Tabbouleh

A few months ago I wrote a piece about parsley and what an important herb it is for brightening the flavor of foods. Several of you suggested that your favorite thing to make with parsley is tabbouleh, a middle eastern salad of sorts made with bulgur wheat and lots of chopped fresh parsley. Here’s our version. It’s a cinch to make. The thing that requires the most work actually is just the chopping up of the parsley. Don’t skimp on the olive oil. The salad needs it or it will be dry. Feel free to add some chopped cucumber, or even chile for a little heat. A good winter-time substitute for the fresh tomatoes is some canned roasted red peppers, or sun-dried tomatoes. Serve with hummus and some pita bread.

Tabbouleh Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vegetable stock (for vegetarian option), chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Zest and juice from 2 lemons
  • 5-6 Roma or plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped, including the greens
  • 2-3 cups parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Method

1 Place the bulgur in a medium sized bowl. Bring the stock or water and the teaspoon of salt to a boil, pour it over the bulgur. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

2 In a large bowl, add the olive oil, lemon juice, bulgur and mix well. Add in all the other ingredients and mix to combine.

3 Taste the tabbouleh, and add more salt, olive oil or more lemon juice to taste. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Will keep chilled for several days.

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30 Comments

  1. Susanne

    I know it’s not traditional, but I use red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice.

  2. Susan

    I love to add the cucumber and some feta cheese, too. This is a summer favorite here at our house. We make it in the morning or the night before and then dinner is ready and waiting! The roasted red pepper or sun-dried tomatoes is very intriguing. Definitely going to have to try that very soon.

  3. Kristin

    This looks good! I had someone tell me once that tabbouleh was very difficult but this looks super easy! I also think it would be good with quinoa. Have to try it this weekend.

    It would be great with quinoa! A good gluten-free alternative. ~Elise

  4. grumblefish

    I love to add a little bit of cumin and/or curry powder and a touch of Chinese 5 spice to my tabbouleh. Just enough for a subtle undertone of smoky sweet spice.

    Great idea, thanks! ~Elise

  5. The Nervous Cook

    I only recently had tabbouleh for the first time, I’m embarrassed to admit — so delicious!

    I wonder how it would taste with a mixture of parsley and cilantro, instead of just parsley (since the two are in the same family). Have you ever tried it?

    And then use lime juice instead of lemon? Haven’t tried it but it’s worth a shot. ~Elise

  6. Anna

    For those who can’t eat wheat/gluten, try subbing quinoa or wild rice for the bulgar wheat.

    I also keep the BG-raising carbs (yes whole grains can raise BG too high, too) down by lowering the ratio of quinoa/grain in relation to the veggies & leaves – so it’s more of a veggie salad than a grain salad.

  7. SaraH

    Yay! One of my favorite dishes that I always order from the numerous Mediterranean restaurants in our town. I’ve found that the seasonings and parsley/tomato/bulgur ratios can vary WIDELY. Just an FYI that for this dish in particular, the quantities of many of the ingredients can be tweaked to your personal preference.

  8. Lulu

    mmmm….I LOVE tabbouleh. I make mine pretty much the same way, except I chop the tomatoes and cucumbers and keep them separate from the bulgur mixture, allowing each person to add as little or as much as they want to their plate.
    It’s a little trick my mother taught me that allows the tabbouleh to keep for much longer than when you mix the tomatoes in. We like to make a big batch and pick at it all week. :)

    I also add finely chopped red onion; it adds a nice zip.

  9. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I really fell in love with tabbouleh when I began to grow flat-leaf parsley in my herb garden. The fresh flavor is irresistible, and in tabbouleh the parsley really plays a staring role. Your photo makes it glow!

  10. Paige

    I found a tabbouleh recipe about a year ago that I’ve been making since. The secret ingredient is a pinch of cinnamon. I often feel overpowered by tabbouleh because it’s too sour. The addition of cinnamon rounds out the flavors and I think it’s delicious. I wonder if the cinnamon addition is region-specific, and if so, where it originated.

    Great idea to add a dash of cinnamon, thanks! ~Elise

  11. Jeni

    I wonder if there’s a decent substitution for bulgur in order to make a GF tabbouleh of sorts. Quinoa seems a bit small to generate the right texture; buckwheat seems like it would be a bit too strong in flavor. Any thoughts?

    I would use quinoa. It’s nutty, has a great texture. Lots of people use quinoa as a GF substitute in tabbouleh. ~Elise

  12. marya

    Looks delicious. My mom makes a tabbouleh with quinoa that is really good. Since I’ve got that and not bulgur wheat, I’ll try it with quinoa. Thanks!

  13. Rick Grunwald

    Try making it with basil instead of the mint
    YUM :)

  14. Shanda

    I just stick my parsley in a food processor and it does all the chopping for me. I actually put everything in the processor but the tomatoes. Yum.

  15. Rosa

    I often keep quinoa because I have a gluten free child. The great thing about it is my picky daughter will eat it, and she loves it better than rice. I often use only cilantro, since my local market does not carry fresh parsley. I also use fresh zuchinni, and yellow squash. when I use the green squash, sometimes my family thinks I snuck in some avocado, (and I have used avocado too). I never use mint, as no one likes mint here, but I use a mixture of available fresh onion types. Today, I am making it with all cilantro, fresh veges, and serving it with broiled fish. It is great as a side dish, as I usually pack it with fresh veges that are in season.

  16. Erick

    Love it, is it okay if this kind of recipe can be more hotter like putting lots of chili? I really love hot.

    Sure, put in as much chili as you want. ~Elise

  17. mike

    I’ve been making tabbouleh since the late 70’s, early 80’s. My recipe differs a little from yours in that I do not boil the water/stock. I just cover the Bulgur to the depth of the first joint of the index finger and leave it sit for an hour. At this time I’ll squeeze any excess moisture.
    I began substituting cilantro very early on. I’ve always grown it and around here it’s always available in the stores. It gives a less harsh flavour to the salad. I also finely dice a Serrano pepper complete (no coring or seeding,thank you very much), for a small kick in flavour. Also, if you don’t have a good grade of decent olive oil on hand, Zesty Italian Dressing works pretty well in a pinch. I prefer Wish Bone brand. As for lemon or lime, well I’ve always used what I had on hand, it’s good with either.

  18. Rosa

    I try to always have Olive oil on hand. One time I did not, I added a few drops of toasted sesame seed oil to the salad oil I used, and used Ume plum vinegar (omit salt if using this, as it is naturally very salty), and used sliced shitake mushrooms, green onion, shredded carrot,small bits of finely sliced colored bell peppers, sliced celery, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and a thinly sliced serrano pepper, and about 4 scrambeled eggs. Of course, I used the usual whole bunch of cilantro and served with slices of lemon and lime on the side, and topped with fresh sprouts (any kind will do, my family usually likes spicy sprouts). I then served along side a slice of grilled tofu that had been brushed with plum sauce prior to grilling. Even the meat eaters loved it!

  19. Joan

    Tabbouli is a summer staple at my house, along with your black bean quinoa salad recipe. I just boil hot water in the teapot and soak the bulgur in that. We add tomatoes and cucumber. Another add-in if tomatoes are in bad shape is a can of rinsed chick peas, also adds some protein for a complete meal.

    P.S. I love your site!

  20. Sally

    I love tabblouleh, but with (lots!) more parsley than bulgar.

  21. Susan

    Hi ELise,

    The recipe look lovely!
    I’m from Lebanon (Middle East) where originally this recipe comes from.
    We make it with ‘fine’ bulgur and add more tomato and less bulgur.
    We don’t soak the bulgur, we just dip it in the minced tomatoes to soak there slowly or sprinkle water on them coated completely. Also we add a couple of tbsp of Pomegranate Molasses which gives it a lovely taste, so if we add this, we usually skip the lemon juice because it can turn out a bit sour/acidic. We also add other condiments like dry mint, little pepper, and of course, salt.

  22. Nicolette

    I love tabbouleh and the more parsley the better. For a gluten-free alternative to bulgar, I use rice and lentils – straight out of a recipe from Epicurious. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Lentil-and-Rice-Salad-103673

    I always squeeze in extra lemon and mint too.

  23. Denis

    Try a bit of Lebanese allspice in the tabouleh and serve on a leaf of crisp Romaine lettuce…mmmmm,

  24. Kelly Wulff

    I, also, keep the tomatoes & cukes separate. Lasts much, much longer! And I always add Marie Sharp’s habanero hot sauce! Yum!!

  25. Dara

    Tabbouleh is one of my favorite salads – the brightness of both the parsley and lemons is so addictive. Letting the salad sit for at least 30 minutes is a great tip. It really does allow the flavors to intensify and meld.

  26. Nadine

    Hey Elise,

    Tabouleh is a regular sunday must in Lebanon, (where the Tabouleh comes from)
    Here are some tips:
    * don’t need the stock
    * Use Way less Bulgur
    * Use more Tomatoes
    * Try to find the Middle Eastern All Spice

    Tabouleh is best served with Home made french fries, BBQ and Humus!!!
    Enjoy!

  27. Joyce Pinson @friendsdriftinn

    A gluten free cousin made this for us substituting quinoa for the barley.

  28. Sharon

    This is a great recipe, but I add minced garlic to mine (to taste). I then let it sit for about an hour to help meld the flavors.

  29. Dummy Cooker

    I just tried this recipe and the outcome is delicious! I am a vegetarian and now I’ve got my main dish for a few days:)
    I liked the idea of adding cinnamon – it does make difference!

  30. Claire

    I am trying this recipe tomorrow with brown rice couscous, which is gluten free.

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