Light, refreshing and deliciously lemony, this traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh recipe is perfect for BBQs, picnics, and beach day takeaways!
What is Tabbouleh Salad?
Originally from the mountains of Lebanon and Syria, Tabbouleh or Tabouli is one of the most popular salads in Middle Eastern cuisine today. The salad is made of lots of fresh parsley, and dotted with tomatoes, cucumber and bulgur wheat. It is served at cold and seasoned with a simple olive oil lemon dressing.
What do you need to make Tabbouleh salad?
This delicious parsley salad requires only a few, easy to find ingredients.
- Parsley is the most important ingredient of this salad. I prefer using curly parsley, but flat-leaf parsley or Italian parsley will work as well. To prepare the parsley for the salad, first cut off the stem part from the bunch. Wash the leaves in cold running water and then dry thoroughly using a paper towel or a salad spinner.
- Fresh mint leaves add a delightful freshness to this salad. To prepare, first remove the mint leaves from the stems and wash the leaves thoroughly by running them under cold water. Do not use warm or hot water as the leaves will wilt.
- Vine-ripened and Campari tomatoes are the best tomatoes to pick for this recipe. Remove the core with a spoon before dicing and place in a colander so that the juice drains away. It is important to remove the juice so that the salad is not soggy and has a beautiful dry and fluffy texture. Cherry or grape tomatoes are great options when tomatoes are not in season.
- Cucumber is optional and not used in traditional Lebanese tabbouleh salad recipes, but I include it because it adds a delightful crunch. If you are using regular cucumbers with seeds, it is a good idea to remove the core with a spoon prior to dicing it. Dry the cucumber pieces with a paper towel or place in a colander to drain so that the pieces are dry before adding to the salad.
- Use green onions to add a bit of subtle onion flavor to the salad. Use both the white and the green part. You can substitute finely diced red onion or white onion, if green onions are not available.
- Bulgur or cracked wheat is a signature ingredient in this dish. Finely ground bulgur is best for this salad. If you are able to find finely ground bulgur, simply soak the fine bulgur in the salad dressing. For the coarser versions cook it with some water as described, over a stovetop. The bulgur can be substituted with couscous and quinoa. Quinoa has the added advantage of making the salad gluten and grain free.
- The main ingredients for the dressing are olive oil, minced fresh garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice and salt. The lemon juice must be fresh - you can use limes if you wish. The minced garlic is optional, and I use it because it adds more flavor to the dressing. Use a high-quality extra virgin olive oil, as it will make a difference!
How do you make this Lebanese Tabbouleh recipe?
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Add the minced garlic and salt. Set aside.
- Prepare the bulgur: If the bulgur is super fine, add it to the dressing to soften and soak. If not, add the bulgur to a small pot and add ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until tender - about 2-3 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid if any. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- Prepare the vegetables: Wash all the vegetable. De-seed the cucumbers and ripe tomatoes, then dice. Place in a colander so the excess water drains away. Finely chop the parsley and the mint, preferably using a sharp knife as opposed to a food processor. Thinly slice the green onion - both the white and green part.
- Toss the salad: Place the chopped vegetables and bulgur in a large bowl. Add the dressing. Toss to combine. Season with more salt and lemon juice if needed. Serve at room temperature or cold.
How to serve Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad
This is one of my most favorite Lebanese recipes because it is so versatile.
- In a lettuce wrap: Tabbouleh is traditionally eaten by scooping it up with lettuce or in a lettuce wrap in Lebanon.
- As a side: Tabbouleh is excellent as a side for grilled meats like like Beef Seekh Kabab and burgers as the lemony taste is a perfect complement to help balance and cut the fat. It also pairs really well with all types of fish and seafood. Tabbouleh is typically serves with a bunch of different appetizers like hummus, baba ghanoush and falafel in Lebanon. Finally, it's a great dish for a picnic or a barbeque.
- Inside a sandwich or wrap: Add the tabbouleh as a layer inside a sandwich (try our Lebanese Pita Bread Recipe) for some additional zing!
- As a rice substitute: This is my personal favorite - if you want to cut carbs - substitute some or all of your rice in a meal with Tabbouleh!
What to serve with this tabouli salad recipe
This Lebanese salad goes really well with a number of dishes such as
- Khachapuri Adjaruli
- Easy Chilean Sea Bass
- Best Beef Koobideh
- Moroccan Lamb
- Baked Bratwurst
- Chicken Karahi
- Miso Braised Beef
Tips to make the best Tabbouleh Salad
- Use cold water: When washing the parsley, be sure to use cold water so that the parsley does not wilt.
- Chop with a knife: Finely chop the Tabbouleh with a knife. I do not recommend a food processor, especially for the parsley because it can ruin the fluffy texture of the salad by making it watery.
- Use dry ingredients: Make sure that the parsley, mint, tomato, and cucumber is dry for maximum flavor. Use a colander to drain off the excess juice. Drying the ingredients also helps the parsley salad last longer!
- Tomatoes: Use the ripest tomatoes for the best tasting salad. Note that the tomatoes also need to firm so that it can be neatly dices after removing the juicy interior.
- Use good quality olive oil: A high quality olive oil will maximize the flavor of this authentic tabbouleh salad recipe.
Tabbouleh can be made 3-4 days ahead. Simply store the Tabbouleh in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Mix once before serving to make sure the dressing is evenly distributed. The salad actually tastes better the next day! You cannot freeze the salad.
Authentic Lebanese Tabbouleh is made with bulgur, so it is not grain or gluten-free. Bulgur is not gluten free as it is made from cracked wheat. For an untraditional, gluten free option use quinoa.
This Lebanese Tabbouleh recipe is packed with healthy ingredients. The main ingredient parsley, is high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants, It also helps reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, Tabbouleh should last about 3-4 days. You cannot freeze the salad.
Omit the bulgur for a keto friendly version of this simple salad
Nowadays, bulgur is easily available in local grocery stores or supermarkets in the specialty grain section. You can also find it in Middle Eastern specialty stores or natural food stores.
Lebanese Tabbouleh Recipe
For the dressing
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice to taste
- 1 clove garlic medium, minced
- ½ teaspoon table salt to taste
For the salad
- ¼ cup bulgur wheat extra fine, uncooked
- 1 cup cucumber diced, optional
- 1 cup vine ripened tomatoes diced
- 3 bunches curly parsley
- ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves optional
- 2 green onions both green and white part
- In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the minced garlic and salt. Set aside.
- Add the bulgur to a small pot and add ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until tender - about 10 -12 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid if any. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- Prepare the vegetables by washing and drying thoroughly. De-seed the cucumbers and tomatoes, then dice. Place in a colander so all the water is drained away. Finely chop the parsley and the mint, preferably using a sharp knife as opposed to a food processor. Thinly slice the green onion - both the white and green part.
- Place the chopped vegetables in a bowl. Add the dressing with bulgur. Toss to combine. Season with more salt and lemon juice if needed. Serve at cold or room temperature.
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