Gluten-free Chilean Quinoa Tabbouleh

One of our great-nieces and her husband have twin sons with wheat or gluten intolerance. Although most of us don’t think about this particular allergy, people who are allergic to wheat or other grains with gluten such as rye and barley need to avoid recipes or prepared foods that contain it. Ordinary soy sauce is made from wheat, and many commercial products such as pasta sauce, ketchup and mustard often are thickened with wheat starch.

However, many gluten-free foods are now available on store shelves and lists of gluten-free alternatives to common diet ingredients are now easy to find on the Web. For example, most supermarkets today sell both bulgar and buckwheat groats. Bulgar is made from wheat and contains gluten. Buckwheat groats are cracked buckwheat seeds which have no gluten.

We like pilaf pilaf which is made from cracked wheat or bulgar, but we also like kasha, kasha which is made with buckwheat groats. If you are careful to make your kasha with gluten-free chicken broth, you will have a wonderful side dish with no gluten that tastes different but is just as delicious as pilaf.

Another example is tabbouleh, an Eastern Mediterranean vegetable salad commonly made with bulgar or couscous, both of which contain gluten. Made with quinoa, it is a delicious gluten-free side dish. Quinoa originated in the Andes and has been cultivated for at least three thousand years by the Andean people. The Incas thought of it as sacred and called it the “mother of all grains.”

Though it has no gluten, it does have a lot of protein, dietary fiber and minerals that make it a healthful ingredient in your next batch of tabbouleh.

Kristi makes this salad often. Her introduction to the recipe says it all: “This makes quite a large dish, but it is SO good! This is one of our favorite summer dishes.” 


2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 T fresh lemon juice, divided
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 cup finely chopped red onion
4 plum tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumbers
1 ripe avocado 


Shuck two medium ears of sweet corn and use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the cobs. You should have about a cup of corn kernels. Put them in a container and microwave them on high for about 2 1/2 minutes. Check that they are lightly cooked, and set them aside to cool.

Put the quinoa and water into a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent. This will take ten to thirteen minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork as you transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Let it cool to room temperature.

While the quinoa is cooling, wash and peel the cucumbers, leaving small strips of green for color. Slice the cucumber lengthwise into quarters, trim off the seeds and chop it into a half inch dice. Wash and chop the tomatoes, also into a half inch dice. You should have about a cup of each vegetable.

Remove the husks from the onion and garlic. Chop the onion into a quarter inch dice and mince the garlic.

Wash and coarsely chop the cilantro into three-eighths to half-inch pieces.

Wash and juice two or three lemons.

Sprinkle the quinoa with the salt and pepper and stir. Use a fork to fold the ingredients together from underneath the grains of quinoa. Fold four tablespoons of the lemon juice and the oil into the quinoa, then fold in the cilantro and garlic.

Toss the avocado with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
Fold the corn, onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado into the quinoa. Let the salad rest for three or four minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve at a cool room temperature within two hours of preparation.

NOTES: Kristi says that the recipe makes enough to serve eight to ten people. If you offer it as a side dish, we think that it will serve twelve or more.

If your tabbouleh seems too dry, add a little more olive oil and lemon juice.

Tabbouleh is pronounced “tah-BOO-luh.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: