Quinoa Tabbouleh

It’s a side dish. It’s an entrée. It can even be a snack. What is this miracle dish, you ask? It’s quinoa tabbouleh! Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern grain salad traditionally made with bulgur, or cracked wheat. It’s loaded with a satisfying mix of fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon juice and olive oil. My version stays relatively true to this tradition, but uses quinoa instead of bulgur and incorporates tahini and chopped walnuts, all of which make this dish hearty, while still maintaining its iconic “fresh” taste. This makes it a viable main dish, especially when topped with a lean protein such as grilled chicken breast or tofu. Or, it’s a perfect pairing alongside a serving of hummus and pita. And it’s a miracle worker in satisfying that afternoon hunger pang.

Besides being big on flavor, this dish is also loaded with nutrition. Quinoa, often thought of as a grain, is actually an edible seed. It has gained fame because unlike other grains, it’s a complete protein, making it comparable to animal-based proteins because of its amino acid profile. This is hugely beneficial to vegans and vegetarians, who often miss out on some essential amino acids that are hard to find in plant foods. Besides protein, quinoa is also a good source of iron and magnesium. Trying to adhere to a gluten-free diet? No worries, quinoa is also completely gluten-free. Try quinoa in this tabbouleh recipe or substitute for any dish that calls for rice.

Food Safety Tip: As always, carefully wash and scrub your produce under running water. Fresh herbs are particularly good at holding on to unwanted dirt. Besides rinsing them under water, you can also submerge herbs in a tub or bowl filled with cold water. Swish them around, then carefully pull them out, leaving the dirt and sand on the bottom of the bowl. Repeat this process if necessary. This is also a great dish to take to a picnic or potluck. But remember that foods shouldn’t stay out for more than two hours and if it’s hot outside (90°F or above), no more than one hour.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Recipe by Sara Haas, RDN, LDN


  • 1 cup rinsed* quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium cucumber, washed, seeded and diced
  • 8 ounces or 1 1/2 cups ripe tomatoes, washed and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, washed and diced
  • 1 cup mint, washed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups parsley, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Place quinoa and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered for about 15 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid. Spread quinoa on to a clean sheet pan to cool.
  2. For the dressing: Add the tahini and lemon juice to a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking until combined.
  3. Transfer the quinoa to a large mixing bowl and add the cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, mint, parsley and walnuts. Toss to combine. Pour dressing over the mixture and gently toss until well incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  4. Garnish with feta cheese or toss with the salad just before serving.

Cooking Note

  • Be sure to rinse quinoa thoroughly before using to remove saponin, a bitter compound found on quinoa that acts as a natural protectant against insects.


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Sara Haas
Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, is a Chicago-based dietitian and co-author of the Fertility Foods Cookbook. Read her blog, The Cooking RD, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.