Eat Local

National Tabbouleh Day

Contributing writer: Camille CESBRON, Food Anthropologist

On Saturday July the 4th, Lebanese all over the world will celebrate Lebanese National Tabbouleh Day. People gather to celebrate by eating the national dish, in the thee colors of the Lebanese flag. This celebration based around the idea of commensality – eating together – and reinforced by the idea of preserving their culinary identity, shows the Lebanese attachment to their culture through the consumption of the same dish. Tabbouleh is important to us because it is so embodied in your life and social gatherings.

This celebration which was launched in 2001 by Ricardo Mbarkho, Lebanese artist living in Paris, has rapidly spread around the world.

From the Arabic word tabbala (تبّل) « to season », tabbouleh is most commonly made with parsley, tomatoes, burghul, spring onion (in spring and summer) or brown onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and sometimes mint. There are few ways to eat tabbouleh : with lettuce or cabbage leaves, wine leaves during spring and summer and some people even enjoy it with bread.

Fresh saff tabbouleh from Rashaya ready to be served

Tabbouleh holds an essential place in the Lebanese mezze: people would have most often tabbouleh or fattouche on the table, to the point where it’s almost mandatory in Lebanon to have at least one salad on the table. Tabbouleh has several « declensions » in Lebanon, lentils replace the burghul in the Chouf, and fennel replace parsley in some villages. The word tabbouleh itself has been used to refer to different salads and dishes containing burghul and mixed fresh vegetables ; one of the most interesting dishes is called Tabbouleh bi Qawarma and usually replace the traditional ingredients in winter when herbs are not in season.

Qawarma tabbouleh served with boiled cabbage leaves

Preparing tabbouleh is a social activity because it takes time to prepare the parsley. Women gather to form little bunches of even-size parsley then chop it with a very sharp knife to give it a clean cut in order to not bruise the herb.

Lentil tabbouleh from the Chouf

Lebanon and Syria share the origins of tabbouleh. There, in the cities the tabbouleh is the classic version but in the countryside, lentil and cucumber are sometimes added, and instead of onion, garlic is sometimes used. It’s said that women invite each other to prepare and eat tabbouleh. It can be an early lunch, or at night for dinner. Usually they serve it with jam and add roasted peanuts on top. In Syria, it said that men usually prefer fattouche, as tabbouleh is more linked to women.


Saff (Tabbouleh Saff)

Saff is a traditional Lebanese salad similar to the Tabbouleh we all know but with more sources of proteins and fibers. Saff is renown in Rashaya region and is prepared during summer and fall when all ingredients are available.

Fresh Saff ready to be served

Total Servings: 8

Preparation time: 30 mns


1 ½ cups of chick-peas soaked in water overnight

1/3 cup of fine Burgol

3 bunches of Parsley

Half bunch of Mint

5 Green onions

3 Tomatoes, medium size

5 Cucumbers, medium size

Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Salt, Black Pepper according to taste

A pinch of Sumac

Carrot, Radish, Cabbage and Garlic are optional ingredients added according to taste

Preparation steps

  1. Finely chop all vegetables
  2. Grind the chickpeas
  3. Add chickpeas and burgul to the chopped vegetables
  4. Mix with all the seasoning ingredients (sumac, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper)
  5. Serve cold as a side salad

Beetroot Tabbouleh

Beetroot Tabbouleh (Tabboulit shmandar) is more of a winter salad when beetroot are abundant. This specific recipe is a highlight of Khairat Bekaina community kitchen in Khiara, West Bekaa.

Total Servings: 4


1 kg of beetroot

250 g of fine white burgol

1 ½ bunches of parsley

½ bunch of mint

1 small onion

½   of one sour pomegranate

2 Tbsp of pomegranate molasses

Olive Oil, Lemon juice, salt to taste

Preparation steps

  1. Boil, peel and finely chop the beetroots. Save the cooking water
  2. Soak the burgol in enough cooking water until all water is absorbed by the burgol
  3. Finely chop parsley, mint and onion
  4. Mix all aforementioned ingredients with the pomegranate seeds and seasoning (olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and salt)
  5. Serve chilled

Winter Tabbouleh or Qawarma Tabbouleh

Qawarma tabbouleh served with boiled cabbage leaves
Qawarma tabbouleh served with boiled cabbage leaves

Qawarma tabbouleh is prepared in the Lebanese mountains during winter when summer vegetables (tomato, parsley and green onions) are out of season. It is cooked in the West Bekaa and Shouf villages with “Qawarma” or lamb meat preserved in fat and served with boiled cabbage leaves.

Total Servings: 4


1 cup of coarse bulgur

1 cup of chickpeas, pealed and boiled (save the water when you drain)

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 cup of Qawarma

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small cabbage

1 Tbsp. of dry mint

 Preparation Steps:

  1. Wash the cabbage leaves and cook them in the chickpea water
  2. In a pot, melt the qawarma and stir in the onions, chickpeas, and bulgur
  3. Season with salt, pepper and dry mint
  4. Serve the tabbouleh hot with the cooked cabbage leaves





Fennel Tabbouleh

Fresh fennel tabbouleh
Fresh fennel tabbouleh. Photo ©Toni El Khawand

Fennel tabbouleh also called lentil tabbouleh is exclusively prepared in the villages of Saidoun and Hidab Rimat and in the Caza of Jezzine, South Lebanon. This original version of tabbouleh does not contain parsley at all, and contains much less tomato than the traditional Lebanese tabbouleh. As its name suggests, this tabbouleh is prepared with fennel instead of parlsey, and yellow lentil. Lentil or fennel tabbouleh has a refreshing taste thanks to the essential oils contained in the leaves of fennel (including anethol). It is basically prepared in March, April and May when fennel is available and its leaves are tender.  It is worth to mention that the mixture of this recipe is also used to stuff grape leaves.

This recipe was shared by Toni El Khawand from Saidoun, South of Lebanon.

Servings: 4

Preparation time: 30 mns


1 bunch of fennel, finely chopped

1 glass of yellow lentil, soaked overnight

½ cup of fine bulgur

1 cup of fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Juice of 2 lemons

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fennel tabbouleh
It’s all about fresh ingredients! Photo ©Toni El Khawand

Preparation steps:

  1. In a bowl, add in following order the bulgur, lentils, onions and pepper
  2. Add the fresh mint and fennel
  3. Prepare the sauce in a separate bowl: mix the lemon juice, oil and salt
  4. Add the sauce to the salad and mix well
  5. Serve directly

Lentil Tabbouleh

Lentil TabboulehLentil Tabbouleh, a specialty of some villages in the Shouf and West Bekaa regions, made with lentils instead of bulgur wheat. This healthy salad is gluten free, rich in protein and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

 Total Servings: 5

Preparation Time: 45 minutes


2 cups of lentils, boiled

2 garlic gloves, crushed

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

¼ bunch of parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of salt

Optional: ½ teaspoon of ground cumin

Optional: the juice of half a bitter orange (Bou Sfeir or Zeffer Oranges)

 Preparation Steps

  1. In a bowl, mix the lentils with the lemon juice, crushed garlic and salt (and cumin according to preference)
  2. Decorate with the parsley and tomatoes
  3. Serve cold