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What is Tabbouleh?

Niki Acker
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tabbouleh, also spelled tabouleh or tabouli, is a Middle Eastern dish made of bulgur wheat, finely chopped herbs, and spices. Tabbouleh is often served as an appetizer, a salad, or part of a mezze, the Middle Eastern equivalent of tapas. Tabbouleh is thought to have originated in Lebanon, where it is the national dish, but it is now enjoyed all over the world, particularly in vegetarian or vegan cuisines or as a refreshing summer treat.

In Lebanon, tabbouleh is commonly scooped onto lettuce leaves from a large bowl and eaten. People in the United States may eat tabbouleh with a fork or spoon or use it as a dip for vegetables or pita bread. It also goes well with falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, or any other Middle Eastern or Mediterranean menu items. The herbs included in tabbouleh frequently include scallions, mint, parsley, and tomato. Lemon juice, salt, and black pepper are the most traditional seasonings, sometimes supplemented with cinnamon, allspice, or other spices.

A basic recipe for tabbouleh can be found below, but the dish is amenable to creative variation. For example, though garlic is not a traditional ingredient, many cooks enjoy adding it to tabbouleh. Another interesting option is a bit of pepperoncini juice to add a little spice. The main ingredient, bulgur wheat, can usually be found at Middle Eastern or health food markets, and it is typically inexpensive. If more than one grade is available, go with the finest for the best tabouleh.

To feed four to six guests, begin with a cup of finely chopped bulgur wheat in a large glass dish. Pour a cup and a half of boiling water on it, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Next, use a spoon to mix in 1/3 cup lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To finish up your tabbouleh, add two bunches of parsley, four scallions, two tomatoes, and about five mint leaves, all as finely chopped as possible. Return it to the refrigerator for another hour - not more - and it's ready to serve. You can add extra lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, or anything else you like just before serving.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Jun 10, 2012

@ddljohn-- I did that once too!

Either you didn't use the right kind of bulgur wheat or you didn't let it soak in hot water long enough. You need to make sure that you're using a very fine bulgur wheat. Otherwise, it will remain hard no matter how long you leave it in hot water. While soaking in boiled water, fine bulgur absorbs the moisture and literally cooks. The coarse bulgur can only cook on the stove.

I'm sure you'll have no problems next time if you pay attention to these two points. To add more flavor to your salad, I would recommend adding more variety of herbs like parsley, scallions and mint. Also make sure that the onions and garlic (if you're using them) are diced very small. Don't forget to add black pepper and salt and enjoy with some pita bread or crackers!

By ddljohn — On Jun 09, 2012

I love Arabic food and tabbouleh is one of my favorite appetizers. I eat at Arabic restaurants often and I never pass up on tabbouleh.

The other day, I decided that I would make tabbouleh at home. I bought all the ingredients and followed a tabbouleh recipe. But for some reason, my cracked wheat did not come out soft. When I finished the salad and tasted it, it was still hard and crunchy. All my efforts went to waste!

What do you think I did wrong? I thought that tabbouleh would be very easy to make. After all, it is a salad, but I couldn't manage even that.

Does anyone have any tips for me? I think I'm going to give this one more shot before I quit.

By serenesurface — On Jun 08, 2012

@pforant-- Yes, cracked wheat is another name for bulgur and both of them come in different grades. For example, in many Middle Eastern grocery stores, you can find three different types. The coarse one is usually for "pilav" or bulgur rice. The medium one is for salads like tabbouleh and the finest one is for meatballs. So ideally, the bulgur used to make tabbouleh should not be too coarse or too fine.

@anon89834-- Actually, since tabbouleh is eaten in many countries in the Middle East region, it's hard to say which is the most authentic one. How it's made depends on the country and as you said, there are many different kinds.

In Turkey, for example, tabbouleh contains more bulgur than greens and it always contains tomato or pepper paste. My mother loves to make her tabbouleh sour and spicy and we eat it by filling it in lettuce wraps. I'm guessing the authentic tabbouleh recipe you're talking about is Lebanese tabbouleh?

By anon89834 — On Jun 12, 2010

wise geek or not, you forgot to mention that for it to be true tabbouleh - many other spellings, etc., the primary ingredient is parsley, not bulgur wheat. There are many types of bulgur wheat salads - many delicious, but the authentic tabbouleh is more green than beige.

By pforant — On Dec 12, 2008

Is cracked wheat interchangeable with Bulgur?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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