Tabouli, also known as tabbouleh, is a beautiful Middle Eastern salad that's very simple to make. Fresh cucumber, tomatoes, and finely chopped herbs, mixed with bulgur, lemon juice, and olive oil, are the ingredients of this simple yet delicious salad.
If you're all about healthy and easy salads, then this tabouli recipe is for you! Living in Turkey was an essential stop on my culinary journey because Istanbul was where I discovered how much Mediterranean recipes have in common with Middle Eastern cuisine. I love how fresh and seasonal ingredients are used in Mediterranean cuisine on a daily basis and food is always simple yet delicious. A cool, crisp salad such as fattoush or even traditional Greek salad is an essential part of a complete Mediterranean or Middle Eastern meal.
What is Tabouli?
Tabbouleh or tabouli - either spelling is acceptable, so I'll alternate throughout this post - is a Mediterranean salad that's pretty simple and easy to make. Its main ingredients are parsley, herbs, and vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes. It's a light salad that makes a great side to most dishes. It's very common in the region and you can find it in almost any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurant.
Is it healthy?
Since it's made with bulgur, which is rich in fiber, vitamin B, and protein, tabouli is very good for you. The dressing is made with olive oil which is a healthy fat. This salad is a good option as healthy side dish or a light lunch. It's naturally dairy free and vegan.
First of all, you'll need bulgur wheat, which you can get at many supermarkets, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern shops, or online. You can choose either fine or coarse bulgur for this recipe. If getting fine bulgur, you simply need to soak it in hot water to cook it (more on that below).
Read more about bulgur wheat and what you can do with it.
I love using Persian cucumbers for this recipe. However, English cucumbers work too. If the cucumbers you're using are too seedy, make sure to scoop out and discard the seeds before chopping them.
Firm tomatoes such as roma tomatoes work perfectly for this recipe.
Parsley and mint are the main ingredients used in this tabbouleh recipe. This recipe is a great way to use up the herbs you have in the fridge.
Depending on the region and preferences of individual chefs, other ingredients such as mint, bell pepper, red onion or green onion are used as well.
The dressing used is made with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Such simple dressing gives so much flavor to this fresh and filling salad!
How to cook bulgur wheat
If you're using fine bulgur for this recipe (I used fine bulgur for the video), simply place it in a bowl and pour ¾ cup boiling water into the bowl and stir well. Let it sit for about 20 minutes until bulgur has soaked the water and is cooked. Let it cool completely and fluff with a fork before using it in the salad.
However, if you're using coarse bulgur such as the bulgur in the above photo, bring 1 ½ cup water to boil and cook the bulgur in the simmering water for about 20 to 25 minutes until it's fully cooked. Drain and let it sit to cool.
- Start with the bulgur, depending on the type of bulgur, either cook it in a pot or just soak it in some boiling water as described above.
- Once the bulgur is ready and completely cool, mix it with cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and mint.
- Chill the salad in the fridge for thirty minutes. While it's chilling, go ahead and make the dressing using lemon and lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Once ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad and stir well.
Tabouli is always served cold. It's best to prepare it about an hour before serving so it's cold when it comes to the table.
This salad is perfect with any kind of chicken, beef or lamb dish such as shish tawook or Turkish stuffed eggplant. It would also make a wonderful side dish for chicken shawarma or homemade falafel as well.
Is this gluten-free?
Since bulgur is a form of wheat, tabouli made with bulgur is not gluten-free. You can use quinoa instead of bulgur if you need it to be gluten-free. Some cooks might use riced cauliflower instead of bulgur or quinoa and while it's not authentic, many seem to enjoy it.
Notes and tips
- You can make this salad with quinoa or couscous. It won't be the classic tabbouleh salad, but it's tasty.
- Tabbouleh salad is always served cold. It's best to chill it in the fridge before serving it.
- For a fresh tabouli salad, mix the dressing with the salad right before serving. It's best to serve it on the same day or within 24 hours.
- I don't recommend freezing tabbouleh salad as it contains tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. These vegetables don't freeze well and become mushy and grainy, ruining the flavor and texture of the salad.
- Make sure to use extra firm tomatoes to make this salad. Softer tomatoes might release their juice which will change the texture of the salad.
Looking for more salad recipes?
- Mediterranean Couscous Salad
- Turkish homemade potato salad
- Easy Mediterranean salad
- Turkish tomato salad (Gavurdagi)
- Mediterranean potato salad
- Turkish white bean salad
- ½ cup wheat bulgur See Note #1
- 1 ½ cups parsley finely chopped
- 2 Roma tomatoes diced
- 2 Persian cucumbers diced See note #2
- ½ cup fresh mint chopped
- ⅓ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 lemon juice of
- 1 lime juice of
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Cook the bulgur according to the instructions on the package. If you're using very fine bulgur, pour ¾ cup hot water on the bulgur and let it sit for fifteen minutes, squeeze out and discard excess water and place the cooked bulgur in a large bowl.
- Add parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh mint to the bulgur. Mix well. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to cool for thirty minutes.
- In another bowl, mix olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper and place it in the fridge.
- When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad, stir well and serve immediately.
- You can use regular or fine bulgur. If using regular bulgur, cook it according to the packaging and if you're fine bulgur, just pour some hot water on it and let it sit for 15 minutes, squeeze out the excess water and then use the cooked bulgur in the recipe. The amount of bulgur used in this recipe depends on your preference, you can use less if you prefer your salad to be greener. For this recipe, I used whole wheat regular bulgur.
- You can use half of an English cucumber.
- Tabbouleh salad is best served the same day.