What is falafel?
Falafel is a deep-fried ball made out of ground chickpeas and spices. It is naturally vegan and has been one of the first vegan dishes I liked. Since this is a plant-based blog with health-promoting recipes, I am going to share with you how you can make falafel that is baked instead of fried in oil but still tastes delicious. This falafel recipe is special because it makes the balls moist on the inside while crispy and gold on the outside without frying. It is also special because it uses cooked chickpeas instead of dried chickpeas, making it easier to digest and causing less bloating and gas especially for people with digestive issues.
How is this recipe different from traditional falafel?
Most recipes for falafel are calling for dried chickpeas that have been soaking over-night. Soaked chickpeas are then ground up with spices and fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro. The mixture is then shaped into balls and deep or shallow fried in oil. I have been making falafel like this for years. When I transferred to the whole-food, plant-based diet I thought I can just bake the balls instead of frying them but the result was no good. The balls were dry, hard and tasteless.
Why did I choose to use cooked chickpeas instead of dried?
When falafel balls are fried, the oil is absorbed into the ball making ground chickpeas moist and well cooked. But when the baking method is used, there is no moisture except for the water from soaking. That water evaporates quickly and the chickpeas don’t cook through, making the balls dry and hard, and leaving chickpeas undercooked. This has caused all sorts of problems for me, especially because of my history of gut disease (you can read more about my Crohn’s disease here). Undercooked chickpeas made me bloated, I even experienced some cramping. This is why I decided to use cooked chickpeas. They are less likely to cause digestion problems and they contain more water than soaked chickpeas.
Which spices did I choose to use?
For me, falafel is all about spices! The most important ingredient right after the chickpeas is definitely fresh parsley. It goes so well with chickpeas, that even people who usually don’t like parsley, like it. Cilantro is another story, many people say it tastes like dish soap to them and it is very hard to get where I come from, so I decided not to use it. Cilantro or coriander seeds, on the other hand, are something completely different! That is the second most important spice for this recipe. Then we also have cumin (which is not the same as caraway – I didn’t know that for years!) and of course onions and garlic.
Use fresh parsley and freshly ground coriander seeds
As I already mentioned, the most important spice is fresh parsley. Dried parsley just doesn’t cut it because the taste is too bland. For best results make sure to use fresh parsley. But this is nothing new, any falafel recipe will tell you that. But here come some special tips. Buy whole coriander seeds and ground them on your own. Freshly ground coriander seeds are much more aromatic than pre-grounded ones. This really makes a huge difference, so you should really try it. The easiest way to ground them is with a blender, a chopper or a coffee grinder but you can also do it by hand in a spice grinder. The smell of freshly ground coriander seeds is just incredible! The coriander seeds taste nothing like the green part of coriander also called cilantro! So don’t skip this step, even if you don’t like cilantro.
Tip #1: Use whole coriander seeds and freshly ground them.
Use ground sesame seeds as a spice for taste and texture
Here is another pro-tip. Use sesame seeds as a spice and for a better texture. Just ground them together with coriander seeds. You can also add some whole sesame seeds for more crunch and more texture. When the falafel balls are baking, the sesame seeds will get roasted. And roasted sesame seeds give such an amazing flavor. They will also provide some of that “fatty” taste and feel you get if the balls were deep-fried. If you are on a strict low-fat diet, you can easily omit them.
Tip #2: Use ground sesame seeds as a spice.
Flax egg to combine and for extra nutrition
Flaxseed is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. When mixed with water it also works as a great binder, creating a slimy compound similar to an egg. In this recipe, it works as a binder and as a source of extra nutrition. It also keeps these falafel balls from drying out too much and helps them hold on to more moisture.
How to bake falafel?
I found the best way to bake falafel is by using an air fryer or an oven using the vent setting. The airflow will give the balls that extra crunch, making them even crispier on the outside. If you don’t have an air fryer don’t worry, you can just bake them in a regular oven and leave them in for a couple of extra minutes, to make them crispier.
How to serve falafel?
My favorite way to serve falafel is in a tortilla wrap with hummus, garlic yogurt sauce, fresh salad, and tomatoes. You can find the recipe for a simple garlic yogurt sauce here. Sometimes I also add sauerkraut or sour turnips, which can be cooked in beetroot juice to get that vibrant pink color you can see in a restaurant made falafel dishes. But I don’t do that every time, just for special occasions or when I get visitors. You can also just eat the balls as they are or add them to another dish.
- 1 tin cooked chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp heaped finely chopped fresh parsley leaves and stems
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds (*optional)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- salt to taste
- 2 tbsp flaxseed ground
- ¼ cup water boiling
- Combine ground flax seed and boiling water to create a "flax egg". Let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Put all the dry spices into a blender, a chopper or a coffee grinder and grind into a powder.
- Put the chickpeas into a food processor together with chopped fresh parsley and freshly ground spices. Pulse a few times to ground coarsely. Scrape the sides if necessary. (*)
- Add flax egg and mix to combine.
- Form the mixture into small balls using one heaped tablespoon of mixture per each ball. Just squeeze the mixture in your hand, then roll out a ball gently between your palms. (*)
- Bake in an air fryer for 15 minutes on 180 degrees Celsius or 355 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for up to 20 minutes, if using a regular oven. (*)
- Sesame seeds are optional, you can omit them if you are on a strict low fat diet.
- If you don’t have a food processor, mash the chickpeas with a fork.
- This recipe should make approx. 10 falafel balls.
- Use the fan setting, if your oven has one.
HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE OR ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT TRYING IT? LEAVE A COMMENT OR A QUESTION BELOW!
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