Fresh Tabouli Salad with Pistachios

This is a light and refreshing parsley-based salad from the Middle East. It is traditionally made with whole bulgur wheat kernels, but quinoa can be used in a wheat-free version. Couscous is also sometimes used, but couscous is just a very tiny form of pasta (traditionally rolled by hand). You can find whole wheat couscous, but I would go with the 100% whole intact grains of unprocessed bulgur or quinoa. This version incorporates pistachios for extra protein, and a nutty crunch. Although not very seasonal, I find this dish can take you away to warmer places.

This salad pairs well with fried tofu, eggplant, humus, and pita triangles for lunch or dinner (as shown); with ‘Shamb kebobs’, falafel, a tahini drizzle; on its own, or with whatever you choose!



2 cups of water

1 cup of uncooked bulgur wheat or quinoa – rinsed

Dash of sea salt

3 cloves of garlic – peeled and finely chopped

2 cups of fresh parsley – chopped

juice of half a lemon (approx. 3 tbs.)

4 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

¼ ts. sea salt + extra

¼ ts. ground black pepper (fresh is best) + extra

½ ts. ground cumin seed

1 small onion (or half a larger one) – white, yellow or red will work, very finely chopped

1 medium tomato (Roma work well because they have less juice)

12 cm length of cucumber – cut into 1 cm pieces

½ cup of shelled and chopped pistachios (preferably unsalted)


In a medium-sized pot boil water. Add bulgur or quinoa and salt, and reduce heat. Cook, without a lid, until soft but not mushy. Depending on the stove and ingredients, you may need to add a little more water. When soft and holes form in the grains, turn off heat and add lid. Sit for 5-10 min. to cool.

Add garlic to top of grains, reapply lid and set in the freezer for 10 min to chill. Garlic may turn bright blue-green, but don’t worry — this is from the sulphur-based compounds (thiosulfinates) in garlic (that give garlic its bite) reacting with amino acids in the garlic and grains to make carbon-nitrogen ring molecules called pyrroles that are similar in structure to chlorophyll. As many as eight different blue and green pyrrole pigments can be formed during this reaction, and the changes in temperature seem to promote this reaction[1]. It is perfectly safe, but can increase the flavour (and interest) of the garlic.


Remove grains from freezer and place in fridge to continue chilling if not cool (you don’t want them to freeze).

Once at room temperature or cooler, mix grains and garlic into a large salad bowl. Stir in parsley. Drizzle over olive oil and lemon juice, add cumin, salt and pepper, and stir.   Add chopped onion, cucumber, tomato and pistachios – toss salad.

Refrigerate for about 20 min and stir again before serving. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Make 4 – 8 servings.


[1] Eric Block, 2010. Chemistry in a Salad Bowl: Allium Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chapter 4, i: Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and The Science. ISBN: 978-1-84973-180-5


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