Colorful Quinoa Tabbouleh

Gluten-Free Tabbouleh Made with Quinoa

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, for example, 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. Same goes for this Colorful Quinoa Tabbouleh, which all three of my kids enjoy quite enthusiastically.

What is Tabbouleh?

Tabbouleh is a Middle-Eastern grain salad made with bulgur wheat and an abundant amount of fresh parsley.  The Rick Malouf, who is from Lebanon and owns 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.

Gluten-Free Tabbouleh Made with Quinoa

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.  The salad is a nutritious mix that is also relatively low in calories (and high in flavor).

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 simply dump it in a fine mesh strainer and leave it to drain for a couple of minutes. Easy!

Gluten-Free Tabbouleh Made with Quinoa

What’s in Quinoa 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. Leave out the feta and it can be vegan, too. I bet you will like it..and you never do know, maybe your kids will too.

If you like Quinoa Tabbouleh, check out other healthy quinoa recipes:

Breakfast Quinoa

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Bacon

Quinoa Cookies by Real Mom Nutrition

One Pot Mexican Spiced Vegetable Quinoa by Jessica Gavin

Quinoa Tabbouleh

This is a twist on traditional tabbouleh 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. Feel free to use another grain, such as bulgur or farro in place of quinoa.

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 Katie Morford


  • 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.


06.20.2013 at7:07 AM #


I love the idea of using quinoa instead of bulghur. Last time I made tabbouleh, I added flaked up grilled salmon, which we all enjoyed.

06.20.2013 at7:07 AM #

Katie Morford

That sounds delicious. I like to serve it as a side along with grilled chicken.

02.10.2014 at9:16 PM #

Patricia S

Thank you for creating this website! I have been looking for a site like yours forever. A realistic person with the common of others, a family. I love the meaning behind your recipes. It’s just not placed in front of me in a “Follow these direction for these courses.” Beginning with a picture, followed by a story and ending with a simple recipe. Voila!, Delicious!
This salad hit the spot with my mexician dinner, tamales, beans and quinoa tabouleh. With this heavy meal it adds brightness and that right sense of acidity. So looking forward to lunch tomorrow!

02.10.2014 at9:16 PM #

Katie Morford

Such a lovely comment. Thank you. Glad you liked the tabouleh. It’s one of my favorites and I love the idea of pairing it with Mexican food.

07.06.2014 at5:03 AM #


A very good friend of mine uses quinoa instead of bulgur in tabouleh salad, and it’s just so delish. Thanks for the tip of rinsing the quinoa. I’m going to make this myself.

07.06.2014 at5:03 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks for your comment. Rinsing does make a big difference. I’ve also just recently had tabouleh with barley…also delicious. Enjoy!

07.10.2020 at9:37 PM #

Rochelle Winston Davies

I so love Tabouleh smd I am anxious to try it with Quinoa. Curious – have hou ever tried making with Farro?

07.10.2020 at9:37 PM #

Katie Morford

I haven’t, though I would imagine it would be just as tasty.

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