This healthy Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad is a refreshing Middle Eastern side with protein packed gluten-free quinoa, crunchy juicy vegetables, fresh herbs, and zesty lemon juice. Easy to make and so good!
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Fresh, crunchy, lemony and minty this quinoa tabbouleh salad (also called quinoa tabouli) is perfect for your next dinner side dish, lunch, or a backyard party.
Just like my Mediterranean quinoa salad and quinoa and black bean salad, this ancient grain salad is made with gluten-free quinoa instead of bulgur. It’s full of hearty quinoa, fresh veggies, herbs, and simple seasonings.
This healthy salad recipe contains no dairy and is vegan friendly. It makes the Mediterranean diet proud!
What Is Tabbouleh?
Tabbouleh salad is a traditional Lebanese salad made with bulgur wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, and lots of parsley.
Bulgur is a whole grain made from cracked wheat. It is often soaked rather than cooked for this classic Middle Eastern salad. We are substituting bulgur for quinoa as it is more widely available plus gluten-free.
Ingredients You Will Need
With minimal ingredients and a focus on fresh, this salad is vibrant and flavorful!
- Quinoa: You can use white quinoa, red quinoa or tri-color quinoa.
- Tomatoes and cucumbers: The ripeness of tomatoes will affect the final taste. During the summer, I love ripe red medium sized tomatoes. Year round cherry tomatoes could be used.
- Parsley: Italian or curly parsley work. In tabbouleh salad, my preference is curly parsley as it makes the salad more fluffy.
- Mint and green onion: If you don’t have mint, feel free to skip it. That’s when I would add a tiny clove of garlic. Finely chopped fresh green onion is very mild zesty onion that complements tabbouleh.
- Olive oil and lemon juice: Quality extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice (not from a bottle) make up the dressing in this tabouli.
How to Make Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
A few simple steps is all it takes to make this nourishing salad!
- Cook quinoa: For salads I like quinoa firm. Cook quinoa for salads using 1:1.25 ratio of quinoa to water. Or just follow my Instant Pot quinoa method or learn how to cook quinoa on the stove for perfect results! No need to rinse quinoa as it comes pre-washed.
- Chop and seed vegetables: I seed tomatoes because they are quite watery. But I find for quinoa tabbouleh recipe not seeded cucumber works great as it makes salad more juicy and not mushy.
- Chop herbs: Chop parsley and mint very finely including stems. Stems contain a lot of flavor. You will need a sharp knife and patience.
- Season the salad: Add good amount of quality extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Although not traditional but sometimes I like to add small grated garlic clove too, because the Ukrainian in me almost never minds it!
Tips for Best Results
Making tabbouleh salad with quinoa is a breeze, but here are a few tips to make it really outstanding!
- Focus on fresh: Freshly squeezed lemon juice vs. bottled, ripe tomatoes, and firm cucumbers. Since there are so few ingredients, each one needs to shine just like in cucumber and tomato salad.
- Don’t use food processor: I have seen a few people chop herbs in a food processor and I do not recommend to do so. It bruises parsley and mint, making them mushy.
- Rinse quinoa if you want: Quinoa is coated in saponin which can cause bitter taste. Most pre-packaged quinoa is sold pre-washed and I do not find it to be a problem. However, you can rinse quinoa before cooking in a very fine mesh sieve under cold water.
- Dice vegetables: That are roughly the same size so they absorb into the salad. This not only improves the texture but makes each forkful easier to eat!
- Deseed tomatoes: Otherwise they add to much moisture to the salad.
Which Fresh Parsley Should I Use and How to Chop It?
While flat leaf parsley is usually recommended for tossing into most dishes, like I do in balsamic marinade for grilled vegetables. For this salad, curly parsley is my preference!
Curly parsley has more texture and actually helps this tabbouleh salad with quinoa remain light and fluffy. Plus, the flavor of this herb helps lends a more authentic Mediterranean salad taste.
The easiest way to chop parsley, or any herbs, is to hold it in a bouquet on a cutting board and chop with a sharp chef’s knife. After go over one more time in a different direction, making sure you got it all. We are using even stems in this recipe.
You can leave the stems out. With one hand, hold a bouquet of parsley on a cutting board, shave off the leaves with a knife, discard the stems and chop the leaves. I personally do not mind the stems because they get lost in a salad among such a large amount of parsley.
Can I Make This Salad in Advance?
Yes, add quinoa and all veggies to a large bowl and cover tightly. In a different small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cover. Refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Warm up dressing (to melt olive oil) on a counter for a few hours or in a bowl with hot water for a few minutes. Combine with salad before serving.
This light yet hearty salad is great for dinner tonight and then packing up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Quinoa doesn’t get soggy and you might even find salad tastes better the next day.
To store, refrigerate quinoa tabbouleh covered for up to 24 hours.
This tabbouleh salad with quinoa goes well toasted pita and garlic hummus or serve it with a protein for a heartier meal!
- Chicken like grilled lemon rosemary chicken or Greek chicken kebabs.
- Seafood like baked salmon in foil makes it a complete meal.
- Meat free: Keep this salad vegan by adding Instant Pot garbanzo beans.
- In summer serve with grilled shrimp skewers and more salad, like healthy cucumber salad.
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Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
- In a small pot, combine quinoa, water and a pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from the stove, let stand for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. Or check out Instant Pot quinoa.
- Transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl and add tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Gently stir salad with large spoon to combine. Serve cold.
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers covered for up to 24 hours.
- Make ahead: Add quinoa and all veggies to a large bowl and cover tightly. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cover. Refrigerate up to 2 days. Combine before serving.
- No need to rinse quinoa: It comes pre-washed but you can if you wish.
- Don’t use food processor for herbs: It bruises parsley and mint, making them mushy. Also veggies are best to be chopped.
- The easiest way to chop parsley: Hold it in a bouquet on a cutting board and chop with a sharp chef’s knife. After go over one more time in a different direction. We are using stems but you can leave them out by shaving off the leaves with a knife while holding onto a bouquet. Then chop.