Culinary Arts

Easy Tabbouleh Recipe: How to Make Traditional Tabbouleh

Written by MasterClass

Jul 19, 2019 • 2 min read

A fresh herb salad with pops of chewy bulgur, tabbouleh is a refreshing meze staple that’s equally welcome in lunchboxes.

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What Is Tabbouleh?

Tabbouleh (a.k.a “tabouli” or “tabouleh”) is a Middle Eastern salad of finely chopped fresh herbs, tomatoes, green onions, and cracked wheat (a.k.a bulgur, bulgar, or burghul).

Bulgur is a nutty whole grain consisting of precooked, dried, and ground kernels (groats) of wheat. Since it’s precooked, the bulgur in tabbouleh is soaked rather than boiled. With relatively few ingredients and no cooking involved, the most difficult part of making homemade tabbouleh is chopping all those herbs. (The food processor, which can cause bruising, is off-limits.) The stems of flat-leaf parsley are full of flavor, so don’t be afraid to use them in addition to the leaves (just discard any tough parts).

The Culinary History of Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is thought to have originated in the area that today comprises Syria and Lebanon, and is popular throughout the Middle East, including in Israel and Palestine. Tabbouleh recipes vary not only regionally, but between individual households. In general, the famous Lebanese version tends to be more herb-heavy, with some versions omitting the bulgur entirely.

Simple Tabbouleh Variations

Tabbouleh salad is traditionally served with the inner leaves of romaine lettuce or cabbage for scooping (not pita bread), as part of a meze platter of dishes like hummus, baba ganoush, and marinated feta. It’s a great side dish for kebabs and falafel, as well as a vegan-friendly option for potlucks. Since tabbouleh can be made ahead of time, it’s ideal for work and picnic lunches.

  • For gluten-free tabbouleh, swap the bulgur for toasted brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice. If you don’t have bulgur on hand but gluten isn’t a problem, try substituting couscous or farro.
  • You can play around with the herbs, too. Try replacing the flat-leaf parsley and mint with curly parsley, cilantro, dill, or basil.
  • You can use red onion, shallots, or spring onions in place of the scallions—macerate chopped onion in lemon juice to mellow its flavor.
  • Add pomegranate seeds in winter, or diced cucumber in the summer.

Easy Tabbouleh Recipe

Makes
5
Prep Time
50 min
Total Time
50 min
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • ¼ cup fine bulgur wheat (if using coarser grinds, soak in hot or boiling water—follow package directions)
  • 2 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 3 scallions
  • About 24 leaves romaine or little gem lettuce, to serve
  1. Dice tomato and scrape tomato and its juices into a large salad bowl. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, allspice, cinnamon, pomegranate molasses, and olive oil. Set aside 20 minutes, so that the tomato can release its juice.
  2. Add bulgur to tomato mixture, toss to coat, and let sit until bulgur is tender, about 20-30 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, chiffonade parsley leaves and tender parsley stems and mint leaves by bunching herbs together in a pile and slicing with a sharp knife using a smooth pulling motion, being careful not to work the knife up and down, which can cause bruising. Trim root ends and tips and thinly slice white and green parts of scallions. Add to bulgur mixture and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with lettuce leaves for scooping.

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