Tabbouleh is a Lebanese chopped herb salad of parsley, mint, tomatoes, onion, and just a touch of bulgur wheat (which can be substituted with cooked quinoa). A perfect salad with grilled meats, and also delicious on its own with a dollop of hummus!

Tabbouleh salad with bulgur and tomatoes in a blue-rimmed bowl, Maureen Abood

The backyard garden where I grew up on Wagon Wheel Lane presented me with one of my first love-hate relationships. I loved running out to the garden as my mother cooked dinner to bring in an abundance of vegetables. Loved having the garden as a scenic backdrop to my afternoon sunbathing (I started that at a young age….like the rhubarb in spring, I was an early bloomer—and there was no moratorium on sun in that era). Loved taking baskets of whatever we had too much of to the neighbors, especially Jimmy Georgi, the boy next door (though he preferred the chocolate chip cookies to the tomatoes).

But I hated all of the insects that hovered around and in the garden. Hated coming home from anywhere to find my siblings weeding the garden. That always meant someone was in trouble, and when one of the five of us was in trouble, we all were in trouble. Hated how dirty everything was, and how it got under my nails and wouldn’t come out (I discovered since then that this is the plight of anyone who works in the kitchen professionally).

All of that ambivalence melted away, though, when I pulled my chair up to the table for dinner. My mother knew how to coax the most flavor out of everything from the garden, which meant letting the natural taste shine through. We had salad with our dinner every night, made in Mom’s style: dressed directly on the salad without first emulsifying anything, with fresh lemon and oil, salt and pepper, a little garlic powder.

That dressing is like a go-to little black dress. It goes a lot of places, and there’s never a question about how it’s going to show. It’s the same dressing she makes for this wonderful tabbouleh salad, but we don’t use the garlic powder here (you could though, and it would be good). Lebanese tabbouleh is a lemony parsley salad with diced tomato, thin slices of scallion, mint, and a bit of soaked cracked wheat. We’ve all seen tabbouleh that is mostly white, a bulgur salad. Near East brand boxed grains makes a tabbouleh “wheat salad” that causes me shake my head every time I see it on the grocery store shelf. That’s what I get for veering from the perimeter.

I was reminded yesterday that tabbouleh makes people so happy that they dance and sing like crazy people about it. As in, “tabbouleh makes me shake-shake my bootie” happy. My 5-year-old nephew John turned into some kind of adult man getting down in a 70s disco club when he watched this with me; I wondered if I should run upstairs and put on that little black dress. If I hadn’t been laughing so hard I would have been concerned about the whole scene. So here’s a little something extra to give you all the tabbouleh love you want and need, even if you didn’t pick the ingredients from the garden yourself.

 

Tabbouleh

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Recipe by: Maureen Abood

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 a perfect accompaniment to grilled meats, especially shish kebab, lamb chops or steaks.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely chopped curly parsley (about 3 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup bulghur, #1 fine grade
  • 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
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried mint, or mint salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare the parsley well in advance, the day before serving the tabbouleh if possible, by thoroughly washing and drying it. See this.

  2. 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.

  3. Combine the parsley, tomato, onion, and cracked wheat in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning.


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30 Responses to "Tabbouleh makes me shake-shake my bootie"
  1. Sue OConnor says:

    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!

  2. Betsy says:

    Don’t miss the link to the video above. It will make your day!

  3. Mary says:

    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!

  4. Pam Ogle says:

    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!

  5. Christine Hogan says:

    onion powder is my mainstay in everything instead of garlic powder. particularly on regular salad with lemon oil dressing from your Aunt Peggy!

    • Maureen Abood says:

      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….

  6. Julie says:

    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!

  7. Steve says:

    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.

  8. Wade says:

    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.

  9. Geoff Batrouney says:

    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!

  10. Candice Cohlmia Unger says:

    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.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FaNzrtu0KM

  11. sandra wood says:

    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.

  12. Georgia says:

    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!

  13. Zainab says:

    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

    • Maureen Abood says:

      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!

  14. Tania says:

    Hi Maureen!

    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?

  15. Nancy Tanasy says:

    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.

    • Maureen Abood says:

      This is special Nancy, thank you–your mother sounds so lovely, and I can just imagine what a beloved Sitto you are!

  16. Mary Gamble says:

    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!

  17. Gina Delta says:

    Hi Maureen,

    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

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Beautiful Gina, thank you so much! Please keep in touch and know I send warm regards to you down under!

  18. Virginia says:

    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.

    • Maureen Abood says:

      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!

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