Making baked falafel at home can be tricky, especially if you're after falafel that is crispy on the outside and light and tender, almost crumbly, on the inside. Well, this falafel recipe delivers exactly that. Like any classic falafel, this recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and nut-free.
Regardless of where it's from, falafel is a simple street food, a Middle Eastern fast food if you will. You can find it in restaurants as well as on pretty much every street corner. It's a favorite no matter where you are.
Depending on the region, falafel is made from either dried and soaked fava beans (in Egypt) or from dried and soaked chickpeas (in Israel). There is also a hybrid version made from both fava beans and chickpeas (in Lebanon). So, onto the big falafel debate - which one is the best?
While the ingredients have more to do with available food crops rather than taste and texture, there is indeed a difference between these versions. Fava beans are large and broad with a soft and creamy inside. Chickpeas are much smaller and their inside is grainier and denser. So, as you can imagine, falafel from fava beans is lighter and creamier than falafel from chickpeas. The flavor is also different. Both fava beans and chickpeas have a meaty flavor, but fava beans are nuttier.
You can use either or a combination of the two. I prefer fava beans but often use chickpeas because they are just more readily available. The choice is yours.
Tips for Making Baked Falafel
There are a million ways to make falafel, but traditionally it's made from soaked chickpeas or fava beans, herbs and seasonings.
- Chickpeas: for the best flavor and texture, start with dried (soaked), uncooked chickpeas. Cooked chickpeas, including canned chickpeas, are simply too tender and contain too much moisture to achieve the right consistency. That’s when you start adding binding ingredients like all-purpose flour, breadcrumbs, or eggs, leaving the falafel territory.
- Onion and garlic: these aromatics add a little bite. I typically use a sweet onion or a shallot, which are very mild. You can also use a yellow onion.
- Herbs: always use fresh herbs. They brighten up the flavor and add a beautiful green color. My favorite herbs in falafel are fresh parsley and cilantro. I have seen recipes that call for mint or even sage, but I prefer to stick with the classics.
- Chickpea flour: the flour helps to absorb the moisture from the raw ingredients and bind them together. You can use any flour you like, but chickpea flour works the best here simply because it has the same flavor profile as the main ingredient.
- Baking powder: for an airy and fluffy texture, baking powder does wonders. Baking powder is a rising agent, and so it ensures that the falafel doesn't come out too dense. It's important that you use baking powder and not baking soda since there is no acid in the recipe to activate the baking soda.
- Cumin & coriander: these two aromatic spices are commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. Cumin is earthy while coriander is citrusy and nutty. If you like a little bit of heat, you can also add fresh green chili pepper or cayenne pepper.
- Salt: it brings out the flavor of herbs and spices.
- Olive oil: I find that when I brush the falafels with a little bit of olive oil before baking, they crisp up nicely on the outside while staying moist on the inside (as opposed to drying out).
How to Make Baked Falafel
- Soak the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas into a large bowl, cover them with water, and soak them for 24 hours at room temperature. Chickpeas double to triple in size during soaking, so use a large enough bowl and a lot of water. Don't cook the chickpeas. They need to stay raw, but be adequately hydrated in order to hold together. Soaking the chickpeas for 24 hours does require a little bit of planning, but it's crucial for successful falafel.
- Process all the ingredients. Add all the falafel ingredients into the food processor and pulse until well combined, but not pureed. The texture of the chickpeas should be uneven and coarse, with some slightly larger pieces still visible.
- Refrigerate the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow for more starch to seep out of chickpeas. This will not only improve the flavor of the falafel (as all the flavors meld), but it will also help the falafel patties retain their shape better once formed.
- Form the falafel mixture into patties. Scoop out about 2 tablespoons of the mixture. Using your hands, gently form the mixture into 0.5-inch/1.3-cm thick patties. Avoid packing the patties too tightly or they will come out tough and dense. Alternatively, you can also shape the falafel into balls, but shaping the mixture into patties increases the surface contact with the baking sheet and makes the baked falafels crispier.
- Brush with oil. The main issue with baked falafel is that it doesn't crisp up as nicely as deep-fried falafel and tends to come out dry. This is because the heat of the oven is surrounding the falafel rather than coming into direct contact with it. The solution is to brush the falafel with oil right before baking. Fat is much better at transferring heat than either air or water. Plus, the fat imparts a crispy crust and a richness and depth of flavor that is, in all honesty, irresistible.
- Bake. Arrange the falafel patties onto a greased baking sheet. Bake the falafel at 425°F/218°C for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through baking. The high temperature will prevent the baked falafel from drying out.
How to Serve Falafel
Falafel is best served immediately, while still warm. That’s when the exterior is the crispiest and the interior the fluffiest.
As a main dish, falafel is often served inside a pita pocket with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Adding a traditional dip or sauce, such as hummus or tahini, is the perfect way to pack even more flavor into a falafel pitta.
As an appetizer, falafel can be served on a simple salad or alone with hummus and tahini.
How to Store & Reheat Falafel
You can store leftover falafel either uncooked or cooked. I prefer storing uncooked falafel and baking it when needed. However, if you're trying to get ahead and prepare meals you can just quickly reheat, storing cooked falafel might be a better option for you. Just know that freshly cooked falafel will always taste better.
- Refrigerating: allow falafel to cool to room temperature (if storing cooked falafel). Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days (uncooked falafel) or for up to 5 days (cooked falafel).
- Freezing: allow falafel to cool to room temperature (if storing cooked falafel). Transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe container, separating each row with a piece of parchment paper (so the falafel patties don’t stick to each other as they freeze), and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: transfer frozen falafel into the refrigerator 24 hours before reheating. If reheating uncooked falafel, follow the instructions for baking above. If reheating cooked falafel, arrange the falafel patties on a plate and microwave to reheat. Then transfer onto a baking sheet, spray with a little bit of oil, and bake in a 390°F/200°C oven until the surface is crispy again, about 5 minutes.
More Falafel Recipes
There are several ways to cook falafel. No matter which method you choose, the finished falafels look very similar. The difference is in the texture.
- Deep-fried falafel: crispy and crunchy on the outside, tender and fluffy on the inside - deep-fried falafel is as authentic as it gets. I don't typically deep-fry falafel (because of all the extra oil), but deep-frying does yield the best texture. To deep-fry falafel, heat about 3 inches/7.6 cm of oil in a small pot over medium heat to 350°F/176°C. Carefully drop 6-8 falafel balls into the oil at a time and cook until golden brown, for 1-2 minutes.
- Air-fried falafel: just as crispy and crunchy as deep-fried, but not as moist and fluffy on the inside. This is my go-to method for making falafel because it has a great texture but uses no oil. To air-fry falafel, preheat the air fryer to 370°F/187°C. Arrange about 9 falafel balls in a single layer in the air fryer basket and cook until golden brown, for about 15 minutes.
- Pan-fried falafel: not nearly as crispy and crunchy on the outside as the deep-fried and air-fried falafel, but quite moist and fluffy on the inside. To pan-fry falafel, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Gently place the falafel in the skillet and cook each side until golden, for 2-3 minutes.
If you try any of these recipes, please, leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
- 2 cups dried chickpeas *
- 1 cup parsley , leaves and soft stems only
- 1 cup cilantro , leaves and soft stems only
- 1 onion , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 Tbsp. chickpea flour
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- sea salt , to taste
- olive oil , for brushing the falafel
- Soak the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover with water. (The chickpeas will double or triple in volume, so use more water than you think you will need). Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours at room temperature. Then drain the chickpeas, rinse under cold running water, and use as instructed.
- Preheat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 400ºF/204ºC.
- Process all the ingredients. Add all the soaked chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, onion, garlic, chickpea flour, cumin, coriander, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined, but not puréed. The texture of the chickpeas should be uneven and coarse, with some slightly larger pieces still visible. If the mixture is too wet, add a little bit more chickpea flour, 1 Tbsp./5.7 g at a time. If it's too dry and crumbly, pulse it a little bit more.
- Season. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, garlic for pungency, cumin for earthiness, and coriander for a citrusy-nutty flavor.
- Refrigerate the falafel mixture. Transfer the falafel mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Form the falafel mixture into patties. Scoop out about 2 tablespoons of the mixture. Using your hands, gently form the mixture into 0.5-inch/1.3-cm thick patties. Avoid packing the patties too tightly or they will come out tough and dense. Repeat until all the falafel mixture is used up.
- Brush with oil. Right before baking, brush/spray each falafel with a little bit of olive oil.
- Bake. Arrange the falafel patties onto a greased baking sheet and bake until crispy and golden brown, for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through baking.
- Serve immediately, while still warm and crispy over greens or in a warmed pita bread with hummus, tomatoes, and shredded lettuce.
- Store. Leftover falafel keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, though best when fresh. For longer term storage, freeze uncooked pre-shaped falafel in a single layer. Once firm, transfer the falafel into a freezer-safe bag or a container and place it back into the freezer for up to 3 months. (You can freeze cooked falafel as well, but it’s never quite as good).
- Reheat in a 400ºF/204ºC oven until heated through and crispy again, for about 5 minutes. If reheating frozen (uncooked) falafel, transfer the falafel into the refrigerator 24 hours before baking to thaw. Once thawed, follow the instructions for baking above.