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Tabbouleh, tabbouli, tabouli... I don't care how you spell it, how do you make it?

I love tabbouli, but I can never do any better than just... adequate. It's seems like there are so many ways to make so-so tabbouli, but I haven't found out how to make it really really well. I've had or made tabbouli that's either soggy, gummy, bland, tough, limp, or just... meh. I'm looking for something that's flavorful, crisp, refreshing, nice and dressing-y but still fresh tasting.

I usually cook my bulgur by bringing it to a boil, and then letting it sit 20 min, until fluffy. I add cukes, onion, tons of well-dried chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and minced garlic. It's never the same twice, and it's never all that good. Someone out there must have a super-specific, always-excellent, never-fail recipe, right? Help?

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  1. This is the way we made tabouli when I was the chef at a tapas/mezze place: Don't boil the bulger, rinse it in a strainer until the water is clean, then let it soak in a bowl with equal parts lemon juice and cold water to cover for about 20 -30 minutes. When it's tender, squeeze it dry, then add the rest of your desired ingredients. We used cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, twice the amount of parsley as bulgur and salt. More lemon juice and definitely extra virgin olive oil, usually Sultan brand. Soaking the fine grain bulgur in lemon juice and water was a winner. We never added garlic. Sometimes we would add mint and tiny diced radishes in season. I loved the radishes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zataar

      That sounds really good. Definitely the missing flavor was lemon in the OPs recipe. Have been trying to figure out how to make Lebanese style taboulé for quite a while, and your technique sounds like a winner.

    2. However you decide to make it you might enjoy substituting cilantro for some or all of the parsley.

      1. I always simply pour boiling water over the bulgur (coarse grind) and let is soak for 45 minute or so...Sometimes it needs to be drained. Other times it doesn't.
        For the herbage, I like to use half mint and half parsley. For the dressing, I toss a few cloves of garlic, half of the parsley that I am going to use, the mint and lemon juice in a blender. Puree it; season with salt and pepper and add olive oil. I like mine tart.
        Then I chop the remaining parsley and add it to the bulgur along with cucumbers, red onion, good radishes and the dressing. Sometimes I like to add roasted chicken as well.

        1. Whatever you do: use as much juice from the tomatoes and/other vegs and as little water as possible (you don't have to soak, just moisten "enough" and let sit to become evenly pliable/chewable, and use way more herbs than bulgur. That's the big problem with most non-natively made tabbouleh: it should be herbs with enough bulgur to "hold" it together, not bulgur with enough herbs for flavor...

          1. my lebanese mom makes what I consider "true" tabouleh (i.e. NOT bulgar salad as I usually see in deli cases) Here are some tips.

            1. Do NOT boil yer bulgar; From my mom's mouth (mind you, this could be another way for her to try to get me to go to church) Put bulgar in a bowl. Cover with room temperature water. Go to church (ok, about an hour, give or take Catholic parking) then place in sieve. Allow to set until yer ready to add it to the rest of the salad. When you do so SQUEEZE THE BULGAR to get out as much water. Do not add too much, otherwise it resembles a deli case favorite.

            2. Only use curly parsely, not flat leaf...When i left home to work in various restaurants, I found that most of the places I worked at with lousy tebouleh were using flat leaf parsley...it mashes to much, gets too soft, and looks kinda old very quickly

            3. Forget the red wine vinegar...it's extravirgin and lemon all the way..

            4. Traditional (i.e. lebanese from the Turedza region) does not use garlic- tebouleh should be slightly cleansing to the palate after a wallop of garlicky hummous.

            5. A pinch of allspice makes the tebouleh

            6. Allow the flavors to meld for about 3 hours before serving

            Ok, so here's the recipe

            Rose's Tabboouleh Recipe

            ½ cup dry bulgur
            2 large bunches parsley, stems off & finely chopped
            2 bunches green onions, finely chopped
            2 large tomatoes, seeded & diced
            1/8 tsp. Allspice
            2 tsp. Salt or less
            Pepper to taste
            ¼ cup lemon juice
            ¼ cup olive oil

            Rinse bulgur, drain, and then soak bulgur in cold water until it doubles in size, approximately 30 - 45 minutes
            Drain well and squeeze dry.
            In a large bowl, add parsley, and onions. Add enough bulgur to suit your taste (less is usually needed).
            Add oil, lemon juice & spices to taste then toss in tomatoes and mix lightly. Adjust seasoning to taste.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sixelagogo

              Our secretary's mother used to make us toubbouleh and it was the best I've ever had...her recipe was similar to sexelagogo but she used lemon salt (I found it at a Lebanese market) which gave it the flavor of something special. I have made it a few times but used flat leaf parsely...now I know my error!!!