A simple recipe for an authentic Lebanese Tabbouleh salad. Tabbouleh makes a great side dish and is especially delicious in the summer when fresh herbs are abundant.
Tabbouleh, also commonly spelled Tabouli, is a classic Lebanese dish often served as a salad or as part of mezze (small dishes served as appetizers). Though Tabbouleh is now available ready made in most grocery stores and delis, making an authentic Tabbouleh salad at home is easy and worth every minute of labour.
Differences in spices used in Tabbouleh are found depending on which region in Lebanon you are from. For instance, my family doesn’t add cinnamon, or a seven spice blend to Tabbouleh, we use salt, pepper and occasionally a pinch of cayenne. Making an authentic Tabbouleh salad isn’t complicated, just choose the freshest ingredients and follow the steps below to be rewarded with much fresher and better tasting Tabbouleh than you can ever buy at a store.
How to make delicious Tabbouleh
- First you need to purchase fresh bundles of parsley, you can purchase either flat-leaf (also known as Italian) or curly parsley. You can choose the parsley you prefer, both are used to make Tabbouleh, though some will swear that flat-leaf parsley yields a better tasting Tabbouleh and others will swear that curly parsley will give you a lighter and fluffier Tabbouleh. You will also need some fresh mint (a couple of stalks, should do the trick), scallions, a tomato, a couple of lemons, some extra-virgin olive oil and fine bulgur (cracked wheat), the dark variety if possible. If you can’t find bulgur in your grocery store, you can find it in Middle-Eastern or health food stores.
- Once you have your ingredients ready, you need to start by picking wilted or yellowed leaves from the parsley and removing as much of the stems as possible.
- Wash the parsley 3 times. To wash the parsley, fill a basin with water, dunk the parsley in it, swishing it in the water to release the grit and then lift the parsley out. Dump the water out and fill the basin with fresh water again. Add the parsley to the water, swish it again and repeat this step a third time. This will ensure you’ve removed all the grit from the parsley.
- Next the parsley needs to be dried. You can let it air dry or if you’re in a rush, use a salad spinner to dry the parsley. You can do all of this one day ahead of serving it, store the dried parsley in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Chopping the parsley: You may be tempted to use the food processor for this task, but many will warn against this as it will make the parsley too mushy. So instead, sharpen your knife and chop the parsley by hand. You want to chop it finely, you shouldn’t be able to see full leaves off parsley in your Tabbouleh.
- Measure out the fine bulgur, rinse it under cold water, drain it and reserve.
- Next, you need to finely chop some fresh mint leaves and thinly slice the scallions. Once chopped, you can add these to the parsley.
- You will need a ripe but firm medium sized tomato, chopped into a small dice.
- The last step is to make the lemon and olive oil dressing and add the seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon and 7 spice blend, if using). Precise amounts are indicated in the recipe below.
- 3 cups finely chopped parsley (wash parsley thoroughly several times dry it well and remove stalks before chopping)
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves washed and stems removed
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup fine bulgur rinsed and drained
- 1 cup diced tomatoes (approx. 1 medium tomato small dice)
- 1 scallion trimmed and thinly sliced, green onion
- 4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or to taste
- 6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Pinch of cayenne cinnamon or seven spice blend, all optional.
- Combine parsley, mint, scallions, tomatoes and bulgur in a medium bowl.
- Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, (and other spices if using) mix well, taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate if serving later.
Fine bulgur does not need to be soaked, just rinsed and drained.