Tabbouleh, a beautiful salad lost in the translation

How to make the perfect tabbouleh by Chef in disguise

Tabbouleh despite its world fame is one of the Arabic and Middle Eastern recipes that seem to have been lost in the translation. Sure, you can find it on the menu of many restaurants and delis around the globe but what you call tabbouleh may not qualify as tabbouleh here in the Middle East.Here the tabbouleh police have very strict rules when it comes to what goes into tabbouleh and at what proportions. .

Today I am sharing my way of making tabbouleh, one that gets the Middle Eastern tabbouleh police seal of approval :) Let’s break it down according to ingredients


Parsley is really the star of the show here. If you were to order some tabbouleh in a restaurant or hotel throughout the Middle East or if you were to stop by any lady get together or brunch. The tabbouleh you would get is a salad that is all about the herbs. Actually it is all about parsley. It is not a bulgur salad nor is it your usual vegetable salad. It is all about the parsley.

To make the perfect tabbouleh you would need a lot of parsley. 3-5 big bunches for your average 4 servings of tabbouleh.At first that may seem like an awful lot but you have to remember that tabbouleh police only allow the use of the leaves and the smallest and most tender stalks. The rest of the stalks have to be discarded .

You also need to handle your parsley with care. You don’t want to bruise it during washing or chopping. The idea if to retain as much freshness as possible. To do so you need to:

  • Be gentle when you wash the parsley. It is best if you take your bunch of parsley by the stalks and dunk it in a bowl full of water then lift it and shake off the water. Do this 4-5 times or until the water left behind is clear. Then fill a bowl with water and add a 1/4 cup of vinegar and leave the parsley in it for 10 minutes to make sure it is clean all the way through
  • When you chop the parsley, use a very sharp knife and basically slice through it. A dull knife will result is bruising of the parsley leaves and this way your parsley will go all mushy. A big no no if you ask the tabbouleh police


Other herbs

The only other herbs allowed in tabbouleh is mint and only in small quantities. You want the added minty freshness without allowing it to over power the parsley. Again you need to be gentle when handling the greens , strip the leaves from the stems and slice them with a sharp knife

Bulgur wheat

Tabbouleh is not a bulgur salad. Bulgar should be used in small quantities to add a bit of texture, color and flavor but that is all. You have a choice between fine and medium bulgur. I personally favor the medium because of the added texture.


Bulgur is rather hard and crunchy so you need to soak it in cold water for 30 minutes and then place it in a strainer for 20 minutes to get rid of the excess water.(You can do this the day before and leave it in the strainer in the fridge) Please don’t use boiling water. The idea is to keep as much texture as possible. Boiling water will make the bulgur mushy.


Tomatoes are your first choice. You can also add cucumbers and spring onions but that’a it. No carrots, peppers or cabbage. You must also remember that parsley is still the star in this salad so any other vegetable are used in small amounts

Spices and dressing

I prefer my tabbouleh dressed with three simple ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice and salt. The tabbouleh police however also allows the addition of sumac, pomegranate molasses and spices including your favorites of pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cloves and cardamom. I personally feel like the addition of spices over powers the delicate flavors of the tabbouleh but feel free to use them if you like.

Below you will find my recipe for making tabbouleh, one of all time favorite salads. Sure it is time consuming with all the washing and chopping involved but its freshness and unique taste are more than worth the effort. I hope that you will give it a try

How to make the perfect tabbouleh



4 bunches of Italian Parsley

1/2 to 1small bunch of fresh green mint

2 small cucumber

2-3 medium sized tomatoes

1spring onion (optional)

1/2 cup of  Burghul

1/3 to 1/2 cup of quality olive oil

1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice

2/3 to1 teaspoon of salt


Soak the bulgur in cold water for 30 minutes and then place it in a strainer for 20 minutes to get rid of the excess water

Rinse all vegetables and let dry, especially the parsley and mint.

Cut stems off parsley then slice it finely with a sharp knife, be patient and don’t bruise it

Cut stems off mint, and finely chop the leaves.

Chop tomatoes into small cubes

Finely chop the cucumber and spring onions if using

Mix the parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onions

Add the dressing (olive oil, lemon and salt) right before serving.

Toss to combine

Serving and Tips

Once mixed, Tabbouleh gets soggy rather quickly, so it’s best if you mix it immediately before serving.

If you want to prepare your tabbouleh in advance, do the chopping, then place ingredients side by side in a bowl or layer them in a jar with the bulgur at the bottom and the herbs at the top, and put in the fridge. Once ready to serve, add the lemon juice, the olive oil and salt all over the ingredients and then mix lightly with a fork and avoid over-mixing so it doesn’t turn soggy.

Tabbouleh salad in a jar

Serve your Tabbouleh with romaine lettuce if you wish, the small leaves of the lettuce hearts are usually used to scoop the tabbouleh.

You may also like

Fattoush..middle eastern bread salad

Monk Salad سلطه الراهب

Leave a comment


  1. Except the cucumber, this is how we make it. The freshest, tastiest salad. Love it.

  2. i never knew about soaking the bulghur wheat in cild water, thank you for that tip. luckily i grow lots of parsley – but its the curly kind not flat leaf so maybe the police will still call on me !

  3. Trini

     /  October 29, 2013

    Thanks for posting this great tabbouleh recipe. I’ve loved it ever since I was little and my mum used to buy it. I think I started eating it so I could be like her but I really grew to love it, and it always reminds me of my mum now! Plus, it tastes delicious :)

  4. Your tabboleh looks so fresh and delicious, Sawsan, and what a great idea to assemble the ingredients ahead of time and store them in jar.

  5. I like police recipes. The more authentic the better. But what constitutes a bunch of parsley ? Is my bych the same as yours?

    • Hello Francesca. My bad for not listing the weight
      The bunches of parsley I buy are between 150 g to 200g (with the stalks)
      so what I use is 450 g of chopped parsley (what I chop is the leaves and the fine stalks)

  6. Well..bunch that was meant to say.

  7. lol Sawsan, I think the tabbouleh police would very heavily frown upon my kale tabouli!! That said, when I am making the classic tabouli, your recipe listed is EXACTLY how I make it! Love a good bowl any day x

  8. Dear Sawsan, thank you so much for this fantastic recipe and for putting things right regarding the making of a proper tabbouleh. I had written a post myself on this king of salads in 2011 and upon seeing where I got things wrong, I decided to add a link to your recipe. LIke you, I believe that people shouldn’t ‘mess’ with tabbouleh! (

  9. I heart tabbuleh. I make it the same way you do, minus the cukes. I don’t make it as often as I’d like because its so labor intensive :-/

  10. Tabbouleh is the queen of salads and everyone who loves this salad has their own pedantic rules but the universal one is the slicing of the parsley leaves so you don’t bruise them. I’ve never done the vinegar in the water tip but I always use fine bulgar and just let it marinate in the oil and lemon juice so it doesn’t go soggy.

  11. Reblogueó esto en Sotaroni.

  12. Yum! Thank you so much for sharing. Definitely going to give this recipe a try!

  13. Thank you Tabbouleh police for setting the record straight :) I am not very experienced in Middle Eastern cuisine, and the tabbouleh that i have had has been basically a bulgur salad – I now confidently know the difference!! I will definitely attempt to make this :)

  14. Aviva

     /  October 29, 2013

    How nicely you describe the “Tabbouleh” I can’t wait to try it. It’s so refreshing to look at it, and I can almost taste it! All of the Tabbouleh I have ever had, the burghel has always been the star. As usual beautiful photos and wonderful food! Thank You :)

  15. I love tabbouleh… this is one of my favorite salad. Looks so fresh and delicious!

  16. Just curious. How does it get lost in translation in other places? I have only seen your stamp of approval type in the restaurants where I live (I think).

    • If the tabbouleh you get in the restaurants where you live is like the one in the post then that is great. When I travel the tabbouleh I see is a bulgur salad with hints of parsley that you may or may not see. In other times the tabbouleh turns into a garden salad with carrots, peppers, mushrooms and courgettes. All these might be great salads but they are no longer tabbouleh. That is what I meant by “lost in the translation”

  17. Tabbouleh is one of my favorite salads Sawsan! (Parsley SO good for us!!) I must try YOUR version! I really like the idea of the stacked salad in a jar ready and waiting! I’ve done that with other salads, but had never thought to do it with tabbouleh…thank you friend! I’ll be using it!

  18. kitchenriffs

     /  October 29, 2013

    Most Tabbouleh that I’ve had would probably flunk the test of the police! I do know, however, that it’s supposed to be all about the parsley. Really nice, clear instructions – terrific pot. Thanks so much.

  19. Hi Sawsan. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I will keep them in mind the next time I make Tabbouleh – I wouldn’t want to upset the Tabbouleh police.

  20. Anonymous

     /  October 29, 2013

    I love your posts! thank you for this receipe -

  21. Absolutely beautiful – will have to make this in the summer when my parsely is going mad!

  22. bitsofnice

     /  October 29, 2013

    I adore tabbouleh and agree with you that the simpler the dressing and flavours the better

  23. To be honest, tabbouleh is the only way I can eat parsley. Yours look divine.

  24. kathryn c

     /  October 30, 2013

    Tabbouleh can be SO delicious…thanks for sharing this authentic recipe. THanks also for the picture of the pre-prepped salad-in-a-jar. I am making this for a birthday celebration this weekend and will be taking it in this convenient way. kc

  25. Love tabbouleh! Yours looks delicious!

  26. Eha

     /  October 30, 2013

    Oh, how delightful! I have made tabbouleh at least once a fortnight for decades: thank God, I seem to have made it according to ‘rules’. I do use home grown mint and medium burghul . . . usually some cucumber also . . . one of these foods which feels just right . . . I with spring arriving here Down Under, fattoush also oft gets served! Hope this finds you well and fully recovered . . . .

  27. This is hysterical. I just texted my Assyrian father-in-law for his tabbouleh recipe because on Sunday some friends are coming over for tabbouleh-baklava day. And for the record, his recipe is very similar to yours! That is always my complaint about tabbouleh that we don’t make: not enough parsley! Glad to see you follow the old rules.

    Fatoush is amazing–my go-to salad.

    Would you happen to have a good labneh recipe?

  28. mariam

     /  October 30, 2013

    faboulous post and pics….. and youre so right, all the work involved in making this exquisite salad is well worth it!!!..spring onion for us is a must as well as pepper..we let the bulgar soften in the tomato( deseeded) and onion juices as we chop the rest..

  29. This is really lovely – I agree the parsley should be the star of the show. I didn’t know the tip about soaking the herbs in slightly acid water. I always learn something here!

  30. This truly is tabbouleh! :)

  31. Reblogged this on yasarnorman.

  32. Mmm I love the green taboulé ! I do not know about the use of lettuce little leaves :-)

  33. Any recommendations on where I could find burghul?

  34. Ok, I’ll be honest: the only thing I was doing right is the dressing! And even then there was garlic! Oh my, then I was doing NOTHING right. Thank you for your clear lesson in making this wonderful salad. What I love about it is the parsley, so green and fresh! You’re making me want this salad right now and it’s only 8 am! I’m going to make your lovely salad very soon, thank you for the lesson.

  35. It is so nice to have a recipe with the right proportions. It seems from your photos and recipe that I have only had one tabbouleh salad that the police would have approve of. :)

  36. trying this soon!! So beautiful in the jar. Love your blog. My friend and I just started our own blog. If you ever have time, check us out at :)

  37. That picture of the ingredients in the jar is amazing, very innovative. Masha Allah.
    In my case, I have two methods to soak the taboleh: 1) soak it in the lemon/oil mixture just before serving by like 15 to 30 minutes and then add it (mama’s way) 2) soak it in the strained juice of the chopped tomatoes before serving (7amati’s way)
    Either ways are amazing to give the burgul an extra kick of flavor as it absorbs the sourness.

  38. I love tabbouleh, and I love a GOOD tabbouleh! The various versions on offer in the UK are nothing like what a true tabbouleh should be, I think the only answer is to make your own 😊 and I love your suggestion for preparing and storing the elements ahead of time, thank you.


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