Baking Hermann
Recipes

Keshek el Fouqara (Lebanese Bulgur Cheese)

Keshek el Fouqara (literally "poor man's cheese") is an ancient Lebanese recipe developed by farmers who were too poor to afford a goat to make dairy products. Instead, they soaked and fermented bulgur until it developed cheese-like flavours. A popular recipe until around 50 years ago, it has gotten lost over the last decades. Time to revive it!

Keshek el Fouqara (literally “poor man’s cheese”) is an ancient Lebanese recipe developed by farmers who were too poor to afford a goat to make dairy products. Instead, they soaked and fermented bulgur until it developed cheese-like flavours. A popular recipe until around 50 years ago, it has gotten lost over the last decades. Time to revive it!

Making bulgur cheese from scratch requires patience. It’s a lengthy process of stirring the bulgur every day for around 4-6 weeks until it tastes tangy and fermented, then it is shaped into balls, coated in herbs or spices and stored in jars with olive oil for another 4-6 weeks until it is finally ready. From there, the possibilities are endless. Eat it on some crusty bread with olive oil and black pepper (see image below) or use it to finish savoury dishes, it’s an umami-packed powerhouse in the kitchen.

With Dried Mint

How Does It Taste?

It’s known as poor man’s cheese, because of its visual resemblance, but also because of its somewhat funky flavour notes. The fermented, aged flavour is closest to that of goat’s cheese, but it is a bit of an acquired taste for some.

Benefits of Fermentation

Fermenting the bulgur over several weeks brings with it a range of benefits:

  • Enhanced Nutrition: Fermentation can increase the availability of certain nutrients in foods, such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. For example, fermentation of grains can increase the bioavailability of nutrients like iron and zinc. Additionally, fermentation can break down complex molecules, making them easier for the body to digest.
  • Probiotic Boost: Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that support gut health. Consuming probiotics through fermented foods like this bulgur cheese can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is linked to improved digestion, immune function, and even mental health.
  • Improved Digestion: Fermented foods contain enzymes that can aid in digestion, helping the body break down and absorb nutrients more efficiently. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with digestive issues like bloating, gas, or lactose intolerance.
  • Umami: Certain fermentations like the one occurring during this bulgur cheese process can create glutamic acids, which give food an umami flavour-profile. It turns a humble ingredient into powerful flavour enhancement.

With Sesame Seeds

Storage

  • As long as the finished bulgur cheese balls are covered entirely with olive oil and kept in a dark place, you can store them for several months.

Ingredients

  • 500g bulgur wheat
  • 28g salt
  • 1400 ml water
  • 1l extra virgin olive oil
  • spices, herbs or seeds (optional to add flavour)

Method

Add the bulgur, salt and water to a clean 2l mason jar and stir to combine. Leave the bulgur to absorb the water for around 1 hour, then give it another stir.

Cover the jar with a cheesecloth, keep in a dark place (like the cupboard) and stir it daily for 4-6 weeks with a clean spoon to avoid any growth of fungus. For the first days, the bulgur will rise to the top, but after stirring and pressing it down, there should be enough water to cover the bulgur with a thin layer. If not, add a little bit more. After just a few days, bubbles will rise to the surface when you shake the jar or stir the bulgur, which is a sign the that fermentation has kicked in. A few days later, the bulgur will begin to break down and turn into a paste every time you stir it. You’ll notice a white layer of yeasts developing on the surface of the bulgur, which is normal. By now, it should taste tangy and slightly cheesy and you can keep going until it develops a flavour you like. The time really depends on the ambient temperature and your preference.

Once it’s fermented to your liking, line a colander with cheesecloth and tip the bulgur into the cloth. Then use some butchers string to tie the cheesecloth closed and hang it from a height with a bowl placed underneath to catch any liquid (you can also tie it to the kitchen tap and let it drain into the sink). Let it sit overnight to drain.

The next day, squeeze out more moisture if you can, then tip the paste into a bowl and use your hands to knead it as smooth as possible.

Shape the bulgur mixture into small balls. You can coat them with dried herbs, spices or seeds like sesame and nigella to add flavour. Store them in clean jars and cover them entirely with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. They can be eaten straight away but will develop more complexity over the next 4-6 weeks.

with olive oil and black pepper

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Keshek el Fouqara (Lebanese Bulgur Cheese)

Keshek el Fouqara (literally "poor man's cheese") is an ancient Lebanese recipe developed by farmers who were too poor to afford a goat to make dairy products. Instead, they soaked and fermented bulgur until it developed cheese-like flavours. A popular recipe until around 50 years ago, it has gotten lost over the last decades. Time to revive it!
5 from 1 vote
Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 84 days
Course Staples
Cuisine Lebanese
Servings 24

Ingredients
  

  • 500 g bulgur wheat
  • 28 g salt
  • 1400 ml water
  • 1 l extra virgin olive oil
  • spices, herbs or seeds (optional to add flavour)

Instructions
 

  • Add the bulgur, salt and water to a clean 2l mason jar and stir to combine. Leave the bulgur to absorb the water for around 1 hour, then give it another stir.
  • Cover the jar with a cheesecloth, keep in a dark place (like the cupboard) and stir it daily for 4-6 weeks with a clean spoon to avoid any growth of fungus. For the first days, the bulgur will rise to the top, but after stirring and pressing it down, there should be enough water to cover the bulgur with a thin layer. If not, add a little bit more. After just a few days, bubbles will rise to the surface when you shake the jar or stir the bulgur, which is a sign the that fermentation has kicked in. A few days later, the bulgur will begin to break down and turn into a paste every time you stir it. You'll notice a white layer of yeasts developing on the surface of the bulgur, which is normal. By now, it should taste tangy and slightly cheesy and you can keep going until it develops a flavour you like. The time really depends on the ambient temperature and your preference.
  • Once it’s fermented to your liking, line a colander with cheesecloth and tip the bulgur into the cloth. Then use some butchers string to tie the cheesecloth closed and hang it from a height with a bowl placed underneath to catch any liquid (you can also tie it to the kitchen tap and let it drain into the sink). Let it drain overnight.
  • The next day, squeeze out more moisture if you can, then tip the paste into a bowl and use your hands to knead it as smooth as possible.
  • Shape the bulgur mixture into small balls. You can coat them with dried herbs, spices or seeds like sesame and nigella to add flavour. Store them in clean jars and cover them entirely with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. They can be eaten straight away but will develop more complexity over the next 4-6 weeks.

Notes

Storage: Cover generously with olive oil and store in a dark place for several months.
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17 Comments

  1. Sara Turner

    I would love to try this but can it be made with a non-glutenous grain?

    Reply
    • Julius Fiedler

      Haven’t experimented with that yet, so can’t give any advice here unfortunately. Sorry!

      Reply
  2. Lilla

    Hi, I absolutely love this idea. Thank you for sharing. Im just wondering if I could use probiotic capsule ( only the powder) to speed up fermentation?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Julius Fiedler

      The fermentation is active after 2-3 days. Afterwards, the flavours just develop and you’re also breaking the bulgur down by stirring it daily. I’m not too sure if adding the capsule would actually speed it up!

      Reply
    • Harun Köker

      Is it possible to do with rice wheat? Because of gluten alergic..

      Reply
  3. Joseph

    I would suggest upping the sodium content. Lower than 2% salinity is a precarious state for fermentation. I am making this myself but the salt and water levels had to be adjusted.

    Reply
    • Julius Fiedler

      You’re absolutely right. I’ve actually updated the recipe now based on that, thanks for the tip and apologies for the oversight.

      Reply
      • Jacqueline

        28gr of salt is just the 2% of water, I was told that it should be 2% of total weight, I’m not sure now what it should be

        Reply
    • Alejandro

      Hey what would be the recommended ratio then? Any idea?

      Reply
  4. Carl

    After adding the olive oil, don’t store it in room temperature or in the fridge? Also, what spices would you recommend trying? 🙂

    Reply
    • Julius Fiedler

      Peppercorns, pink peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds or coriander seeds would be a great start. You can store it at room temp as long as it’s covered entirely. ☺️

      Reply
  5. Hemalatha

    Looking forward to trying this cheeseee!
    Can I use any other oil instead of olive oil?

    Reply
    • Julius Fiedler

      Any good quality oil would be fine. It’ll be stored run there for quite long, so make sure you like the flavour.

      Reply
  6. VeggieT8r

    5 stars
    I’m whole food plant based for health issues, and have to avoid free oils. Is there another way to store this safely without immersing it in oil? I make other fermented spreadable vegan cheeses out of oats, nuts and seeds that store for weeks in a jar in the fridge and was wondering why this would be any different if I made a modest amount?

    Reply
    • nuu

      Do you have recipes or links for these cheeses? I need to avoid oils and your examples sound lovely.

      Reply
  7. Alejandro

    Herman! Loved the recipe 😊
    After going through the whole jar of them 🙈 would you say it is possible to reuse the olive oil for a new batch? Maybe filtering with a clean tightly knitted cloth would be recommended. What are your thoughts on this?

    Reply
  8. Eva B

    I have tried this, using ‚red‘ lebanese bulgur given to me by a lebanese friend. Stirred it daily for 6 weeks. It did not break down.
    When I tried to roll the balls, they barely held together. They look pretty in the olive oil jar – it‘s been only 3-4 weeks in oil. I tasted one – liked it, but it was like tangy, softened bulgur, not like cheese.

    Reply

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