You never do know…

What your kids are going to do.

What they’ll say.

And certainly what they’ll eat.

Rosie, my middle one, won’t eat bananas and doesn’t much care for papayas, but set a plate of stinky cheese or a bowl of curried mussels in front of her and she’s quite content.

What is Tabbouleh?

I’ve been surprised by the fact that all three of my kids love tabbouleh, that Middle-Eastern grain salad packed with bulgur wheat and fresh parsley.  The cheerful Lebanese man who runs a market down the hill from my house makes a killer version that my kids gobble down without hesitation. But with so many folks eating gluten-free these days, I figured it was high time to find an option for all.

A Gluten-Free Grain

In this recipe, I’ve swapped out the bulgur for quinoa. It feels like an appropriate switch since both grains are similar in size and texture. I like the quinoa tabbouleh because it’s packed with more protein than most grains and also happens to be naturally gluten free.  Win win.

Should I Rinse Quinoa?

Quinoa is coated with a compound called saponins, which adds a mildly bitter flavor. Some brands come pre-rinsed of their saponins, and should be labeled accordingly.  But what I tend to buy grains in the bulk bins with no label to indicate if the saponins have been removed or not. To eliminate them myself, I put the quinoa into a fine mesh colander and run it under warm water for at least a minute, pushing the quinoa around in the strainer as I go. You can always set a bowl beneath the colander to catch that water and use it to hydrate your plants (or wash your hair. Have we just discovered a new-fangled protein rinse?).

How to Cook Quinoa

While there’s no “right” way to cook quinoa, my preferred method is to do it much like I do pasta: boiled in a generous pot of water. After about 15 minutes, when the quinoa is good and tender, I simple dump it in a fine mesh strainer and leave it to drain for a couple of minutes. Easy!

What’s in Tabbouleh?

This time of year when tomatoes and cucumbers are starting to appear, I like to dice those up and add them to the mix, along with plenty of fresh parsley, mint, and lemon. While feta and chopped nuts aren’t necessarily traditional tabbouleh ingredients, they deliver flavor and texture, not to mention a bump in protein.

It’s tasty as a side, or a vegetarian main. I bet you will like it..and you never do know, maybe your kids will too.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

This is a twist on traditional tabouleh whereby quinoa takes the place of bulgur. The grains are similar in size, but quinoa makes this suitable for those avoiding gluten and is higher in protein. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta add flavor and texture to this tasty salad.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 to 6 servings
Calories 239 kcal
Author katiemorford


  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup diced English or Persian cucumber (or peeled, seeded regular cucumber)
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • The zest from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional for a vegan version)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans


  1. If the quinoa isn't labeled "pre-rinsed", pour it into a fine mesh sieve or colander and rinse thoroughly under warm water. 

  2. Transfer the quinoa to a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the quinoa by at least 1 ½ inches. Set the pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. When the water boils, drop the heat until it simmers vigorously. Simmer until it is tender, about 15 minutes. Pour into a colander and leave to drain in the sink for a few minutes. 

  3. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and add the cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir well, taste, and add more salt if needed. Add the crumbled feta and stir gently just to combine. Scatter the pecans over the top. 

  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.