For years, I’d try to make falafel from scratch and fail miserably. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t try the same recipe over and over expecting different results — I’m not actually mad — but none of the recipes I tried really worked — the batter always seemed to either melt or crumble apart the second it touched oil. The results were so dissatisfying that for years, my go-to “recipe” was store-bought dried falafel mix that I rehydrated with pureed soft tofu. Of course, that was until I discovered this baked falafel recipe.
Read next: Is Chickpea Pasta *Actually* Healthy? The Answer May Surprise You
The problem, as it turned out, was the amount of moisture in the canned chickpeas — an issue that I’ve recently found is easily overcome by using one of two kinds of garbanzo beans: either rehydrated or sprouted but uncooked. Each technique has pros and cons, but both reduce the overall liquid in homemade falafel. With the moisture problem solved, a healthy, baked falafel couldn’t be easier to make: blend the ingredients, shape them into patties, and bake in the oven. Voila.
To sprout or not to sprout
Deciding whether to sprout the chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, before you grind them for falafel mostly comes down to a question of time (although there are some health benefits, too). Whether you want to use sprouted chickpeas or simply rehydrated ones, just: soak them for about 12 hours. If you want falafel for your next dinner, continue soaking another 12 hours and then start the grinding and baking process. If you planned further ahead, or suddenly become too busy to make falafel straightaway (it happens!), you can let the chickpeas sprout for a few days.
Sprouting chickpeas and other legumes comes with some health benefits that may make it worth the wait. Chickpeas have heavy doses of protein and fiber — not to mention loads of iron and vitamins — but they also carry enzyme inhibitors that make digestion challenging for some people. Sprouting reduces these inhibitors, along with breaking down hard-to-digest starches. Cooking sprouted chickpeas has been found to neutralize trypsin inhibitors, making them even more digestible.
Sprouting can start in just a couple of days in a warm space, and it’s best to stop sprouting and start making falafel when some beans show a short tail but before they form leaves. The shorter the tail, the more they’ll taste like unsprouted chickpeas. Keeping any loose hulls increases the overall fiber, and you won’t notice them once you blend the falafel batter.
Flavorful, healthful falafel
Falafel can include many flavors, many of which come with health benefits of their own. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, among other positive properties. Cumin aids digestion and contains helpful plant compounds. Coriander, as both ground seed and as fresh cilantro leaves, is rich in anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties. Garlic has cardioprotective effects, among other great properties. Parsley has a high amount of vitamin K and mint holds loads of vitamin A — mix all these ingredients together, and falafel becomes a flavor and nutrition powerhouse.
Baking and serving falafel
Not shockingly, baked falafel is healthier than its fried cousin and it’s also the best way to cook a large batch to freeze and enjoy later. A patty shape is ideal for stuffing into pita and folding in other flatbreads; you can also make small balls to serve over greens if you prefer. To prep for quick weeknight meals, make a full batch of this baked falafel recipe, then freeze the patties you don’t use. Then simply reheat as you go — we like to use a toaster oven for this so it doesn’t heat up the whole house.
Although this baked falafel recipe has tons of flavor, it shines when paired with sauces. Baba ghanouj and tzatziki add a smooth cooling texture, and a lemon-tahini sauce plays up the hint of zest in the batter. You can even double-down on the chickpeas and serve falafel with hummus. Any of these sauces can be smeared in a pita before adding a falafel patty, used as a standalone dipping sauce for falafel and fresh veggies, or thinned to a salad dressing. Fresh greens, radish sprouts, and feta cheese can turn a falafel patty or two into a full meal.
Julie Laing has been blogging about eating well year-round at Twice As Tasty for more than five years. She published her first cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling, in 2020.
Baked Falafel Recipe
PREP TIME24h 00 min
COOK TIME30 min
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ red chili, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
Quickly rinse and pour the chickpeas into a large bowl; cover with 3 inches of water. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, let sit at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours, and then drain off the water.
To use the chickpeas raw, return them to the bowl, cover in fresh water, and let soak another 12 to 14 hours, until the chickpeas triple in size. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
Alternatively, to sprout the chickpeas after they have soaked for about 12 hours, transfer them to a wide-mouth half-gallon jar topped with a wide-mesh screen and ring or sprouting lid. Fill the jar with cold water to rinse the chickpeas, and then tip the jar upside down to drain, propping it at an angle so that it keeps draining until the next rinse. Repeat the rinse and drain 2 to 3 times a day for 4 to 6 days, gently shaking the jar or emptying and repacking it occasionally to ensure good air circulation, until the sprouts grow 3/4- to 1-inch tails.
After the final rinse and drain, spread the soaked or sprouted chickpeas in a single layer on a tea towel and let them air-dry for at least 30 minutes.
Place the chickpeas, cumin, coriander, salt, and turmeric in a food processor or a large bowl, then blend using the food processor or an immersion blender until the beans are coarsely chopped. Add the chili, garlic, onion, cilantro, parsley, mint, and lemon zest, and blend until the chickpeas mostly break down and the mixture holds together. Cover with a tea towel and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Brush two baking sheets lightly with oil. Roll a small amount of the chilled falafel mixture into a walnut-sized ball, then flatten it slightly into a patty, if desired; place it on a baking sheet. Continue shaping the rest of the mixture. When the baking sheets are full, brush the tops of the patties with oil.
Bake the patties for 20 minutes, flip, and then continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden. Serve immediately.
Let any leftovers cool before refrigerating them for 4 to 5 days or freezing them in zip-close freezer bags for a couple of months. To reheat, bring to room temperature and bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until thoroughly hot.