Tabbouleh is Lebanon’s national salad and one of the world’s healthiest dishes. It is 100% vegan and 100% vegetarian and can be very tasty when mixed with the right ingredients.
The tabbouleh recipe is such a staple in the Lebanese cuisine that tabbouleh has its own ‘National Tabbouleh Day’, a celebration held in Beirut’s organic outdoors market known as ‘Souk El Tayeb’.
The tabbouleh parsley salad heads the list of Lebanon’s 70+ appetizer dishes, which are called ‘Mezza’. They include the world famous humus dip and the eggplant dip known as ‘baba ghanouj’.
Store bought days old tabbouleh? Nope!
First of all, the tomatoes will taste rancid. Second of all it will not pass the true test of authenticity. It might be sold days old or it might look brownish and not green as the ingredients are not used correctly. The oil used on the tabbouleh may not be olive oil and the lemon juice may taste fake coming straight from a bottle.
Fresh tabbouleh is one of the world’s healthiest foods
Because parsley has amazing health benefits, tabbouleh is one of the healthiest foods around the world.
Tabbouleh can be a great accompaniment to kebabs, chicken, fish, beef, or lamb dishes. It is so popular in Lebanon that the Lebanese eat the tabbouleh salad during good times, sad times, celebration times, graduation times, family times, weddings, divorces, births, funerals, and during every other time in between. It is a salad that encourages healthy eating habits and promotes wellness.
The Lebanese are so serious about their tabbouleh that in 2009 they broke the Guinness world record for the largest bowls of tabbouleh salad. Around 300 people prepared the large bowl of tabbouleh salad and the serving topped off at over 4324 kg (or over 9,500 pounds). The idea was to showcase local foods and to take pride in Lebanese products. The project was labeled “100% Lebanese”.
The authentic tabbouleh recipe standard
Lebanon is a small little Eastern Mediterranean country that has its roots in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures. It has four seasons, mountains as high as 10,000 feet above sea level and the Mediterranean sea that kisses its shores from north to south.
Thanks to its four seasons and varied climate this small country grows almost every imaginable fruit, vegetable and herb. Parsley grows in abundance there. for th price of one bunch of parsley in the U.S. you can buy about 10 double size parsley bunches there.
The Lebanese Gastronomy Association has defined the standards by which tabbouleh is to be called ‘authentic’. Here is what makes classic tabbouleh authentic:
- Flat-leaf parsley. In Lebanon parsley is super soft and silky.
- Bulgur is used lightly and sprinkled as an addition to add fiber (unlike what you see in some so called tabbouleh dishes where it is used as the main ingredient). It is the better wheat that is made from whole wheat grains. It is cracked and partially pre-cooked.
- Tomatoes must be diced fresh and added before serving.
- Onions are added as well.
- Olive oil is the only oil used in tabbouleh.
- There is no couscous in tabbouleh.
- There is no garlic either in tabbouleh.
- Do not add cucumbers! Cucumbers are never included in the tabbouleh salad.
The tabbouleh salad is one of the world’s healthiest dishes
Classic Lebanese tabbouleh salad recipe (parsley salad)
- 3 bunches of Italian parsley.
- 1 bunch of fresh green mint (you can use 2 tablespoons of dried mint leaves when not available).
- 3 average size tomatoes, rinsed and chopped by hand in very small squares.
- 1 medium size white onions (or 2 green onions) chopped in small squares.
- 1/4 cup of finely cracked bulgur wheat (fine grade, #1) available at your health food store or at a Mediterranean store. Note here: Even though this is a traditional tabbouleh salad recipe that requires bulgur (a form of wheat), a l lot of people may not want to eat bulgur because it has gluten. In this case, feel free to experiment with cracked quinoa, which is gluten free. Let’s be safe here and call this “a variation on the theme of tabbouleh” so that we are transparent by not calling this “classic” or “authentic”.
- 1/2 a cup of fresh lemon juice.
- 1/2 cup good quality olive oil (add less or more if you desire).
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice. When not available, substitute with black pepper.
- 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- To eat the tabbouleh, Get a head of Romaine lettuce to scoop the tabbouleh into the inner leaves. You can also get some cabbage leaves and do the same. They are both delicious!
How to make tabbouleh
- Rinse all the mint and the parsley leaves and let them dry out.
- Pour the bulgur in a small container and soak its volume in water. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
- Pick the parsley and mint leaves and discard the stems.
- Chop the mint and the parsley leaves very fine (and by hand). You may need to repeat this process as don’t want to the herbs to be coarse and you definitely don’t want to use any food processors to do the chopping.
- Place all the herbs in a large bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes in small cubes and add them to the mix.
- Chop the onions in small pieces and add them to the mix.
- Add the salt, the olive oil, and the allspice.
- Toss everything around until all the ingredients are mixed up.
- Place in a nice bowl and serve with Romaine lettuce or with fresh cabbage leaves.
Note: If you make the tabbouleh in advance, it is important to not add the dressing until the last moment. This will ensure that the herbs don’t get whilted. The best practice is to clean, chop, mix, and serve all within a short period of time. Sahhtein (to your health) and be well.