Spicy Turkish kisir

Spicy Turkish kisir

New Feast
Alan Benson

In Lebanon and Syria they have tabbouleh; in Turkey they have kısır. The ingredients in kısır vary from town to town, but in the south-east of the country it is usually pepped up with spicy red pepper paste and pomegranate molasses. While Arab versions of tabbouleh are, in essence, herb salads flecked with bulgur, Turkish kısır is staunchly grain based. Both salads, though, make a great addition to a mezze table, and are best eaten scooped up in little lettuce leaves.

Don’t be tempted to increase the amount of boiling water here: it doesn’t look like a lot of liquid, but the bulgur will soften further in the juice from the tomatoes and the dressing.


Quantity Ingredient
200g fine bulgur wheat
125ml boiling water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper paste, (see note)
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 long green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
5 spring onions, finely chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
baby lettuce leaves, to serve


  1. Soak the bulgur in the boiling water for 15 minutes, then tip into a large bowl. There’s no need to squeeze out the water, as you want it to keep absorbing moisture.
  2. Add the pastes, lemon juice, molasses and oil to the bulgur. Use clean hands to work the grains so that the pastes and liquid are evenly distributed and the bulgur is tinted a pretty pale pink. Add the chilli, tomatoes, spring onions and herbs and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding salt and pepper and more lemon juice or pomegranate molasses if required.
  3. Mound the salad onto a serving platter and garnish with baby lettuce leaves. Alternatively, use wet hands to form the mixture into walnut-sized balls and serve them nestled in the lettuce leaves.


  • If you don't want to make your own, you’ll find Turkish red pepper paste in Middle Eastern grocers and some specialist food stores.
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