First published July 2013. Republished with updated content Aug 2020.
Tabbouleh is an amazingly green Levantine salad, found all over the Middle East and parts of North Africa. It is green in colour and green in goodness!
The Levant is the large, historic area east of the Mediterranean sea that includes Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and parts in southern Turkey.
The word tabbouleh comes from the Arabic word, tabil, which means to spice up. Incidentally, tabil is also a spice mix common in north Africa.
Tabbouleh is to be found all over the Levant and is a very popular summer offering, whether served as a side salad or as part of a mezze.
It’s an extremely easy salad to put together, sure there’s a whole lot of chopping going on but really, for the amount here, I don’t take more than 10 minutes to put it all together, if that. Not taking into account the soaking of the bulgur wheat, which takes 15 minutes, during which time, you’ll be chopping!
Summertime is the perfect time to make Tabbouleh, when you not only have an abundance of parsley, but are spoilt for choice in the seemingly endless array of tomatoes!
Unfortunately, a good Tabbouleh isn’t as easy to get as you might think. More often than not, when I’m served Tabbouleh, it has a strong bulgur wheat presence, totally obscuring anything else and most definitely the parsley.
A good estimate is the bulgur wheat should be about half the weight of the parsley, not amount. So if we’re going to do this, let’s start right, repeat after me:
Parsley is the star of the show!
Not the bulgur wheat.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way :), let’s look at:
How to Make Perfect Tabbouleh
- try and get firm (but ripe) tomatoes, as you don’t want them turning to mush during chopping.
- don’t be tempted to drain the tomatoes of their juices and seeds, they’ll add moisture and flavour.
- step away from that chopper! It’s got to be done by hand, you want the parsley tiny-ish but whole, not mush or bruised from the chopper blades.
- use a big sharp knife for ease and best results. Hold the tip of the knife down as a fulcrum, and chop down with the base.
- everything wants chopping up fairly small, although how tiny you like your parsley to be is a matter of preference. I do like a bit of size on my parsley.
- soak, soak, soak the bulgur wheat – too many people don’t do this, what you get is a raw crunch taste, BUT please don’t go cooking it though! Just soak it is hand hot water to soften.
Traditionally, this is flat leaf parsley, which has a lighter, but sharper aroma than the curly type. However, if all you can get is curly parsley, it will still give you, a delicious, perfect tabbouleh!
Just remember to chop it all up finely, which is easier done with the curlier variety, methinks.
Bulgur Wheat in Tabbouleh
I think this is where many people differ. Bulgur Wheat is made from ground wheat that’s been partially cooked, then dried. This, like couscous, makes it a super quick food.
It adds a lovely texture and a nutty flavour to tabbouleh, but still should only play a small part in the whole salad. To me, it should never compete with the parsley; its presence is only there as a slight distraction.
Having said that, I can tell you that almost every tabbouleh I’ve eaten in Israel has been a little heavy on the bulgur wheat. The Israeli tabbouleh tends to give this starch almost as much respect as the parsley.
But I’m not a fan. I think the whole idea behind tabbouleh is the fact that it is a parsley salad. All other ingredients are only meant to be playing a supporting part. And that’s how we are making our tabbouleh today, you won’t be missing that parsley, I’m tellin’ ya!
And on that note, shall we get our aprons on?
More Salads on LinsFood
- 60 g bulgur wheat
- 500 ml hand hot water (half boiling, half room temperature water)
- 120 g flat leaf parsley
- 1 stalk mint
- 2 medium firm tomatoes
- 1 small spring onion (scallion)
- Get a large bowl ready for the Tabbouleh.
- Place the bulgur wheat in a medium-sized bowl and top with hand hot water. In other words, the water is comfortably hot when you place your hand in it. If uncertain, boil some water, then pour 1 cup in a bowl. Add another cup of room temperature water to it. Then tip in the bulgur wheat. Soak the bulgur wheat for 15 minutes.
- When done, drain, then, using a fine sieve, rinse the bulgur wheat until the water runs clear, give a good shake or two to get rid of excess water and place in a large salad bowl.
Let's chop everything up (while the bulgur wheat is soaking)
- Chop the parsley up fairly finely and place in the bowl.
- Pick the mint leaves off the stem, chop finely, and add to the bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes into tiny pieces, no bigger than 1 cm, add to the bowl, along with its juices.
- Chop the whole spring onion (green & white), and add to the bowl.
- In a small bowl or measuring jug, mix the dressing ingredients together and give them a quick whisk. Pour the salad dressing all over the chopped ingredients.
- Using a large salad spoon/fork, gently mix the dressing in, using lifting movements. Done! Best served immediately, but can be kept, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 hours.