Okay…so if you think that word looks odd…try this….different spellings include: tabbouleh, tabouleh, taboulah, tabouli, tabbouli, tabooli, taboule, tabbūla, tabawla…and just to top it off…here’s how it’s spelled in Arabic: تبولة
Dictionary definition: Arab salad of cracked wheat (bulgur) mixed with finely chopped ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, and parsley.
Different regions of the Middle East have slightly different variations with more or less bulgur, but the general rule is herbs are the main component of the salad.
What is bulgur
Bulgur is made from cracked whole grain wheat berries that are partially cooked and then dried. This allows it to be ready to eat much quicker than other whole grains. All you have to do is rehydrate them. Some call it a whole grain for busy people. As any whole grain, it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber and provides a good amount of lean protein, B vitamins and manganese. And no…there is no such thing as “gluten free” bulgur!
The other Ingredients
Like all raw dishes, tabbouleh will only be as good as your ingredients. Besides fresh parsley and mint, pick the ripest most flavorful tomato you can find, the freshest cucumber and the best olive oil you have. And please… fresh lemon only, not from a bottle!
English cucumbers or Persian if you can find them (aka baby cucumbers) are best as they have a thin skin and don’t need peeling, so you get all the nutrients. If using thick skinned cucumbers, you may want to peel them and remove the seeds….but don’t worry…they are not really inferior and even if they were you can’t hurt the feelings of “thick skinned cucumbers.”
How to make tabbouleh
Authentic recipe calls for soaking the bulgur, not cooking it. I make mine with cooked bulgur because I like to cook my grains in big batches and freeze them in individual serving containers. So when it strikes my fancy, I can just grab a container of pre-cooked bulgur and throw this salad together in no time. Also, different kinds of bulgur you can buy out there are ground differently. Some are fine, some coarse, and if you happen to use the wrong one, you can end up with something that tastes like grains of sand (not desirable). Cooking it according to your specific package’s instructions avoids any surprise.
Chop herbs by hand or if you are making tabbouleh for a crowd or have arthritis, use a food processor. You’ll just have one more thing to clean up later.
If in a rush, you can eat the salad right away. However, it’s best if you can let it sit a couple hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator. The bulgur will absorb some of the liquids and continue swelling, and the flavors will meld nicely together.
Bon Appetit…or….in Arabic… أتمنى لك وجبة شهية (atamanaa tak wajbatan shahiatan)
Other recipes you might like
- Place the bulgur in a medium saucepan with 3/4 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to low heat, cover and cook 10 minutes. Drain any excess water and place in a large bowl, spreading it out so that it cools down. (This step is best done in advance)
- Once bulgur has cooled to room temperature, dice the tomatoes small, removing the seeds. Add them to the bowl.
- Dice the cucumber small. Mince the garlic. Slice the green onions. Add to the bowl.
- Chop the parsley and mint very fine – you should have about 1 cup of chopped herbs once you are done. Add to the bowl.
- Squeeze the lemon into the bowl, add salt and olive oil and fresh ground pepper to taste.
- Toss well and leave at room temperature or in the refrigerator for two to three hours, so that the bulgur can continue to absorb liquid and swell.