What Is Lebanese Tabouli?

Angie Bates

Lebanese tabouli is a type of ethnic salad which uses large amounts of parsley. Although non-authentic versions often add garlic to this dish, authentic Lebanese tabouli contains no garlic. This salad is normally served with a simple oil-based dressing, often flavored with lemon juice. It can be found prepackaged in ethnic markets, but often the prepackaged versions lack authenticity.

Tabouli is often seasoned with lemon juice and topped with mint.
Tabouli is often seasoned with lemon juice and topped with mint.

Traditionally, Lebanese tabouli is served as part of a meze. A meze is a Middle Eastern appetizer selection that contains several small, varied dishes. Lebanese tabouli normally includes fine bulgar wheat and flat leaf parsley, though curly parsley can be used. Scallions, mint, cucumber, and tomato are often added as well. The mixture is usually topped with herbs such as mint, sage, and thyme.

Parsley is used in abundance when making Lebanese tabouli.
Parsley is used in abundance when making Lebanese tabouli.

Although non-traditional versions of this dish may use bulgar wheat as the primary ingredient, traditionally very little wheat is added. The wheat is first washed and soaked in hot water for about an hour. Then, it is squeezed in order to remove any excess water. Ideally, the wheat will be dry after the squeezing process.

The vegetables and herbs are chopped either by hand or using a food processor. Then, vegetables, herbs, and wheat are combined and tossed. After the ingredients are combined, the dressing can be added. Once complete, the salad is normally chilled for at least an hour before serving.

The dressing may simply contain extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice seasoned with salt and pepper, or it may include balsamic vinegar as the acidic element. Extra virgin olive oil rather than non-extra virgin is recommended for dressings because of its higher quality and richer taste. Although the dressing ingredients can be whisked together before being poured onto the salad, often the oil and lemon juice are simply drizzled over the dish separately. Then, the salt and pepper can be added to taste. Less traditional dressings may add crushed garlic and spices, such as cinnamon.

Lebanese tabouli is often served with grape or lettuce leaves as well. When lettuce leaves are used, hearts of romaine are most common. The leaves can be used as scoops for the salad.

Prepackaged versions of this dish can be found primarily in Middle Eastern markets. The prepared versions, however, often add more bulgar wheat than necessary and may include garlic. Garlic is largely left out of tabouli because the dish is designed, in part, as a palate cleanser, which is why parsley is its dominant ingredient.

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