Cooking Together

Cooking Together: Tabouli

A Delightful Middle Eastern Salad:  Tabouli, traditional and gluten -free

by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Summer months are fairly mild in San Francisco, so one does not frequently feel the need for hydration.  However, even in our temperate climate, it is important to keep your body quenched with water and moist foods such as salads. Many health practitioners believe that not consuming enough fluids can aggravate many chronic disorders. 

Salads provide hydration in addition to essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Rich in enzymes, raw leafy greens can help us with our digestion. Salads are a delightful and attractive addition to any meal. So, in addition to drinking water and healthy beverages, try to include salads in your daily menu, especially now when fresh greens and vegetables are plentiful at our local grocery stores and at the farmers markets.

Most salads made with your familiar lettuce are easy and quick to prepare. But, for a variation, look for something different – an ethnic recipe that is diverse in its content and composition. In this column, I am presenting a Middle Eastern recipe called Tabouli, that can be served with a soup as a lunch or a supper. It is also an ideal companion for picnics and cookouts.

You can find many variations of a tabouli recipe depending on what country it came from or simply what fresh ingredients are available. A traditional recipe of tabouli includes soaked bulgur (pre-cooked cracked wheat), finely chopped leafy greens and other raw vegetables. I like a tabouli that is very green with lots of freshly minced parsley and mint leaves and some chopped vegetables. Here, in addition to the traditional recipe made with bulgur, I am presenting a wheat-free tabouli for those who need a gluten-free option.  

Traditional Tabouli 

Ingredients for traditional tabouli:

½ cup bulgur (cracked wheat)

3 cups warm water

2 cups minced parsley leaves (after removing stems)

¾  to one cup fresh mint leaves, minced (after removing stems)

½ cup finely chopped scallions (with some of its green parts)

½ cup very small cubes of peeled cucumber

½ cup small cubes of firm tomatoes (chopped cherry tomatoes work well)

¼ cup red or yellow bell pepper, cut into tiny pieces

      For Dressing:   3 tablespoons olive oil

                               3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice, freshly squeezed

                               ½ teaspoon fresh minced oregano

                               ½ teaspoon or to taste salt

                               Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the bulgur in warm water for ½ hour. Wash and drain parsley and mint leaves thoroughly. Discard their rough stems. Using a wide-bladed knife, chop the leaves very finely. You can use a food processor for this task, but be careful not to over-process or else the leaves will be pureed. Prepare the rest of the vegetables as described above, making sure they are chopped into tiny pieces. Set the leaves and vegetables in a large bowl. 

Drain the soaked bulgur completely by using a muslin cloth or by taking the grain one handful at a time and pressing in between your hands to squeeze out as much water as possible. Add the grains to the vegetables.   

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a bowl or a jar. Add the dressing to the greens and vegetables. Mix everything thoroughly but gently. Serve tabouli at room temperature or refrigerate for later use. 

Gluten-free Tabouli 

Here is s nutritious and gluten-free option made with rice and quinoa for those who cannot consume bulger,  which is a wheat product.

This amount of uncooked rice and quinoa will make approximately two cups of cooked product. You will only need 1/2 cup or3/4 cup of the cooked grain. The rest of the cooked rice/quinoa mixture can be saved for future. 

Ingredients for Gluten-free Tabouli;

                                       For Rice and Quinoa:

                                       1 cup water

                                       ½ cup basmati rice

                                       ½ cup white quinoa 

                                     For Tabouli:

                                      2 cups minced parsley leaves (after removing stems)

                                      ¾  to 1 cup fresh mint leaves, minced (after removing stems)

                                      ½ cup finely chopped scallions (with some of its green parts)

                                      ½ cup very small cubes of peeled cucumber

                                      ½ cup small cubes of firm tomatoes (chopped cherry tomatoes work well)

                                      ¼ cup red or yellow bell pepper, cut into tiny pieces

                                                                            For dressing:

                                                                           3 tablespoons olive oil 

                                                                           3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, freshly squezed 

                                                                           ½  teaspoon oregano, dried or fresh and minced 

                                                                           ½ teaspoons salt or to taste

                                                                           Freshly ground black pepper to taste

First, cook the basmati rice and quinoa. Boil the water in a saucepan. Rinse and drain the rice and quinoa thoroughly then add to the boiling water. Stir the grains and bring the water to a second boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover and cook the grains for 12 – 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Keep covered for five minutes. Then open the pot and spread out ¾ cup of the cooked grains onto a platter to cool for 30 to 45 minutes. (Refrigerate the remaining grains for another menu).  Set the platter aside while preparing other ingredients. 

Prepare the leafy greens and rest of vegetables as described in the list, following the instruction from the traditional tabouli recipe above. Also, prepare the dressing following the instruction described above. 

Place the leafy greens and vegetables in a mixing bowl. Add the rice and quinoa mixture. Drizzle and mix enough dressing to glaze tabouli, but do not drench it. (Leftover dressing – if any – can be saved for later).  Serve the tabouli right away or refrigerate in a covered bowl until ready to serve.

If you are taking tabouli out to a picnic or a pot-luck dinner, pack the vegetables in one container, the grains in a second container and the dressing in a covered jar. Assemble them together when you are ready to serve.  

Makes four to six servings (both versions)


This recipe is modified from Shanta’s cook book “Cooking Together: A Vegetarian Co-op Cookbook”, 

Copyright © 2017 by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff   

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India”. Both cook books are available at Other Avenues Food Store on 3930 Judah Street. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes in the Outer Sunset.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s