Lentil tabbouleh is light and refreshing yet a more satisfying and filling variation than the traditional recipe. This gluten-free twist to the classic Middle Eastern side dish features fresh tomatoes, herbs, lemon and spices. Perfect for quick lunches or a side dish to a simple dinner.
Whether you call it tabbouleh or tabouli (they’re interchangeable), I absolutely love this dish. Maybe it’s my Middle Eastern heritage coming through but there’s something about it that just hits all the right notes for my tastebuds.
Tabbouleh is fresh, light, bright, zingy and pairs perfectly with so many main course options.
I’ve recreated it a handful of ways in the past including millet tabbouleh and strawberry tabouleh. The millet was my first attempt at making it with a gluten-free twist while the strawberry uses the traditional bulgur wheat grain.
This time around, I wanted to work both gluten-free and some satiety into the recipe which is where lentils come in.
Cooked canned lentils make this recipe simple and quick while adding the perfect staying power through both protein and fiber.
I love tabbouleh in all forms but I’m really digging this version lately. Unlike the traditional recipe, it can be used as a light meal and I appreciate that when I don’t have any other protein source on hand.
Ingredients needed to make tabbouleh with lentils
This recipe is basically the same exact ingredients I’d use for the traditional approach except with lentils instead of bulgur wheat.
- cooked lentils – use canned or cook your own from dried.
- fresh parsley
- fresh mint
- shallots – while not traditional, I often use pickled shallots in this instead of raw for a lovely added zing.
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
There’s no cooking required, the prep is simple (and therapeutic if you like chopping) and the result is stunningly flavorful.
How To Make Lentil Tabbouleh
If starting with dried lentils, rinse and pick through thoroughly. Cook until al dente. The lentils should be softened but not mushy. If using canned pre-cooked lentils, drain and rinse gently making sure not to smash them.
Add the lentils to a large bowl along with all the other ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper then toss gently to combine.
Tabbouleh is best if it has a chance to sit for at least 30 minutes or so but it can be eaten immediately as well if time doesn’t permit.
This is a great make ahead recipe. Simply cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Tips For The Best Tabouli
- Chop very finely! – The finely chopped ingredients are one of the trademarks of this classic Middle Eastern dish. It should almost resemble a gremolata.
- Buy fresh – A recipe as herb-centered as tabbouleh should feature the freshest, best herbs and produce possible. Everything is enjoyed raw so it needs to taste good!
- Don’t skip the spice – It may seem weird to add allspice, a spice typically used in baked goods, in a salad but don’t skip this ingredient. If you don’t have allspice on hand, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg can be substituted. Allspice can be treated like Chinese 5-spice which is also wonderful in savory dishes like this cream cheese chicken and any roasted winter squash such as air fryer butternut squash.
- Remove excess water from tomatoes – Tomatoes can hold a lot of water or that gooey pulp depending on the variety used. I prefer to use cherry tomatoes for tabbouleh to make this less of an issue but if you’re using an overly “pulpy” tomato, squeeze that out before chopping so it doesn’t water down the salad.
What Type of Lentils To Use
Green, brown or puy lentils are best suited to making tabbouleh. Stay away from red lentils for this recipe as they’re too soft and will turn to mush in the salad.
Save the red lentils for a quick curry instead.
Is Lentil Tabbouli Healthy?
Traditional tabbouleh recipes are a wonderful healthy vegetarian/vegan dish packed with fresh nutritious vegetables and herbs and whole grains.
Lentil tabbouleh takes is a step further by adding protein and fiber to the dish. It’s an extraordinarily healthy option that can make a light meatless meal or side dish to any prepared protein.
For some true Middle Eastern flair, serve it with beef kafta kabobs, hummus and naan.
More Salad Recipes Like This To Try
Beet salad with feta is another hearty salad that’s quick to throw together and perfect as a hearty side dish.
The creamy tahini dressing in this blueberry white bean salad brings a similar Middle Eastern vibe that’s a fun pairing with the sweet blueberries.
Grilled summer vegetable orzo salad takes a more Italian approach to a grain salad using pasta, fresh summer produce and a lovely sweet and tangy balsamic dressing.
You can also make pesto couscous or swap the lentils in this recipe for couscous and enjoy this salad in a different way.
- 2 cans, 15 ounces each cooked lentils, drained and rinsed
- 1 small bunch parsley, minced (about 1 1/4 cup)
- 1 small bunch mint, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
- 2/3 cup chopped cherry tomatoes, about 6 tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Gently tossed until combined.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve room temperature or cover and chill in the refrigerator. Flavors will meld and develop better if the tabbouleh is allowed to sit at least 30 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Watch the web story – Lentil Tabbouleh Recipe
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.