Transport your family to the Mediterranean with a vibrant, nutritious meal of tabbouleh with grilled tofu or chicken, pita bread, and hummus.
Not only is this an easy dinner to make, it's also fun to eat . . . and might convince the picky eaters in your life to give green stuff a chance. Plus, the tabbouleh is even better the next day, so this is a great recipe to make ahead and stash in the fridge for grab-and-go meals throughout the week. (That's why this recipe makes enough for 6 servings!)
What is Tabbouleh (a.k.a. Tabouli)?
The Food Lover's Companion*, by Sharon Herbst and Ron Herbst, defines tabbouleh (sometimes called tabouli) as "a Middle Eastern dish of bulghur [bulgur] wheat mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice." As for its specific origin? Most researchers agree that the zippy herb-and-wheat salad hails from Syria and/or Lebanon. And just like pasta dishes in Italy, the recipe and herb-to-grain ratio vary by region and family tradition throughout the Middle East.
How to Make Tabbouleh with Grilled Tofu or Chicken
Time needed: 35 minutes
What I love most of all about tabbouleh is that it looks way more complicated than it really is. Here are the basic steps to making a full meal out of the herbaceous salad:
- Cook the bulgur wheat.
Many tabbouleh recipes take a lot longer than this one because they call for soaking the bulgur in boiling water for 1 hour. I, however, have found that you can get the same tender results from cooking the bulgur in water on the stove for about 10 minutes, then turning off the heat and letting it steam for 10 more minutes. When the bulgur is nice and soft, scrape it into a large bowl.
- Grill the tofu or chicken.
While the bulgur cooks, cook thickly sliced tofu or chicken breast cutlets (sold as "thin-sliced cutlets" in most grocery stores) on a grill or grill pan. (Or, if you have neither a grill nor grill pan, cook the tofu or chicken under the broiler or in a skillet with a little oil.)
- Prep the other tabbouleh ingredients.
Chop the tomatoes and scallions and dice the cucumber. Finely chop the mint and parsley, either by hand or by pulsing them in a food processor. Squeeze the lemon juice, then whisk it with the other dressing ingredients.
- Add the herbs, veggies, and dressing to the bulgur.
Put the vegetables and herbs in the bowl with the bulgur. Toss well, pour in the dressing, and mix with two wooden spoons until everything is evenly distributed.
- Serve with pita bread and hummus.
Spread the tabbouleh on a platter and arrange the grilled tofu or chicken on top. Then, cut some pita breads in half so people can make pouches if they want, scoop store-bought (or homemade) hummus into a bowl, and serve the meal family-style.
All About the Timing
So here's the thing. This meal can be done in about 30 minutes . . . but only if you multitask. Here are some tips for getting dinner on the table as quickly as possible:
- Immediately after you turn on the heat under the bulgur, start preheating your grill or grill pan, then prep and season your protein. That way, you can grill the tofu or chicken in the same 10 minutes that the bulgur cooks.
- As soon as you turn off the heat under the bulgur, prep all the vegetables and herbs for the tabbouleh. It should take you about 10 minutes to chop the tomatoes and scallions, dice the cucumber, and finely chop or pulse the herbs. And the lemon vinaigrette will take just a few minutes longer.
- Don't worry about making the hummus yourself! Since adding "mom" to my list of titles back in 2017, I've gained new appreciation for good-quality premade meal makers like marinara sauce, frozen vegetables, and hummus. Most grocery stores sell an array of delicious options. Why not give yourself a break?
Looking for more healthy, plant-centric meals like tabbouleh with grilled tofu? Check out the Every Night Meals vegan and vegetarian recipe archives.
Tabbouleh Dinner with Grilled Tofu or Chicken, Pita Bread, and Hummus
- Cutting board and knife
- Medium saucepan
- Large bowl
- Grill or grill pan
For the bulgur
- 1 cup medium-grind (not fine or quick-cooking) bulgur wheat
- 1½ cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the grilled tofu or meat
- 1½ to 2 pounds extra-firm tofu or thin-sliced chicken breast cutlets
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the tabbouleh
- 1 (3 to 4-ounce) bunch fresh mint
- 2 (3 to 4-ounce) bunches fresh parsley
- 1 medium seedless cucumber, finely chopped
- 1½ cups chopped tomato or quartered cherry tomatoes
- 6 or 7 scallions or green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pita bread
- Prepared hummus
To cook the bulgur
- Combine the bulgur wheat, water, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to bubble, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bulgur is tender. Turn off the heat and let the bulgur sit, covered, for 10 more minutes.
- Fluff the cooked bulgur, then dump it into a large bowl and set it aside (stick it in the fridge to cool if you like).
To cook the tofu or chicken
- Preheat a grill pan or outdoor grill to high. If you’re using tofu, slice it into ½-inch-thick slabs, pat it as dry as possible with paper towels, and season the slabs with salt and pepper on both sides. If you’re using chicken, coat the cutlets with olive oil and season on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Grill the tofu for about 3 minutes per side, until it has noticeable grill marks, or grill the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until cooked through.
To make the tabbouleh
- Finely chop the mint and parsley leaves, either by hand or by pulsing them in a food processor. Add the chopped herbs to the bowl with the bulgur, along with the chopped cucumber, tomatoes, and scallions. Mix well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Pour this dressing over the salad and toss well.
- Spoon the tabbouleh onto a large platter. Lay the grilled tofu slices on top, or slice the chicken and arrange it on top.
- Serve family style with pita bread and hummus at the table. I like to tuck the salad and protein in a pita with a few spoonfuls of hummus, but other people might prefer to eat the salad with a fork and enjoy it with hummus and pita on the side.
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