Wheat Berry Tabouli

This classic vegetarian salad has traveled well through countless decades!

A good while back in my early adult life, my first vegetarian cookbook was the Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen. If you are of my generation, you probably had it on your shelf too. It was certainly my first experience attempting meatless meals beyond baked beans and corn chowder. Many of recipes I fell in love with and made again and again – the Mushroom Moussaka, Gado Gado, and Lentil Nut Burgers were among my favorites. The recipes often borrowed from many cultures, and to my delight many included lots of cheese!

Tabouli enters the scene

I also loved the Mid Eastern Tabouli (tabbouleh) having never even heard of it before! I made this dish frequently, using the traditional bulgur, and it often appeared at potlucks and family gathering. It holds up well, has tons of flavor, and can also be both a side dish or main course. You can add cucumbers, sometimes tomatoes, or both, or neither. It was a delightful salad that makes good use of what you have in the refrigerator. Necessary are the herbs and lemon, but beyond that you have a blank canvas to fill.

A little dog-eared and stained, this book has been in my kitchen for decades!

A little more flavor

Over the years, I’ve bumped up the lemon, mint, and garlic. I added the zest of the citrus as well as the juice which makes a big difference. I also swapped out fresh mint for the dried and used a lot of that, and increased the garlic to three or four fat cloves. For interest, this time around I added some pumpkin seeds for crunch and a jalapeño pepper for a little heat!

Why not wheat berries?

My biggest switch was using wheat berries rather than the usual bulgur. Wheat berries are the entire edible part of the wheat, raw, the only thing removed is the husk. All other parts of the wheat kernel remain intact, the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. It has a lovely texture and nutty flavor.

Bulgur vs. wheat berries

They start out the same, the kernel of the wheat plant. However, bulgur wheat gets parboiled and dried which means a shorter cooking time. Wheat berries have a little more protein than bulgur, but not by a lot, so you can certainly interchange the two in this salad and most preparations once cooked. You could also substitute cracked wheat, which is bulgur wheat that has not been pre-cooked, quinoa, or even whole-grain rice. 

A local delight

The wheat berries I use are from the Nitty Gritty Grain Co. of Vermont, hard red winter wheat. The time to cook the berries will vary greatly; mine took about 50 minutes to cook, but the variety you use could take less or even quite more.

Save a step

In the original recipe, Katzen combined the cooked bulgur, lemon juice, garlic, dried mint, scallions, and olive oil and let it marinate for several hours, then added everything else. I just mixed everything together, tucked it away to chill, and called it a day.

Wheat Berry Tabouli

  • 1 cup hard red winter wheat berries
  • 3 cups water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup fruity olive oil
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 1 large firm tomato, seeded and chopped (I used an heirloom yellow)
  • ¾ cup fresh parsley, finely minced
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, finely minced
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 large scallions, minced
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • Olives to garnish
  • Rose petals, and fresh edible flowers to garnish, optional

            Combine the wheat berries, water, and salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the berries are chewy, but tender. This will vary; mine took about 50 minutes.

            Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, pepper, tomato, parsley, mint, garlic, scallions, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and salt and pepper. 

            Once the berries are cooked, use a slotted spoon if there is any liquid left, and add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning, it will probably need more of both salt and pepper. 

            Refrigerate for at least three hours so everyone can get well acquainted.

            To serve, place in a bowl and garnish with the olives. If you are feeling festive, add the rose petals and flowers. Alternately, you can add Feta or vegan Feta crumbled on top.

Original Moosewood Cookbook Tabouli

  • 1 cup dry bulghar wheat
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 heaping tsp. fresh garlic
  • ½ cup chopped scallions, whites and greens
  • ½ tsp. dried mint
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 packed freshly chopped parsley
  • Optional: ½ cup cooked chickpeas. 1 chopped green pepper, 1 chopped cucumber or squash, ½ cup grated carrot.

            Soak the bulgur in the boiling water for 20 minutes or until chewable. Add the juice, garlic, scallions, mint, and olive oil and marinate for 2 to 3 hours. Add the fresh vegetables. Garnish with feta and olives.

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  1. Jovina Coughlin says:

    Great ingredients for a delicious meal.

    1. Thank you! And it is the kind of recipe that gets better as it sits!

  2. Americaoncoffee says:

    This is really Authentic and Awesome Dorothy! I am a Tabouli lover bulgur and wheat berries. I have not had any in a while. Thank you for the reminder. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. I know! I hadn’t made it in a while either, but I saw the wheat berries and couldn’t wait to dust off the recipe!

      1. Americaoncoffee says:

        Lol. You’ve got some treasures. In following you, your gardening interests and skills have surfaced. Gardening is smart.

      2. Oh, especially today with food prices so high and with so many toxic chemicals in just about everything!
        BTW, I buy organic, fair trade coffee of course, roasted locally!

      3. Americaoncoffee says:

        Glad that you are so conscientious, so are we. I don’t believe that things are going to get better, either. 😢

      4. No, sadly, it doesn’t look like it.

  3. Ronit says:

    One of my favorite salads. Using wheat berries is a brilliant idea! Also love the rose petals. Will keep it in mind for next time!

    1. I have lots of roses right now, so they are creeping into lots of things. I thought they were particularly perfect in this salad!

  4. Hi Dorothy, these certainly do look like a most interesting recipes.

    1. Thank you so much Robbie!

  5. CarolCooks2 says:

    Hi Dorothy interesting combination like you I always up the garlic we love it…I have not used wheat berries or come them but I will certainly keep eyes out now …:)

    1. Only once did I add too much garlic, it was a batch of hummus and I was peeling garlic and tossing it in the food processor while engaging in a heated political discussion with a friend. I think I put so much in it felt like it burned our mouths! Perhaps karma for our heated discussion!

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        Haha.. My first(and) last faux pas was as a young newly wed I used a whole garlic bulb instead of a clove.. Bless him he still ate it… Thats love.. 😀

  6. Amanda says:

    Tabouleh is a favourite. I love this take on it.

    1. Thank you Amanda! I love the extra zing from the lemon zest!

  7. I must admit I don’t have a lot of experience with this recipe’s ingredients, but it certainly looks good and it’s pretty.

    1. Thank you Judy! I love experimenting with different grains because I get really bored with brown rice, as much as I love it. This is an oldie but goodie!

  8. Bernadette says:

    I have a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook gathering dust. Thanks for the reminder to get it out and reread. I like the updates to the original recipe.

    1. Thanks Bernie! I forget about these books for long periods, but it is fun to look back at the recipes and remember making these dishes for my young family!

  9. This looks delicious and interesting! I love wheat berry!

    1. Thank you! Wheat berries have such a nice texture!

  10. NativeNM says:

    I remember having tabouli at a little cafe in Kansas years ago. At the time I hadn’t tasted anything like it. Your recipe sounds so flavorful with the lemon and herbs!

    1. These “first time I ate” memories are really strong, like the first time I had falafel! Still remember in vivid detail!

  11. Carolyn Page says:

    Another first coming up!
    I’ve not heard of wheat berries, Dorothy. I’ll go a googling to see if I can find some. This recipe would taste great, I believe, in a wrap with some falafel, and maybe some hummus!

    1. You’re right, it’s pretty versatile Carolyn! Tuck it in a wrap or tortilla, add whatever you love, and you’re all set. I think would be delicious with falafel!

  12. I have never had Tabouli~ it looks like a wonderful combo of color, flavor and texture! Love the rose petal garnish~

    1. Thank you Jenna! I love the texture of tabouli, and the flavors are really satisfying!

  13. Nancy says:

    This looks delicious! I enjoy Tabouli and have not had it in a while!
    The rose petal garnish is darling.
    Have a beautiful week ahead.

    1. Thank you Nancy! I enjoyed decorating this salad!
      You have a lovely summer week as well!

  14. Wow… this looks absolutely fantastic, and I love how you used wheat berries!

    1. Thank you Heidi! The wheat berries add just a slightly different texture.

  15. Just fyi re tabbouleh, from a wonderful blogger in the Middle East: https://chefindisguise.com/2013/10/29/tabbouleh-a-beautiful-salad-lost-in-the-translation

    1. Well, I’m glad we have no tabbouleh police here in Vermont!

  16. nancyc says:

    I buy Tabouli often, so I probably should try making my own! This looks really good! 🙂

    1. Thank you Nancy! Give it a try, you can make it the way you like it best!

  17. Christy B says:

    Thanks for explaining wheat berries! Sounds fantastic 🙂

  18. terrie gura says:

    That’s the best kind of cookbook! I love your use of wheat berries and I really love that hot pink bowl!!!

    Have you ever posted the recipe for lentil nut burgers from the moosewood cookbook? That sounds awesome, too.

    1. I’ll have to make those again, I haven’t in years. But we loved them, way back in The Day!

  19. I usually do it with bulgur, lemon zest and lots of fresh mint and parsley because I really love the aroma, but I will definitely try it with wheat berry too 😋 It looks super delicious 😋

    1. Thank you Ribana! It’s all about the lovely lemon and parsley!

  20. You taught me something new Dorothy! I have never heard of wheat berries and never knew you could eat the entire edible part of the wheat except for the husk. Your Wheat Berry Tabouli is so colorful and looks delicious.

    1. Thank you Diane! I love the texture of the wheat berries, so lovely in a salad or a side dish. They also make a nice stuffing.

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