Make Ahead

Celery and Za’atar Tabouli

March 11, 2012
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I love tabouli and eat it all summer long. I usually make it with cucumbers and tomatoes, but they can get watery and don't travel well. I love the taste of celery, and especially the leaves--green and vegetal and slightly bitter -- I use celery leaves frequently in my cooking. I also love za'atar, and thought it would marry well with celery. In this salad, you use the celery and the leaves, and while proportions are stated in the recipe, I suggest that you adjust according to your taste. For example, I like lemony tabouli salad, so my ratio of lemon (a lot) to olive or walnut oil (a little) may not work for you. I use bulgur wheat in tabouli, which is traditional, but I’ve made it with couscous and quinoa, both of which work really well.

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Drbabs is a Food52er we know and love -- and trust in the kitchen.
WHAT: A new version of tabouli, created with portability in mind.
HOW: Make bulgur, add mix-ins. That's it -- seriously.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Run-of-the-mill tabouli has a way of getting water-logged too easily. By replacing the normal tomato and cucumber with sturdy nuts and crunchy celery, drbabs has effectively solved that problem. Pack the smart garnishes (yogurt, feta, and extra spice), and take this on your longest trip -- we dare you. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Za'atar (If you can't find it ready-made)
  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme (or lemon thyme, if you can find it)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (not traditional, but adds a nice bite of heat)
  • Tabouli
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 cup za'atar
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 6 inner stalks of celery with leaves, finely chopped (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped celery with leaves)
  • 1 spring onion or 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • More za'atar as needed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, stir za’atar into bulgur wheat and pour boiling water over the mixture. Let sit until the water is completely absorbed, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, zest and juice your lemon, chop your parsley, onions and celery, toast your walnuts.
  2. When the wheat has absorbed all the water and cooled to room temperature, stir in zest and juice of one lemon (you might add more later) and 2 tablespoons of walnut or olive oil. Add in chopped parsley, onions, and celery and stir well. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust the rest of the seasoning to your taste. You may need more oil and/or lemon juice, and you may want to stir in more za’atar.
  3. To serve, scoop the tabouli onto a plate and add a tablespoon or so of plain yogurt. Sprinkle the yogurt with a tablespoon of the chopped walnuts and a pinch or two of za’atar. (I've also eaten it with a sprinkling of feta cheese, and it's really good!)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Leandra Bitterfeld
    Leandra Bitterfeld
  • Viv Beu
    Viv Beu
  • Cristel
  • lapadia
  • QueenSashy

41 Reviews

equalfooting January 29, 2022
Delicious and very filling - good as a side OR a main dish :)
drbabs January 29, 2022
I’m so glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting.
Leandra B. November 29, 2017
HOLY CELERY BATMAN! I added roasted chickpeas to make it a meat free main. 10/10!
drbabs November 29, 2017
What a great idea! Thank you.
Viv B. May 18, 2017
Found the thyme overwhelmed the other flavours but still liked it.
drbabs November 29, 2017
What a great idea! Thank you.
Helen80 April 12, 2017
I never had tabbouleh with zaatar. this is new version of tabbouleh I will give it a try. I bought zaatar from and It has no filling and full of flavor. can;t wait to try it. thanks for sharing.
drbabs April 12, 2017
Thanks, I hope you enjoy it! I love za'atar.
Cristel February 8, 2014
I loooove tabouleh and this version was absolutely delicious. I used cracked freekeh instead of bulgur wheat, which I cooked until al dente, about 12-15min.
The salad was just as good the next day. What a scrumptious lunch it made!
lapadia August 21, 2013
Cheeers to being a finalist, drbabs!
drbabs August 21, 2013
Thanks, lapadia! It's so much fun.
QueenSashy August 16, 2013
I so wanted to test it, but it was already taken. I made it last night and love-love-loved it!!!
drbabs August 18, 2013
Thanks, I'm so glad you did. I'll be making yours is week.
Kukla August 16, 2013
Congratulations Barbara! I love tabbouleu and your combination of ingredients sounds great! Good luck!
drbabs August 18, 2013
Thanks so much, Kukla.
EmilyC August 15, 2013
Big congrats drbabs! I was one of the testers for this dish -- my family absolutely loved it! So happy to see this here as a finalist.
drbabs August 18, 2013
Hi Emily, I'm so happy y'all liked it.
JanetFL August 15, 2013
Sounds wonderful! I really dislike soggy dishes so love the idea of using nuts and celery in this Tabouli. Congratulations on being a finalist! You and Queen Sashy certainly make voting a challenge!
drbabs August 18, 2013
Thanks, Janet!
healthierkitchen August 15, 2013
This is a za'atar week!! Congrats!
drbabs August 18, 2013
Thanks. Every week is za'atar week in my house-- we love it!
veghead February 24, 2013
I was looking for a recipe that used celery. This is a winner - tastes wonderful. I am always looking for an excuse to use za'atar. i did add sorrel and tomatoes (kind of needed to clean out the fridge). Thanks for posting this.
drbabs February 24, 2013
I'm so glad you liked it. Tabouli is great for fridge cleaning!
LeBec F. March 15, 2012
babs, i think you may have finally got me to try my hand at za'atar! lovely components here; thx much for the inspiration!
drbabs March 15, 2012
Thanks, le bec fin, it's one of my favorite combinations. Like everything else, it's best when the thyme and sumac are really fresh.
EmilyC March 13, 2012
Oh yum -- this is absolutely lovely!
drbabs March 13, 2012
Thanks, Emily!
Panfusine March 13, 2012
oooh, this sounds so AWESOME!
drbabs March 13, 2012
Thanks, you're so sweet!
cheese1227 March 13, 2012
This looks fabulous!
drbabs March 13, 2012
Wow, thanks so much!
Bevi March 12, 2012
Wow, the Doctor did it again! I can't wait to make this for our annual spring pot luck.
drbabs March 12, 2012
Thanks, Bevi! I hope you enjoy it!
wssmom March 12, 2012
This is PERFECT with the nutty warm weather we're having!!! Great job!
drbabs March 12, 2012
aargersi March 12, 2012
Nicely done Dr B - this is a perfect make and keep for lunch during the week dish ... which I will be doing soon!!!
drbabs March 12, 2012
Thanks, A! I hope you enjoy!
em-i-lis March 11, 2012
yummy drbabs. and pretty!
drbabs March 11, 2012
Thanks, em. Photography is not my strong suit, but I keep trying!