Tabbouleh, also known as tabbouli, is one of the most popular salads in the Levant, especially in Lebanese cuisine. It is also one of the few dishes in the world that stars parsley as its main ingredient, rather than using it as a herb or seasoning.
Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat, but I wanted to make mine paleo and keto friendly and low in carbs so I replaced half of the bulgur wheat with cauliflower rice and found a really refreshing, healthy and low carb alternative that is not only delicious but also creative.
This vegan dish is not just for those forgoing animal products but it is also an amazing source of vitamins and goodness for everyone. If you want, you can also make it entirely grain-free by replacing all the bulgur wheat with cauliflower rice.
Start the day right with this savory tabbouleh breakfast bowl.
About bulgur wheat and its origins
While I replaced half of the bulgur wheat with cauliflower in this recipe, it still is the main cereal in this dish, so let’s take a look at the what bulgur wheat is and where it comes from.
If you never heard of bulgur heath before fret not. This uncommon cereal originates in the Middle East and Mediterranean coast and is nothing more than wheat that is boiled for hours then left to dry (traditionally on the rooftops) and finally cracked.
The result is a hard and coarse cereal that is made into small pieces the size of a chia seed and which is used in a few Mediterranean dishes but otherwise quite unknown to the rest of the world.
Although it was known under many other names before, we all widely agree to the common denomination of bulgur wheat. This name refers to four different sizes, the smallest of which is the most common and the one used to make tabbouleh.
The fine bulgur wheat barely needs any cooking and is ready after soaking in warm water or left overnight, like is the case for making tabbouleh. look at the bottom layer in the photo above and you will see what I mean.
The benefits of bulgur wheat, parsley and this recipe
Bulgur wheat is quite a versatile grain because it can be cooked in many different ways and used as if you were cooking rice or any other grain.
It is coarse, mould-resistant, does not get eaten by insects and it rarely goes off. This is one of the reasons why it became so popular in ancient times.
The first packet I bought was sold in a box, without a bag or any way to seal it after opening.
But bulgur’s resilience are not its only properties, this is also a great grain to include in your diet, here’s why.
The main benefit of bulgur wheat when compared to other types of wheat, is that it conserves its bran layer and thus, has a high percentage of fiber.
This bran layer gets removed when wheat is processed and with it goes the goodness of many cereals, but wheat gets boiled or steamed with its bran layer on before being cracked to make it bulgur.
100 gr of dried bulgur wheat is made of 13% of fiber and almost an equal amount of protein, a rarity in a wheat derivate. However, this recipe blends both bulgur and cauliflower rice.
Cauliflower rice is nothing more than raw cauliflower florets coarsely chopped into small pieces that make it look like rice.
This low carb version to the regular tabbouleh has a very low sugar and carb content (just 22gr) and half of your daily vitamin C needs thanks to both the parsley and the lemon used for the dressing. It also has a third of your daily vitamin A needs.
A bit part of the benefits from this salad comes from the large amounts of parsley, the king ingredient in tabbouleh. Parsley is usually a herb used to condiment and dress a dish, but rarely does it make for its main ingredient, and that is a shame because it has been proven to be beneficial for our health.
This pretty bright green herb is packed with vitamin K, a rare vitamin that is not common in foods and which helps with calcium absorption. It is also a great source of anti-oxidants and
Because of how light this tabbouleh is, the best way to pair it is with humus. I always used to order both at Middle Eastern restaurants and would mix them both to avoid eating so much Arabic bread.
What I love about this low carb tabbouleh recipe
I love that this recipe is really easy to prepare and requires no cooking. It is also light, citrusy and crunchy, and who doesn’t like a bit of crunch?
But what I love the most about this low carb tabbouleh is that it is a super fresh and healthy salad packed with a wealth of minerals and vitamins and it is entirely raw, giving you all the best of the vegetables and the bulgur wheat with very low carbs.
You can (and should) prepare this recipe overnight so it is ready in the morning, and you can pack it to go and only mix it last minute, before you enjoy it. It also makes for an amazing side dish to go with grilled meats or fish or even with other vegan dishes like tofu burgers or beans. Or fill a wrap with tabbouleh and hummus and take it away for a filling and complete vegan breakfast wrap.
Recipe: Low carb tabbouleh with cauliflower rice
I had eaten tabbouleh millions of times while living and working across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Sudan, and each salad is unique. This is one of those simple dishes where there are as many recipes as there are chefs.
Some are prepared and eaten straightaway, some mix all ingredients and let it soak, some cook the bulgur before adding it. What makes mine unique is the preparation and the use of cauliflower rice which makes it a keto friendly recipe.
You could make it a 100% carb-free tabbouleh by replacing the entire amount of bulgur wheat with cauliflower rice and it would still taste amazing (I have tried it) or keep it higher in carbs by replacing the cauliflower with bulgur.
Let’s get down to the recipe, but first, make sure to read all the notes, the order in which you layer the ingredients and mix them matters (as do the proportions) so make sure to follow this recipe step by step.
Low carb tabbouleh: This version of the fresh Lebanese mezze dish is a low carb option that uses half cauliflower "rice" instead of all bulgur wheat. This makes for a bright breakfast bowl that is vegan, keto and packed with vitamins.
- 3 cups Parsley
- 2 tbsp Mint leaves
- 1/4 cup Bulgur wheat
- 1/4 cup Cauliflower rice
- 1/2 cup Onion
- 1 tomato
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1 pinch Black pepper
You need to chop all the ingredients really finely for this salad to come through, there is no other secret.
- PULSE: I prefer to make my cauliflower rice by chopping the florets with a knife starting with the tip of the floret and working my way down to the tougher parts and simply slicing through and letting the florets turn into small crumbled pieces, then chopping the harder parts as if I was cutting carrots in very small cubes. It takes a bit more time but I prefer the consistency and the fact that the pieces are not mushed and remain dry. You can also pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor three times to achieve a similar result. I tried this method, but did not like the fact that the "rice grains" came out in different sizes and some parts were mushy, bruised and wet.
- CHOP: Sharpen your knife before starting and then wash and dry all ingredients then chop them all separately. Parsley and mint need to be hand chopped, tomatoes and onions should be diced in small pieces, the smallest you can cut.
- LAYER: It is very important that you follow these steps as they are indicated exactly. At the bottom of a bowl you should pour the bulgur wheat and the cauliflower rice, then the mint and the lemon juice. Combine this until it has incorporated nicely. Next layer the diced tomatoes and on top, the onions. Do not mix the two, simply create layers. Finally, at the top, place the chopped parsley.
- COOL: Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight (this is why this makes for a great breakfast bowl option!).
- MIX: When ready to eat, take the bowl off the fridge, pour the salt, pepper and olive oil and mix properly making sure that the entire salad is soaked in the lemon and olive oil.
- SERVE: Tabbouleh is commonly served with lettuce leaves that are used to scoop the salad. If you don't have them, you can also just eat it with a spoon like I did.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when making this recipe.
Prepare overnight: I highly recommend you prepare this overnight so that the ingredients have time to soak the oil and lemon juice. Eat with a spoon or scoop with crunchy lettuce leaves, endives or cabbage even, you want some crunch some sturdiness to hold the salad. You'll be surprised that something so simple can taste so delicious. And you will wonder where the cauliflower went!
Method: My version of tabbouleh is different because of the layering (rather than mixing) and because of the cauliflower rice. The order matters, because the juices from the tomatoes and onion should seep through to the bottom overnight. I would recommend you follow the instructions the first time and then find your inspiration.
Cooking the bulgur wheat: Note that I do not rinse or cook the bulgur because I let the lemon do that by soaking overnight. If you don't have time to soak for the whole night, I would suggest a minimum of 1h. The faster you eat it, the crunchier the bulgur wheat will be. If you do not have time to wait, you should cook the bulgur because otherwise it will be far too hard to eat.
Proportions: The proportions of each ingredient vary a lot from recipe to recipe. I prefer to include a bit more bulgur and cauliflower than most recipes. Because this recipe is conceived as a breakfast bowl, I wanted it to have a bit more consistency and body so I upped the amount of carbs. But because half of the amount is made of cauliflower it remains a light salad.
Olive oil: It is important to use olive oil and not other vegetable oils for tabbouleh, this is a Mediterranean recipe after all. Like with all my breakfast bowls, this one uses far less olive oil than most tabbouleh recipes you will find online because I do not want to load it with fat. The amount is the right one for me, but, since olive oil is added at the end, you can pour some more if you prefer.
Cucumber: Many recipes for tabbouleh include cucumber. I detest cucumber (probably the only vegetable I dislike!) so I did not include it, but you may consider adding 1/4 of a cup when you layer the tomatoes.
Make it your recipe: Tabbouleh is a recipe that, although very simple, can be prepared in a million different ways. Proportions vary from kitchen to kitchen and even the ingredients (some add cucumber). Chefs also disagree on the preparation method and the order in which the ingredients should be mixed. This is my take, but you should try to experiment and find the portions, ratios and methods that you love most.
This recipe yields two servings because it is a lot of work to chop all the vegetables so you might as well make two portions. The first time I made it my partner ate the two portions and only left me a small amount, that is how much he loved it. if you split it into two servings, remember to only add the olive oil when you are about to eat it so that it does not become soggy.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 217Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 135mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 6gSugar: 6gProtein: 5g
Values may vary depending on ingredients and brands used.
Have you tried this recipe at home? We would LOVE to see your yum creations!
Tag @BreakfastBowlRecipes and use the hashtag #MyBreakfastBowl so we can share the love ♥
Possible variations to this low carb tabbouleh with cauliflower rice
It is difficult to make changes to this recipe without changing it completely because it is such an easy dish but here are a few creative ideas to try:
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar: As you add the olive oil to serve, drizzle the salad with a syrup balsamic vinegar made with some balsamic vinegar that has been slowly simmered with brown sugar for 10-15min until its reduced and it has a consistency more similar to caramel.
- Croutons: Sprinkle the salad with some croutons for added crisp, but add them just before serving.
- Make it fruity: Top the salad with chopped fresh strawberries for added color, vitamins and flavor.
Make this recipe with <250 kcal
This recipe is already low in calories and the majority comes from the generous amounts of olive oil. If you decide to up the proportions, you might end up increasing the calories, but they are good calories