If the nutty, savory flavors of beans, onions and garlic all rolled up into a bite-sized croquette sound appealing, then look no further than falafel. This traditional Middle Eastern street fare is vegan-friendly and a great source of plant-based protein in a portable package.
The only down side to most falafel recipes is the deep-fat frying, which basically cancels out the healthy side of this recipe equation. Therefore, finding the perfect recipe for crispy, baked balls worthy of tucking into pita bread or colorful protein bowls is key.
The origins of falafel span ancient Middle Eastern cultures. A popular theory says falafel was first prepared in Egypt by Coptic Christians more than 1,000 years ago as a meat replacement during Lent. Today, falafel is considered a national dish in Egypt, Palestine and Israel.
Perhaps the best part about making homemade falafel is the simplicity. Most recipes start with chickpeas or fava beans in a food processor. Add in onion, garlic and parsley and pulse. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the chickpeas.
Many traditional recipes call for soaking dry chickpeas overnight instead of using canned. I have tried both ways and find for baked falafel, the canned chickpeas work best because the extra moisture in the beans helps to act as a binder. I also use a tablespoon or so of the aquafaba from the can if the mixture is on the dry side. Dry beans are a little more delicate to work with and the balls don’t bind together as well until they hit frying oil – which is a no-no in my world.
Healthy Baked Falafel
Tailoring falafel to your own tastes can be fun. Choose your favorite spices and sauces to suit your palate. For this recipe, I added curry powder and smoked paprika. Because I’m an admitted hummus addict, my go-to is always hummus and perhaps a touch of Sriracha sauce to give the dish an extra kick. This recipe makes about 2 dozen falafels.
- 2 15-oz. cans Organic chickpeas (drained, reserve liquid)
- 1/2 Yellow onion
- 5 cloves Roasted garlic
- 4 tbsp. Fresh parsley (chopped)
- 1 tbsp. Smoked paprika powder
- 3 tsp. Curry powder
- 1/4 cup Gluten-free breadcrumbs (or regular)
- 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. Pepper
- 1 tbsp Aquafaba liquid reserved from chickpeas (more if needed)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place all ingredients, except aquafaba liquid into the food processor or blender. Pulse until mixture is blended, leaving some texture to the beans. Over-processing will make hummus!
If mixture is dry, add aquafaba liquid 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture can be formed into firm balls.
Form falafel by scooping 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture per ball. Feel free to adjust the size of the balls as you like. Larger falafel will take a bit longer to bake.
Arrange falafel on baking sheet and pop into the oven for 25 minutes. Flip the balls over and bake for another 25 minutes on the other side. When the outer crust of the falafel is crisp, they’re done! Serve immediately in a warmed pita pocket with tahini dressing, or chill in the refrigerator for topping salads or storage.