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I love making my traditional Lebanese tabbouleh salad (tabouli salad). And whenever I share it on social media, I get asked “can you make tabbouleh with quinoa?” And the answer is oh yes! Traditionally we make tabbouleh with bulgur, which is a grain made from cracked wheat. It’s so popular in Mediterranean recipes, but it’s less accessible in mass grocery stores. So I love offering this quinoa tabbouleh recipe alternative!
Bulgur vs. Quinoa
When you look at bulgur and quinoa, they kinda look similar. But the difference is that bulgur is a precooked cracked wheat, while quinoa is actually a seed. If you look at the nutrition comparison for both, quinoa is more nutritionally-dense. But I love varying the grains and carbs I use in my recipes to get a variety of nutritional benefits. Here’s a quick comparison of bulgur vs. quinoa:
- Calories: Bulgur has 110 calories per cooked cup, versus 220 for quinoa.
- Protein: Bulgur has 4 grams of protein per cup, versus 8 for quinoa. The cool thing about quinoa is it’s a complete protein – it contains all nine of the amino acids humans need from food.
- Gluten: Bulgur, like other grains contains gluten, while quinoa is gluten-free.
How do you make quinoa tabbouleh
As you might imagine, the process is very similar to making the traditional tabbouleh salad. But there’s just a swap from bulgur to quinoa. So the first step is to cook the quinoa. Make sure to fluff it with a fork after it’s done cooking and resting, so it’s not clumpy in the salad.
Next, prepare the vegetables by chopping the parsley, mint leaves and green onions. For the tomatoes, I prefer to remove their juicy seeds from the core so that the salad doesn’t does too watery from the tomatoes. Then small dice them. I also like to leave a few larger chunks for garnish. But in general, the tomatoes play a minimal role in the quinoa tabbouleh salad.
After you cook the quinoa and prep the vegetables, make the dressing. It doesn’t get any easier than this dressing: olive oil and lemon juice. It’s the base for most Lebanese salads, and it’s my favorite dressing for any salad actually! Make sure to use extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemons (not pre-squeezed). This is where all the flavor will come in.
Next it’s just an assembling and mixing party. Layer the chopped parsley, chopped mint leaves and chopped tomatoes in a large bowl.
On top of that, add the cooked and cooled quinoa. Then pour the dressing over the quinoa tabbouleh, and give it a good toss to incorporate all the ingredients together.
When you mix it together, you’ll notice that there is far more parsley and greens than quinoa. There are different styles of tabbouleh and many interpretation this recipe. But in Lebanon, we prefer a greener tabbouleh where the parsley dominates the bulgur (or in this case, the quinoa).
Tips for making quinoa tabbouleh
- Chop the parsley finely. There’s nothing worse than eating tabbouleh at some restaurants and biting into large whole pieces of parsley. It makes it feel as if you’re actually eating garnish instead of salad. It’s important to chop the dried parsley finely to get the best texture. I would recommend that you avoid using a food processor because it can wilt the parsley and ruin the texture.
- Don’t skimp on the ingredients. Because there are so few ingredients in the salad, be sure to use the best quality produce you can find. And it’s important that you use extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice since those are the only two ingredients for the dressing.
- Mix the salad immediately before serving. Like all salads, it’s best to toss the dressing right before you serve the salad. This is especially true for quinoa tabbouleh because of the amount of fine chopped parsley in this salad. It can become soggy if it soaks in the dressing for too long.
- Chill before serving. With all the fresh herbs and vegetables in this salad, it’s ideal if you can chill it in the fridge for half an hour before tossing and serving. This helps give it that refreshing flavor.
This quinoa tabbouleh is a great way to enjoy the popular Middle Eastern salad when you can’t find bulgur. Switching out the bulgur for quinoa makes this salad gluten-free and gives a healthy boost of protein and nutrients. This is a one of my favorite salads – now with a fun twist. Regardless how you make it, it’s a light, lemony and healthy salad you’ll enjoy any time of the year!
If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Quinoa Tabbouleh recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
My other tabbouleh recipes:
For more mediterranean salads, check out:
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- Quinoa Salad in Avocado Bowls
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Lebanese Fattoush Salad
- Tomato Avocado Cucumber Salad
- Add the quinoa to a pan and toast it stirring frequently on medium-high heat until you start to hear the quinoa pop and the color becomes golden brown. Add 1 cup of water, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered until the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes. Fluff and allow to cool at room temperature.
- While the quinoa, make the dressing by stirring together olive oil and lemon juice.
- In a large place, place the chopped parsley, chopped mint leaves, green onions and tomatoes. Add the quinoa and pour the dressing into the bowl. Stir gently to combine. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.