Tabouli Salad: A Lebanese Tabbouleh Recipe
SaveThis Lebanese tabbouleh salad recipe (also called tabouli or tabooli) is a fresh herb salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette. Get this salad right by using just a little bulgur wheat; the main ingredient here is fresh herbs!
This traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad recipe is both healthy and packed with flavor. My authentic Lebanese recipe is made with lots of parsley, mint, tomatoes, and fine bulgur wheat. Tabbouleh is an all-time favorite Lebanese salad because of its very fresh flavor and because it is so light and easy, it goes with all kinds of other foods. The vinaigrette is so delicious that we fight over who gets to dip their pita bread into the juices at the bottom of the salad bowl….
(Read my story about tabbouleh-love here!)
What is Tabbouleh Salad?
If you’re asking yourself what cuisine is tabbouleh salad from: it’s Lebanese! Lebanese tabbouleh is essentially a chopped salad. Authentic tabbouleh is made with lots of fresh parsley leaves, diced tomato, thin slices of scallion, fresh mint leaves, and a bit of soaked fine bulgur. The truth of tabbouleh is this: it’s a labor-of-love salad. A salad whose basis is fresh herbs could be nothing but, when you consider how those herbs need special treatment. The washing! The drying! The picking from stems! The chopping…. And then the other ingredients that require a fine chop: the tomatoes and the onions.
The other truth of tabbouleh? It’s SO worth the labor! We may make tabbouleh in small batches for smaller gatherings here because of all of that effort, but when we do, we go all in knowing that this very favorite, very delicious Lebanese salad is going to be so very good.
Tabouli Recipe Ingredients.
Here’s everything you need to make tabbouleh:
There are arguments galore about whether tabbouleh should be made with flat leaf (Italian) parsley or curly parsley. I’ve used both and both are wonderful. If you do use curly parsley, just be sure to pluck the curly leaves from the not-so-tender stems very well—and chop it like there’s no tomorrow! Finely chop, so the texture is . . . fine. If you use flat leaf, just know that there is very little loft (hence: flat) so use more flat leaf parsley than curly parsley.
Mint, fresh and dried.
Lebanese “nana” is fresh mint, the flavor maker of most every Lebanese salad! This is typically spearmint, which is also the mint you will find in grocery stores. Tabbouleh is primarily made with the parsley, so the mint is a supporting ingredient here but adds tons of the fresh Lebanese flavor we love. Add dried mint to the vinaigrette for even more traditional Lebanese flavor.
Use large tomatoes so you can easily remove the seeds and finely dice the beautiful flesh.
Green onions, scallions.
Such easy fresh onion flavor here, not as strong as sweet or yellow onion, the perfect compliment in tabbouleh. The entire stalk of the onion is used, both the white and green parts.
Also known as #1 (#2 is coarser, #3 moreso, and #4 even coarser). Fine bulgur granules are tiny and will soften in liquid (here, the salad dressing) without the need to be cooked.
Lemon Juice and quality extra virgin olive oil.
These are for the dressing. Use fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil for the best treatment of all of those finely chopped labor-of-love ingredients. The olive oil lemon juice vinaigrette is fabulous on tabbouleh and many Lebanese salads.
How to Make Tabbouleh Salad.
Step 1: Wash. Prepare the parsley well in advance, the day before serving the tabbouleh if possible, by thoroughly washing and drying it. See this.
Step 2: Rinse the bulgur. Soak the bulgur to soften it in the salad vinaigrette. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried mint in a small bowl. Add the bulgur and set aside to soften for 15 minutes, or while you make the salad.
Step 3: Chop. Every ingredient in tabbouleh is finely chopped. The original chopped salad! So be sure your big sharp knife is sharp (at least once a year, get knives sharpened; you won’t believe how much easier it is to cook when you have sharp knives). Chop the parsley and mint when they are thoroughly dried to make the chopping easier.
Step 4: Combine the parsley, tomato, onion, and softened bulgur in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning.
How to Serve Tabbouleh.
Lebanese tabbouleh salad is traditionally eaten with romaine lettuce leaves as little scoops. Serve tabbouleh on a platter in lettuce cups, either Little Gem romaine or the smaller butter lettuce leaves. This way tabbouleh can become finger food!! Little tacos! Perfect at a cookout or picnic. Or you can serve tabbouleh from a salad bowl. Tabbouleh is delicious on its own, eaten with thin pita bread so you can dip the bread in the juices on your plate or the salad bowl. It is the ultimate cookout salad because it pairs so perfectly with any grilled meat, fish, or vegetable whatsoever. Tabbouleh with hummus is one of the world’s all-time greatest food pairings (albeit a sleeper!). Check out my Tabbouleh Hummus Platter.
Tabbouleh Salad Recipe Tips
It is tempting to go for a faster way to chop all of the parsley and mint. I know great Lebanese cooks who make tabbouleh using the blender or food processor to chop the herbs. They simply pour off any liquid or consider that liquid a delicious part of the vinaigrette. Tabbouleh made this way is softer in texture. I always chop by hand which is a labor of love (yet less than 30 minutes) but this is to say, you’re not alone if you go the other route!
Play with your tabbouleh! I love to add cucumber for added freshness and crunch. The smaller, thin Persian cukes are great for tabbouleh, but English cucumbers work fine too. Be sure your cucumbers are firm.
How to Store Tabouli Salad
You can keep tabbouleh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It’s important to try and drain some of the juice out before refrigerating leftover tabouli. The flavors will continue to meld and taste great. Due to the high water content in the fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs this salad cannot be frozen.
Tabbouleh Salad FAQ
Both words, tabouli and tabbouleh, refer to the same dish, the Lebanese salad. The only difference is simply spelling. Arabic words like these don’t always hold to a hard and fast rule in the way they are spelled in English!
Tabbouleh salad is made of curly parsley or flat leaf parsley, fresh mint leaves, tomatoes, onion, and bulgur wheat.
Traditional tabbouleh does not always contain cucumber but including cucumber in a tabouli salad is delicious! Be sure to dice the cucumber as small as the tomato.
Serve tabouli with any and all grilled foods, such a fresh flavor to add to the plate. Tabbouleh is wonderful with Grilled Chicken Shawarma, Shish Tawook Grilled Chicken Skewers, Lebanese Grilled Kafta, Simple 7 Spice Chicken.
While tabbouleh does include fine bulgur wheat, the salad is not a wheat salad. Tabouli is a fresh herb salad of parsley and mint! Read more about what is bulgur! Some grocery stores carry fine bulgur. Most Middle Eastern markets will have bulgur. Check out my fine bulgur here in my shop. Note too that you may see fine bulgur called cracked wheat. The two are a little different: bulgur is a par cooked wheat granule and cracked wheat is not. Fine bulgur does not need to be cooked; it is simply softened in liquid.
This Middle Eastern salad a healthy part of the Mediterranean diet because it includes fresh herbs and vegetables with a very light and healthy vinaigrette.
Other Tabbouleh Salad Recipes
Quinoa Tabbouleh, for a gluten free version of tabouli
Tabouli Salad: A Lebanese Tabbouleh Recipe
- 1/4 cup fine bulgur wheat
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried mint
- 2 cups finely chopped curly parsley (about 3 bunches, washed and dried)
- 1 large seeded, diced tomato (¼” dice)
- 5 finely sliced scallions, white and green parts
- 1/4 cup finely chopped mint, from about 20 leaves
- Rinse the bulgur and cover with cold water just to the top of the bulghur. Soak for 15 minutes, until it is soft and plumped up. Pour off and squeeze out any excess water.
- In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and dried mint.
- Combine the parsley, tomato, scallion, mint, and soaked bulgur in a serving bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and stir to combine. Serve immediately or chill, then serve.
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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Exactly the same as my grandma’s recipe (except she always added cinnamon and allspice to the mix and preferred flat leaf parsley to curly, so now I feel like I gotta try it with curly!) Best food ever and I totally agree about needing the patience of a saint to prepare it properly!
I’m glad mine jives with your grandmother’s, Sue! The traditional spices are a nice addition.
My situ always added cinnamon and allspice too…
Sometimes I’ll put a pinch of cayenne pepper in for a little bit of heat…and to make it even healthier substitute quinoa for bulgur wheat.
Goes great with diced chicken mixed in for dinner.
LOVE these ideas John, thank you. Mmm, going to try it all!
Don’t miss the link to the video above. It will make your day!
Maureen, this is the recipe I’ve been waiting for! Also, your childhood vegetable garden memories encourage me to keep trying veggies with my kids, who like to grow, but not eat them!
Of course you are gardening on top of everything else you do Mary!! That is great.
Maureen, you have a clever way with words. Loved the way wrrote about the memories you have of gathering vegetables from your mother’s garden. Keep writing!
How wonderful to hear from you! Thank you so much!
onion powder is my mainstay in everything instead of garlic powder. particularly on regular salad with lemon oil dressing from your Aunt Peggy!
I recall that Aunt Peg is an onion powder fan…I will try it instead of garlic powder in my next salad! The flavor of these powders are intense and delicious….
Maureen, I remember your Mom making this the first time I visited your home on Wagon Wheel! Everything she made was amazing, but this was my favorite! I will need to use tomatoes (if they ever ripen) and parsley from my garden to try this!
What a great memory Julie! Yours from the garden will be wonderful…xxx.
A properly prepared Tabbouleh goes exceptionally well with yellow squash medalions, about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick, fried in a good olive oil, lightly salted and drizzled with Tahini sauce.
Wow, what a great idea, thank you! I will try it!
The thing with Tabbouleh is that recipes are very specific to the region of Lebanon, even different within families. Some areas in Lebanon use cinnamon (not where my people are from), others Pomegranate juice, and more just use the traditional Lemon juice and Olive Oil. When I do it, I do not use curly leaf parsley as it’s too bitter. I use flat leaf, and in addition to the ingredients in your recipe, I add finely chopped, seeded cucumber. I also add some allspice, Sumac, and because I grew up as a Lebanese in the Caribbean, some finely minced Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper.
This Aussie-Lebanese grew up on curly-leaf parsley, but when I first tasted Tabbouleh made with flat-leaf parsley I became an instant convert. Maureen, thank you for this simple, elegant recipe. I read recipes for Tabbouleh that have the most bizarre ingredients. You nailed it!
Laughing so hard because your title made me remember the hysterical “Tabbouleh” video by Remy! Here is the link for you too!! So funny!!! I adore tabbouleh, especially in the summer.
maureen u r such a hoot !! in the 80’s if business was slow in my boutique the girls and i would stand in front of the mirrors and say o.k. shake your bootie …low and behold the business came flying in the door.
I make my Tabooley in my Cousinart food processor. Parsley first because you don’t have to rinse the bowl. Then I quarter tomatoes and pulse several times. Also make salsa with same method. One day I am going to try Tabooley with cilantro. An adaptation of the wheat prep is boil 1 1/2 cups water. Put in larger bowl and add 1/4 cup evoo and 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 t salt and pepper. Let soak 1 hour. All water and liquid absorbs into wheat! Delicious with a fork! While the wheat soaks you have time to do everything else. Side note: I make with curly parsley and what I bought this time was very strong and I did not like the bitterness of the parsley. Never had that problem before. Will try flat leaf next time. Some people put drained chick peas!
I love all of that Georgia, thank you!
First and foremost I would like to raise my hat to you and say from the utmost depth of my heart a big and warm THANK YOU!
I started catering in the city I live in almost 3 years ago. I am originally Iraqi who lived in the UAE most of my life. I started catering Iraqi as well as Middle Eastern foods. A few weeks ago I took an order for a large group. All the foods I was able to manage but the quantity of the greens and veg that I need to use for one dish-Tabouleh was a mystery. I asked around family and friends and searched the net high and low and nowhere can I find the recipe per weight or cups. Few nights ago I was on your website checking out your new email and was such casualy browsing around things to do for the kids and there was the tabouleh recipe in CUPS…Hurrah..you dont know the relief I had. It truly felt like a massive weight was lifted off me. The problem is that the bunches sometimes come big or small.With simple calculations I was able to do it for the party.I just love tabouleh and usually do a big bowl for us as a family but rarely do I get to do it for 30 people. I am looking forward to your book which is coming out here in the UK in April. You are aboslutely a star, God bless you always and forever. XXX
Wow Zainab, thank you so much for your kind words! I’m thrilled my tabbouleh recipe helped you with your tabbouleh-for-a-crowd (what lucky guests you have!). Your catering sounds wonderful!
Your blog is awesome!!! I also just bought your book Rose Water & Orange Blossoms, and can’t wait to use it 🙂
Where can I buy ingredients like rose water locally? Trader Joe’s? Whole Foods?
You can buy wonderful flower waters and other ingredients in my own shop! At Maureen Abood Market–check it out! Love to hear what you think–
Hi Maureen, thank you for all your wonderful recipes. My daughter, Sara introduced me to your blog and I enjoy it very much. Both of my daughters have your book and love it.
My family is Lebanese and we make many things the same way. In tabbouleh we use flat leaf parsley. My mother used to say that you could tell if someone is a good cook by the way they made tabbouleh. This never made sense to me because it is a salad and not cooked, but she judged the skill of mincing all the ingredients to the correct size and very fine. It really does make a difference in the taste if the ingredients are cut very finely, but not in a food processor.
Thank you again for your inspiration and sharing your family memories. I am a proud Sitto and love to pass our culture on.
This is special Nancy, thank you–your mother sounds so lovely, and I can just imagine what a beloved Sitto you are!
Since I bought 5-blade herb scissors, making Tabbouleh is so much less labor intensive, which means I make it more often. If you don’t have them, try them!
Thanks for so many unbelievable delicious recipes. I’d be lost without them. Also thanks heaps for adding the print option so I can keep all my favorites in one place. Keep up the good work, and if you ever need anything from down under, just let me know.
Gina from Australia
Beautiful Gina, thank you so much! Please keep in touch and know I send warm regards to you down under!
It’s interesting to read the many variations. My mother put peas in her tabooli. Either fresh or frozen and thawed peas (just thawed, not cooked). I wonder if that was a regional thing where she was from in Lebanon? She sometimes used cinnamon, as do I.
She used curly parsley – that may have been because flat leaf wasn’t as readily available as it is now. She would gather all the parsley under a huge lettuce leaf and then slice through and chop it all together.
I’ve made revisions I think my mother would have loved. I soak the bulghur in salted lemon water – having the lemon flavor absorbed into the wheat means less liquid in the dressing, thus keeping the tabooli less soggy and it’s nice having the bulghur flavored as well – I find I use less salt in the dressing. I don’t use too much soaking liquid either, because the step I hate the most is squeezing the excess liquid out.
I like adding the chopped tomatoes to each serving; this also keeps it from getting too soggy and it seems to keep longer.
This is so great Virginia! My sister-in-law was just telling me about how she soaks her bulgur for tabbouleh in lemon juice. I love it and can’t wait to try it out! Your mom’s pea addition sounds delicious too. Thanks for the tips!
Summer Greetings Maureen!
This is such a wonderful, delicious sounding Tabbouleh recipe…I’m going to try it as soon as I scout the neighborhood for some fresh mint!
Would the Wagon Wheel Lane, you grew up on be in Grand Blanc, Michigan by any chance?
Hi Chris, and thank you! My Wagon Wheel Lane is in Lansing, but I’m fascinated that there might be another lane named the same in Grand Blanc!
There is Maureen! And thank-you for your speedy reply! It’s in a subdivision on the outskirts of Grand Blanc proper called Ottawa Hills, I believe and has been there since probably the 60’s! 🙂
I dont soak the wheat at all. Just a quick rinse will work. I usually make it a day in advance and the juice from the veggies is more than enough to soften it.
I love Tabbouleh, like Cassoulet has many variations. I prefer a balance of bulgar to parsley( I use Italian), green onions and mint. I add a pinch of allspice.
So good with the allspice Mary!
So good! The ratios are just like my mom’s! Except she never uses mint, cause it gives her heartburn.
Hello, Maureen — how many ounces are in one serving of this recipe, please?
Hi Julie–we don’t typically weigh salad for home cooking quantities, so I don’t have the weight of the tabbouleh for you! You can make and weigh to get your numbers though.