This bright and fresh lentil tabbouleh salad is full of authentic Mediterranean flavor. It’s a lovely side dish on a summer lunch table or even a main course with some flatbread to scoop it up with.
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Freshly cooked lentils, tomato and onion, mint, lemon, and seasonings make for a burst of summer flavor in every bite. You can make this lentil salad in advance and let the flavors melt into one another.
This lentil tabbouleh keeps for at least 3-4 days if stored properly, so you’ll have it on hand all week for healthy lunches, so it won’t go to waste.
What is Tabbouleh?
Tabbouleh, sometimes spelled tabouli, is a traditional Middle Eastern salad made with chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, and mint, mixed with bulgur wheat or cracked wheat, and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
It is a refreshing and healthy dish that is commonly served as a side dish or as a light meal. What makes this salad unique is that it is loaded with fresh herbs and no lettuce. The parsley is the star of the show.
📖Why This Recipe Works
- Quick Meal Prep- It can be made a day ahead and stored for several days so you can use up every bite.
- Big Flavor - This recipe is full of fresh ingredients; no boxes or cans are involved! The lemon juice adds brightness and tang that balances out the richness of the oil and lentils.
- Gluten-Free- This is a gluten-free tabbouleh recipe as written. No modifications are needed.
Curly Parsley - Look for bright green, non-wilted leaves, The bulk of the salad is actually the fresh parsley and not the lentils. You can use flat-leaf parsley if that is all you can find.
Traditional tabbouleh recipes use curly parsley, not Italian parlsey (i.e. flat parsley) because it makes the salad fluffier.
Lentils - Any small lentil will work well in this recipe. Try Puy lentils, small green lentils, as the shape and size complement this recipe well. Choose a lentil that holds its shape and texture well after cooking so your tabbouleh doesn’t become mushy.
English Cucumber - You can also use small Persian cucumbers (baby cukes) if you prefer. If you buy cucumber with thick skin, you may want to peel it, but with Persian or English cucumbers, you should be able to leave the skin on.
Tomato - Choose a ripe, firm tomato that is larger in size. Beefsteak, heirloom, or on-the-vine are good options.
Red Onion - Sweet red onion is wonderful in this recipe. If no red onion is available, choose a sweet white variety such as a Vidalia, or use finely-sliced spring onions.
Fresh Mint Leaves - Look for fresh, bright green leaves that are lightly misted but not soaked in water with no brown spots or wilted leaves.
Olive Oil - Extra virgin isn’t necessary, but will provide a stronger flavor.
Sumac - This is a Middle Eastern spice with a tangy, lemony flavor. You can buy it whole or ground. If you buy it whole, plan to grind or zest it into the recipe. Sumac is optional, but highly recommended.
Lemon Juice - Squeeze the ⅓ cup of juice from 2-3 large and juicy lemons.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
- If you can’t find sumac, you can replace it with ½ teaspoon lemon zest or a splash of wine vinegar. You can also use Za'atar instead, another delicate-tasting Middle Eastern spice that includes sumac. However, none of these replacements will give as complex and lovely a flavor as using sumac, in my opinion.
- For a different flavor, replace the mint with fresh dill.
- Another gluten-free option is to swap the lentils for cooked quinoa.
- Traditonal tabbouleh doesn't have cheese. But you can add a sprinkle of feta cheese.
Is Tabbouleh Vegetarian?
This lentil tabbouleh recipe is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, as well as dairy free, so it’s a great addition to any dinner table since everyone can enjoy it.
⏲️How to Make Lentil Tabouleh
Tabbouleh with lentils doesn’t take long to make, it just requires some basic kitchen skills. You can work on your dicing skills while you learn to make this beautiful Mediterranean dish.
Step 1-Prep the Lentils
Spread your lentils on a plate and check them over removing any rouge items. Add the lentils and a bay leaf to a small pot and cover them with cold water. you can also use vegetable stock instead of water.
Bring it to a boil. Allow it to simmer, covered, for 15-18 minutes until the lentils are tender, but don’t allow them to get mushy. Drain the lentils and let them cool completely.
When they’re cool, add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir it all together. The lentils will absorb the dressing making them extra flavorful.
Step 2- Prepare your Veggies
Meanwhile, you can prepare your vegetables. After washing your fresh vegetables be sure to dry them thoroughly and remove any excess water. Finely dice your tomato, cucumber, and onion. For help determining the right cut for your fresh tomatoes check out our guide on how to cut any type of tomato.
Place the diced veggies in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the mint leaves and parsley and add them to the veggies. Stir together.
Step 3- Mix
Mix the lentils and vegetables together. Season with sumac, salt, and pepper before serving.
🥗What to Serve with Tabblouleh
ITabbouleh is a dish that can be served alone, as part of a mezze platter, or as part of a larger meal. You can eat it with a fork, use it as a dip for gluten-free flatbreads or pita bread, or spread it over other foods.
There’s no question why it’s a popular food, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. Here are some ways to serve it at your house:
- In addition to serving it with grilled meats, we love it on oven-roasted vegetables like eggplant or roasted portabella mushroom caps.
- This flavorful salad makes a lovely compliment to my Greek roasted potatoes with feta and this delicious saffron rice.
- Pair with labneh and serve alongside spicy harissa beef.
- Top with rotisserie chicken for quick lunches.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Try to dice your vegetables small and uniform in size. Tabbouleh is known for its texture, and finely diced vegetables will help you reach the proper consistency.
- Buying pre-cooked lentils can save time.
- It is important to hand-cut all of the ingredients. Do not use a food processor.
Leftover lentil tabbouleh will keep well for 3-4 days. Place it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. When you’re ready to enjoy it again, give it a good stir.
I don’t recommend freezing lentil tabbouleh. Raw tomatoes don’t freeze well, and when your tabbouleh thaws, it will become mushy. Try to finish this recipe while it’s fresh.
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💭 Frequently Asked Questions
Tabbouleh has a bright and fresh flavor that is minty and lemony, with plenty of earthy notes from parsley and vegetables. The classic flavors of cucumber, tomato, and onion blend nicely with the soft flavor of the lentils.
Yes! You can make tabbouleh ahead of time. Make tabbouleh up to a day in advance of a party for a beautifully marinated salad.
f your tabbouleh tastes too bitter for your liking, it may be that your parsley isn’t chopped finely enough, or that you added more than you prefer. You can try to add some extra mint, salt, sumac, or lemon zest to balance out the flavor.
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- 1 cup cooked lentils
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches curly parsley
- 10 mint leaves see notes
- ½ English cucumber diced or use 2 small Persian cucumbers
- ½ cup tomatoes diced
- ⅓ cup red onion finely diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sumac optional but recommended
- ½ cup uncooked French green or black lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- Combine the lentils, lemon juice, and olive oil. Set aside.1 cup cooked lentils, ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Finely chop the herbs. Combine the herbs, cucumber, tomato, and onion in a mixing bowl. Stir in the lentils.2 bunches curly parsley, 10 mint leaves, ½ English cucumber, ½ cup tomatoes, ⅓ cup red onion
- Season to taste with the sumac, salt and pepper right before serving.1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon sumac
- In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, bay leaf, and water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 18 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain and let cool.½ cup uncooked French green or black lentils, 1 bay leaf, water
- Not a fan of mint? Try fresh dill instead.
- Thinly sliced green onions (about 4) can be substituted for red onion.