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.
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.
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.
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.