Find out how to make perfect baked falafel. These healthier falafel are vegan and gluten-free with all the authentic flavor.
Have you ever tried falafel? Have you tried making it at home? Falafel is one of those foods I’ve mostly enjoyed while dining out. A few years ago I made falafel from my friend, An Edible Mosaic’s, Middle Eastern cookbook. I served the falafel with hummus and tabbouleh in lettuce wraps and it was such an incredibly satisfying dinner. Since then I’ve gotten a bit lazy and usually grab a bag of frozen falafel from the grocery store. Not surprisingly, those falafel don’t come close to the fresh ones I had made or enjoyed at restaurants. The freezer falafel can just be so dry and tough. After looking through a recent copy of Cooking Light magazine and noticing some delicious falafel sliders, I knew I had to make homemade falafel again as soon as possible. This recipe didn’t disappoint. Even without deep frying, these were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and filled with fresh herbs and spices.
The ingredients for falafel get whirled together in the food processor and the dough is ready in a matter of minutes. To make this recipe even easier, I let the food processor chop the onions, fresh herbs, and garlic before adding the chickpeas.
There is one important secret to making falafel. The chickpeas should not be cooked. This means no using canned chickpeas. We start with dried chickpeas and soak them in water overnight before draining and adding directly to the food processor. The starch from the uncooked chickpeas is what will bind the falafel together without requiring any additional binders like flour. I really had to roll my eyes at myself for being so impatient that I thought soaking the beans was an inconvenience in the past. It literally takes 5 seconds to pour water over the beans.
While most falafel are deep fried in several inches of oil, these lightened up falafel are browned in cooking spray or just a little olive oil before finishing up in the oven. Making falafel reminds me of making meatballs. At first I feel like they will fall apart, but they don’t at all. These falafel end up deliciously crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Just they way they should be.
What is falafel, anyway?
Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern food. Balls or patties made from chickpeas, fava beans, or both are deep fried and often served with pita and tahini sauce. One theory as to the origins of falafel is that it was an Egyptian replacement for meat during Lent (source). Today falafel is popular street food in many cities. It’s also a popular food among vegetarians and vegans since chickpeas are a good source of protein.
How do I eat falafel?
Since I now have extra homemade falafel in my freezer (yay!), I’ll be working on a few recipes that include them as an ingredient. When they’re fresh and warm, I think they should be enjoyed without much added at all. Added to a Buddha Bowl or dipped in some hummus or tahini sauce along with veggies and pita bread is all I need. Falafel is also great on salads and in wraps.
I loved this little lunch of falafel, cucumber, tomatoes, and hummus.
One of my very favorite ways to eat falafel is in a lettuce wrap/boat/thingy. Stuff it with tabbouleh for extra flavor!
Wait, never mind… a pita loaded up with greens, red onion, cucumber, tomato and a good hearty drizzle of tahini sauce is my absolute favorite way to eat falafel. Here’s my easy Tahini Sauce recipe. It literally takes under five minutes.
Update: Some readers have mentioned that the mixture was too wet and did not stick together well. To avoid this issue, make sure your herbs and chickpeas are not still wet from rinsing. Adding flour will make it very easy to form the dough into patties or balls, so I’ve added that into the recipe. This makes a large batch so that you have enough to freeze for later. If you just want enough to serve a family of 4, halve this recipe!
This falafel recipe doesn’t require any deep frying. The dough comes together quickly in the food processor and falafel are browned in a pan before being baked. These falafel are naturally vegan and gluten free. This makes a large batch so that you have enough to freeze for later. If you just want enough to serve a family of 4, halve this recipe!
- 2 cups dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans, NOT canned)
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups roughly chopped white onion
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 1 cup Italian parsley
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 5 tablespoons flour (if needed to bind, recipe will not be GF if using flour)
- cooking spray or olive oil
- tzatziki or tahini sauce for serving
- Place dried chickpeas in a large bowl. Cover with the water and let soak 8 hours or overnight. I let mine soak almost 24 hours. Drain the chickpeas.
- Place the onion, cilantro, parsley, and garlic in the bowl of a large food processor. Make sure your herbs and chickpeas are not still wet from rinsing. Pulse until well chopped. Add the drained chickpeas, lemon juice, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, and baking soda and continue to pulse until all ingredients are coarsely chopped. Edit: You should be able to form the dough into disks at this point. If your dough is too wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it binds.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Shape the falafel dough into 2 to 3 inch disks. You can really make them any size. Larger works well for “burgers” and smaller for salads and wraps.
- Coat a large pan over medium high heat with cooking spray or a tablespoon of olive oil. Carefully place the falafel into the pan and cook until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add more cooking spray or olive oil as needed so falafel don’t stick. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake falafel for 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
- Use your falafel in pitas with your favorite sauce or on salads.
This recipe was adapted from Falafel Pita Sliders from Cooking Light Magazine, May 2017.
Here’s a Pinterest image to save this recipe for later.