This crispy baked falafel is golden on the outside, deliciously tender on the inside, and packed full of chickpeas and fragrant fresh herbs.
It's important to use dried chickpeas for this, which need to be soaked in water overnight. Tinned chickpeas simply do not work, and will result in a soft and mushy final product. We want crispy falafel.
So yes, there's a little bit of advance preparation required in the form of soaking dried chickpeas overnight. But I guarantee that the final result is worth it.
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What is falafel?
Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty traditionally made from a mix of ground chickpeas (and/or broad beans), fresh herbs, spices, onion, and garlic. Originating in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, it has become a popular fast-food option across the globe.
Even before going vegan, I was in love with falafel. When I worked in Sheffield city centre, I used to frequent a couple of little falafel takeaway places for a mid-week wrap or pitta.
While you can certainly try deep-frying your own falafel at home, I've never been that keen on working with a pan of hot oil. That's why I tried my hand at baking the falafel, and I've never really looked back when it comes to home-cooking.
Use dried chickpeas (raw/uncooked)
I've made crispy baked falafel enough times to know that dried/uncooked chickpeas are what makes the difference. Tinned/pre-cooked chickpeas are great for so many other things (like vegan biryani), but they simply do not work in the same way when it comes to falafel.
You'll want to pick over the dried chickpeas, removing any stones or discoloured beans. You then need to cover them with a few inches of water and leave to soak in the fridge overnight, for anywhere from 8-24 hours.
Find out more about how to cook dried chickpeas.
Which herbs to use for falafel?
Some falafel recipes call for fresh coriander, while some call for fresh parsley. Some, like mine, call for a generous helping of both.
If you don't have both fresh coriander and fresh parsley, simply use double the amount of whichever one you do have.
Also, it's not an exact science when it comes to fresh herbs. So don't worry if you don't have quite as much as I've suggested in the recipe below.
Is baked falafel healthy?
Falafel is full of chickpeas, which are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fibre, and many other nutrients. It is traditionally deep-fried in oil, however, which increases the fat and calories involved.
Baking the falafel balls reduces the amount of cooking oil required, making them healthier than their deep-fried counterparts. While the mix still contains some olive oil, it's much better for you when baked in the oven.
Besides, these take some time to prepare and I always think of them as a bit of a treat. If you're going to go to the effort of making your own delicious falafel from scratch, you may as well enjoy it.
Is falafel gluten-free?
Chickpeas are a legume and therefore naturally gluten-free. Some falafel recipes may include gram flour, which is fine since it's just ground-up chickpeas.
If buying pre-made falafel in a supermarket, it's always best to double-check the ingredients for wheat flour. Producers sometimes use this as a binding agent, along with other non-vegan ingredients such as egg.
How to make crispy baked falafel
Before making this recipe, you must first soak the dried chickpeas overnight. After removing any stones or discoloured beans, place in a large bowl and cover with a few inches of water.
After soaking the dried chickpeas in the fridge (anywhere from 8-24 hours), drain them and rinse with fresh water. They will have doubled in size.
In a food processor, blend the onion, garlic, and olive oil. Next, add the fresh herbs, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, and pepper.
Blend well, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary.
Next, add the drained chickpeas in 2-3 batches. Leave some of these in slightly larger chunks to give the baked falafel a nice mix of textures.
Once blended, the mixture should be crumbly but still slightly wet. If it looks too dry, you can add a little extra olive oil to help bind it together. However, the mixture really does come together in the oven when it bakes.
Shape the falafel mix into small balls or patties and place on a pre-heated, oiled baking sheet. Top tip: use two spoons to 'quenelle' the mixture, passing it repeatedly between the spoons until you have a multi-sided shape.
This may take some practice, and a few of the attempts might fall apart, but it's easy once you get the hang of it. I'm assuming that if you're checking out a recipe for homemade baked falafel then you have sufficient levels of commitment in the kitchen to give this a go!
This mix made around 25-30 falafel balls for me. You may need to use two baking sheets or cook the falafel in two batches depending on how many oven dishes you have.
Bake for 20 minutes, before removing the pan from the oven and gently turning the falafel over using a spatula. Bake for a further 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown on the outside.
I like this crispy baked falafel in a warm wrap along with fresh homemade hummus, salad, pico de gallo, and freshly chopped coriander and parsley. If you don't like chickpea hummus, try spicy kidney bean dip or lemony butter bean dip.
You could also stuff it into a pitta bread with similar accompaniments, crumble on top of a salad bowl along with a tahini dressing, or enjoy with delicious sides such as:
- Vegan cucumber raita
- Cajun-spiced baked potato wedges
- Easy roasted cauliflower
- Courgette and carrot salad with peanut dressing
- Rainbow slaw with sesame ginger dressing
Variations and tips
- Use dried chickpeas: You need to use dried chickpeas for this recipe. Tinned/pre-cooked chickpeas are great for so many other things, but they simply do not work in the same way when it comes to falafel.
- Make falafel burgers: If you're not into the whole 'quenelling' thing, you can use this same recipe to make falafel burgers. Simply shape the chickpea mixture into larger patties when placing on the baking sheet.
- Fresh herbs: If you don't have both fresh parsley and fresh coriander, simply use double the amount of whichever one you do have.
- Firmer mix: If you have time, you can refrigerate the falafel mix for 30 minutes or so after it's been blended. This will help to firm it up slightly, but it's not essential.
- Don’t over-cook: If the falafel looks like it's burning or sticking to the baking sheet, turn down the heat slightly and add a little more oil to the pan.
How to store baked falafel
You can store this falafel in either the fridge or freezer once baked. Alternatively, you could store the mix to cook at a later date (see section below).
Refrigerate: Store the cooked falafel in the fridge for up to four days. I usually eat the falafel cold from this point on, but you could reheat in the microwave, in a pan with a little oil, or in the oven at a lower heat for 10-15 minutes. Just be sure not to overcook it.
Freeze: Store the cooked falafel in the freezer for up to six months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating in the microwave, in a pan with a little oil, or in the oven at a lower heat for 10-15 minutes. Just be sure not to overcook it.
How to store falafel mix
If you've made the falafel mix ahead of time, you can store this in the fridge or freezer to then cook at a later date.
Refrigerate: Store the falafel mix in the fridge for up to three days before cooking. When you're ready to bake, simply shape into balls/patties and follow the same cooking instructions.
Freeze: Store this mix in the freezer for up to six months, however I'd recommend shaping into balls/patties before doing so. It's best to first freeze these in place on a baking sheet for an hour, before transferring to a sealed container or resealable bag.
Defrost thoroughly in the fridge before baking according to recipe instructions.
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More vegan recipe ideas
If you liked this recipe, you may also enjoy:
- Black Bean Burgers (GF)
- Vegan Haggis Fritters
- Broad Bean Dip
- Vietnamese-Style Rice Paper Rolls
- Vegan Waldorf Salad
- Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry
- Lemony Butter Bean Stew
- 2-Ingredient Banana Oat Cookies
You can also check out my full list of vegan mains.
Crispy Baked Falafel (Vegan + Gluten-Free)
- 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra for baking)
- 300 g dried chickpeas (not tinned), picked over and soaked in water overnight (approx. 1½ cups dried chickpeas)
- 30 g fresh coriander, coarsely chopped with any large stems removed
- 30 g fresh parsley, coarsely chopped with any large stems removed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspooons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
- After soaking the dried chickpeas in the fridge overnight, drain these and rinse with fresh water. They will have doubled in size.
- In a food processor, blend the onion, garlic, and olive oil. If necessary, stop to scrape down the sides during blending.
- Once the onion and garlic have been blitzed, add the fresh herbs to the food processor along with the ground cumin, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, and pepper. Blend well, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary.
- Next, add the drained chickpeas in 2-3 batches. Blend the first couple of batches until the mix is fine and crumbly, stopping to scrape down the sides as required. Add the remaining chickpeas to the food processor and blend, leaving some of these in slightly larger chunks. This gives the baked falafel a nice mix of textures.
- Once blended, the mixture should be crumbly but still slightly wet. If it looks too dry, you can add a little extra olive oil to help bind it together. That being said, the mixture really does come together in the oven when it bakes.
- Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet or oven dish and heat in the oven for a minute or two, until it has evenly coated the pan. Shape the falafel mix into small balls or patties and place on the oiled baking sheet. Top tip: use two spoons to 'quenelle' the mixture, passing it repeatedly between the spoons until you have a multi-sided shape (see image in post above). This may take some practice, and a few of the attempts might fall apart, but it's easy once you get the hang of it. (This mix made around 25-30 falafel balls for me. You may need to use two baking sheets or cook the falafel in two batches).
- Bake for 20 minutes, before removing the pan from the oven and gently turning the falafel over using a spatula. Bake for a further 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown on the outside.
- Vegan Haggis Toastie
- Crispy Smoky Roasted Chickpeas
- Chickpea Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce
- Easy Vegan Chana Masala
- Crispy Roasted Peas
- Lemony Butter Bean Stew
- Baked Vegan Bacon Bits
- Rainbow Slaw with Sesame Ginger Dressing
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