Traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad
You say tabouli, I say tabbouleh. Who knows what the real way to spell it in English haha! But anyone who’s tried Traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad knows what a fresh, delightful and tasty salad it is! For those who have never tried it, it’s a salad made up of bulgur wheat, parsley, fresh mint and fresh vegetables – all finely chopped and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice!
Tabbouleh is the most popular Mediterranean salad, and is becoming mainstream in American grocery stores all over the country and the world, which is super cool! One thing that I’ve noticed though is that in the states, tabbouleh tends to have more bulgur than the traditional recipe calls for. The salad should be all about the parsley, with a hint of bulgur thrown in there. But there are so many variations these days that even my traditional tabbouleh sometimes varies from tradition in the inclusion of finely chopped lettuce. Don’t judge me!! Hahaha. Normally, the lettuce is used to serve the tabbouleh in, and looks like a boat for the salad. But I learned from my mother-in-law to also incorporate some chopped lettuce into the salad itself sometimes to add a textured variety. It’s totally optional!
I love making this salad once a month with a bunch of other Lebanese appetizers like grape leaves, hummus and falafel. That’s how it’s traditionally served in Lebanon, as part of a “Mezza” (aka appetizer galore!) with literally dozens of different hot and cold appetizers all served at once. In Lebanon, it’s all about the appetizers when you go out to a restaurant, so I try to bring that experience home to my kids with a monthly Mezza party.
3 Tips of Tabbouleh Triumph:
- Fine Chopping: Show off your chopping skills here by finely chopping all the vegetables. It’s tedious, but the presentation is everything, and you’ll get better at it with practice. Avoid using a food processor, especially for the parsley, which can wilt the parsley and ruin the texture of the salad.
- Fine Bulgur: In fact, it should be extra fine bulgur to be precise. The focus of the salad is on the parsley, not the bulgur, so you want fine bulgur that incorporates easily into the salad.
- Fine Tomatoes: You want them to be ripe for flavor’s sake, but firm so they don’t release too much juice. If you do get a lot of juice, be sure to use a colander to drain the juice.
- ¼ cup extra fine bulgur wheat
- 1-2 vine-ripe firm tomatoes, very finely chopped
- 2 bunches parsley, stems removed, washed/dried, very finely chopped
- ½ head of lettuce, washed/dried, very finely chopped (optional)
- 1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, stems removed, washed/dried, very finely chopped
- 2 green onions, very finely chopped (both green and white parts)
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the bulgur and soak it in water for 5-7 minutes. Drain the bulgur very well to remove excess water. It may also help to squeeze the bulgur by hand to ensure it’s dry. Transfer the bulgur in a large bowl and set aside
- Prepare all the vegetables by finely chopping. When preparing the tomatoes, it helps to use a colander to drain the excess juice, which you can use in another recipe at a later time.
- Place the chopped vegetables, herbs and green onions in the bowl containing the bulgur, and mix everything gently. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix again until everything is incorporated.