Tabbouleh or Tabouli is the quintessential Middle Eastern salad. It’s made of chopped parsley, diced tomatoes, and bulgur wheat and seasoned with olive oil and fresh lime juice.
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I first posted this tabbouleh salad recipe back in 2010. At that time, living in Southern California, I grew all the products to make this salad in my kitchen garden. However, now that I live in lovely but not so bucolic Miami, I shop for fresh local produce and keep making humongous tabbouleh bowls because this is, by far, my favorite salad. Following is my original post.
One of the reasons I grow parsley more than any other fresh herb is because of this salad. In my house, this is called “the parsley thing.” Every time I make it, my sybarite gourmet son, Andrés Ignacio, who is almost 9 years old and, like me, is a tabbouleh killer, starts to get around the kitchen pickings the parsley leaves and doesn’t stop until he gets the first bowl.
He learned to eat this salad when he was a baby. I remember the day I had tabbouleh when he was 9-month old. He was sitting in his baby-eating chair, watching me eat, and began drooling. So I let him sample it. It was love at first bite!
What is tabbouleh?
Tabbouleh is the classic Middle Eastern salad. For me, tabouli is the quintessential salad: fresh, crispy, colorful, and full of flavor. The freshness comes from the parsley and the mint. The crispiness comes from the parsley and the bulgur. The color comes from the combination of the green herbs, the red ripe but firm tomatoes, and the purple-red onions, all of them contrasting with the plain neutral bulgur. The flavor is given by mixing all the ingredients with the most straightforward seasoning: olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and salt. What can be better than this?
What is bulgur?
The main characteristic ingredient of this salad is bulgur. This is a cereal made from several different kinds of wheat. It is usually confused with cracked wheat, but the bulgur is parboiled and dried. Bulgur is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. It comes in different grinds: #1 is fine, #2 is medium, #3 is coarse, and #4 is extra coarse. The bulgur for tabbouleh is #2. You can find it in Middle Eastern specialty stores and natural food stores.
How to prepare bulgur to make tabbouleh?
I usually soak bulgur in water for about 20-30 minutes. Then, I drain it. Some people cook it, but I don’t think is necessary. You can also squeeze the juice of the tomatoes and limes and hydrate the bulgur.
What kind of onion is good for tabbouleh?
You can make tabbouleh with red or green onions. Some people use just regular yellow onions. I prefer the red-purple ones because their flavor is sweeter and more mellow. However, when I don’t have red onions handily, I use green ones.
How to make tabbouleh salad
To make tabbouleh, cutting is crucial: dice the tomatoes and finely chop the onions and herbs. My secret to getting the parley perfectly chopped was to pick the leaves and soak them in iced water, dry it with the help of a salad spinner and then chop them in a food processor (I use my Cuisinart ) by pulsing 3-5 times, being very careful not to over-process. More recently, I have discovered that adding some of the steams doesn’t hurt.
Following is a list of utensils and ingredients to make my tabouli recipe:
- Wooden cutting board
- Tomato knife
- Food processor
- Salad spinner
- Salad bowl
- Lemon lime squeezer
- Bulgur Wheat
- Extra virgin olive oil
How to pair tabbouleh
Tabbouleh goes perfectly with Middle Eastern food: baba ganoush, kibbe, pita bread, hummus, falafel, shawarma, and seekh kebabs. I usually have it with my majadra (lentil and rice) and shanklish salad, and it’s heavenly delicious.
Tabbouleh or tabouli salad recipe
- ½ cup of bulgur #2
- 2 cups of water
- 4 cups of parsley leaves chopped
- ½ cup of mint leaves finely chopped
- ¾ cup of red onion or 10 green onions finely chopped the white part and some of the green
- 2 cups of tomatoes finely diced
- 1/3 cup of fresh lime juice
- 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Soak the bulgur in the water for 20-30 minutes.
- Drain the bulgur in a fine colander, pressing to squeeze the water out.
- Combine all the ingredients in a big salad bowl.
- Season with olive oil, lime juice and salt to taste.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Other Levantine recipes
Hungry for more Middle Eastern recipes? Check these out: