Quinoa tabbouleh is a fun spin on the classic Middle Eastern salad. It’s bright lemon and fresh herb flavor shines as a healthy side dish. Best of all, you can make this salad ahead of time to let the flavors really blend. This tabbouleh recipe is plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
Traditional Lebanese tabbouleh uses bulgur wheat, but quinoa makes a wonderful gluten-free, high-protein alternative. Quinoa’s nutty flavor blends perfectly with the bright fresh parsley and lemon flavors.
What is Tabbouleh?
Authentic tabbouleh is a cold Lebanese or Greek salad made with fresh parsley, bulgur wheat, and tomatoes in a lemon and olive oil dressing. It’s served throughout the Mediterranean, often with hummus on a mezze platter, or as a cold side dish. I love serving it alongside some juicy Greek chicken burgers.
Around the internet you’ll sometimes see it spelled tabouli or tabbouli; I’ve even seen in spelled tabouleh and tabbouleh. But no matter which way you spell it, the fresh and herby combination of flavors is a sure favorite!
Ingredients You’ll Need
You’ll need less than a dozen ingredients to make this healthy quinoa tabbouleh salad recipe.
- Uncooked quinoa
- Fresh parsley (I like to use a combination of flat leaf and curly)
- Green onions
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fresh mint leaves
- Lemon juice
- Lemon zest
- Olive oil
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
Exact measurements are below in the recipe card.
How to Make Quinoa Tabbouleh
This gluten-free tabbouleh is pretty straight forward. All you have to do is cook the quinoa, chop the veggies, make the dressing, and then toss it all together! Pretty simple, right? Let’s break it down.
Start by rinsing the quinoa using a fine mesh strainer for 1- 2 minutes. This will help remove any bitter taste that sometimes accompanies cooked quinoa. Tap off excess moisture. Add the quinoa to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Allow the quinoa to simmer (just barely bubbling) for about 18 – 20 minutes, or until the water has been completely absorbed. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to sit with the lid on to steam for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
Allow the quinoa to cool completely to room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, you can spread the cooked quinoa on a freezer friendly baking sheet or dish and pop it in the freezer for 3 – 4 minutes. You can also cook the quinoa ahead of time.
While the quinoa is cooling, chop the parsley, mint, tomatoes, and green onion. Zest and juice one lemon.
Next, you’ll make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne (if using). Make sure you taste your dressing and adjust the flavors to your liking.
Now it’s time to assemble! In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, chopped herbs and tomatoes, and dressing. Toss to coat and add salt and pepper as needed.
And there you have it! Perfectly herby, lemony healthy quinoa tabbouleh.
Tabbouleh Recipe Variations
There are so many variations and additions you can make to your quinoa tabbouleh to give it your own personal touch. Here are just a few ideas:
- Add 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Add 1 cup of finely diced cucumbers
- Add 1 cup cooked and drained garbanzo beans
- Substitute 1 cup finely chopped Roma tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes
Equipment Needed to Make Quinoa Tabbouleh
A high-quality chef’s knife is recommended for this recipe because it requires a lot of chopping! You can also use a food processor to roughly chop the herbs if that’s faster for you.
My Top Tips for Success
Quinoa needs to be rinsed very well to remove any bitterness from the grain. Do not skip rinsing the dry quinoa before cooking.
The quinoa needs to be cooled prior to assembling or it will heat the herbs and turn everything brown. If you’re in a hurry, cool the quinoa quickly by spreading it on a freezer-safe dish and popping it into the freezer for 3 – 4 minutes.
Taste as you go! Only you know how you like recipes to taste. Adjust the amount of herbs and salt and pepper as needed at each step to make sure your quinoa tabbouli is seasoned exactly how you like it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Quinoa tabbouleh is a very healthy plant-based and gluten-free side dish recipe thanks to the boost of protein in quinoa and abundance of fresh herbs, tomatoes, and lemon juice.
You can store your leftover quinoa tabbouleh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.
Yes, you can make tabbouli ahead of time, which will give time for the flavors to develop and blend fully. Store quinoa tabbouleh in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. It can be served at room temperature or cold.
I normally exclusively cook with flat leaf parsley because of the mild flavor, but curly parsley adds great texture and volume to tabbouleh. To get the best of both, I like to use a combination of flat leaf parsley and curly parsley in my quinoa tabbouleh. Feel free to experiment and use whichever kind of parsley you prefer.