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Tabbouleh Salad: Gluten-Free Quinoa Recipe

Quinoa tabbouleh salad is healthy and full of fresh flavors! You can put this dish together in under half an hour, either for a tasty side dish or a filling main course.

Tabbouleh Salad: Gluten-Free Quinoa Recipe

Tabbouleh is a type of salad that comes from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It consists of a blend of bulgur wheat, parsley, onion, and mint. However, while bulgar may have several health benefits, it isn’t gluten-free. 

Quinoa works well as a bulgur substitute, allowing you to enjoy the flavors of tabbouleh without any of the gluten! This quinoa tabbouleh recipe works well as a main salad course, as well as a side dish to accompany lighter meals. 

You’ll find out how to make this tasty tabbouleh in this post, as well as some more about quinoa and its healthy properties. 

More About Quinoa

Quinoa is a seed that comes from a plant called Chenopodium quinoa. Quinoa isn’t technically a grain, but it’s consumed in the same manner and has a comparable nutrient content to cereal grains. This is why quinoa is often referred to as a pseudo-grain. 

Quinoa is often used as a gluten-free alternative to grains. People with wheat allergies, celiac disease, or who are on gluten-free diets can eat it without issue. 

Different Quinoa Varieties

Quinoa is available in over 3,000 different varieties. The most popular kinds are white, black, and red, as well as a tricolor class that combines all three colors.

White quinoa is the most popular type, which is what is normally sold in grocery stores. All of these types of quinoa have different nutrient contents. 

Research looking at white, black, and red quinoa found that black quinoa has the least fat, as well as the largest amount of carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Black and red quinoa also have around double the vitamin E present in white quinoa. The study from before also looked at the antioxidants in each type, revealing that darker types of quinoa contained more antioxidants than lighter ones. 

Health Benefits Of Quinoa

Here are some of the health benefits of quinoa.

Protein Content

Quinoa contains a lot of minerals and vitamins; containing more protein and fiber compared to other types of grains. 

Proteins consist of amino acids, substances that can be found in food or made by the human body. Nine of these amino acids are essential, but the body cannot make these by itself, meaning we have to receive them from our diet.

Complete protein sources have all nine of the amino acids present in considerable amounts. All animal protein sources are complete, but a lot of plant proteins aren’t. Quinoa is different, as it is a complete plant protein.

This makes quinoa a very impressive protein source, particularly for people that eat a majority plant-based diet. It is possible to get all of the amino acids from vegan diets, but this will involve eating a lot of plant-based sources of protein. 

Quinoa is particularly high in lysine, cysteine, and methionine. Plant foods are often lower in these amino acids. 

Plant Compounds

Quinoa contains some important plant compounds, like flavonoids, phenolic acids, betacyanins, and saponins. 

Several of these perform as antioxidants, substances that can neutralize harmful free radicals at a microscopic level. 

A study looked at ten different grains sourced from Peru. The findings were that quinoa had a high antioxidant ability of 86%, which was a lot higher compared to the other grain varieties. 

Even though all types of quinoa are full of antioxidants, darker varieties contain more of them. White quinoa has fewer antioxidants compared to black quinoa. 

High antioxidant abilities in the lab shouldn’t be taken to mean that they perform the same way in your body. 

However, a different study found that eating 25 grams of quinoa each day increased glutathione levels by 7%. Glutathione is one of the most important antioxidants that contribute to tissue regeneration. 

This suggests that quinoa may help the body combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

Tabbouleh Salad: Gluten-Free Quinoa Recipe

Managing Blood Sugar

Quinoa isn’t technically a grain, but it is classed as a whole grain. Research has connected whole grain intake to better blood sugar management and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 

One review found that eating 16 grams of fiber from whole grains each day was related to a 33% less chance of experiencing type 2 diabetes. 

There haven’t been a lot of studies that looked into quinoa and blood sugar. 

However, a rat study did suggest that quinoa may counteract the negative consequences of high-fructose diets, like high blood sugar. This may be down to the phytoecdysteroids in quinoa, substances that have reduced blood glucose in mice. 

Quinoa also seems to contain substances that hinder alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme needed to digest carbohydrates. This may postpone digestion, so glucose releases slowly into the blood. 

Quinoa also has a lot of protein and fiber, which may help stabilize blood sugar. Nevertheless, quinoa is still classed as a grain and has a lot of carbohydrates, so be mindful of its consumption if you are diabetic. 

Improving Cholesterol

Quinoa is good for those with high cholesterol or triglycerides. 

A study found that eating 50 grams of quinoa a day, for six weeks, lowered LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Despite this, the findings were that quinoa consumption lowered the HDL ‘good’ cholesterol too. 

A different study also looked at cornflakes and quinoa. Quinoa consumption was found to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, but cornflakes didn’t.

More studies are needed to look into this, but the findings propose that quinoa may be good for those with greater blood lipids. 

Fighting Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is linked to several diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 

The research hasn’t had consistent findings, but diets rich in antioxidants are believed to combat inflammation within the body. 

Quinoa seems to contain a lot of antioxidants, but it may help counter inflammation in different ways too. 

Quinoa also contains a plant compound called saponin. This gives the grain a bitter flavor, though some prefer to rinse the grain to eliminate this taste. Saponins appear to have anti-inflammatory properties and may perform like antioxidants too. 

A different study showed that saponins may obstruct the creation of inflammatory compounds in separate cells. 

More studies are needed to look into this, but the findings are promising. 

Drawbacks Of Quinoa

While quinoa may have possible health benefits, keep in mind that it does have antinutrients.

Antinutrients are present in some types of foods, like legumes and grains. Phytic acid, oxalates, and saponins are common examples that are in quinoa. 

Despite this, people generally tolerate quinoa well. Antinutrients aren’t an issue for healthy individuals with a nutritious diet, but here is some information about the ones in quinoa for you to keep in mind. 


Saponins can have negative and positive effects. An advantage is that they have significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Other saponins have been found to lower blood lipid levels. 

Despite their benefits, saponins can make quinoa taste bitter and can impede the absorption of minerals, like iron and zinc. 

Certain types of quinoa have fewer saponins compared to others. However, if you are concerned, soaking and rinsing your quinoa before cooking can help lower these levels. 


Oxalate is present in many foods, like buckwheat, spinach, and rhubarb. This antinutrient can affect mineral absorption and attach to calcium to create kidney stones.

Oxalate generally doesn’t pose an issue for most healthy individuals, but people that are prone to experiencing kidney stones should avoid oxalate-rich foods, like quinoa.

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is present in seeds, grains, and nuts. It can have positive and negative effects. 

Phytic acid can have antioxidant properties and may prevent kidney stones from forming. However, the antinutrient can affect mineral absorption. This may increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies, especially in poor diets. 

How To Cook Quinoa

Preparing quinoa is simple and easy. It has a nutty taste and a fluffy consistency. It cooks like rice, using one part quinoa to two parts water. 

All you have to do is bring the water and quinoa to a boil, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Use a fork to fluff up the grains, then serve. 

You can also swap the water for vegetable broth to add more flavor.

Why You Should Try This Quinoa Tabbouleh Recipe

Now that you know a little more about quinoa, here are some reasons why you should try making this tabbouleh recipe!

Done In Half An Hour

This recipe is so quick to prepare, you can have it ready in under 30 minutes! 

Ideal For Meal Prepping

You can make this salad earlier and serve it out in your meals throughout the week.

Vegan And Gluten-Free

Quinoa is a gluten-free alternative to bulgar, while the recipe is naturally vegan and plant-based. You can serve this to anyone with dietary restrictions.

Incredibly Moreish

You can make a large batch and bring it along to a pot-luck, dinner, or barbeque. The salad is such a crowd-pleaser, you’ll have people coming up for a second serving! 

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad Ingredients 

Here are the ingredients you will need for this tabbouleh recipe. 


The primary ingredient! White quinoa works best for this, as well as a blend of red and white.


Curly and flat-leaf parsley leaves are best used in this salad.


You’ll only need a little mint to give the salad some flavor. Basil and dill work well as substitutes if you don’t have this on hand. 

Red Onion

This is a traditional tabbouleh ingredient, but you can use green onions if this isn’t available. 

Cherry Tomatoes

These have a lot of flavor, but you can use any kind of tomatoes that you like.

Olive Oil

Try to find high-quality olive oil to make the salad dressing

Lemon Juice

This will act as the base of the lemon dressing. 

Making Quinoa Tabbouleh 

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to make this tabbouleh salad. 

  • Cook the quinoa on the stovetop as advised on the package directions. Add half a teaspoon to the cooking water to bring out the flavors in the quinoa.
  • Chop up the tomato, red onion, mint, and parsley while the quinoa cooks.
  • Leave the quinoa to cool fully, then combine it with the other ingredients.
  • Stir the dressing ingredients together separately, then coat the salad with it before eating.

Tips on Making Quinoa Tabbouleh

Here are some tips to help you make the most out of this tabbouleh recipe. 

Cook The Quinoa Earlier

It’s best to have the quinoa prepared the night before, or a few hours before making the salad. This is because the quinoa needs to be completely cool to avoid heating the vegetables. 

Opt For Curly Parsley

You can use flat-leaf parsley, but curly stands out more in the salad and is the more traditional option.

Chop The Vegetables As Finely As Possible

Tabbouleh shouldn’t have large pieces sticking out of it. All of the ingredients should be sliced into small pieces.

Tabbouleh Salad: Gluten-Free Quinoa Recipe

If the quinoa is still too hot, spread it out on a baking sheet and store it in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. 

Storing Quinoa Tabbouleh

You can store this tabbouleh salad in the fridge for three days if it is dressed, and six days if it isn’t dressed. Make sure you store it in an airtight container. 

If you want to eat this salad over a few days, make the dressing on the side and store it in a separate container. This allows you to dress each salad portion each time you eat it. The salad will taste fresher and better too! 

Quinoa Tabbouleh Recipe

  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes

This recipe will make six servings of salad. 

You Will Need

Salad Ingredients

  • Uncooked quinoa – ½ cup
  • Chopped red onion – ⅓ cup
  • Chopped mint – ¼ cup
  • Cherry tomatoes – ⅓ cup, cubed
  • Chopped parsley – three cups

Dressing Ingredients

  • Olive oil – ¼ cup
  • Lemon juice – three tablespoons
  • Dijon mustard – two teaspoons
  • Garlic clove – one, chopped finely
  • Maple syrup – one teaspoon
  • Pepper – ¼ teaspoon
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon


  • Cook the quinoa as directed on the package guidelines. Take the quinoa off of the stove and leave it to cool.
  • Mix the red onion, mint, tomatoes, quinoa, and parsley in a large salad bowl. Make sure the quinoa has cooled fully before adding it to the vegetables.
  • Combine all of the dressing ingredients, then pour half of it into the salad bowl. Give the salad a taste and add more dressing as needed.

The Bottom Line

This quinoa tabbouleh recipe is so easy and simple to prepare! You’ll get a lot of nutrients from the quinoa that will keep you satisfied as you go about your day. 

Quinoa does have some antinutrients, like oxalate and phytic acid.

These shouldn’t pose a huge issue to healthy adults, but if you are prone to kidney stones, have a saponin allergy, or have quinoa intolerance, avoid eating quinoa unless told otherwise by your doctor.

Justin Roberts