This easy vegan falafel recipe is the most delicious falafel you’ll ever have. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and spiced with the wonderful flavours of cumin and coriander. These falafel are great on top of a big bowl of veggies or stuffed into a pita sandwich with a big dollop of vegan tzatziki on top.
- What is falafel?
- Is falafel vegan?
- Why this is the best falafel recipe
- Ingredients you’ll need
- How to make this vegan falafel recipe
- Recipe variations and substitutions
- Make ahead and storage tips
- Sauces for falafel
- How to serve vegan falafel
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- Did you make this recipe?
What is falafel?
Falafel is a dish made from mashed chickpeas or fava beans that are seasoned with fresh herbs and spices before being formed into balls or patties and fried until crispy.
Falafel is eaten throughout the Middle East and has been considered as a national dish in Egypt, Palestine and Israel.
Although its origins are controversial, it’s likely that falafel originated in Egypt, where it is typically made with fava beans, before migrating to the Levant where chickpeas replaced the fava beans.
Falafel is now popular worldwide and is particularly appreciated by vegetarians and vegans as a reliable vegan-friendly fast food option.
Is falafel vegan?
Falafel is vegan when prepared correctly without shortcuts.
When eating out, it’s a good idea to ask since occasionally restaurants will take a shortcut and use egg as a binder.
Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often and traditional falafel recipes are vegan.
Also, be sure to check which toppings are offered when ordering a falafel pita since many restaurants will use a yogurt-based sauce.
Why this is the best falafel recipe
This vegan falafel recipe is easy to make at home and honestly tastes a thousand times better than anything you’ll get at your local kebab shop!
The make or break between a good and garbage falafel is the texture.
The texture of falafel should be light and fluffy on the inside, and crispy on the outside.
This texture can only be achieved by using dried, uncooked chickpeas.
The problem with a lot of vegan falafel recipes is that they call for canned chickpeas.
Falafel made with canned chickpeas is dense and pasty on the inside. Even though the flavour my be nice thanks to the herbs and spices, the texture is all wrong.
But don’t worry, making falafel with dried chickpeas is not any more time consuming or difficult than using canned chickpeas.
The only thing you need to do is remember to put the chickpeas in a bowl of water to soak the night before. After that, falafel is made exactly the same way as with canned chickpeas.
Once you’ve made falafel with dry chickpeas, you’ll never use one of those “shortcut” canned chickpea falafel recipes again!
Ingredients you’ll need
As you can see, the list of ingredients that you need this homemade vegan falafel recipe is short, but this recipe is big on flavour.
Dried chickpeas: It is essential that the chickpeas are dried and not canned to achieve the perfect falafel texture.
Onion and garlic: These are very finely minced along with the chickpeas to make the flavour base for your falafel.
Chickpea flour: Chickpea flour is sometimes labeled as besan or gram flour. You can find it in Asian supermarkets and health food stores if your local supermarket doesn’t carry it. It can also be replaced with regular white flour if you can’t find it.
Fresh parsley: Parsley is the most commonly-used fresh herb for falafel.
Spices: Ground coriander, cumin and chili powder are the trio of spices that give falafel the most authentic flavour.
Salt and pepper: To season and bring out all the flavours.
How to make this vegan falafel recipe
1. Soak: Measure out one cup of dried chickpeas and place them in a large bowl. Cover with an ample amount of water and leave overnight to soak.
The chickpeas will increase in size and soften as they soak.
2. Dry: Pour the contents of the bowl into a colander to drain the chickpeas.
A key step is to dry off the chickpeas. Lay a kitchen towel on the counter and tip the chickpeas onto it. Fold the towel over the top of the chickpeas and pat them dry.
This step of removing the excess moisture helps the falafel mixture to hold together better. This prevents the need to add excess flour which will make the falafel dense.
3. Combine: In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, chickpea flour, parsley, spices, salt and pepper.
Pulse the processor until everything is broken down into a mealy texture. It should be able to hold together when you squeeze it.
Avoid over-processing it too much, you don’t want to make hummus!
4. Refrigerate: Transfer the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate it for at least an hour.
Chilling the mixture helps it hold together better.
You can also leave it for several hours if you making it ahead to cook later.
5. Form the balls: Take about a tablespoon of the mixture and squeeze it together in your hands to form a ball.
If you’re having trouble getting the balls to stick together, you can add another tablespoon of chickpea flour to the mixture. Try not to add too much, though, or else your falafel will become dense rather than fluffy.
6. Fry: You can deep fry falafel but I prefer to shallow fry them in order to avoid using and heating up so much oil.
I fill a pan with about an inch and a half of oil, or about as much to come halfway up the falafel.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot. I test my oil by dipping a wooden chopstick in it. If the oil bubbles around the chopstick, it’s hot enough.
I usually start by testing one falafel first to check if the temperature of the oil is okay. It should take about 2 minutes to fry the first side of the falafel until golden brown and crispy. Then flip it over to the other side and fry for a further 2 minutes.
If the first falafel fries nicely, work in batches to fry the remaining balls of falafel.
7. Drain: Use a slotted spoon to remove the falafel from the hot oil. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Recipe variations and substitutions
Other herbs: You can substitute the parsley for another herb, or try a combination of different herbs. Parsley, cilantro, or mint all work well in falafel.
Scallions: For a milder, more herby flavour you can replace the onion for the white and light green parts of a few green onions.
Fava bean falafel: As mentioned previously, falafel can also be made with fava beans. The recipe is the same, just replacing the chickpeas for dried fava beans. You can also make falafel using a combination of chickpeas and fava beans.
Vegetable falafel: There are some rather creative falafel recipes out there that are made with the addition of colourful vegetables. A couple handfuls of spinach is a common addition or I have a recipe for a beautiful pink beet falafel.
Stuffed falafel: Falafel can be stuffed, usually with cheese. Once you’ve squeezed the mixture into a ball, pat it flat in your palm and place a cube of cheese in the middle. Close your hand and re-form the ball around the cheese cube. Here’s a stuffed falafel recipe I made using Violife’s vegan feta.
Falafel burgers: The falafel mix can be shaped into large burger-sized patties and served as hamburgers. I find that using a metal ring to help press and shape the mixture works best.
No, falafel is made with dried chickpeas. Canned chickpeas make falafel that is dense, pasty and that easily falls apart because the mixture is too wet. It is just as easy to make falafel with dried chickpeas as it is to use canned chickpeas.
Yes, falafel is gluten free when it is made without white flour. When made properly with dried chickpeas instead of canned chickpeas, the falafel mixture holds together well without the addition of large amounts of flour. If needed, a small amount of gluten-free chickpea flour can be added to help with binding.
Yes, falafel can be baked on a lightly greased baking pan at 425 F (220 C) for 30 minutes, flipping halfway, or until golden brown on both sides. For baking, I recommend shaping the falafel into disks or patties rather than balls.
Use dried chickpeas instead of canned. After soaking, be sure to pat the chickpeas dry to remove excess moisture. Refrigerate the falafel mixture for a least and hour to help it firm up. Add a tablespoon of chickpea flour to the mix to help it bind together. Squeeze the mix tightly in your hands when forming the balls and don’t make the balls too big. Make sure your oil is hot enough to cook the falafel until golden in about 2 minutes.
To make falafel in the air fryer, lightly spray the balls with cooking spray as well as the air fryer basket to prevent sticking. Air fry at 375 F (190 C) for 15 minutes, flipping the balls at about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown.
Make ahead and storage tips
Several parts of this recipe can be made ahead and stored for later.
Once you make the chickpea mix, you can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for a day or two until you’re ready to make the falafel.
You can roll the falafel balls and keep them refrigerated, covered, for a day or two before frying.
Fried falafel can be stored in the fridge for a few days however they will lose their crispiness.
To freeze uncooked falafel balls, place them on a baking pan and freeze them. Once frozen, transfer the balls to a freezer bag.
You can thaw the falafel in the fridge overnight or cook them directly from frozen.
Sauces for falafel
Falafel is served with a few different traditional sauces.
Tzatziki: You’ll find my vegan tzatziki recipe included with this vegan falafel recipe.
Tahini sauce: Another popular falafel sauce is tahini with lemon juice and garlic.
Sriracha or your favourite hot sauce
How to serve vegan falafel
Falafel can be served so many ways! The classic way to is to stuff it into a pita pocket with your favourite veggies and sauce.
Falafel can also be served as part of a mezze platter alongside hummus, baba ganoush, fresh veggies, pita bread, crackers, tabbouleh, Lebanese salad, olives and vegan cheeses.
Make falafel bowls with couscous, quinoa, or your favourite grain topped with falafel, fresh or roasted vegetables, sprouts and a drizzle of your sauce of choice.
For the falafel
- 1 cup (200 grams) dry chickpeas
- Half a small onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chickpea flour
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Oil, for frying
- Optional for serving: pitas, sliced cucumber, tomato, lettuce, red onion
For the vegan tzatziki
- Half a cucumber
- 200 ml (7 oz) soy or coconut yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Cover the chickpeas with water and leave to soak overnight. Drain the chickpeas and place them on a kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the chickpeas and pat them dry.
- Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients minus the oil. Pulse until you reach a mealy texture that holds together when you squeeze it. Refrigerate for one hour.
- At this point you can prepare the vegan tzatziki. Grate the cucumber into a strainer and add a pinch of salt. Leave to drain for 30 minutes, giving it a stir from time to time. You can also strain your yogurt if it’s particularly runny and you want a creamier consistency (optional). Combine the yogurt and drained cucumber with the remaining ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Heat enough oil in a pan over medium heat to cover the falafel at least halfway. Take about 1 and a half tablespoons of the falafel mixture and form it into a ball by squeezing it together with your hands. If they’re not sticking together well you can add another tablespoon of flour (I find that patting the chickpeas dry first prevents the need to add more flour later).
- Test if the oil is hot by inserting a wooden chopstick. If the oil bubbles around the chopstick, it's hot enough. It's a good idea to test one falafel ball first. It should turn golden brown in about two minutes. If it doesn't, adjust the temperature of the oil accordingly.
- Fry the falafel in batches, flipping once, until they’re golden brown on both sides. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- If you’re making a falafel pita, carefully slice open your pitas and stuff with lettuce, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato and red onion. Dollop over the vegan tzatziki and serve.
**Prep time does not include soaking the chickpeas overnight.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 - 5 falafel
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 364Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gSodium: 940mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 10gSugar: 19gProtein: 16g