Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa tabbouleh is always a hit, starring lemon and fresh herbs! This spin on the classic Middle Eastern salad is an easy healthy side dish.

Quinoa tabbouleh

Are you a tabbouleh fan? This Middle Eastern salad is one of the tastiest salads there is. There’s something about the combination of herbaceous parsley, bright lemon and crunchy tomatoes and cucumber that makes magic. Traditional tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat, a quick cooking whole grain. But seeing as quinoa is the grain of the moment…why not try it with quinoa? Turns out Quinoa Tabbouleh works perfectly, making a delicious gluten free spin on this classic salad.

What is tabbouleh?

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad that’s made with fresh parsley, bulgur wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, and seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil. Sometimes spelled tabouli or tabbouli, it’s a staple in Greek, Lebanese and Syrian cuisine. You’ll often see it alongside hummus and baba ganoush in a mezze platter. The fresh brightness of the lemon and parsley are the perfect contrast to more savory and heavy flavors.

There is no “exact” science on how to make tabbouleh because every cook has their own recipe. We researched the traditional ingredients in tabouli and used those as a basic for this quinoa version. The first time Alex and I had tabbouleh was back when we first met, at a Greek restaurant in our college town. I remember falling instantly in love with the herbaceous flavor of tabbouleh. (I fell in love with Alex much later!)

How to make quinoa tabbouleh

Ingredients in quinoa tabbouleh

This quinoa tabbouleh recipe is a spin on a traditional tabbouleh using quinoa instead of bulgur wheat! Using quinoa makes this into a gluten-free salad: and you also get all the nutritional benefits of quinoa. The advantage of bulgur wheat is that all you need to do is let it stand in boiling water for 10 minutes. The quinoa cooking process takes just a little longer! But it’s 100% worth the time. Combine the quinoa with these traditional tabbouleh ingredients to make a standout salad:

  • Quinoa
  • Curly parsley (that’s right: see below!)
  • Mint
  • Green onions
  • Tomatoes
  • English cucumber
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

As a note: some tabbouleh recipes are almost 2/3 parsley with only a bit of the grain. Others are all whole grain and only a little bit of the herb. This quinoa tabbouleh recipe falls in the middle. We love parsley-forward tabbouleh recipes, but also wanted to have a good amount of quinoa. Speaking of parsley…

Curly parsley vs Italian parsley: which to use in tabbouleh?

There are two main types of parsley: curly and Italian parsley (also called “flat leaf”). The difference? Curly parsley has very curly leaves and tastes grassy; Italian parsley has leaves that are flat like cilantro and tastes bright and herbaceous. We used to adhere to the mantra that curly parsley is used only as decoration, not in cooking. Only use Italian parsley in your cooking, we’d say! But guess what: the best parsley to use in tabbouleh is curly parsley.

Why? Curly parsley has more texture. When you chop it, it remains light and fluffy, versus Italian parsley that is perfectly flat and can become soggy. Also: the flavor tastes like what you expect from a Greek or Lebanese restaurant. So lesson learned: use curly parsley!

You’ll need to buy quite a lot of parsley for this recipe. It takes a while to chop 2 cups of parsley: but never fear! All the work is worth it. You can use this How to Cut Cilantro video as a guide.

Curly parsley

Make the quinoa in advance if you have time

Cooking quinoa for the quinoa tabbouleh takes about 25 minutes total. You can cook it while you chop the veggies: but the easiest way to do it is cooking it in advance! Here’s why:

  • Making the quinoa in advance is helpful. You don’t want hot quinoa for tabbouleh, you need quinoa that’s room temperature or cold. Why? Right after you cook it, quinoa retains a lot of moisture. You’ll want the grains to dry out a bit so they don’t stick together. Also, the salad is served room temperature. So, the easiest way to make this salad is to cook the quinoa in advance and refrigerate.
  • Here’s a quick tip for cooling quinoa…fast! If you don’t think ahead, you can use this tip for cooling quinoa quickly. Spread it in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for a few minutes. This allows the steam to dissipate and makes the cooling much faster than plopping it in a bowl.

How to make quinoa tabbouleh…a few more tips!

Once you’ve cooked the quinoa, tabbouleh is a breeze to whip up! The basic method for this recipe is very easy: cook quinoa, chop veggies, add dressing. But there are a few more things to note:

  • Chop the vegetables very finely. You’ll want the veggies to integrate into the texture of the salad well, so chop them as finely as you can.
  • Core and seed the tomatoes. Another tip for reducing moisture is coring and seeding the tomatoes when you chop them. This removes any soggy seeds from the salad. For more, go to How to Cut Tomatoes.
Quinoa tabbouleh

Storage info

Once you’ve mixed up a batch of this quinoa tabbouleh, you can use it as a healthy side dish for lunch and dinner recipes throughout the week! It stores refrigerated for about 3 to 4 days, and holds up pretty well.

How to serve quinoa tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a fantastic healthy and easy side dish or appetizer for all sorts of meals. Some of our grain salad recipes can double as a main dish, but here we’d recommend keeping it as a side dish. It almost feels like a condiment like an Indian raita: it’s lovely to mix into the flavors already on your plate to bring a fresh brightness. Here are some ways we’d serve it!

This quinoa tabbouleh recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Quinoa tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Quinoa tabbouleh is always a hit, starring lemon and fresh herbs! This spin on the classic Middle Eastern salad is an easy healthy side dish. 


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups finely chopped curly parsley (2 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 3 green onions
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1/2 English cucumber (1 cup finely chopped)
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Make the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa using a fine mesh strainer, then drain it completely. Place it in a saucepan with 2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer where the water is just bubbling for about 17 to 20 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed. (Check by pulling back the quinoa with a fork to see if water remains.) Turn off the heat and let sit with the lid on to steam for 5 minutes, then fluff the quinoa with a fork. 
  2. Cool the quinoa to room temperature: To do this quickly, dump the quinoa onto a baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Pop it in the freezer for 2 to 3 minutes until cooled to room temperature. Or, you can make the quinoa in advance and let it sit at room temp or refrigerate until serving (it cools fastest spread on a baking sheet).
  3. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables: Finely chop the parsley and mint. Thinly slice the green onions. Finely chop the tomato, removing the core and seeds. Finely chop the cucumber (if you’re using a standard cucumber and not English cucumber, remove the seeds too.)
  4. Add the dressing: Juice the lemon and whisk it together with the olive oil. In a large bowl, toss the quinoa and vegetables with the dressing, kosher salt and pepper. Taste and adjust flavors as necessary. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.

  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Salad
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern inspired

Keywords: Quinoa tabbouleh

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Jr
    September 25, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    I would urge people not to use English cucumber. There is debate about whether this was part of a traditional recipe for tabbouleh. But basically it’s equivalent of taking the bold flavors into bully and dunking them in a glass of water and drinking it. Most everyone I serve tabouli to has mentioned how this ruins the flavor.

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