This quinoa tabbouleh salad (also spelled tabouli) is a healthy, easy, and versatile herb salad that pairs perfectly with a wide variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. This version makes use of quinoa versus fine bulgur wheat traditionally used in tabbouleh allowing this tasty salad to be enjoyed by those who are gluten-free. Takes just 25 minutes to make, 7 ingredients, and 1 bowl!
Tabbouleh. Tabbouli. Either way you spell it, it’s Tasty.
You know what’s fun?! A table loaded with a lot of small plates of tasty food. It’s hard to say no to a beautiful and glorious spread of food meant for nibbling and sharing.
Think tapas (bite-sized appetizers of Spanish cuisine), or dim sum (large range of small dishes enjoyed in Chinese culture), or banchan (small side dishes served alongside rice in Korean cuisine), or meze (a selection of small dishes served as appetizers in parts of Western Asia, the Balkans, and North Africa).
Tabbouleh is traditionally served as part of a meze. It’s a common and popular parsley-based dish throughout much of the Middle East with growing popularity in Western cultures. This herby salad is also called kisir in Turkish or eetch and itch in Armenian.
🥗 Why you’re going to love this salad
25 minutes cook/prep + 7 ingredients + 1 bowl = simple salad that bursts with flavor
It’s a winning equation for a quick and simple recipe.
Tabbouleh pairs well with a multitude of dishes. It’s typically served with grilled meats (try this beef kofta!), hummus, falafel, pita, stuffed grape leaves, babaganoush, halloumi cheese…see how this dinner table is growing into small plates of delicious possibility?!
This salad is incredibly adaptable. In fact, I hope you have some fun with it. Think of it as a foundation to build upon. Add more to it. Change it up. Make it yours. Then tell me in the comments what you did! If you’re not sure where to start, keep scrolling down for some tasty tabbouleh variation suggestions.
Have a garden?! This salad is a GREAT way to use those fresh tomatoes and herbs!
🛒 Ingredients & suggestions
Tabbouleh can differ considerably from one region to another, from simple changes in seasoning to a totally different set of ingredients. A common version is made with fine bulgur wheat, parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. To make this salad gluten-free we’re simply swapping the bulgur for quinoa.
- Quinoa: White quinoa, red quinoa, or tricolored quinoa are all great options.
- Curly parsley: So often curly parsley is just that nice looking garnish that sits on the side of a plate at a restaurant for aesthetics but in this salad, it takes center stage. I prefer curly parsley over flat-leaf (Italian) parsley for the extra structure it gives to the tabbouleh. Flat-leaf parsley would work too though.
- Mint: Don’t skip this herb! It adds a pop of freshness and flavor that is so very worthwhile.
- Tomatoes: Find the ripest, freshest, sweetest tomatoes you can. Grape or cherry tomatoes can be used in place of regular tomatoes if you’re struggling to find some nice in-season tomatoes.
- Green Onions: Don’t have green onions on hand? Substitute them for finely diced red onion or white onion.
- Lemon: Please use fresh lemons and never the ‘lemon’ juice in those little lemon shaped squeeze bottles found at the grocery store.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Seek out high-quality EVOO and your salad will be happier.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities see the recipe card at the end of this post.
🔪 Step-by-step instructions
Step 1: Combine quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and let it simmer on low.
Step 2: After the quinoa has finished cooking, let’s fluff it up a little, then let it cool completely.
Step 3: Using a sharp chef’s knife, finely chop the parsley, mint, and scallions. Put all of it in a serving bowl.
Step 4: Dice a tomato and add it to the bowl with the herbs.
Step 5: Now that the quinoa is cooled it’s ready to jump into the bowl too. Give the salad a good toss.
Step 6: Squeeze some fresh lemon juice in there.
Step 7: Give it a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Step 8: Salt and pepper the tabbouleh. Give everything one more good toss. Then grab a fork and give it a taste. Maybe add a little more of this or a little more of that (see variations below). And eat!
💫 Recipe variations
While these variations aren’t traditional, they are definitely worth trying for a tasty spin on this classic Middle Eastern salad.
- Swap out quinoa for riced cauliflower.
- If gluten is not a concern for you, swap out the quinoa for fine bulgur wheat for traditional tabbouleh (briefly soak in water and then squeeze out). Couscous, pearl barley, or even farro would also be fun to try if gluten is not a concern.
- Add garbanzo beans and feta.
- Swap fresh tomatoes for sun-dried tomatoes and add some feta.
- Add sliced kalamata olives and feta (can you tell I like feta? lol).
- Throw in a chopped English or Persian cucumber along with a minced clove or two of garlic (…and feta).
- Top with pomegranate arils.
- Kick up the lemon a notch by adding lemon zest.
- Add a dash of sumac, cumin, or allspice for some added depth of flavor.
Experiment with this recipe! While this gluten-free version of traditional tabbouleh is tasty as-is alongside a spread of hummus, pita, and grilled meats it’s also okay to tinker with this recipe and put your own spin or twist on it.
👩🍳 Recipe tips
- Use a sharp chef’s knife for cutting your herbs and finely chop them without running your knife over the herbs repeatedly. Otherwise, you may end up with bruised herbs which can lead to a soggy salad.
- It’s always a good practice to thoroughly wash your herbs before using them. Just be sure to also thoroughly dry your herbs before chopping by shaking off the excess water or blotting with a towel as wet herbs will turn to mush when chopped.
- Allow the quinoa to fully cool before you toss it in with the herbs. We don’t want our herbs to end up cooking from the heat of the quinoa. That would be ewww.
- While I’ve given quantities in the recipe card below for how much parsley and mint to include in this salad there can be a wide range from person to person in how we pack those herbs into a measuring cup. So use the quantities as a guide and then use your tastebuds as the true test for making your tabbouleh vibrant and fresh tasting.
💭 Frequently asked questions
Tabbouleh will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days but it’s best eaten fresh.
No, that would not turn out well. The salad would become super soggy after thawing, the tomatoes would become mushy, and honestly, it would just be completely unpleasant.
It’s mega healthy! Check out the nutritional info in the recipe card below to see all that this salad offers nutritionally.
Quinoa tabbouleh = easy to make, fresh, so very versatile, and perfect for meze.
If meze became a regular part of my week I would be pretty thrilled. Doesn’t a table loaded with healthy, flavorful little dishes of food just make you feel happy inside? ♡
✨ More tasty salad recipes!
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