Quinoa Tabbouleh Recipe


I’ve been so offended by so many tabboulehs over the years, that I must be the de facto tabbouleh police by now. I know you know what I’m talking about: those grain-heavy salads that offer a fleck of parsley here, a precious leaf of mint there. Is it laziness that has prompted the phenomenon? It is a lot of prep work to make authentic tabbouleh, with all of the herb washing and chopping. The misunderstood tabbouleh is almost as pervasive as the misunderstood, abused?, hummus. I can’t help but wonder how many hummus eaters take home their chilled tub from the grocery store and from then on consider hummus a cold food. No no.

So you can imagine my lack of excitement when I was recently presented, at an event, with a plate of quinoa tabbouleh whose parsley and mint had to be mined for by my fork. I think I even said aloud to my sympathetic dining companions: here we go again.


But what surprise when that salad, that tabbouleh “expression,” tasted of remarkably good lemony flavor. It nodded to my tabbouleh and then welcomed me into my first real enjoyment of a grain-heavy tabbouleh. The quinoa excited me for its protein-rich opportunity (I’m on a bender), and the texture was chewy and satisfying. Once I got past the tabbouleh moniker, it was, I had to admit, delicious.

The meaning is not lost on me that I was eating this exploration on a tabbouleh in the midst of Michigan State’s rather new jewel of a museum of contemporary art, The Broad. Here, as in any contemporary art environment, we are . . . challenged . . . to think in new ways by art whose meaning isn’t always (or ever) as obvious as those classic realists we are so devoted to. As Dan says, it seems to take a special person to appreciate what contemporary art has to offer.


Makes me think of the time Peggy and I took my parents to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and stumbled upon a work of art (?) that was a group of nude manikins lined up in a circle doing things you don’t care to witness with your parents, or perhaps anyone, standing beside you. Good thing my dad had such a great sense of humor.

The quinoa salad wasn’t quite as challenging as that, but for me it was a fine moment of open-mindedness that yielded great fruit. I went home and started in on quinoa tabbouleh for you, and working with hefty curly parsley, I even took it to the food processor for chopping—another big no-no that can result in mushy tabbouleh. But with some care and attention, the method worked great and made the whole process so much shorter and easier (warning: don’t try this with flat-leaf parsley!). The result of the exploration may have veered happily back in the direction of the herb-laden, but in the end, here is a variation on tabbouleh salad even the chief of tabbouleh police can love.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Maureen Abood
My quinoa tabbouleh was inspired by my plate at the Broad but still stays true to the classic herb-laden salad we know and love. To get after the zingy lemon flavor of their salad, I dress the quinoa on its own, not just in the salad as we typically do with the bulgur. The result: so flavorful! This is a big salad that will make at least 12 servings or more; feel free to scale down,but know that the salad tastes great from the refrigerator all week long.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large bunches curly parsley
  • 1/2 cup pearl quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 20 spearmint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 small cucumbers, cut in small pieces
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in small pieces
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions
 

  • Thoroughly rinse the parsley by dunking it in clean water several times (see this).Lay it out on a clean kitchen towel to dry, blotting it with another dry towel,or running the parsley through a salad spinner in batches. If possible, wash the parsley a day in advance, lay it out to dry or spin it, then store it in the refrigerator in Ziploc bags over night or until you’re ready to make the salad.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the cup of water to a boil over high heat. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer with cold water. Add the quinoa to the boiling water, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook the quinoa until it is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Immediately place the quinoa in a large bowl to cool and stir in half of the lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon) and a pinch of salt.
  • While the quinoa cooks, chop the vegetables and work with the parsley last,so that it’s as dry as possible if it was just washed.
  • To chop the parsley, pinch the curly leaves from the stems and discard the stems. You’ll have about 10 cups of parsley. Finely chop the parsley in batches, or chop it in a food processor in two batches, pulsing just until no large pieces of parsley are visible.
  • Add the parsley, mint, cucumbers, tomatoes, and scallions to the bowl with the quinoa. Dress the tabbouleh with the juice of the second lemon, the olive oil, garlic powder, and a generous pinch of salt. Combine everything thoroughly, taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve the tabbouleh immediately, or let it rest for up to several hours or in the refrigerator for several days. The tabbouleh is lovely served on a platter.

 

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34 Comments

  1. Peggy Fox on May 16, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    I can’t wait to try this version of Tabbouleh! Thank you so much.

  2. Michelle on May 16, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Lovely salad, I can’t wait to try this!

  3. nancy on May 16, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    two years ago, i learned i was a sneeze away from diabetes 2. it definitely got my attention and i did not know what was safe to eat. while wandering around the net, i found recipes that appealed to me and were good for me. one, was and is tabbouleh, and at first i slavishly followed the recipe, lots of parsley and mint, and as i was eating it every day i came to feel i was eating a lawn. i departed from the parsley and mint slowly, eating bulgur, tomato, onion and lots of fresh lemon juice with some parsley and mint. i replaced parsley and mint with cilantro and cumin and while i was no longer eating “tabbouleh,” i lost weight, i am nowhere near diabetes 2, and i am grateful to tabbouleh for carrying me along a healthier path. so forgive those of us who stray from the true tabbouleh path.
    enjoy your blog.

    • Maureen Abood on May 17, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Mmmmm…tabbouleh with cilantro sounds divine. I’m going to try it, thank you! And so glad to hear tabbouleh helped you regain your health!

  4. June on May 16, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I’m so glad to see your comments about tabbouleh and hummus. My first experience with both was fifty years ago in the Middle East. Since then, I’ve had versions of each that were barely recognizable. Tabbouleh to me is the parsley and the mint with other vegetables and the grain. So your version looks wonderful and will be a summer treat for us. Thank you for clarifying the content of these traditional foods.

    • Maureen Abood on May 17, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Thank you June! I can just imagine how wonderful your experience was in the Middle East 50 years ago…

  5. Sarah on May 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    I never eat tabouleh that isn’t made by me or someone I know… exactly everything you said was true, the whole point of tabouleh is that it is green with a dash of grain and a bit of red… it is time consuming but if you don’t wanna chop parsley you can’t have tabouleh… now i am excited to try your new recipe, I thank you for it, and for the gorgeous green photos you posted. Your recipes always make me hungry 🙂

    • Maureen Abood on May 17, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      Thank you Sarah!

  6. jim leesha on May 17, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    The epicurean world has long hijacked our recipes to commercialize and exploit. There was a small cafe in downtown Brooklyn called “Fatoush” whose proprietor was so misled as to put diced lemon peel in his tabbouleh. The (1989) yuppies were eatin it up! Go figure. I agree with the other commentor on the diced onion. I love it, I am a rebel.

    • Maureen Abood on May 17, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      You onion rebel you!!! Thanks for sharing your tabbouleh devotion!

  7. jim leesha on May 17, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    One more thing… If you have a grapevine nearby, set aside some tender young leaves. Roll the tabbouleh in the (raw) leaves and fold them closed to eat. In other words, put down the bread and mind your waist. It’s also really delicious.

  8. Jerry Wakeen on May 17, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Great recipe and photos.
    Can’t wait to try it.
    Jerry

  9. Rachel on May 17, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Thank you Maureen for always sharing beautiful recipes, photos, thoughts, memories and ideas. I am making this recipe this weekend and am excited to have salad for the week. Sending my love to you, your Mom , family and Dan. Congratulations on the upcoming union of joy!

    • Maureen Abood on May 19, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Thank you so much my cousin! Love you!

  10. Carol at Wild Goose Tea on May 19, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Tabouleh is a total new kind of salad for me. Yahoo. I love new. Yes, I must have been living in a closet. It’s a very roomy closet, because I didn’t realize it. Yes, that is lame and yes, I am laughing at my own joke. I love the gorgeous emerald green of this salad. Well I guess I better keep checking in to see what else I am missing.

    • Maureen Abood on May 20, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      Enjoy the world of tabbouleh!

  11. Tlazolteotl on May 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Excellent variation Maureen, I love tabbouleh and I try to stick to all the precious advices you gave at the time.
    I’m gonna try out this one soon, sure it will be delicious.

    Regards
    Tlaz

  12. Amira on May 22, 2014 at 1:08 AM

    What a lovely twist to such an authentic salad!!! This is really lovely I need to try this soon. Thanks Maureen

  13. Mrs. Ghazel on May 22, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    Ha, I laughed out loud when I read you are the tabbouleh police – my husband and I are as well!! I totally get it. I’ll try this recipe – we like quinoa. Alternatively, I recently concocted a kale ‘faux’ tabbouleh, making it pretty much the same, only using kale. A firmer texture of course, but my husband and I both liked it. I made it primarily because…I had kale on hand and I improvised!

  14. Nissrine on July 16, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    Looks lovely! I’ve been meaning to post a tabouleh recipe now that my Mama’s visiting and I can take advantage of her parsley chopping skills. You’ve inspired me. I’ve never considered doing it with quinoa though. I bet its delicious. I totally hear you on the grain-heavy tabbouleh’s of the world….it has always irritated me, along with people misusing an abusing the word hummus. I live in Italy now and hummus is just becoming popular here, they call it Hummus di Ceci….which translates into chickpeas of chickpeas…But get ready for this….they call babaghanoush Hummus di Melanzane….chickpeas of eggplant…and we know how much sense that makes….it makes me chuckle every time I see it. 🙂

  15. Valerie on May 9, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    I’m Peruvian and my husband is Lebanese, so this version of Tabbouleh is perfect for our household. 🙂 The recipe was delicious! Your blog is my new favorite.

  16. Mira on October 26, 2016 at 5:48 AM

    Beautiful Recipe! Definitely going to make this. Thank you.

  17. Jane George on May 23, 2018 at 10:56 AM

    Thank you for the quinoa idea, my Gluten free DIL and grandson will be pleased. Following my Mother in Laws instructions, she added cucumbers to her Tabbouleh, but they had to be peeled and deseeded, then diced, tomatoes always had to be deseeded and drained, adding more time to this already chopping nightmare! LOL

    • Maureen Abood on May 23, 2018 at 11:26 AM

      Very exacting!!!

  18. Patricia Porter on August 21, 2018 at 1:58 PM

    I forwarded this recipe to friends who were previously dismayed that I insulted them by insisting that tabbouleh is an herb salad, not a grain one. I have been using quinoa as a substitute for bulgar forever, but they were not assuaged. Thank you for this recipe which will surely make my friends reconsider and enjoy this absolutely wonderful, simple salad.

    • Maureen Abood on August 22, 2018 at 8:21 AM

      Too funny!!

  19. Jeannine on March 14, 2019 at 12:06 PM

    My family never taught me to make it where is was primarily herb. It was always a “balance” of the ingredients – bulgar, parsley, tomato, cucumber, onion. No one ingredient was to outshine the other. Still that wonderful lemony flavor though. Anyway, my diet has shifted away from the gluten and heavier grains so am excited to try it with quinoa which I have grown to love.

    • Maureen Abood on March 14, 2019 at 5:27 PM

      Oh I’m certain you’ll enjoy tabbouleh with the quinoa, delicious!

  20. Elizabeth Calille Polston on August 16, 2019 at 8:18 AM

    I have members in my family who can’t eat wheat for medical reason. We all love tabbouli and are happy to see a recipe that is gluten free. I will be changing my recipe for all to continue to enjoy. Thank you for the recipe.

    • Maureen Abood on August 19, 2019 at 4:38 PM

      Oh good Elizabeth, such a nice option with the quinoa.

  21. Terry Woods on October 7, 2019 at 10:44 AM

    Its me Terry Woods.. I have been experimenting with Quinoa Tabbouli for quite sometime. I also enjoy that minty lemony flavor. I dice the cucumbers, cut the small round tomatoes in tiny pieces, use one bunch parsley and one bunch cilantro and then the onion. Just before serving I add a slash of lime, and a sprig of mint. I serve in a round bowl lined with lettuce leaves.

    • Maureen Abood on October 8, 2019 at 10:13 AM

      Wow, I love this idea of cilantro tabbouleh with quinoa. And lime! Thank you Terry!

  22. Cynthia Bigelow on October 24, 2021 at 12:05 PM

    Hi Maureen,
    Just wondering if u would add a dash of olive oil on this Tabbouleh?

    • Maureen Abood on October 24, 2021 at 2:00 PM

      Oh yes, the olive oil is a must! See a couple of tablespoons called for in the recipe. Finish with another good drizzle sounds wonderful too, especially if your tabbouleh needs moistening.

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Maureen Abood in the kitchen

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!

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