The first time I ever ate tabbouleh was nearly 50 years ago at a backyard potluck for our laboratory work group. The offerings included several varieties of potato salad, lots of baked beans, and delicious barbecued chicken. But the standout – and by far the most exotic – was some refreshing tabbouleh brought by our secretary who came from a large Lebanese family. I could have eaten the whole bowl, and I am sure that I made a pig of myself. Since then, our family has made tabbouleh many times, and often for potluck dinners. We keep a bag of bulgur in the refrigerator so that we can make tabbouleh whenever the craving hits. I have never thought of using anything but bulgur – until I tasted some tabbouleh from Sarah’s refrigerator during our recent visit. She had substituted barley, and it was delicious. I gave it a try for our latest Sunday family dinner. It wound up becoming the inspiration for a Mediterranean-themed evening. The downside of tabbouleh is that it involves a lot of chopping and dicing. The upside is that once the chopping and dicing are done, it only takes a few minutes to assemble. I like tabbouleh with a distinctly lemon taste, so I used the juice of 2 lemons. If that’s too much for you, cut back to one lemon.


Barley Tabbouleh


  • ½ cup pearled barley
  • 2 cups salted water
  • olive oil
  • 2 large bunches parsley
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Stir the barley into boiling salted water and cook at a low boil for 45 minutes or until soft with a little crunch. Drain, rinse, and toss with olive oil to prevent the grains from sticking together. Set aside.
  2. Wash and shake dry the parsley. Trim the leaves of stems. You should have about 6 cups of unpacked parsley leaves. Chop finely or pulse several times with a Vita-Mix set on “3”. Set aside.
  3. Wash the mint and remove the leaves. You should have about 1 cup of unpacked mint leaves. Chop finely or pulse several times with a Vita-Mix set on “3”. Set aside.
  4. Blanch, peel, and seed the tomatoes. Cut into ¼ inch dice. Set aside.
  5. Dice the cucumbers into ¼ inch pieces. Set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the cooked barley, chopped parsley, chopped mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and minced garlic. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour. Serve.

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