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Jun 24, 2014 06:29 PM


On Sunday, I took a large bowl of tabbouleh to our church dinner. I have always made it with bulghur wheat. I had several ladies (who are accomplished cooks) remark that they had always had and made tabbouleh with couscous. Is this a regional difference? How do you make it?

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  1. With parsley and no grains; parsley, red onion, spices, lemon, Roma tomato,a bit of olive oil.

    In my neck of the woods, it has to have parsley as the main part to be called tabbouleh. Some Syrian/Lebanese bakeries will add more or less bulgur wheat to order if you buy it pre made. I'm in greater boston.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinehurst

      Traditionally, authentic tabbouleh is mostly parsley, very little grain, which is bulgar wheat. Think dark green, not light with green flecks.

    2. I make a not at all authentic version with quinoa, and I've heard of people making low carb version with things like soaked, chopped nuts or grated caulliflower.

      Like pinehurst, my understanding is that it's the large amount of herbs that make it tabouleh.

      1. It's mostly parsley, but with some fine bulghur wheat; NOT couscous.

        1. Gotta be bulgur wheat, not couscous.

          I can still remember my Armenian grandmother pronouncing it.

          Boch-ler, with 'Boch' having the 'o' sound as in 'boat', followed by a guttural 'ch'.

          1. Both additions, bulgur wheat or couscous, are variations on the Lebanese source dish, which contains no grains at all. Tell that to your church ladies. The bulgur wheat snuck in first as a garnish on what is essentially a vegetable dish, much as we put croutons on salads.

            It gradually came to take over the dish in many preparations. AFAIK, couscous got in on a pass in Americanized versions, but I could be wrong; I've been wrong before. :) Perhaps someone more familiar with the region might elaborate on who makes it with what.

            I don't worry about any of that, and yes, I use burger wheat when I make it. A lot of it. I'm not traditional, so what; I like bulgur wheat more than I like parsley.

            So just keep enjoying your dish.

            7 Replies
            1. re: mcsheridan

              Lebanese tabbouleh has bulgur wheat in it. While the main ingredients are always going to be parsley and mint, it is not just an herb salad. Bulgur is a quintessential part of the mix, though not in the quantities generally used in the US. The bulgur is a supporting actor in the salad, not the star of the show.

              I suspect couscous may have been used as a substitute when bulgur wheat was an ethnic product that was not necessarily easy to find but I know of no country in the Middle East that substitutes couscous for bulgur in tabbouleh or tabbouleh-like salads.

              1. re: JungMann

                There are three basic Middle Eastern versions: one made with bulgur (the most widespread), one made with couscous, and one made with no grains at all, as pinehurst describes. All are still called tabbouleh. In Armenia and Turkey they make versions with other names that have more grain than veg., sort of like a cold pilaf.

                1. re: ninrn

                  Where do they make tabbouleh with couscous? Outside of North Africa it is not a widely used ingredient aside from a few dishes calling for moghrabieh or maftoul. Nor have I ever encountered a tabbouleh that has no grain whatsoever. Of course I am most familiar with food from the Mashriq, so maybe these variations exist outside those countries.

                  The Armenian and Turkish versions do have more grain as well as more spice, but the seasoning makes it work. I'm a big fan of kisir.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    I wonder how a couscous version would stand up? Or if it's a version that requires a heavier ratio of couscous to parsley compared to the bulgar to parsley?

                    Imagining such a version I just imagine the couscous getting so wet, soggy and lost - but from what I do know of Middle Eastern variations of food, I wouldn't be surprised to learn there is a couscous version.

                2. re: JungMann

                  Never seen tabbouleh without bulgur. A little or a lot dependent on your tradition and taste

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    I have had it dark green no bulgur... Persian restaurant.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Me too. But I like a little bulgur for flavor and texture.