I tried tabbouleh salad for the first time in a Cypriot restaurant Cleopatra and I was intrigued. A salad that uses parsley as the main ingredient. Until then I was used to putting parsley into dishes in small quantities as a spice. I really liked tabbouleh so I wanted to know how to prepare it. It eventually became my favourite salad.
One thing I noticed in preparing this dish is that you have to cut parsley, mint and cherry tomatoes very thinly. This is what makes or breaks this salad. If you don’t have the energy or time to do that, my advice would be to just make it at another time. It really makes that much of a difference. The other important thing to consider is how much olive oil to use. Although very good, the restaurant version of this salad was very oily. I use very little oil in my version because the freshness of the ingredients is enough to make this salad divine.
The original recipe uses bulgur but it can be easily replaced with a gluten free option. My favourite are hemp seeds since they don’t add taste and you don’t have to cook them so you save time. Other great gluten free options are avocado, crumbled firm tofu or beans. If you want to replace bulgur with a non-gluten free option then I highly recommend kamut. There are all sorts of other options too, for example buckwheat groats, millet, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, quinoa etc.
You can also play with other ingredients, for example if somebody doesn’t like tomatoes, replace them with pomegranate seeds. I had the opportunity to do this for somebody and the salad was well received. You can really play with ingredients in this salad and it will often turn out great. I even tried to put some fresh aloe vera pieces in it once and I really liked it.
When on a diet I make tabbouleh without olive oil, bulgur and pine nuts and instead I add cucumber and sometimes radish. I really enjoy eating tabbouleh on a diet.
What perhaps doesn’t work is if you use too much bulgur in relation to parsley. I ate a version like that in some restaurants and it was almost unrecognizable. In my opinion the star of tabbouleh is parsley.
You can also use cauliflower rice for another gluten free version. Remove bulgur, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts from the salad and instead put in cauliflower rice.
You can easily transform tabbouleh salad into a snack for a party. Take smaller leaves of romaine lettuce and fill them with tabbouleh. This way everybody can just take one leaf of the salad. I think this is a great way to introduce the idea of tabbouleh in a few bites.
Tabbouleh Salad (V, GF options)
- 50 g parsley thinly chopped
- 8 g fresh mint thinly chopped
- 170 g cherry tomatoes thinly chopped (this can be replaced with pomegranate seeds if desired)
- 30 g bulgur (can be replaced with 15 g hemp seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, 30 g kamut, crumbled firm tofu, avocado, beans, millet, quinoa, buckwheat or some other ingredient)
- 10 ml (2 tsp) lemon juice
- 10 ml (2 tsp) olive oil
- 1/3 tsp salt
- pinch of ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground coriander
- 4 g pine nuts roasted
- 4 leaves romaine lettuce
- Roast pine nut at 180 °C for 5 min then set aside.
- Cook the bulgur in water for 12 min then discard the excess water.
- While the bulgur is cooking and pine nuts roasting prepare other ingredients. Cut parsley (mostly the leaf parts) and mint as thinly as possible with a large knife.
- Cut cherry tomatoes very thinly.
- Mix parsley, mint, cherry tomatoes, bulgur, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and coriander together.
- Arrange romaine lettuce leaves around the edges of a bowl. Sprinkle roasted pine nuts over the top of the salad.
- Serve it as a main dish for one person, a side dish for 2 people, as one of the dishes as part of a meze or as a bite size party snack.
- If you would like to make cauliflower rice tabbouleh, use 1 medium head of cauliflower, turn it into cauliflower rice in your food processor, cook it with a little bit of olive oil in a pan for 8 minutes or so and add it to the salad. In cauliflower tabbouleh don't use cherry tomatoes, bulgur and pine nuts.