Fattoush salad is a traditional Lebanese salad that you'll find all over the Levantine region, as well as around the globe. It's essentially a salad of crunchy vegetables and crisped-up pita bread, with a bright sumac dressing that really brings it together. No wonder it's such a favorite.
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I have long been a fan of fattoush and it's a salad high on my list of choices when we go anywhere with it on the menu. In fact when we visited friends in Jordan years ago now, I think we had either fattoush or tabbouleh every day. And sometimes both.
It's a wonderfully bright, fresh salad with plenty of crunch and flavor. And one you'll want to add to your rotation soon!
What are the origins of fattoush?
Fattoush is believed to have originated in Northern Lebanon as a way to use up leftover pita bread. The name comes from "fatt" which is Arabic for "crush", which refers to the bread pieces.
It's loosely part of a group of dishes in the region known as fatteh (like my delicious and easy chickpea fatteh) that use up leftover bread. This one is a little different being a salad, but the principle is the same not to let food go to waste.
The other additions to the salad were less precise - it could be any combination of seasonal vegetables and herbs that you might have around. But in summer that pretty much always includes certain ingredients like tomato and cucumber, so you will find some consistency.
These days, you can still be flexible in the ingredients (and you'll find variations like my winter fattoush that are even less typical), but a number of ingredients are in most traditional recipes. These include:
- Pita bread - although you can use other flatbreads like lavash. The key thing is you break it up and toast it.
- Lettuce - this is often romaine but you could also use purslane, typical of the area, and other similar lettuce varieties.
- Tomato - make sure they are the best you can find, and
- Cucumber - you can use any kind, but you'd typically use the small Persian cucumbers for this. English are a close second.
- Parsley - this adds a nice extra freshness to the salad. You typically use flat leaf or Italian parsley in this.
- Pepper - not in all, but still popular. Green pepper is probably most typical but I admit I am not the biggest fan so I typically use red or yellow instead. Choose as you prefer.
- Radish - also not in all but in many versions for it's crunch and slightly sharp flavor.
Some might describe fattoush as a garden salad with added crispy pita chips. Or you could say it's like a Lebanese version of panzanella. But while the the crisp pita are definitely the bit my kids like the best, for me the thing that really makes it is the dressing.
It's kind of an amped up lemon-olive oil dressing, with a bit of sumac and pomegranate molasses. These two ingredients are popular in the region and really add to the flavor, giving an extra tang. And the dressing brings the whole dish together and makes it special.
Make ahead tips
This salad has a couple steps but you can easily do them in stages and nothing is difficult. You can use ready-made pita chips, or make oven-baked pita chips (which we love as a snack!), but I find for this homemade fried chips are the best if you can. They just keep their crispness better when you add the dressing. But you can use whichever you have and prefer.
You can make the pita chips up to three days ahead and just store in an airtight container until needed. Make sure they have cooled to room temperature before storing, then store at room temperature.
You can also make the dressing ahead of time and simply store in a sealed container in the fridge. It will keep a good week or more, you'll just need to re-blend it right before serving as the ingredients tend to separate.
The main salad vegetables, too, can be prepared ahead, though not quite as long. You can chop everything up and as long as they don't have the dressing on them, they'll keep a day or two in the fridge. Especially if you leave the greens until a little later, the rest stores well.
Once dressed, the salad is only really good the next day and even then, not as good as fresh. You can help it taste almost-fresh if you know you will not use all by holding back the pita chips. The later they are added, the better, to keep them crisp.
You'll often find this salad served as part of a mezze meal alongside dips like hummus and baba ghanoush, and small plates like spinach fatayer and kibbeh. It also works well as a side to mains like lamb kofte, kebabs and Lebanese chicken and rice.
You can also make a meal out of it, whether just by serving a larger portion or adding some pan fried halloumi, grilled shrimp or other protein on top. It's a great base to add to or vary depending on what you have.
Fattoush salad is such a delicious combination of crunchy vegetables, crisp pita chips and a bright lemon-sumac dressing. It's versatile, adaptable and easy to make. No wonder it's a Levantine staple, and hopefully soon one for you, too.
Try these other crunchy salads:
- Sicilian fennel orange salad
- Beet apple salad with maple vinaigrette
- Moroccan raw carrot salad
- Mango jicama slaw
- Plus get more Middle Eastern recipes in the archives.
- 1 pita bread
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil (for frying, or see notes below)
- ½ head romaine lettuce (or green leaf lettuce)
- 1 tomato medium-large
- 1 Persian cucumber or approx ⅓ - ½ English cucumber
- 2 radishes
- ½ pepper red, yellow or green as you prefer
- ¼ cup parsley 4tbsp, roughly chopped, a small bunch
- ½ lemon juice only
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sumac
- ½ teaspoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 clove garlic crushed/minced
- salt and pepper a little, to taste
- Cut the pita bread into small pieces - you can cut them in triangles or squares as you prefer (I find smaller pita work well as triangles, larger ones are better made square).
- Warm a thin layer of oil in a medium skillet over a medium heat. Fry some of the pieces of pita in a single layer for around 2 - 3 minutes then turn and cook on the other side. You want them crisp but not burning. Also, you need enough oil to have them make contact with the oil but not so much they soak up a lot of it. Remove the pita chips and drain on kitchen paper then repeat with more of the pita pieces until all are cooked. Set aside to use or store in a container at room temp if making ahead.
- Slice the lettuce fairly thin, cutting larger pieces in half if needed, and place in a medium-large salad/serving bowl.
- Dice the tomato, removing any rough core as needed. Cut the cucumber in half then slice relatively thin. Thinly slice the radishes and dice the pepper. Add all to the bowl.
- Roughly chop the parsley leaves and add to the bowl.
- Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, oil, sumac, pomegranate molasses, crushed garlic and a little salt and pepper. You can also add all of the ingredients to a small jar, cover with the lid and shake together instead as I typically do.
- When ready to serve, add the pita chips and dressing to the bowl and mix well. If you want it extra crisp, hold back the pita chips and let people add themselves at the table.
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