Golden-brown and crispy on the outside, fluffy melt-in-your-mouth and aromatic within, once you taste falafel it’s impossible to live without.
Falafel, probably the best vegan dish in the world. Healthy, tasty and easy to prepare, these chickpeas balls are a great food to share with friends or just with yourself. Baked or fried, falafel are ready in less than 30 mins and never fail to bring a feast around the table – and in your mouth.
The recipe was originally developed in Egypt, where they also make another popular version showcasing fava broad beans. It’s a popular Middle East street food, but falafel have reached the West dining tables with their awesomeness long time ago. Segregated for too long as the only vegetarian alternative available in kebabs shops around the world, they are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Falafel is basically ground chickpeas and/or fava beans mixed with spices and aromatic herbs, then formed into patties and deep-fried. You can add a little flour to bind the mixture together, or use almond flour as substitute for a gluten-free version.
In terms of cooking methods, I’m better off with a baked falafel rather than deep-fried. It takes a little longer but baked falafels are definitely healthier and lighter – meaning I can have seconds without feeling guilty!
When making falafels, choose the right chickpeas. If I’m in a hurry, I usually go for bottled ones, they taste way better than tinned chickpeas, but make sure they’re preserved only in salt and water. If you have more time, choose dry organic chickpeas, soak them overnight and gently cook them until tender. It takes longer but definitely pays off in terms of flavor.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to play with the ingredients and experiment with your favorite aromatic herbs and spices. I love to add some refreshing grated lemon zest in the mixture, and I use both fresh cilantro/coriander and basil leaves ( which add a nice sweet note), flat parsley & mint are fantastic too. If you’re ready to handle hot stuff add harissa paste in, otherwise keep it gently spiced and opt for a mild hot chili powder.
These healthy awesome baked falafels make a great snack anytime of the day, and are ridiculously good when paired with an easy and light Greek tzatziki-style dip. It’s super refreshing and balances well the spicy kick coming out from the patties.
You can also serve falafels with pitta bread/ wrap /burger for a energy-packed lunch or dinner.
Falafel are also one of my favorite options to serve at summer bbqs and picnics. They’re a perfect vegan alternative and make a showstopping finger food. You can also prepare them ahead and leave in the fridge until needed.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to grab a falafel, or two.
Healthy Awesome Baked Falafel
For the falafels:
- 400 g bottled chickpeas rinsed and drained
- handful of basil leaves
- handful of cilantro leaves
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- 1 ?2 tsp harissa paste or chilli powder
- 2 tbsp plain flour or almond flour for GF
- 1 tsp allspice
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- olive oil for cooking
- sea salt to taste
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
For the tzatziki-style yogurt dip:
- ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves chopped
- 1/2 cucumber peeled seeded and diced
- salt & pepper to taste
- pitta bread to serve
- Place chickpeas in a food processor. Add garlic, cilantro, basil, lemon zest, harissa or chili, spring onion, allspice,cayenne pepper and flour.
- Blend until all ingredients are combined and the mixture reaches a smooth texture. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula if necessary. Season to taste.
- Gently wet your hands and divide the mixture forming 6-8 patties. Arrange them on a non-stick baking tray, brush with olive oil.
- Put in the freezer for 5-10 mins, it will help falafels to set and keep their shape while the cook.
- Bake falafels in the oven at 200C/390F for about 20 min, turning them on the other side half-way through cooking time. Falafels are ready when they get nicely crispy and golden-brown on both sides.
- To make tzatziki-style dip: mix together all ingredients in a bowl, and season with freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until falafels are ready.
- Serve falafels with warm pitta bread or on their own with tzatziki-style yogurt dip on the side.
Substitute flour with almond flour for gluten-free option