Vegan Falafel

Can you believe I didn't know what falafel was until halfway through college? My family rarely deviated from our usual dinner rotation consisting of Chinese, Italian and Mexican food; restaurant options weren't particularly diverse in my hometown. It wasn't until I moved to the Bay Area that I was exposed to (and promptly fell in love with) Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Mediterranean cuisine.

It's always been a hobby of mine to recreate my favorite dishes from restaurants, making them healthier so that I can enjoy them more often and more affordably. As soon as I bit into my first falafel wrap in my junior year of college, I knew I'd have to learn to make my own, and this homemade, baked version has been one of my staple recipes in the years since.

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I've never been a huge fan of parsley, but for some reason, I enjoy it in falafel. I use half parsley and half fresh cilantro in this recipe, but you should feel free to use just parsley if you aren't a fellow cilantro fiend.

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Rather than purée my chickpeas with the other ingredients, I mash them roughly with the back of a fork to preserve some texture. I used to add eggs to bind the ingredients together, and for some time after going vegan I replaced those with flaxseed meal. Nowadays, I just use a few tablespoons of the aquafaba, or reserved chickpea liquid. It's simpler than using flax "eggs" and just as effective.

You can use a variety of ingredients to firm up your falafel mixture: breadcrumbs, quick oats, quinoa, and flour all work in different quantities. Panko breadcrumbs are my favorite option; I find they make the mixture firm enough to shape into balls or patties, without making the falafel dry or crumbly. Flour will yield a slightly more dense product.

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You can fry these, bake them, or (my new favorite option) air fry them! I like to give them a quick spritz or brush of olive oil before baking/air frying to help them crisp up on the outside and stay moist on the inside. You can also freeze them, uncooked, for an easy weeknight dinner option.

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Yield: 4 servings

Vegan Falafel

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 45 MINStotal time: 60 mins

ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup reserved chickpea liquid
  • 1 packed cup parsley
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

instructions:

  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Coarsely mash with the back of a fork or potato masher.
  2. Combine chickpea liquid, parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice, spices and tahini in the bowl of a food processor and process into a paste.
  3. Stir purée and baking soda into mashed chickpeas. Add in breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition, until mixture holds its shape when pressed in the palm of your hand.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  5. Scoop falafel mixture out into desired portion sizes. (I usually make each falafel the size of a golf ball.) Spread out on a lined baking tray. Optional: brush or spray lightly with olive oil to help them stay more moist as they crisp in the oven.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through to ensure evening cooking. (Or, air fry for 20 minutes at 450°F.)
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