Bulgur Wheat Salad with Tahini Herb Dressing

This easy vegan bulgur wheat salad has all the flavours of a classic Lebanese salad. Make the tahini herb dressing a few days ahead to save time. And serve the salad at room temperature. It is perfect for a packed lunch or picnic salad!

A delicious tahini herb dressing gives this Middle Eastern bulgur wheat salad an Ottolenghi-style makeover. Serve it as a grain side salad, or bulk it up for a quick and easy vegan dinner.

This easy bulgur salad is also my favourite work lunch – perfect for the weekend meal prep – or picnic salad.

Mint leaves are a must when serving, but I also love to add toasted almond flakes and pomegranate seeds (when they are in season). But I suggest a few alternative ingredients and toppings so you can make the bulgur wheat salad recipe your own.

A portion of bulgur wheat salad with tahini herb dressing in a ceramic bowl with gold cutlery.

Salad ingredients and substitutes

In the recipe card, I list the metric weights of ingredients (when you toggle to Metric). It allows you to recreate the salad exactly – should you wish to.

But this bulgur salad recipe is very forgiving with no need to work precisely. 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, but you can also use a diced shallot or green onions (spring onions).
  • Tomatoes: Use any delicious tomatoes with a firm texture. Here, I use three Roma tomatoes 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 works great, but you can use small Lebanese cucumbers or any variety you prefer.
  • Arugula: If you’re not a fan of this peppery salad leaf (also called rocket), try watercress, finely chopped Tuscan kale, or chopped fresh parsley.
  • Bulgur wheat: I use fine bulgur wheat – the traditional choice for a tabbouleh salad. You can cook bulgur wheat three days ahead and refrigerate it in an airtight container. Just fluff it with a fork to loosen the grains.

I love bulgur wheat. But, this salad works with any cooked grain. Try it with quinoa for a gluten-free, low-carb alternative.

Ingredients for a bulgur wheat salad arranged in a flatlay

Tahini herb dressing

  • Cilantro (coriander): Use both the leaves and any tender stems. If you are one of those cilantro-averse cooks, replace it with more fresh parsley or another soft green herb such as dill or chopped fresh mint leaves.
  • Italian parsley: Also called flat-leaf parsley.
  • 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. But you can use any nut or vegetable oil that you enjoy.
  • Fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds the needed acidity. You can also use the golden preserving liquid of Moroccan preserved lemons for an exciting twist – just cut back on the salt.
  • Green chilli: 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 another hot sauce if you don’t have fresh chillies, or omit it.
  • Garlic: A small fresh garlic.
  • Salt and Pepper: Use sea salt or kosher salt and adjust to taste. Finish the salad with freshly ground black pepper.

Salad toppings

  • Mint leaves: The vibrant green mint leaves round out that fresh Lebanese flavour profile. But you can use your favourite fresh herbs.
  • 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. You can also use almond slivers, pine nuts, or toasted sesame seeds.
A small ceramic bowl with bulgur wheat salad with fresh mint, tahini herb dressing and Arabic chopped salad viewed from above.

How to make bulgur wheat salad

Bulgur wheat is cracked whole-grain wheat kernels that are parboiled and then dried before being packaged. I use fine bulgur wheat as is traditional in Middle Eastern grain salads like tabbouleh.

If you have coarse bulgur wheat, cook it according to the packet instructions.

Step 1: Cook the bulgur wheat. Place a cup of bulgur wheat in a saucepan with two cups of water and half a teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer for ten minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another ten minutes.

Drain the bulgur wheat if there is excess water. Then, transfer the cooked bulgur wheat to a large bowl and fluff it with a fork. Leave it to cool to room temperature while you get on with the rest of the steps.

Bulgur Cooking Tips

Bulgur wheat can have different groat coarseness that influences the cooking time, you’ll need to cook coarse bulgur wheat for longer.

With fine bulgur wheat, you can simply soak the bulgur in boiling water for 30 minutes if you have the time. Use a 1:1 ratio, so one cup of boiling water for every cup of dry bulgur.

Step 2: Prep your vegetables while your bulgur wheat is cooking.

Soak finely diced onions in cold water until they are needed. Add your diced tomatoes and cucumber to a bowl with half a teaspoon of ground salt.

Set aside until the bulgur wheat is ready. And, every now and then, give the bowl a stir to distribute the salt. The salt draws out moisture.

Step 3: Place all the tahini herb dressing 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.

Saucy Tips

If you don’t have a food processor, simply chop the herbs finely by hand before stirring them into the rest of the ingredients. The dressing won’t be as vibrant green, but it will still be delicious and creamy.

If you don’t have a small food processor, simply make a double batch of sauce in a large one. The 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.

Step 4: 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. Set aside.

Stir the remaining tahini herb sauce through the cooled and fluffed bulgur wheat.

Step 5: Drain the tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Add it to the large large bowl with the bulgur wheat along with the chopped arugula. Gently mix the salad.

To Serve: 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).

Bulgur wheat salad topped with toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs.

Serving suggestions

This bulgur wheat salad makes a delicious side dish, but you can easily turn it into a main with a few extra ingredients:

  • Top it with cheese. Crumbled feta cheese is delicious, or take the time to fry some halloumi for a cheesy salad treat.
  • I also love to add lentils. It is the perfect addition to bulk up this grain salad while keeping it plant-based.
  • Add white beans or chickpeas. Use the best quality tinned or jarred legumes if you are not cooking them from dried.
  • Top up with fresh vegetables. Add more raw vegetables, like diced red bell pepper, or add Middle Eastern-style cooked vegetables. Try harissa roasted cauliflower.
  • Or add falafel. Top the bulgur wheat salad with crispy Middle Eastern falafel to turn it into a delicious vegan falafel bowl. Or opt for baked falafel with canned chickpeas for the ultimate convenience.

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. It’s ideal to pack for a picnic or potluck!

Top down view of vegan bulgur salad portion with a gold fork.

Frequently asked questions

What is bulgur salad made of?

Middle Eastern-style bulgur salads typically contained cooked bulgur wheat, chopped vegetables (like tomatoes, cucumber and red peppers), and fresh herbs, often chopped parsley.

Does bulgur wheat need to be soaked?

Bulgur wheat does not need soaking. The cracked wheat grains are parboiled before being dried again making them quick-cooking grains.

What’s the difference between bulgur and couscous?

Bulgur wheat is a pre-cooked ancient grain whereas couscous are small pasta kernels made from semolina flour.

Bulgur Wheat Salad with Tahini Herb Dressing

5 from 2 votes
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This quick and easy bulgur wheat salad recipe is packed with classic Lebanese salad flavours. You can make the tahini dressing by hand, but it is quicker and easier if you have a blender.
Recipe byAdri
Servings8
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time40 minutes

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, cubed about 1 cm (⅓ inch) in size
  • ½ English cucumber, cubed about 1 cm (⅓ inch) in size
  • 1 cup packed rocket/arugula, roughly chopped or torn by hand
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, or 3 cups cooked bulgur wheat

Tahini herb dressing (about ¾ cup)

  • ¼ cup tightly packed cilantro, tender stems and leaves
  • ¼ cup tightly packed parsley, tender stems and leaves
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons water, add more as needed
  • tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 green chilli (optional)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To serve (optional)

  • handful fresh mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 3 tablespoons toasted almond flakes

Instructions

  • 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.
  • 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. Drain well. 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.
  • 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 whisk together. 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 to the large bowl with the bulgur wheat along with the chopped arugula. Gently mix the salad. Add salt and black pepper to taste – I add about ½ teaspoon of salt.
  • 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).

Notes

  • 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 need to make a double batch of the dressing. It’s a versatile condiment to serve alongside seafood, vegetable fritters or crispy Middle Eastern falafel.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 157 kcal Carbohydrates: 20 g Protein: 4 g Fat: 8 g Saturated Fat: 1 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g Sodium: 12 mg Potassium: 304 mg Fiber: 5 g Sugar: 2 g Vitamin A: 692 IU Vitamin C: 12 mg Calcium: 43 mg Iron: 1 mg

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