A delicious tahini herb dressing gives this Middle Eastern bulgur wheat salad a deli-style makeover. Serve it as a grain side salad, or bulk it up for a quick and easy vegan dinner. It is also my favourite vegan work lunch – perfect for the weekend meal prep.
Mint leaves are a must when serving, but you can also add toasted almond flakes and pomegranate seeds (when they are in season). Scroll down for substitutes and serving suggestions, or head straight to the recipe.
Bulgur wheat salad ingredients
I list the weights of ingredients for transparency. It allows you to recreate the salad exactly – should you wish to do so. But this bulgur salad recipe is very forgiving. Adjust the quantities to suit your taste preference or what you have on hand.
- Red onion: I use one mid-sized red onion for this salad (approximately 120 grams), but you can use whatever onion or shallot you have.
- Tomatoes: Use any delicious tomatoes with a firm (not grainy) texture. Here, I use three Roma tomatoes (approximately 300 grams) because they are easy to come by. But I often use different coloured heirloom tomatoes from the market. Use your favourite!
- English cucumber: Half an English cucumber (approximately 250 grams) works great, but you can use small Lebanese cucumbers or any variety you prefer.
- Rocket: This peppery salad leaf is also known as arugula. If you’re not a rocket fan, try watercress, some chopped Tuscan kale, or omit the leaves entirely.
- Bulgur wheat: Use three cups of cooked bulgur wheat (one cup of uncooked bulgur wheat). You can cook the bulgur wheat up to three days in advance and store it sealed in the fridge until needed. Just fluff it with a fork to loosen the grains.
Tahini herb dressing
- Coriander (cilantro): Use both the leaves and any tender stems. If you are one of those cilantro averse cooks, replace coriander with more parsley or another soft green herb such as dill or mint leaves.
- Italian parsley: This is the parsley I prefer to use – also called flat-leaf parsley – but you can use any variety. Or swap for other soft green herbs.
- Tahini: I use homemade runny tahini, but you can use any tahini here. Simply add more water if the final dressing is too thick.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Salads and extra virgin olive oil were made for each other. I especially love the peppery local olive oil I buy. But you can use any nut or vegetable oil that you enjoy. Just be careful of roasted sesame oil because the taste can be overwhelming.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds the needed acidity. You can also use the golden preserving liquid of Moroccan preserved lemons – check that they only contain lemons, lemon juice and salt as ingredients if it’s not homemade.
- Green chilli: Pick your chilli according to your heat tolerance. Try a jalapeño for a mild kick, a serrano pepper for a bit more heat, or a green finger chilli for a fiercer burn. You can also add green shatta or other hot sauce to taste.
- Garlic: A small fresh garlic clove is perfect for me. But if you seriously love the pungency of raw garlic, why not double up?
- Salt: Always adjust salt to taste. I use ground desert salt, but sea salt or kosher salt works perfectly.
Bulgur wheat salad toppings
- Mint leaves: Fresh mint leaves – plucked from their stems – are essential when plating the salad. The vibrant green mint leaves round out that fresh Lebanese flavour profile.
- Pomegranate seeds (optional): I love the fresh crunch of these gorgeous rubies. But their season always feels too short, so feel free to omit if you can’t find any.
- Flaked almonds (optional): Lightly toast the almonds in a pan over moderate heat, stirring or shaking constantly. Never leave the pan unattended. Nuts over toast in the blink of an eye. You can also use almond slivers or pine nuts.
How to make bulgur wheat salad
Bulgur wheat is cracked whole-grain wheat kernels that are parboiled and then dried before being packaged. It is quick and easy to cook and make delicious Middle Eastern grain salads.
Make a delicious bulgur wheat salad in four easy steps:
- Cook, cool and fluff the bulgur wheat.
- Prep your vegetable ingredients.
- Make a dressing – in this recipe, we use a tahini herb dressing.
- Mix everything together.
To serve, arrange the mixed bulgur wheat salad and top with more fresh herbs, nuts and pomegranate seeds (when in season).
Cook the bulgur wheat
Place a cup of bulgur wheat in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Bulgur wheat is parboiled, so it only requires a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes.
If there is any water remaining, drain it in a colander – though the water should be absorbed by now. Transfer the cooked bulgur wheat to a large bowl and fluff it with a fork. Leave it to cool to room temperature and get on with the rest of the steps.
Prep your vegetables
While your bulgur wheat is cooking, prepare the vegetables for a Lebanese-style chopped salad.
To tame the pungent raw onion, soak finely diced onions in cold water until they are needed.
And to avoid a soggy salad, leave your diced tomatoes and cucumber in a bowl with half a teaspoon of ground salt. Every now and then, give the bowl a stir to distribute the salt. The salt draws out moisture.
Drain both bowls well before adding the tomatoes, cucumber and onion to the cooked bulgur wheat in the final step.
Make the tahini herb dressing
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz until smooth (about 2 minutes) – scrape down the sides if needed. You can also use an immersion blender (stick blender). Add another splash of water to loosen the sauce if necessary – it should be thick like greek yoghurt. Add more salt or lemon juice to taste.
You can also chop the herbs finely by hand before stirring it into the rest of the ingredients. The dressing won’t be as vibrant green, but it will still be delicious and creamy.
If you only have a normal-sized food processor, make a double batch of sauce. Tahini herb sauce is a versatile condiment. I often make a large batch and keep it sealed in the fridge for up to a week. Use it in grain salads or serve alongside seafood, vegetable fritters or crispy Middle Eastern falafel.
The tahini herb dressing is so delicious it deserves a whole post! See green tahini sauce for variations on this dressing.
Assemble the bulgur wheat salad
Add two tablespoons of herby tahini dressing to a small bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add water, one teaspoon at a time, and mix until you have a tahini dressing that is of pouring consistency.
Stir the remaining tahini herb sauce through the cooled and fluffed bulgur wheat.
Add the drained tomato, cucumber, onions, and the chopped rocket (arugula) to the large bowl with the bulgur wheat. Gently mix the salad.
Transfer the mixed salad to a large serving bowl (or individual serving bowls), drizzle with the remaining tahini dressing, and top with mint leaves, pomegranate and toasted almonds (if using).
You can turn this bulgur wheat side salad into a main by bulking it up a bit:
- Top it with cheese (stick to vegan cheese if that’s a requirement). Simple feta is delicious, but taking the time to fry some halloumi takes things up a notch.
- I also love to add lentils. You need to cook the lentils in addition to the bulgur wheat – bit of a schlep, I know. But it is the perfect addition to bulk up this grain side salad. Cooked lentils stay good in the fridge for a few days. So make it worth the effort and cook a large batch. Or just use tinned lentils, no problem.
- You can also add white beans or chickpeas. Try to use the best quality tinned or jarred legumes if you are not cooking them from dried.
- Or add falafel. Top the bulgur wheat salad with crispy Middle Eastern falafel to turn it into a delicious vegan falafel bowl.
This healthy grain salad is best served at room temperature, but you can refrigerate it (without the toppings) for a few days. Just bring the salad back to room temperature before topping it with fresh mint leaves and serving.
You can also get ahead by cooking the bulgur wheat (refrigerate for 3 days) and making the tahini herb dressing (refrigerate for 5 days) well ahead of time. Leftover bulgur wheat salad is my favourite deli-style packed work lunch.
See the highlighted boxes throughout the post for easy tips and substitutes. Or go ahead and make this delicious bulgur wheat salad with tahini herb dressing from the recipe card below. You won’t regret it!
- Food processor, blender or immersion blender (or finely chop the herbs by hand.)
- 1 red onion (120 grams), finely diced
- 3 Roma tomatoes (300 grams), cubed about 1 cm (⅓ inch) in size
- ½ English cucumber (250 grams), cubed about 1 cm (⅓ inch) in size
- 1 cup packed rocket/arugula (80 grams), roughly chopped or torn by hand
- 1 cup bulgur wheat (200 grams), or 3 cups cooked bulgur wheat (450 grams)
Tahini herb dressing (about ¾ cup)
- ¼ cup tightly packed coriander/cilantro (15 grams), tender stems and leaves
- ¼ cup tightly packed parsley (15 grams), tender stems and leaves
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons water, add more as needed
- ½ lemon, juiced (about 1½ tablespoons)
- 1 green chilli, or a teaspoon green shatta (optional)
- 1 small garlic clove
- ½ teaspoon salt
- salt and black pepper to taste
- a handful of fresh mint leaves
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (optional)
- 3 tablespoons toasted almond flakes (optional)
- Place the diced onions in a bowl with cold water and set it aside.
- Add the cubed tomato and cucumber to a medium-sized mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of ground sea salt (or kosher salt) and set aside. This draws out moisture to avoid a soggy salad.
- Place the cup of bulgur wheat in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes. All the water should be absorbed, but if there is any water remaining, drain it in a colander. (Or cook the bulgur wheat according to packet instructions.) Transfer the cooked bulgur wheat to a large bowl and fluff it with a fork. Leave it to cool to room temperature.
- While the bulgur wheat is cooking, make the tahini dressing. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a small food processor. Blitz until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the sides if needed. You can also use an immersion blender. Add another splash of water to loosen if necessary – it should be thick like greek yoghurt. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary. (Refer to the notes if you want to use a standard food processor or prefer to chop the herbs by hand.)
- Once the bulgur wheat has cooled, stir through most of the herby tahini sauce – reserve about 2 tablespoons. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the reserved herby tahini and mix well. Add water, one teaspoon at a time, until the dressing is of pouring consistency.
- Drain the juice from the diced tomato and cucumber, and drain the onions. Add it, along with the chopped rocket (arugula), to the large bowl with the bulgur wheat. Gently mix the salad. Add more salt and black pepper to taste (I always add more).
- Transfer the mixed salad to a large serving bowl, drizzle with the remaining tahini dressing, and top with the mint leaves, pomegranate and toasted almonds (if using).
- If you don’t have a small food processor, you can chop the herbs by hand and mix them into the tahini. The dressing won’t be as vibrant green, but it will still be delicious and creamy.
- If you want to use a normal-sized food processor, you will need to make a double batch of the dressing. But that is no cause for concern. Extra tahini herb dressing is a versatile condiment to have on hand. I often make four times this amount and keep it sealed in the fridge for up to a week. Use it in grain salads or serve alongside seafood, vegetable fritters or falafels.