This recipe for Easy Bulgur Tabbouleh (tabouli) calls for an amazing amount of fresh parsley, as well as bulgur, mint, scallions, tomatoes, and a bright lemony dressing. It's a stunning Lebanese grain and herb salad you'll make again and again, no matter what the season.
Finding the right bulgur for Tabbouleh:
- What is bulgur wheat? A staple of Middle Eastern cooking. It's made from whole wheatberries that have been steamed, hulled, dried, and cracked. To eat it, it needs rehydrating.
- Is bulgur wheat gluten-free? No, but you can use quinoa, cooked rice, or cauliflower rice to make gluten-free tabbouleh.
- Shopping for bulgur. Most well-stocked groceries should carry bulgur, but if your trusted store has a bulk section, head there first. (Don't buy boxed tabouli mix, which is more of a kit with a packet of dried spices.)
To make things even more confusing, sometimes bulgur is incorrectly labeled as "cracked wheat." The two look alike and definitely can be substituted for each other, but they aren't technically the same: bulgur is pre-cooked, but cracked wheat isn't.
Still with me? Bulgur also comes in coarse and fine grinds. Luckily, "coarse bulgur" is easier to find and in my opinion, has a better texture. Therefore I buy coarse bulgur, which I rehydrate in a bowl with some boiling water poured over it.
What about fine bulgur wheat? Pre-cooked fine bulgur usually just needs a soak in cool water to hydrate. (If you try this, and your bulgur wheat is still tough, drain it and add boiling water instead.)
The secret to fluffy Tabbouleh: curly parsley!
Yep, that's correct. The naturally bounciness of regular (non-Italian) curly leaf parsley is exactly what you want. Accept no substitutes. This is the most crucial ingredient, after all. The Italian flat leaf parsley just weighs the salad down.
Some recipes swear by Italian parsley, but I prefer the texture and fluffiness of the plain parsley.
How to make Bulgur Tabbouleh Salad:
Once you find the right kind of bulgur, the rest is easy, breezy...promise! Oh, and in case you're making a double batch of tabbouleh, I don't list specific ingredient quantities in this walk-through. The recipe card has all the details.
- To start, prepare the bulgur. Add it to a prep bowl and pour some boiling water over the grains until the bulgur is covered by 1/2-inch of hot water. Let it soak for 20 to 30 minutes, until slightly tender, then drain off the excess water.
- While the bulgur soaks, prep all the veggies and herbs. Chop the parsley, mint, and scallions. Squeeze the lemons. And seed and chop the tomatoes.
- Once all that is out of the way, toss the bulgur and the herbs and vegetables together with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Ideally, you should chill the Bulgur Tabbouleh salad so the flavors can blend. I, regrettably, never manage to wait that long.
Helpful tips for making Bulgur Tabbouleh:
- Curley parsley is critical. I've said this before, but Italian (flat-leafed) parsley doesn't give the salad any texture, which is a crucial part of tabbouleh.
- But don't forget the mint! A little fresh mint takes this salad into delicious new heights.
- Make ahead. This salad has great staying power! It takes the patience of a saint for me to let it sit in the refrigerator a couple hours without digging into it, but it tastes even better when the flavors meld. Make it a day ahead and serve it with confidence.
- Hand chop the herbs. It may be easier, but using the food processor bruises the herbs, and effects the overall taste and texture. The best way to chop herbs is to bunch them tightly and use a chef’s knife to chiffonade them, cutting them in thin slices.
Tabbouleh with quinoa, couscous tabbouleh, and other variations:
- Quinoa. Gluten-free tabouli. Throw in an equal amount of cooked quinoa (any color) in place of the bulgur. Learn how to cook quinoa perfectly every time, without any bitterness at all.
- Tabbouleh with rice. Also a good GF option! Add an equal amount of your favorite cooked rice instead of the durum wheat.
- Couscous. Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese style couscous are all good substitutions. Cook each kind according to the package instructions, and add an equal amount of any for the bulgur.
- Cauliflower tabbouleh. Riced cauliflower makes a great stand-in for grain, especially if you're trying to eat more vegetables.
- Millet tabbouleh. Cooked millet grains are gluten free and add really nice crunch to the salad.
- Tabbouleh with cucumbers. Cucumbers don't usually show up in authentic tabbouleh, but many people add them for extra crunch. If you like them, add some!
- Tabbouleh spices. I love the simplicity of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, but some recipes call for pinch of cinnamon, a good dose of allspice, or a sprinkle of Lebanese 7-spices.
Easy Bulgur Tabbouleh Recipe
- 1/4 cup bulgur wheat
- boiling water
- 2 bunches fresh curly parsley stems removed and minced, about 4 cups packed (see notes)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves stems removed
- 2 roma tomatoes seeded and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 bunch scallions sliced (white and green parts)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, add bulgur. Add boiling water to cover by 1/2-inch and let soak until softened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well.
- To a large bowl, add drained bulgur. Stir in parsley, mint, tomatoes, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Serve chilled or at room temperature.