How do you take a pita pocket full of crunchy deep-fried falafel — handed to you by a street vendor and devoured on sight — and turn it into a reasonably healthy, everyday affair that you can make at home? The power of the oven.
These baked falafel have been in my lunch and dinner meal rotation for years now. You can make a huge batch, warm the leftovers for weekday lunches, and generally enjoy falafel whenever the fancy strikes. They'll never totally replace falafel straight from the deep-fryer, of course, but for an easy homemade version that requires almost zero pre-planning, they do just fine.
Making Crispy Falafel in the Oven
I make these falafel using ingredients that I almost always have in my fridge and pantry — namely, cans of chickpeas, chopped onion, garlic, and a handful of fresh herbs. I generally prefer using cans of chickpeas over dry chickpeas mostly because canned chickpeas do not require that I remember to soak them the day before. This said, if you do happen to remember, give the dried chickpea version a try for a more authentic flavor and texture; there are instructions for what to do at the end of the recipe below.
To get the crisp outsides and soft insides that we all love so much with our falafel, make sure they get plenty of surface contact with the hot baking sheet. Form the falafel mix into balls, then flatten them into thick patties on the baking sheet — only the parts of the falafel that touch the pan will get golden and crispy.
Avoiding Crumbly, Dry Falafel
One problem that I've had with baked falafel is that the patties can tend to dry out in the oven, becoming a bit crumbly. They still taste great, but sometimes a falafel-loving gal just likes a little more softness in the middle. To help out, I often stir a little flour into the mixture along with some baking soda — the flour binds the falafel together while the baking soda helps keep them from being too dense.
Resting the mixture overnight before baking the patties also helps them hold together a little better. In fact, you can make the falafel mix up to five days ahead and just bake off as many at a time as you need.
If you'd prefer to avoid using flour, you can mix the falafel mixture just a little more thoroughly than usual — edging closer to hummus than chopped chickpeas. Or add a spoonful of tahini to help bind it together.
Falafel When You Want It
The baked falafel keep very well for several days in the fridge. I like the falafel both at room temperature in a pita pocket or warmed for a few seconds in the microwave. They lose their crispness, of course, but retain their toothsome bite.
Last but not least, this is a very forgiving recipe. Sometimes I add more cilantro if that's what I have or ease up on the cumin if I'm not in the mood. You can also cook the falafel on the stovetop rather than in the oven. It's a bit quicker — only five minutes per side in a hot griddle — and nice if you just want to cook a few for yourself without making the whole batch.
How To Make Baked Falafel in the Oven
What You Need
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas (see Recipe Note for dry chickpea version)
1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup loosely packed parsley
1/4 to 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, optional for binding
- Preheat the oven to 375°F: Brush or rub a baking sheet with a thin layer of olive oil.
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, except baking soda and flour: Add the chickpeas, onion, garlic, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 cup cilantro to the bowl of a food processor. Sprinkle the olive oil, lemon juice, and spices over top.
- Pulse until the ingredients are mixed: Pulse the food processor 10 or 12 times, until the chickpeas are chopped and all the ingredients are mixed.
- Taste the mixture: Taste and add more herbs, spices, olive oil, or lemon juice, if you like.
- Add the baking powder: Sprinkle the baking powder and flour, if using, over the mixture.
- Continue pulsing until the mixture forms a ball: Continue to mix the chickpeas in pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture forms a ball when you squeeze it in your hand. You can completely puree the mixture if you like, but I prefer to leave it fairly chunky.
- Bake the falafel right away or refrigerate for up to 5 days: The falafel mixture can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Refrigerating also helps the mixture firm up and be less crumbly when baked.
- Roll the falafel into large balls: Using your hands, scoop up some of the mixture and form it into a ball in your hand. The exact amount doesn't matter — just make sure that all your falafel balls are roughly the same size so they bake at the same rate.
- Press the balls into patties: Transfer the falafel balls to the baking sheet and gently press into patties roughly 1/2-inch thick. Pressing the patties increases the surface contact with the baking sheet and makes the baked falafels crispier. If the patties break a little as you press them, just pat them back into shape.
- Brush the tops with a little more olive oil.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the falafel partway through: The falafel are fairly delicate (especially if you skipped the flour), so be gentle when flipping them. If one does fall apart, just press it back together with the back of your spatula. When finished cooking, the falafel should be golden brown on both sides and feel dry to the touch, but still give a little when you press the middle.
- Eat warm or room temperature, or store for up to 5 days: Reheat cooked falafel for 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.
- Stovetop Falafel: If you only need a few falafel for a single serving or for a dinner for two, it's handy to cook the falafel on the stovetop — plus the falafel get a bit crispier! Just warm a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, add a little olive oil, and cook the falafel about 5 minutes on each side, until golden.
- Falafel with Dry Chickpeas: Soak 1 3/4 cups of dry chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight. They should double in size to give you about 3 1/2 cups of chickpeas. When ready, you should be able to break apart a chickpea with your fingers.