Tabouleh is a traditional salad served in Middle Eastern countries. It is typically considered one of the most popular salads, alongside Fattoush salad and Salata Arabia. While tabbouleh originated from Lebanon, each country has adopted its version of this salad. Now you can find this salad served in most delis, cafes, and restaurants worldwide.
I have helped my mom make tabbouleh since I was a little girl. My job was to help her pick the parsley leaves off their stems. Although this task may seem simple, it is essential to make this salad. I used to pick 20 to 30 bunches at a time. One time we even did 75 bunches. It was for my brother’s graduation party, and we had to start the process the day before to prepare this salad on time. Making tabbouleh is a labor of love. It is a tradition for many Middle Eastern families and a part of the culture that brings people together. Now I hope to share this love and culture with you!
What is Tabbouleh?
Tabouleh is an Arabic salad, it is an essential dish of what we call cold mezze. A cold mezze is like a cold appetizer that is served when people get together. To be clear, tabbouleh is an herb-based salad. The main ingredient is finely chopped parsley. The second main ingredient is a burglar. In addition, you have tomatoes and cucumbers even though Lebanese people argue there are no cucumbers in tabbouleh!! Some add Green onions, and jalapeno, some do not. I add just a half of jalapeno to give it an extra kick in addition to the lemon and olive oil. It is so simple and delicious.
What Is Bulgur?
Bulgar is a grain that originated in the Middle East. It is essentially cracked wheat. Because of this, it can be prepared fast, making it an excellent easy meal. Bulgar has been used in many dishes for thousands of years. It is similar to other grains such as barley, quinoa, and rice. Bulgar has a slightly nutty flavor and can be added to various dishes, providing taste, texture, and nutrition. It is also excellent in salads and other healthy dishes since it is a whole grain that contains lots of fiber. Just note that bulgar is not gluten-free like some other grains.
The best substitute for bulgur is quinoa. It has a similar size, shape, and texture and is also a very healthy alternative. If you can’t find bulgur in your local grocery store, quinoa is a good option. Quinoa is also gluten-free, so if you have gluten sensitivities, it is best to use quinoa instead of bulgur. Another alternative for bulgur is farro. Farro is also made from whole wheat grains and has a similar nutty flavor.
How to Prepare the Parsley
- When making tabbouleh, you must use flat Italian parsley. It has a smoother texture and better flavor than curly parsley. You can find Italian parsley in any local grocery store.
- Make sure to use your hands and individually pick the parsley leaves off their stems. Only use stems if they are soft and you have a good sharp knife; otherwise, you will end up with thick pieces of stems in your salad that are chewy and leave a bad taste in your mouth.
- Wash your parsley thoroughly. I soak that parsley in cold water with a couple of spoons of salt for a few minutes, then drain and rinse them again twice to get rid of any dirt.
- Let the parsley leaves dry before chopping. You can either use a salad spinner or dry them with a cloth. If you use a cloth, flip them around once until both sides are dry.
Tips for Making a Perfect Tabbouleh Salad
There are a few tips and tricks that can make your tabbouleh salad significantly better. Take it from someone who has made at least over a hundred of them.
- For the burglar size, use number # 2. The numbers indicate how coarse the grain is, and the larger the number, the courser the grain. This is how bulgur gets sold at the markets and on Amazon.
- Use a fine strainer to wash the bulgur underwater several times to remove any dust and dirt. Then soak them with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Let them soak and absorb the liquid. The bulgur will soften and be ready to use.
- After making the tabouleh, keep it in the fridge to let the herbs and vegetables soak in the flavor. This is a salad served cold or at room temperature.
- IF you have extra liquid in this salad, drain it into a cup and drink it; it’s very flavorful and packed with good nutrition.
- Using fresh mint leaves and dry mint is a trick to enhance the flavor of this salad.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the vegetables. You don’t want to bruise the vegetables. A food processor with a sharp blade is a life saver for chopping the parsley. Just remember, the parsley needs to be chopped, not blended, so don’t over-process them.
|8 bunches Italian parsley (stems were removed, washed, and chopped semi-fine)|
|4 large Persian cucumbers (semi-peeled and diced small)|
|3 large tomatoes (diced small)|
|1 jalapeno pepper diced (optional)|
|2 stalks green onions|
|1 cup bulgar (washed)|
|1 ½ cup olive oil|
|1 cup lemon juice|
|½ cup fresh mint (chopped)|
|2 tablespoons dry mint|
|2 teaspoons salt|
|1 teaspoon black pepper|