Tabbouleh is a fresh wheat and parsley salad that has been a fixture of Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. This delicious classic salad never gets old…
Tabbouleh is the queen of warm weather salads. I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve not made it when friends or family come over in the spring and summer months, and I always bring it as my signature potluck dish. What makes it so great is that you can prepare it in advance, (in fact it gets better as it sits in the fridge) and there is no mayo to spoil if you’re eating outside. It’s fresh and vibrant, and a little unexpected. I find people flock to it, so make extra. It’s made with bulgar, which is dried cracked wheat that’s been soaked so it’s fluffy, and then tossed with TONS of fresh parsley, mint, cucumber, green onion, and tomatoes. You can find bulgar in your supermarket but you might have to ask where they stock it, sometimes it’s in the bulk bins, sometimes it’s with the other grains. Mine is from Bob’s Red Mill.
For years I’ve followed a modified Mediterranean diet, which basically means I eat a lot of fresh fresh fruits and veggies, limited meats, lots of fish, olive oil, and nuts. I didn’t do it initially for health reasons, I’ve just always gravitated towards the recipes from countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Morocco. It’s generally considered to be one of the healthiest ways to eat, and the latest news says the diet is also good for our brains, helping to boost our cognitive abilities and fend off dementia. Tabbouleh is a great example of why the diet is so healthy but so easy to integrate into our daily eating.
There are a few secrets to making a great tabbouleh. One of the tricks is to make sure your parsley to grain ratio is high. I like a nice green salad, with just a hint of the wheat to hold it together. Secondly, you need to make sure that you wash the heck out of your parsley. Parsley is notorious for holding onto grit… you can’t always see it, you can’t always feel it, but you will taste it. And you don’t want to ruin a great bowl of tabbouleh just because you didn’t take extra precaution to thoroughly rinse your parsley. Rinse it well. Then rinse it again. I do it one bunch at a time. First I trim the excess stems from the bunch. Then I put it in a colander and flood it with water. While I am doing that I pull out the larger stems and pick them out. Some stems are fine, but the bigger ones should go.
Shake the parsley dry before adding it to the food processor. I like to use a food processor to do the chopping because it does a quick, even job, but if you have a good knife, killer knife skills, and a little patience, you can do it by hand. You just want to make sure you get a nice even, very fine mince because that will really bring out the parsley’s fresh herby flavor. Yes, parsley does have a flavor, and you’ll be able to taste it in this salad.
The other thing to remember is to sample the salad after you are finished mixing it to check that the flavors pop. The flavors are simple, but they should be vivid. Use good olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice. The juice from the tomatoes, the fresh mint, and the bite of the spring onion will round it out. I ALWAYS fluff and taste my tabbouleh right before serving and adjust things accordingly. I used my O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil for an extra lemony kick. This is where you want to use your premium olive oils because the flavor will shine.
- 1/2 cup bulgar wheat
- 2 bunches of parsley, either flat leaf or curly
- 1 small Persian cucumber (or about 1/2 of a regular cuke)
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 package cherry tomatoes, halved
- large handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 4 Tbsp good olive oil (I used O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil)
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put the bulgar in a large mixing bowl and cover with 1/2 cup boiling water. Stir to combine and let it sit for an hour to absorb the water and soften.
- Meanwhile trim the stems off of your 2 bunches of parsley and put them, one bunch at a time, into a colander. Rinse them really really well, and pick out the larger, longer stems as you rinse. You don't have to pick off all the stems, the smaller, tender ones are fine, but remove any larger longer stems.
- Shake the parsley dry and add it, again, one bunch at a time, to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the parsley until it is finely minced, but don't take it too far or you'll have parsley puree! I scrape down the sides of the machine once or twice.
- Add the minced parsley to the soaked bulgar and toss.
- Peel and dice the cucumber and add it to the bowl.
- Finely chop the red pepper, and thinly slice the green onions and add them as well.
- Add the tomatoes and mint and toss everything together.
- Dress the salad with the oil and lemon juice, and then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Give everything a good mix and then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Check the tabouleh just before serving to see if you need more oil, lemon juice, or salt and pepper.
- For a LOADED tabbouleh, try my Jeweled Tabbouleh recipe.
You’ve probably seen boxed tabbouleh in your grocery store, and I’ll tell you a secret, you can absolutely doctor one of those up in a pinch. Just add lots of fresh ingredients, including parsley even if it doesn’t call for it. Go overboard with the fresh stuff and it’ll be great. I highly recommend this salad for your weekend festivities!