wait.. Maybe what I just said doesn't make sense. Brittanica (britannica.com/topic/bulgur) says "parboiled, dried, and ground". If they really mean that order, with parboiling preceding the grinding, then bulgur would be equally "dusty". But it makes no sense. Bulgur factories surely want to save energy by grinding before parboiling, since the boiling time needed for the same tenderness would then be reduced.
    – Sam7919
    Jun 2, 2021 at 19:20
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    PLL: ah, I had no idea they didn't use it in Europe. In the US and the Middle East, bulgur is graded #1 to #4, smallest to biggest. You use #1 for tabouleh, and #4 for pilaf.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jun 2, 2021 at 20:06
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    Sam: Yeah, and I've seen dusty bulgur; a standard step for some recipes is to shake the bulgur in a sieve to remove starchy dust so the resulting bulgur is more "fluffy". However, whether the bulgur is actually dusty can be separate from whether it appears dusty.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jun 2, 2021 at 20:07

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