Whenever we see falafel on the menu, our heart skips a beat. It makes us think of the herb-packed falafel pitas we feasted on in Greece, the mountains of falafel they serve up at our favorite Lebanese restaurant, and frankly, just how good it’ll taste when dunked in tzatziki. For non-meat-eating folks like us, these protein-packed bites of heaven hold their own far more than a “side of vegetables” ever could. So if you put falafel on the menu, chances are, we’re going to order it. And if it’s amazing, you might see us again tomorrow.
Restaurants and food trucks usually deep fry their falafel. It’s quick, convenient, and let’s be honest: everyone likes fried food. But back at home, we find the frying step totally unnecessary. Instead, you can use your oven to make delicious homemade baked falafel. Oven-baked falafel is not only healthier for you, but it also means you can avoid making your house smell like a greasy food truck. Getting to eat lots of guilt-free falafel, without the oily mess? Sounds like a win-win to us.
The trick to a good falafel ball is to start with dry chickpeas (not canned). You’ll want to soak the chickpeas in water, so they can plump up overnight. Then, once the dried chickpeas are rehydrated, they’ll be perfect for turning into fluffy falafel. Arguably, the hardest part of this recipe is budgeting time for an overnight soak. But we promise you, it really isn’t all that bad. The rest of the recipe comes together quite quickly. Throw the spices and fresh herbs in the food processor, and pulse until finely minced. To make scooping and shaping a breeze, we like to use our retractable ice cream scoop to divvy up the dough. But you could just as easily use a regular spoon and eyeball it.
These falafel balls are jam-packed with fresh herbs and spices to make them super flavorful, even without the oil bath. For any cilantro-haters out there, we’ve got your back. Admittedly, we love cilantro - but Anguel’s dad does not - so this version skips it altogether. Flat leaf parsley is truly all you need, as we’ve learned after much testing. And after making this recipe many times over, we appreciate how we can serve it to friends without doing the mental check of whether anyone in the crowd is not on team cilantro. When it comes to parsley, flat-leaf (Italian) wins over the curly kind. Flat-leaf has more robust flavor. In fact, nine times out of ten, we buy it over curly because flavor-wise it’s more bang for your buck.
Since falafel can be eaten hot or cold, it makes for especially convenient dinners, lunches, snacks...in other words, they’re a meal-prepper’s secret weapon. We like to serve falafel on mezze-style platters, tuck them into a fluffy pita, crumble them over top salads, or pack them in clean-out-the-fridge bowls with whatever smattering of things we can find in our fridge at the end of the week. Falafel is delicious with tzatziki sauce (vegan or yogurt-based). Bonus points if you make some Pickled Red Cabbage to serve alongside!
Oven Baked Falafel
- 1½ cups dried chickpeas (see note 1)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided (or extra-virgin olive oil)
- The night before, soak chickpeas: Add dried chickpeas to a large bowl or pot filled with water. (Dried beans will triple in volume, so ensure you add plenty of water to accommodate.) Cover and let soak at room temperature for about 18 hours. Drain and rinse well.
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Mix: In a food processor, combine soaked and drained chickpeas, garlic, onion, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of the grapeseed oil. Pulse until chickpeas are finely minced and well mixed, scraping down the sides as needed. (The mixture should loosely hold together when squeezed together with your fingers. If not, process a bit more. See note 2)
- Shape: Scoop walnut-sized portions of the chickpea mixture. Use your hands to gently roll each into a smooth ball (you should get about 24 total). The batter will be slightly tacky - if it's too difficult to handle, refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes, then resume scooping.
- Bake: Arrange falafel on 1 large parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush each falafel all-over with the remaining 2 tablespoons (30ml) of the grapeseed oil. Bake until firm and golden on the outside, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Dried chickpeas: This recipe calls for dried chickpeas, which get soaked overnight. Unfortunately, we don't recommend using canned chickpeas as a substitute. Canned chickpeas will make for a mushier falafel because they're pre-cooked and introduce too much moisture into the mixture. Although some readers have made this substitute (with the addition of a binder), the end result is definitely better with dried chickpeas. We strongly recommend you make the recipe exactly as is, at least for the first time you try it!
- Falafel mixture: Process the mixture just into it's fine enough to hold together when squeezed together. You don't want to over-process it to a paste, because that will lead to a dense falafel. Avoid the urge to add binders (such as breadcrumbs or flour). If you followed this recipe exactly as written, binders are not needed.
- Yield: One batch of this recipe (1x) makes 24 falafel. Nutritional estimates assumes 4 falafel per serving.
- Freezing instructions: Once falafel are baked, let them fully cool. Then, transfer to a freezer bag and freeze until firm. Defrost in the fridge (overnight), in the microwave, or in the oven (at 325°F/165°C) until hot.