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This traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh (or tabouli) Salad is a healthy vegan Mediterranean appetizer made with bulgur, parsley, mint and chopped vegetables. Easy to make with just a handful of ingredients, this fresh salad is a real treat for the tastebuds!
You say tabouli salad, I say tabbouleh salad. Who actually knows the real way to spell it in English haha! But anyone who’s tried Tabbouleh Salad knows what a fresh, delightful and tasty salad it is! Along with fattoush salad, it’s the top salad served in Lebanon, where my parents are from. So, as you can imagine, I’ve grown up eating a lot of tabbouleh in my life. And I’ve grown to learn how to make the best tabbouleh recipe!
What is tabbouleh salad?
Tabbouleh is basically parsley salad. There’s technically no lettuce in it. It’s a salad made up of parsley, tomatoes, bulgur wheat, and green onions – all finely chopped and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice!
Tabbouleh salad (tabouli salad) is probably 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 way we prepare it in Lebanon, the salad should be all about the parsley, with a hint of bulgur thrown in there.
What do you need to make tabbouleh salad
- Parsley – It’s a parsley salad so this is the star of the recipe. Make sure to wash the parsley with cold water so it doesn’t wilt and dry it thoroughly with a salad spinner. If you prep the parsley a day in advance, it allows the herb to fully dry well for the salad. I prefer to use curly parsley, but flat leaf parsley works well too.
- Tomatoes – Get some fresh and ripe tomatoes, and if they are too juicy, you can remove their core before dicing.
- Green onions – You’ll use the entire green onion parts from the white to the green. This will give it a subtle taste of onions while blending well with the parsley.
- Bulgur – Use fine bulgur – the smallest you can find! Bulgur is sold in four numbered grind sizes. You want to look for #1 which is the smallest grind. It will resemble couscous and it’s what we use in traditional tabbouleh. There is no need to cook this bulgur. It simply needs to be soaked in liquid to become tender.
- Lemon Juice – Freshly squeezed please. 🙂
- Olive Oil – Go for high quality extra virgin olive oil. You’ll notice the taste difference!
How do you make tabbouleh
I like to start making the tabouleh by mixing the dressing. It’s made up of two ingredients: olive oil and lemon juice – easy enough! I whisk those together until well blended, and then let the flavor settle while I chop the vegetables.
One important tip I learned though from my mother-in-law is to add the bulgur to the dressing while preparing the vegetables. This allows the bulgur to absorb some of the liquid and soften – making it easier to chew it in the salad. I used to soak it in water, but I prefer this method because there’s no risk of watering down the flavor. You’ll slowly start to see the bulgur get more plump.
While the bulgur is soaking, prepare yourself for some mad chopping. Tabbouleh requires a lot of chopping – it’s really a labor of love. That includes a bunch (well technically 2 bunches) of parsley, tomatoes and green onions. Some people use a food processor to chop the parsley. But I find that it can sometimes lead to wilted chopped parsley. So I always use a large chef knife, and it does the trick.
When you’re done chopping, transfer the bulgur and dressing mixture over the chopped vegetables and gently mix everything together. And that’s basically the tabbouleh salad recipe! And it might be the best tabbouleh recipe you’ll ever have!
How do you serve tabbouleh salad
You can enjoy this on its own with a side of protein as a meal, or eat it as an appetizer. We usually serve this with lettuce in Lebanon. And we like to add a large scoop of the salad into a lettuce leaf and eat it with our hands. So sometimes, when I’m serving this for a crowd, I’ll leave out the lettuce leaves ready for serving.
And other times I just stuff the tabbouleh salad right in the lettuce because I love the presentation of a hand held salad. It’s fresh, flavorful and very healthy. And even though this looks like a very summery salad, it’s very popular around the holidays in the winter because it’s such a crowd pleasing appetizer.
Tips to make the best tabbouleh salad recipe
- 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 without standing out. The bulgur should require no cooking.
- Fine Tomatoes: You want them to be ripe for flavor’s sake, but firm so they don’t release too much juice. What I like doing is coring the tomatoes to remove the juicy interior and use that for another salad recipe. You can also just use a mesh colander to drain the liquids from chopped tomatoes.
Frequently asked questions
This salad is packed full of healthy ingredients and is low in calories. Parsley is an anti-inflammatory that can reduce your risk of cancer and improve your immune system, while the bulgur is a fiber rich whole grain. The tomatoes and lemon juice provide a good amount of vitamins and minerals.
The good news is, is that you can make this salad a day or two before you serve it in an air tight container in the fridge. By making it ahead of time you will give the flavors time to really develop. You can not freeze this salad.
Because authentic tabbouleh is made with bulgur, it is not grain free. If you want to make this grain-free, you can substitute the bulgur for quinoa or even riced cauliflower.
I love making this tabbouleh 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!) that literally includes dozens of different hot and cold appetizers all served at once. It’s a foodie’s true dream!
My other tabbouleh recipes:
More Lebanese salads:
If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feelgood Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad 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!
Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra fine bulgur wheat
- 2 bunches parsley about 2 cups chopped
- 1-2 vine-ripe firm tomatoes
- 2 green onions both green and white part
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice until well combined. Then add the bulgur to the dressing and let it soak until it is soft and plumped, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables by washing, drying thoroughly and finely chopping them. 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 in a large bowl. Add the optional mint. Season with salt and pepper. Then pour the bulgur and dressing mixture over. Gently toss to combine.
- Serve at room temperature or cold, with lettuce if desired.