You’re waking up on a chilly morning, and all you want is a warm, comforting breakfast to start your day. You crave something healthy yet satisfying, and that’s when I introduce you to Belila (pronounced be-lee-lah), an Egyptian wheat porridge that’s like a hug in a bowl. It’s simple to make, wholesome, and perfect for those cozy mornings when you need a little extra nourishment. I’m excited to share this recipe with you, so let’s dive in!
Belila (pronounced be-lee-lah) is Egypt’s wholesome alternative to oatmeal. This hot porridge is traditionally made with whole wheat grains, also known as wheat berries. A popular breakfast choice, Belila is also enjoyed during Ramadan as a ‘sohour’ meal – the pre-dawn meal Muslims have before their daily fast starts.
Why You’ll Love It
I still remember the comforting aroma wafting through our home as my sisters, and I enjoyed a big batch of Belila. It keeps hunger at bay for quite a while, unlike many commercially available cereals. The creamy, mildly sweet flavors are perfect for a soul-warming breakfast.
If you have trouble finding whole wheat berries, don’t worry! Pearl barley is a fantastic alternative that’s commonly available in grocery stores. It has a similar texture, shape, and taste to whole wheat berries, and I’ve successfully used it in this recipe. So feel free to use either ingredient.
All you need for this recipe is a large bowl for soaking, a large pot for cooking, and a spoon for stirring. Simple, right?
Top your steaming bowl of Belila with chopped nuts, dried fruits, or a dollop of yogurt for added texture and flavor. A sprinkle of cinnamon or a drizzle of honey makes for a delightful finishing touch.
- Can’t find whole wheat berries? Pearl barley is a fantastic alternative.
- Swap whole milk for almond, oat, or any other non-dairy milk for a dairy-free version.
Q: Can I use other grains?
A: While whole wheat berries and pearl barley are the best options, you can experiment with other grains like farro or spelt for a different spin on the classic Belila.
Q: Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
A: To make a gluten-free version of Belila, you can use gluten-free grains like buckwheat groats, quinoa, or millet. The texture and taste might differ slightly, but you’ll still have a delicious and comforting porridge.
Q: Can I make this recipe vegan?
A: Yes, you can make Belila vegan by replacing the whole milk with plant-based milk of your choice, such as almond milk, oat milk, or soy milk.
Q: What are some other toppings I can use for Belila?
A: Get creative with your toppings! You can try fresh fruit, a spoonful of nut butter, a splash of maple syrup, chia seeds, or even a sprinkle of cocoa powder for a chocolate twist.
Belila: Egyptian Wheat Porridge
- 250 g whole wheat berries OR pearl barley
- 1 tbsp baking soda sodium bicarbonate
- 1.5 l water
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 750 ml whole milk
- sugar or preferred sweetener, to taste I used about 8 tbsp. raw sugar
- Place the wheat berries/pearl barley into a larger bowl. Add the baking soda and cover with plenty of water, and leave to soak at least 5 hours, preferably overnight.
- Once the grains are soaked, wash them thoroughly and drain. Place the grains in a large pot with the 1.5 litres of water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, reduce to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, until the grains are tender but still have a bite to them (think of al-dente pasta). The liquid above the level of the grains should have almost all been absorbed/evaporated at this point, and the small amount left should be slightly thick. The pot should not be dry; if at any point during cooking you feel the pot is about to dry out, add more hot water a cup or so at a time.
- Add the vanilla pod/extract and the milk. Bring it up to a very gentle simmer on low, and simmer, while stirring, for a further 10 minutes. Sweeten to taste and serve hot or warm. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, and can be reheated as needed.
My name is Noha.
I’m passionate about food, an avid traveler, and I love to explore new cultures and cuisines whenever I get the chance by sharing my recipes and experiences with my readers.
A big fan of exploring different cuisines and always looking for new and exciting flavors to explore. I’m especially interested in healthy eating and finding ways to make delicious dishes without sacrificing nutrition.