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What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Posted by Bellsmom (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 20:08

Okay, I am late to the party. I knew I love tabbouleh, but I had never made it. Recently I had some at a friend's and it was wonderful.
I came home, hunted out a recipe and made it--with couscous, as specified in the recipe.
Not nearly as good. Not as nutty and not as chewy.
She said she uses bulgur.
I read a bit and am overwhelmed by cracked and not cracked, parboiled and not parboiled. . . . ????

So my question: what kind of bulgur do you use for tabbouleh, and where do you buy it?
If you don't use bulgur, what do you use?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Couscous, being a rather bland pasta, can never compete with bulgur!

When I lived in the sticks, we sometimes made it from plain wheat, which just takes longer. Bulgur is already cooked, then dried.

Cracked wheat is different.

Given the choices you present, get not cracked and parboiled and it should be right.

Oops! I left off where to buy it. Try the Middle Eastern aisle, or the Kosher aisle, anywhere they sell a lot of whole grains (I think Whole Foods has it in the bulk aisle), a health foods market, any Middle Eastern or Jewish market....

Also, Amazon. Where I found one that's called cracked wheat bulgur, so I guess they make that too.. Make sure you're not getting ground or otherwise altered, but the cracked would probably work if it's really bulgur (i.e., precooked and dried). It seems it also comes in red and white, just like the wheat I use for baking, but real bulgur should really be made from durum, I think.

This post was edited by plllog on Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 20:41

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

I love making it with quinoa. I've never had bulgur and we love quinoa.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Bulgur wheat IS tabouleh! It's hard to come by at ye olde grocery store. I have gotten mine at the Middle Eastern farm market and also at health food stores. Sometimes you can find it in the hippie section of the regular grocery store but often it is a tabouleh mix, which is faster to make. You can also find boxed mixes for tabouleh maybe in the "Jewish" or "Halal" section of your grocery store if it has one.

I have made tolerable tabouleh with quinoa but only because I am trying to find ways to eat quinoa, I don't really like it. I don't like cous cous and it won't make good tabouleh, although maybe the Israeli kind would be tolerable. You could also maybe use acini de pepe or orzo for a pasta salad that has the flavors of tabouleh, but it will not have that great nutty taste and texture of tabouleh. I have also made it with barley. Tolerable only. You could try brown rice too, but I cannot stomach cold rice salads for some reason, so I can't comment on whether it is good, I know I wouldn't like it.

But really, if you like and want to make tabouleh, nothing will do but bulgur. That's something you could easily order online if you can't find it locally. I am having to do that now that I live in the sticks.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Thanks, everyone.
lpinkmountain and others, where and what do you order on line?
Where can I order bulgur for the best price and quality, with the latter being more important? What kind do I want?
I also have a fair number of local sources: Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, some Asian Markets. About 40 minutes away. I'll check some of them out tomorrow.
lpinkmountain, the couscous I used was Israeli couscous. I might have over cooked it, I guess, but I followed directions. It was mushy and without much flavor--none of the nutty chew I wanted.

Man, I know NOTHING about bulgur!!!!

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 21:32

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Bellsmom, pasta is pasta. I like Israeli couscous in salads, but nothing could make it or regular couscous taste like bulgur. I think it's weird that people call it tabbouleh and put out a recipe that way, and I agree with LPink that tabbouleh is bulgur, though the word means something like "seasoned" or "seasoning".

Okay, I've talked myself through it. The couscous people think of tabbouleh as the parsley and spices, and people like us think of it as bulgur salad. :)

Bulgur is, at heart, a convenience food like Minute Rice. It's quick cooking because it's already cooked. :)

If you want the most authentic bulgur, try to get some imported from Israel. I'd say or Syria or Lebanon, but with their troubles, that might be hard. The more I think of it, the more I realize that the wheat isn't like the durum we use for pasta. It's a different color and everything, though it probably is from that side of the wheat family.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Yes, bulgur is the right stuff to use and be authentic -- but I've never been able to find it for sale locally. I've tried the quinoa substitution a few times and think it works fine. I've also used barley as a substitute a few times and have liked that better than quinoa.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

The seasoning of tabouleh, (mint, scallion, parsley and lemon) makes a lot of things taste good, lots of kinds of salads. But the best combo, IMHO, is with bulgur. But if you can't get it, you can still enjoy the mint/parsley/lemon/onion combo on other things. Where I live there is a health food store that carries bulgur in bulk and I'll bet you can find it in many of the stores you mentioned. Probably not at an Asian market though. Your town may have a Middle Eastern Market though, if it is of any size. When I order online food I tend to get if from Amazon because I am often ordering books and other stuff from them and I add it on to my order to get the free shipping. I doubt they are the best source for online food buying.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Many years ago I made tabouleh for a dinner party - it was a familiar hippie staple from my childhood. An egyptian friend came - looked at it curiously. She tried some but laughed . 'You made brown salad with green dots instead of green salad with brown dots'. For her tabouleh was a parsley salad with bulgar rather than the reverse. Now I make/love/eat it either way.

In this area I get bulgar in bulk at health food stores or in a pinch the preseasoned stuff at the grocery in the aisle with pilafs rice etc...

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

If you can't find bulgur, but you have whole wheat berries available (and other similar grains will also work - spelt, kamut, triticale, barley, rye and oats - for a little variety) you can make your own bulgur. Most of the bulgur made in the U.S. is made with white wheat, but you can use red wheat, which will have a more acrid flavor than white wheat, and red wheat will be darker than white wheat.

Bulgur wheat is cooked and dried at a very low heat, cooled back to room temperature, then cracked in a blender. Occasionally I've put it in a heavy-duty freezer bag and cracked it by rolling a rolling pin over it.

Because it's been pre-cooked, it cooks faster (12-15-minutes), or can even be rehydrated by soaking it in hot water (30-minutes) for making tabouli (yet one more spelling variation of many....). Bulgur has a longer shelf-life than cracked wheat because it has been pre-cooked, but I would store both bulgur and cracked wheat in the freezer. Freezing (or refrigeration if you use it quickly - within 3-months) will slow the wheat germ oil in this wholegrain from going rancid, but it won't prevent if from going rancid. But avoid storing at room temperature. Vacuum-seal it if you happen to have a FoodSaver. Oxygen-free storage is also preferred.

There are several methods you can choose from to make bulgur. You can boil the wheat, steam it, or sprout it, and you can find instructions on-line for these methods. I prefer sprouting then dehydrating it, because it increases the nutrition and makes it easier to digest.

When you crack the cooked/steamed and dried wheat (or sprouted and dried wheat), be sure to sift out the small flour-size bits before using it. The flour will turn to "glue" when cooked or soaked for making tabouli. It's the same for making "Cream of Wheat" (or other grain) cereals at home using whole wheat berries. You need to sift/sieve out the flour.

Soaked or cooked bulgur can be refrigerated to use later, or frozen in containers. It can also be used as a cooked cereal, or added to breads.

Rebecca Wood has a nice recipe in "The Splendid Grain" for IRISH TABBOULEH made with steamed steel-cut oats I've been using now that I've gone gluten-free. I have also used quinoa or sprouted quinoa, or even cooked brown rice for a gluten-free version.


RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Now I have a local natural foods co-op just a few blocks from me, so no problem getting lots of grains in the bulk bin aisle. What I have found online is, a really good resource for lots of bulk foods and orders over $20 receive FREE shipping. Bob's Red Mill has packaged bulgur in their product line.

For lots of tabbouleh recipes, see - and you will find that there is fine and coarse ground bulgur to choose from as well. I think the medium ground is my preference. I keep my bag of bulgur in a glass jar in the pantry, with the rest in a freezer zip bag in the freezer. I also like to make bread with soaked bulgur mixed in for that nutty, wheat taste.


RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

What a lot of information. Thank you all so much.
I especially appreciate the heads ups (fun to try to "heads up" plural) on storing it in the freezer, the idea of shifting the ratio of parsley to grain according to whim or need, and the idea that I need to get a cross section of available whole grains and cook them so that I really come to know their flavor instead of just using them ground into flour.

Because I won't have time for a shopping trip to the "big city" (Louisville)in the next week, I ordered Bobs Red Mill bulgur from Amazon. With free Prime shipping, four 20oz packages come to around $2.50 a pound. (Bobs Red Mill website has them on sale at 4 for $10, but shipping is $20.) Sounded like decent price, and I am eager to play. This will be here in time for me to use it Monday or Tuesday.

Three packages go immediately into the freezer or will be shared with friends, and one of them is going to make an immediate wealth of tabbouleh since parsley and tomatoes abound.

Please don't reply to the following comment here, because I want to post a separate query soon. You have me really interested in ways to cook whole grains other than rice and corn. My previous, very limited experience was pretty much confined to a wide variety of rices cooked whole, and ground corn as cornbread, mush, polenta, and grits. Never ever cooked wheat or any other of the grains some of you mentioned in any form other than ground into flour. My imagination is tingling with ideas now.

But next week, I want to play with bulgur. Think I'll start a new thread asking for recipes for bulgur.

Again and again and again, thank you all for your knowledge and willingness to share.


RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Agmss15 made me laugh because I've been on the sidelines of so many arguments about the "right" way to make tabbouleh. In general the farther north you go from Israel through Lebanon and Syria, the more parsley, but I guess it also goes for the farther south you go because there are big deserts between Lebanon and Egypt. :)

Sandra, I like your attitude--make it however you like it. :)

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

So many foods have been adopted into american culture or at least segments of american culture. Sometimes well sometimes not.... I am always amused when someone from another culture see/tastes what we have done with their foods. Or when americans try something much closer to the original.

An example for me is bagels - which in my family is something eaten with a variety of smoked fish - often for family get togethers - and not a sweet blueberry strawberry cinnamon pastry. Blech..

Meanwhile I grew up eating bulgar tahini tofu etc.. in ways no lebanese or japanese person would recognize. And of course no Mainers - who found my white homemade yogurt exotic never mind tabouleh.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

You are right, agmss! I remember when I bought some zaatar spice at the Jerusalem Market in a nearby town. The very nice owner looked at me a little skeptical and said "What do you know of zaatar?" I told him I had eaten it on pita bread drizzled with olive oil and it was delicious. He smiled a shy smile at me and offered me tastings of about 4 different feta cheese samples.

RE: What kind of grain do you recommend for tabbouleh?

Oh, Teresa, you made a fast friend!

I admit to being one who uses fenugreek freely without regard to "supposed to". I think I was pushing traditional tabbouleh because it's so yummy and the American stuff I've had is so not! I'm fine with fusion, but it had better taste good. :) Though I do bristle when people call any kind of puree "hummus", since hummus (chumus) means chickpea/garbanzo, and my favorite dish called hummus is a stew with eggplant and pomegranate molasses, with whole hummus (beans) in it.

Agmss15 -- ROTFL!! You bring back memories of my first visit to a conference in the Midwest, where they had PINK bagels!! Finding one that didn't have some kind of fruit in it was difficult, and the one I thought was an onion bagel turned out to be raisin. :(

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