large bowl of tabouleh with many other veggies in it

I love tabouleh, which can be a bit of a problem around our house. Not that my sweetie hates it; it's just that she likes tabouleh as a bulgur & tomato salad with parsley, and I prefer it as a parsley salad with tomatoes and bulgur. So, there's a bit of compromise. Mostly by me.

Some of those compromises led to me thinking about making tabouleh into a whole meal, instead of just a meze. So I started adding stuff to it, making tabouleh a "main dish", that could be a lunch on its own. The end result was something that isn't really tabouleh anymore, it's some kind of bulgur salad, but we like to call it "tabouleh plus plus".

The recipe below is less a set of instructions and more an assembly kit. You can add or subtract many things from this tabouleh++, so it's more a matter of needing a few things from each group instead of needing them all.

As always, a quick note on bulgur: this recipe requires fine bulgur, sometimes labeled "#1" for the grain size. These grains are around the size of large-crystal sugar or kosher salt. It's the same bulgur sold in overpriced instant tabouleh boxes. Larger grains, or cracked wheat (which sometimes gets mislabeled as bulgur) will not work. Small-grain "instant" couscous probably would.


Required Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fine bulgur (#1)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 to 1.5 lbs tomatoes, diced small
  • OR: 1 to 1.5 lbs cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 medium bunch parsley, chopped, around 1.5 cups
  • juice of 1-2 lemons, about 1/4 cup
  • 3-5 Tbs good olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

One or two proteins, such as:

  • 1 drained can of chickpeas
  • 1 drained can of green or black lentils
  • 5-9 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5-9 oz other Middle Eastern cheese, such as kasseri or Village Cheese, diced small
  • 4-6 boiled eggs, diced small

Two to three vegetables and aromatics, such as:

  • one medium red onion, diced small, around 1 cup
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped, around 1 cup
  • 1-2 ripe bell peppers (or other peppers), diced small, around 1.5 cups
  • 1 cup sliced smaller peppers, like banana peppers
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 to 1.5 cups diced cucumber
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Zero to two additional seasonings, such as:

  • 1 bunch of mint, chopped (could even replace the parsley)
  • 1 small bunch of dill and/or oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs pomegranate molasses

First, soak the bulgur. Put it in a very large bowl (you'll need room for all of your ingredients) and pour the water over it. Cover loosely (lid, plastic wrap, whatever) and leave for 1 hour to hydrate. Toss with a large fork (see faster method below if you're short on time).

While the bulgur is soaking, dice all your other ingredients. You can put them in one big pile, they're all going in together. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt into a dressing. If you're using both feta and olives you might want to omit the salt.

Once the bulgur is fully hydrated, put all the diced ingredients on top. Drizzle the dressing over the pile, add any optional seasonings, and toss everything together until uniformly mixed. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to blend.

Serves 4-6 as a main dish or light lunch. Keeps up to 1 week in the fridge, unless you used avocado (in which case it's about a day). Do not freeze.

Note: you can hydrate bulgur faster with hot water, at the cost of a somewhat mushy texture. Just heat the 2 cups of water to boiling, pour it over the bulgur, cover tightly, and let sit for 15 minutes.