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Freekeh with Tabbouleh

2013 January 28

Finding new-to-me and yummy foods is probably the best part of a being a home cook. And thanks to the interwebs, discovery often lands right in my lap. Or, in my inbox. I first heard of freekeh from one of Food52′s newsletters. An email marketer’s dream, the name itself will guarantee a high click-through.

Freekeh?  Say, wha?  [Click!]

Freekeh is wheat picked young — still yellowish-green — and then dried and roasted. The flavor is hard to describe: if a grain could ever be considered savory (vs. it’s lovable bland, other-flavor-absorbing nature), then freekeh is it. Roasting gives it a slightly fire-smoky aroma that smells positively dreamy while cooking. Traced back to biblical times, freekeh is considered an ancient grain and a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine.

I’m all on board the freekeh train, but in my area, you can find it reliably only in small 8 ounce packages at Whole Foods in the rice aisle. (No doubt Middle Eastern grocers carry it as well, but we’re short on ethnic market options in this city.) It’ll be a happy day if and when Whole Foods decides to devote a bulk bin to this delicious grain. I love having another option to choose from, along with quinoa, rice, einkorn, and farro.

Freekeh is wheat, so it’s not GF, but it is high in protein, insoluble fiber, essential nutrients like zinc, potassium, iron, and magnesium, and has a low glycemic index appropriate for diabetics.

And like brown rice, it’s an outstanding foundation for mix-ins and toppings … like tabbouleh.

And speaking of …

I was beyond happy last year when I stumbled onto the ultimate tabbouleh recipe. Middle Eastern cuisine is right up my palate alley, to be sure, but tabbouleh … tabbouleh was one of those dishes that I knew I should view with starry eyes … but just never did. Meh. I liked it — I just wasn’t moony over it.

So, when I found Annisa Helou’s recipe, the ah HA bulb clicked right on. The problem wasn’t the dish, it was the balance of ingredients. ‘Round these parts, you’ll find tabbouleh made with mostly bulgur, scented with herbs. And that’s how I made it myself for the longest time. But Annisa’s recipe turns that balance on its head: it’s all about the herbs. Fresh parsley and mint – flavors so bright and fresh, your mood instantly lifts.

Bulgur is an accent mostly for texture, I think, as it plays 3rd fiddle to the herbs and veggies in this dish.

(Sadly, I completely forgot to purchase mint on the day I made this — I get so used to having fresh mint in my garden, I forget that it does have a down-time, which is now. Dill stood in readily, however, and flat-leaf parsley is still growing abundance in my snow-covered yard.)

Now, put the two together — freekeh and tabbouleh — spooned into lettuce or endive cups, and you have a fresh, green-spirited lunch that really hits the spot.

Freekeh with Tabbouleh

tabbouleh adapted from Annisa Helou via David Lebovitz


  • for the freekeh:
  • 1/3 cup cracked freekeh (you can use whole, but follow the package directions for preparation)
  • scan cup of water or vegetable broth
  • for the tabbouleh:
  • 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, stems removed, loosely packed
  • 5 or 6 stems dill weed or mint leaves (or both!)
  • 1/4 cup cucumbers, small dice
  • 4-5 cherry tomatoes, small dice
  • 1 small scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fine bulgur, rinsed and allowed to set for about 20 minutes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or use ras el hanout or Lebanese 7-spice mix)
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • for the assembly:
  • 4 cup-shaped Boston lettuce leaves from one head, rinsed and patted dry


  1. Bring the water or broth to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add the freekeh, reduce to heat to maintain a simmer and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, or until water has been absorbed by the grains. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, very thinly chiffonade the parsley, dill and mint (if using). Using a super sharp knife, gather the herbs in a tightly packed ball with the fingertips of your non-dominate hand, and then slowly and precisely slice through the bundle into thin strips. Run your knife through the herbs once more to ensure a fine chop.
  3. Add the herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, bulgar, spices to a medium bowl. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Taste and add salt to your liking.
  4. When the freekeh has cooled, spoon it evenly into the lettuce cups. Top with tabbouleh and a pinch of salt. Serve immediately.
Prep Time: 20 minutes       Cook time: 20 minutes       Yield: 4 filled lettuce cups
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One Response
  1. January 28, 2013

    I first heard of freekeh a few weeks ago, but I didn’t take the time to investigate what it was. Thanks for the explanation! I always love a good tabbouleh, so next time I make it, I’ll have to see if I can find some freekeh. (And I hope I’ll be able to find it on my own, because I just know asking someone where to find it at the grocery store will be very awkward…)

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