It's been a long cold winter and my body's been aching to eat something vibrant and green. It's still a bit early for spring vegetables, but Tabouleh is a verdant Levantine salad you can put together with vegetables and herbs that are available all year.
While it's a simple salad to prepare with very few ingredients, here are a few key points that separate a great tabouleh from a bowl of rabbit food.
- First, as with all simple dishes, it’s crucial to use the very best ingredients. This means good quality olive oil and fresh parsley. But the two most important things are to use ripe tomatoes and tender cucumbers. Since it’s not exactly the height of tomato season right now, I used cherry tomatoes, which tend to be sweeter. As for the cucumbers, I like using Lebanese cucumbers for my Tabouleh because they have tender skin, a nice crunchy texture, and just a bit of sweetness, but japanese cucumbers also work well. If you can’t find either, use a hot house cucumber (a.k.a. English cucumber), removing the seeds with a spoon.
- The second thing is to soak the bulgur in the dressing. Many recipes tell you to cook the bulgur. Bulgur wheat is par boiled before it’s dried and so putting it in boiling water will make it too soft. Traditional Tabouleh recipes usually call to soak the bulgur in cold water, but I prefer soaking it in the dressing because it absorbs the concentrated flavors of the dressing, keeping the finished salad from tasting watery.
- Lastly, don’t be afraid of the parsley. According to Wikipedia “The Levantine Arabic tabbūle is derived from the Arabic word tabil, meaning seasoning.” since bulgur isn’t much of a seasoning one can only imagine that the name is referring to the potent herbs that go into the salad. I know many people are used to thinking of parsley as an inedible garnish that comes with your meal at Denny’s, but it was an herb before it was a garnish. It’s also loaded with anti-oxidants and is even purported to slow the growth of tumors.
It's worth noting that cucumber is not a traditional addition to Tabouleh, however I like the texture it adds. If you want to make a more traditional Tabouleh, just omit the cucumbers. Tabouleh tastes great the day it's made, but I think it's even the better the next day. Serve it as part of a Meze, or on a bed of greens as a salad.
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (coarsely ground)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup cracked bulgur
- ½ red onion (finely diced)
- 140 grams flat-leaf parsley
- 140 grams Lebanese cucumbers (~2 cucumbers, cubed)
- 225 grams tomatoes (~2 tomatoes, cubed)
- Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt together in a small bowl, then add the bulgur wheat. Let this soak for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the coarseness of your bulgur and how soft you want it.
- If the raw onion is too strong for your tastes, soak the minced onion in cold water for an hour or two to tame it. You may need to change the water a few times. Drain and dry thoroughly with paper towels before using them in the salad.
- Wash the parsley then use a salad spinner or paper towels to thoroughly dry it. Remove all the stems, then grab a handful and roll it up and slice the roll as thinly as possible. Chop the parsley in the opposite direction to the direction you sliced and you should get it pretty evenly chopped.
- Add the parsley to a large bowl along with the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Add the soaked bulgur along with the dressing and toss everything together. Tabouleh tastes fresh the day it's made, but if you let it sit overnight, the flavors have a chance to meld and it tastes even better.
Jessica Hudson says
I'm pretty sure you have used "American" foods in your recipes and called it "your own"! Why be disrespectful and embarrass you're on heritage?! I have been to many restaurants that have "tabouleh" with cucumber and it was always NAMED TABOULEH! I'll pray for you Nina and if you have nothing nice to say don't say It at all! Btw, tabouleh is way better with cucumber! Don't knock it til you try it
Susan Thompson says
While this more or less follows traditional tabbouleh recipes, and is not bad, there is in fact no place for cucumbers in real Lebanese taboouleh. Their flavor is far too strong and overpowering, and is too much its own flavor and does not harmonize with the other ingredients. Leave it out.
Susan Thompson says
Nina, you seem like a total nasty bitch. Chill out, and try not to be such a hostile person. If you don't like America and things American, just don't come here, or watch our movies, or listen to our music, or eat our food. We certainly won't miss having such a hateful person soiling herself with our culture.
Cheryl Malik says
Ok, so disrespectful snapping about "real tabbouleh" and "culture" aside, I have to say I liked the flavor (and also added some totally blasphemous cucumbers and onions to bulk it up) but my cracked bulgur did not soften at ALL and made the tabbouleh basically inedible. Luckily there was very little bulgur in the recipe so I could eat my portion but did not want to save the leftovers. Next time I'll steep the bulgur like I've always done in the past
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Cheryl, sorry to hear it didn't work out for you. There have been a couple people who have had this problem, and I'm not really sure what's going on. It's most likely that we're using different types of bulgur. As for your leftovers, if you still have them around try them now. The extra time should have made the bulgur softer.
Karina Dendani says
I just made this recipe. I loved it! It tasted very lemon which I loved. I bought the wheat bulgur at an arabic store. It softened in an hour. Thank you so much for posting it. Indeed was a lot better to soak the bulgur on the dressing than boil it. I have made it both ways and this by far was delicious!
Why did you have to mention parsley as "loaded with anti-oxidants and is even purported to slow the growth of tumors"? I was all about this recipe until then. You don't need to spread junk science just to convince me to use parsley. I'm not eating it to cure my damned cancer, nor would I go to a salad for that purpose. That's what actual medicine is for.
Hey, Nina: Ever since the first caveman dropped a piece of meat into the fire, there have been no "original " recipes. Cuisine is all about adapting, improvising and experimenting. Get off your high horse. G
Hi marc, i did misunderstand your comment and i apologize, Iam not embarrassed because i was honest in what i thought even if it was a misunderstanding, i do not use any politics in my responses like other people and i am not planning to and i dont use any insults. Thank you for understanding my mistake and not making a big deal out of it.
And thank you for apologizing although you didnt have to. I wish you all the best.
Arabian girl says
Nice but you don't add cucumber in tabouleh ... And you add chopped mint normally
This it NOT Mediterranean !!!!!!
It's Arabic/ Middle eastern salad. Get the facts right please. (You don't add cucumber in a tabouleh)
ma3lechi nina tawleh belik 😉
Alisa Troyan says
The bulgur did not become soft in 2 hours :'-(
Can line nuts be substituted for cucumbers?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Patricia, I'm not sure what a line nut is, but you don't have to add cucumbers to this if you don't want to. Traditional tabbouleh typically does not include it.
Made this tonight and oh so yummy! Soaking grain in the sauce makes a big difference. I did soak for about 4 hours and bulgur was still quite firm but so tasty. Served the following day, very good. The bulgur I could find in Canada didn't say cracked, so maybe that makes a difference. I have made this salad a few times in the past and this is by far the BEST! Might make a difference the type of bulgur so keep that in mind. Thanks for sharing, great recipe!!
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Sherry, I'm happy to hear your enjoyed it! If it was cracked the bulgur would be about the size of uncooked couscous. If it was whole it will look more like rice and would definitely take longer to soak. I'm glad you found a soaking time that worked. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how it went!
dumb question but we drain bulgar and onion before adding them right?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Kaitlin, it's not a dumb question at all. The bulgur is soaked in the dressing, so there's no need to drain it. As for the onion, if you soak it in water, you'll want to drain it well so your salad doesn't get watery.