Make-Ahead Cabbage Tabbouleh

updated May 17, 2020
Cabbage Tabbouleh
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Credit: Caroline Lange

Tabbouleh tastes like summer — the confettied tumble of fresh parsley, the brightness of lemon juice, the crunch and burst of cucumber and ripe tomato. It’s cooling, friendly, and pleasantly scoopable. It also happens to be exactly the sort of thing that lends itself well to 11 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. work-from-home lunches (or spoonfuls swiped at any hour from the fridge). 

My quarantine pantry doesn’t have tomatoes in it, or cucumbers. But it does include an astounding amount of cabbage for a person who lives alone, and some crisp fennel and celery, and some herbs that are maybe a little limp but still very much holding on — and lemons! Luckily, tabbouleh welcomes substitutions happily.

Credit: Caroline Lange

So slice the cabbage as thinly as you can, and the celery or fennel too, setting aside their fragrant leaves or fronds. Scrunch the veg with salt lovingly but firmly, like you’re massaging your own shoulders, easing them into softness. Make an aggressively zingy, snap-out-of-it dressing to unite it all, and toss it together with whatever soft herbs are still kicking. The cabbage brings that same sweet, juicy crunch that a cucumber might — and it lasts much longer in the fridge, staying crisp and bright without getting soggy or weepy.

Tabbouleh purists will insist on bulgur (nubby, toothsome cracked wheat groats), but you could substitute any grain you’ve got: rice, quinoa, farro, barley. In terms of what else you can add, try cooked beans for a boost of protein, some minced preserved lemon, cucumber or tomatoes if you’ve got them, toasted nuts or seeds. Just keep the proportion of herbs to everything else high and the dressing perky, then serve with hummus and falafel or anything grilled.  

Credit: Caroline Lange

Cabbage Tabbouleh

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup

    bulgur

  • 1/2 cup

    water

  • 1

    medium shallot, 1/2 small red or yellow onion, or 3 medium scallions

  • 1/2 clove

    garlic

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 to 1/3 medium head

    red, green, or Savoy cabbage, or 3 cups shredded cabbage

  • 4 medium stalks

    celery, or 1/2 medium fennel bulb or a mix (plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped celery leaves or fennel fronds)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the dressing

  • 1/2 packed cup

    fresh herb leaves, such as parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, or a mixture

Instructions

  1. Place 1/2 cup bulgur in a small heatproof bowl. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the water over the bulgur and stir to combine. Cover and set aside until the water is absorbed and bulgur is tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing, vegetables, and herbs.

  2. Prepare the following ingredients, placing them together in a small bowl: Mince 1 medium shallot. (Alternatively, mince 1/2 small red or yellow onion or thinly slice 3 medium scallions.) Grate 1/2 garlic clove. Squeeze 2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, season with kosher salt and black pepper, and stir to combine. Let sit until the bulgur is ready, at least 20 minutes.

  3. Core and shred 1/4 to 1/3 of a medium cabbage until you have 3 cups (about 10 ounces) and place in a large bowl. Pick any leaves from 4 medium celery stalks, coarsely chop, and set aside. Thinly slice the celery (about 3/4 cup), and add the celery to the bowl of cabbage. (Alternatively, coarsely chop and reserve the fronds from 1/2 medium fennel bulb, then thinly slice the bulb.) Pick 1/2 tightly packed cup fresh herb leaves, then finely chop and set aside.

  4. When the bulgur is ready, sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt over the cabbage mixture. Toss and scrunch with your hands to soften the vegetables slightly. Add the bulgur, chopped celery leaves or fennel fronds, herbs, and lemon juice mixture, and toss to coat well.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Tabbouleh can be made up to 4 days ahead. Salad will be zingiest on the first day, but the flavors will meld and mellow every day after that.

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 4 days.