Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad


A couple of weeks ago, I made a Middle Eastern mezze lunch for some vegetarian friends of ours. They are big fans of Arab cuisine, so I went all out. What a spread… falafel, hummus, tahini, baba ghanoush, the works. When it came to the salad, I knew tabbouleh should be on the menu, but I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of tabbouleh… something about the texture of soaked, softened bulgur wheat mixed with herbs never really did it for me. It’s mostly the bulgur wheat I dislike; I always found it a bit chewy and boring. But how could I serve all of these great Middle Eastern foods without a fresh tabbouleh salad on the side?

Originally a Lebanese dish, tabbouleh (sometimes spelled tabouli or tabbouli) is a major salad in Middle Eastern cuisine. The main components of tabbouleh are always the same– hand chopped fresh parsley, fresh mint, tomato, green onion (scallions), lemon juice, and oil. Regionally, there are differences in the way the salad is prepared. For instance, in some parts of Turkey, the bulghur is soaked and softened in tomato juice instead of water.  In Lebanon, a greener salad with less wheat is preferred. In other areas, the salad is made with more bulgur and less green. No matter how it’s made, one thing is certain– tabbouleh is one of the most popular green mezze salads in the Middle East.

Knowing all of this, including tabbouleh on our Middle Eastern menu seemed like a given, so I resigned myself to making some for our meal. As I reached into the pantry for the bulgur, I noticed a half-empty bag of organic quinoa. Inspiration strikes.

Why not substitute quinoa for the bulgur?

And that’s how my Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad was born. :)

There are a few awesome things about subbing quinoa for bulgur wheat in this recipe. For starters, it’s gluten free, which means that people with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can freely enjoy this salad (unlike traditional wheat tabbouleh). The texture is more delicate than bulgur wheat tabbouleh; it feels less heavy in the mouth and the stomach. It’s suitable for a vegan diet– in fact, the protein content of quinoa makes it a particularly good choice for vegetarians who do not get their protein from meat. It’s also easier to make than traditional tabbouleh; bulgur must be soaked for a few hours to overnight, whereas quinoa can be cooked in a matter of minutes.

The lost Incan city of Machu Picchu near Cusco, Peru

In addition to all of these benefits, quinoa is really, really healthy. Native to South America, this ancient seed was once called “the gold of the Incas,” and was fed to their warriors to increase stamina. It’s been cultivated in the Andes for centuries, and was a major agricultural commodity in Inca and Aztec society. Only recently, quinoa has been “rediscovered” here in America, showing up on health food market shelves across the country. Quinoa is closely related to spinach; much like spinach, it is packed with nutrients. It is a terrific source of protein, amino acids, insoluble fiber, magnesium, riboflavin, and phytonutrients. Regular consumption of quinoa can improve your cardiovascular health, reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, and even decrease your risk of certain cancers.

Depending on who you ask, quinoa is generally considered kosher for Passover because it is a seed, not a grain. In my home, quinoa is most definitely acceptable, which means that this tabbouleh can (and most likely will) be served at our next Seder. If you’re unsure about how quinoa fits into your Passover diet, you should speak with your rabbi or a kosher authority.

This salad is perfect for summer– it’s light, lemony, and refreshing. Try adding a dollop of soft labane cheese on top. It may sound strange, but trust me– it’s an amazing flavor combination. Go on, try it. You can thank me later. 😉

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Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 1/2 cups minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 2 large bunches)
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh mint (1 small bunch)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or onions
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)

You will also need

  • Fine mesh strainer, large skillet, small saucepan, salad bowl
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: 6-8 servings
Kosher Key: Pareve, Kosher for Passover
  • Rinse uncooked quinoa in cold water using a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Drain.
  • Spread quinoa in the bottom of a skillet in an even layer. Turn heat to medium and let the quinoa heat up, stirring occasionally, till the moisture is gone.
  • Continue to cook the quinoa over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until it begins to turn toasty and fragrant. The quinoa is ready when the seeds start to pop and turn golden brown. Remove from heat.
  • Pour quinoa into saucepan along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover the pan.
  • Cook quinoa for 10-15 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Stir and let cool to room temperature.
  • Place minced fresh parsley and mint in a medium salad bowl.
  • Gently stir the cooked, cooled quinoa into the parsley and mint till well combined.
  • Seed the tomatoes by quartering them, then using a paring knife to cut out the seeds.
  • Remove any excess seeds and liquid with your fingers.
  • Dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
  • Add the tomatoes to the salad bowl along with the chopped scallions, olive oil and lemon juice. Stir gently to combine with the parsley, mint, and quinoa.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more lemon juice to taste, if desired. Serve at room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator. Flavors will improve in the fridge overnight.
  • Note: Some people like to add garlic to their tabbouleh. If you want a garlicky flavor, add a well-minced raw clove to the salad. Enjoy!

Comments (46)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This looks gorgeous. We do put a lot of garlic in ours and now will have to try it with Quinoa. Sounds like the texture would be similar and the flavour would be wonderful!
    Lovely step-by-step photos too.

  2. Nice recipe Tori! Quinua (in Spanish) was a staple at home in Lima and my mom would prepare it, at least, once a week. A friend of mine prepares something called “Quinotto”, which would be a risotto with quinoa. :)

  3. I was totally thinking of making this the other day, after picking up some quinoa at the supermarket. I made chili with it instead, because I forgot to get mint and parsley. I totally have to make it now!

  4. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    What a great revelation! I love quinoa and it is definitely a healthier choice than bulgur. We have substituted quinoa for couscous for years, so we just might do the same here. Thanks for the idea!

  5. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This looks so tasty. I tried quinoa for the first time this year and absolutely adored it. The picture of Peru is beautiful. Okay so I want to know how your stove stays so clean when you cook? Lol! Mine looks like a 2 year old is cooking.

  6. Tori – that’s just brilliant! Most Tabbouleh I’ve had has bulgur in it…I never thought of quinoa! I have GOT to get some of this stuff…..

  7. I have to get over my fear of quinoa and try it. I can’t eat couscous and I have unfairly put quinoa in the closet with it. I love the idea of a tabbouleh salad, but like you have often found them lacking. Thanks for the inspiration and idea on how to mix it up!

  8. I absolutely adore quinoa! I just cooked up a healthy batch last night for dinner and lunches this week. I need to try this!

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I love Middle Eastern food, but I’m not much of a bulgur fan myself, so I think your transformation of the tabbouleh is a wonderful idea! (I happen to eat a lot of quinoa too..) I will absolutely try it, thanks for sharing with us :)

  10. thanks so much for making the process look less intimidating than i expected. maybe because the other tabouli recipes i saw used bulgur wheat. i am having a “why didn’t i think of that moment” now. thankyouthankyouthankyou :)

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    So far, I’ve only had quinoa as flour, and it is fabulous. I do have a new bag of quinoa grain in the kitchen to play with. I think I’ll make your recipe for dinner this week. It looks delicious. :)

  12. Can’t wait to try. My husband has high blood pressure and these middle eastern recipes agree with his Sephardic heritage and his blood pressure. I intend to pair this with spicy panko chickpea patties.

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I’ve been putting quinoa in my salad for ages. i use a mustard vinegar dressing with a mixed salad bag. it’s yummy and healthy. i use brown quinoa, but in israel they told us only the white quinoa was kosher for pesach.
    really like your blog.

  14. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    One of my husband’s favorites is tabouleh, so I made this for him. The parsley (which I reduced to 2 cups) overwhelmed the dish. Is it my sense of taste that made this too much or was there a typo? Has anyone else commented on the large amount of parsely?
    BTW: The Zabar’s video was great. I loved seeing you and hearing your voice, which we don’t get to do on the Web site!

    1. Hi Alice! The amount of parsley is pretty standard for Middle Eastern tabbouleh… I haven’t received any other comments on it, but you can certainly reduce it next time to taste. As I said in the blog, tabbouleh is made differently in many areas of the world. Depending on what you’re used to, this one may feel “greener” than others. Many American restaurants and health food stores sell tabbouleh with lots and lots of bulghur, which is not how it’s served in most parts of the Middle East. As with all of my recipes, feel free to alter amounts to taste and see what works best for you. Make it your own. :)

      So glad you enjoyed the Zabar’s video! Hoping to do more videos in the future…

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    It was fantastic—made this for my family and will serve it to a group of teachers @ a working lunch this week. Thanks so much for this dish!

  16. We absolutely lovvveeeeed this. I can’t believe I waited to cook with whole quinoa until now. I made a few modifications – using less parsley and mint, adding sea salt and cracked pepper before serving. I served it with rotisserie chicken and sliced bread. Thanks so much for sharing, I’ve recommended it on my blog. :)

    1. Faythe, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the salad! Thanks for posting about it on your blog. I’m going to try it with less green and more quinoa next time, I bet it will be great! :)

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi, just found your site today, it’s great. I’m not jewish but love all middle eastern recipes. I used to eat alot of tabbouleh, but try not to eat too much wheat now, so this is definitely one I will try. Thanks

  18. Hi, stumbled in this beautiful website through jaden of SteamyKitchen.
    would like to ask if you have other recipes for Quinoa. my sisters and i are trying to have a healthy lifestyle and i’ve read that quinoa helps with lowering the cholesterol as well.

    i really liked you site!

  19. LOVE THIS RECIPE! Feels so healthy to eat it. Family loves it…especially my vegan sister. Made this for her when she gave birth to her second baby girl…said it was the best thing she had in the hospital. Thanks!

  20. I just had to tell you that this is now on our monthly salad rotation, my husband asks for it often. Thank you Tori.

    1. Hi DP– if you don’t seed the tomato, it can make the rest of the salad soggy and clumpy because of the excess liquid in the tomato. However, if you don’t mind having that texture issue, feel free to keep the tomato unseeded. :)

  21. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Wonderful! So light and most delicious!!
    A great alternative to bulgur, especially for those who are gluten intolorent..

  22. Thank you for the recipe. I just had Tabbouli today and loved it. I am gluten intolerant and love that it can be made with Quinoa. My question though is this – I have cooked Quinoa for a couple years now and I have never seen the preparation you have above for it (in a skillet before cooking it in water). Can you tell me why you do it that way and does it make a big difference in the finished product?

    Thank you!

  23. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Since my husband was diagnosed as a late onset ceoliac a couple of years ago, I’ve avoided anything with gluten including oats as we can’t get uncontaminated oats here. Having never prepared quinoa before and having no clue what to substitute the grain normally used I’m delighted with your quinoa tabbouleh recipe. It is tasty and together with a recipe for crispy falafal chicken from another site will become a staple now that I’ve discovered them both. Thanks so much.

  24. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Thanks so much for this recipe!
    I used this, your Tahini Sauce and Falafel recipes together for a dinner at my house and it was a HUGE hit! I did not change a thing for this recipe and my roommates really enjoyed it!

    The only caveat to everyone is that it doesn’t keep very long – so eat it all up!

  25. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I can’t wait to try this out today! Being a coeliac I miss my tabouli and I just started using quinoa in various ways! I was stoked to google up this great looking recipe! The only thing I’m going to do differently is I’m going to roast up some fresh garlic cloves in the skillet among the quinoa!
    Hoping the family will LOVE this

  26. You’re cooking the quinoa all wrong!!! Rinse in warm water till clear then use a rice cooker. It will change your life.

    1. Rachel, I do not have a rice cooker. Generally I try to avoid specialty gadgets because if I bought all of them my kitchen cabinets would be overflowing (as it stands now I barely have any room left!) Also I really feel that toasting the quinoa in a skillet gives it an extra nutty flavor which is nice in this salad, just cooking it in a rice cooker wouldn’t give me the same flavor.

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