Can oil-free falafels be just as delicious as traditional deep-fried falafels?
I vote yes!
I love falafels. The flavors are like a party for your tastebuds. The first time I tried falafels I was enchanted by the mix of spices and herbs.
Traditionally, falafels are deep fried. Tasty, but heavy. Also, I feel the heaviness of the deep frying takes away from some of the more nuanced flavors in falafels.
Falafels are also traditionally served with tahini sauce, which is rich in its own right. So pairing with a deep-fried patty is too much in my opinion.
That’s why I developed these oil-free falafels for my Let Them Eat Vegan cookbook quite a few years ago. They are exceptionally flavorful, and can be pan-fried or baked (though I prefer pan-frying).
What puts these oil-free falafels over the top? The Smoky Tahini Sauce!
Most tahini sauces are fairly neutral with a lemony note. I add smoked paprika to this sauce and it’s positively divine!
Unlike traditional falafels, these oil-free falafels are also gluten-free. I use rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs for firmness. At first I wasn’t sure if the oats would work with the spicy mixture, but I was so pleased when I added them. I think they allow the flavors of the beans and herbs and spices to shine through rather than tasting very ‘bread-y”.
Try serving these falafels in pita shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and chopped cucumber along with the tahini sauce. Or, make a salad bowl, topping the aforementioned veggies (and more if you like) with the oil-free falafels and a good drizzle of the tahini sauce. For guests, up the ante by making a falafel platter, including Quinoa Tabbouleh with Olives (shown in photo, also from LTEV), and roasted potatoes. Heavenly!
- 2 14 / 15 oz cans chickpeas rinsed and drained (see note)
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves packed (not chopped, just torn from stems)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, packed
- 1/2 cup green onions chopped (mostly white but some green portion)
- 1/4 cup celery chopped
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 medium-large cloves garlic use 3 large if you love a garlicky kick
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp rounded freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes I use 1/4; use more if you like things spicy
- 3/4 – 1 cup rolled oats use certified gf oats for gluten-free option; see note
- 1/3 cup millet chickpea, or other flour (for dusting patties), seasoned with a couple pinches sea salt
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ – 2/3 cup water or more for a thinner sauce, if desired
- 1/4 tsp lightly rounded smoked paprika (see note)
- ¼ tsp rounded sea salt (about 1/4 + 1/8 tsp)
- 3/4 – 1 1/4 tsp pure maple syrup or agave nectar or more to taste, see note
*Chickpea Note: If using chickpeas you’ve cooked yourself from dry, they can sometimes have less moisture and therefore make the blended mix too dry. If it is not coming together before adding the oats, is too crumbly, add a smidgen of water – a teaspoon at a time until it just comes together. With canned chickpeas, you should not need to add extra water.
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, onion, celery, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, and spices, and process until the mixture is well incorporated and starting to smooth out, scraping scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add the oats and pulse a few times to work them in. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes if possible (refrigerating will make it firmer and easier to shape).
Take small scoops of the mixture, 11⁄2 to 2 tablespoons (using a cookie scoop is helpful, but you can use your hands, rinsing when needed to keep the mixture from sticking to your palms) and form into balls. Once finished, place the seasoned millet flour in a bowl. Add the falafel balls to the bowl and lightly toss, then toss a moment in your hand to remove any excess clumping of flour.
Prepare a nonstick skillet over medium or medium-high heat (prepare surface with spray/wipe of oil, or use a good non-stick). Place the falafel balls in the pan, flattening them slightly with a spatula, and cook for 6 to 9 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisped on the outside, working in batches, if needed. Serve. Makes 20-24 patties.
Using a standing blender or an immersion blender and deep cup or jar, puree all the ingredients (starting with 1⁄2 cup of the water, 1⁄4 teaspoon of the paprika, and 3⁄4 teaspoon of the agave) until smooth. Add additional paprika and salt to taste; maple syrup to balance any bitterness, if needed; and water to thin, as desired.
- Chickpea Note: If using chickpeas you’ve cooked yourself from dry, they can sometimes have less moisture and therefore make the blended mix too dry. If it is not coming together before adding the oats, is too crumbly, add a smidgen of water – a teaspoon at a time until it just comes together. With canned chickpeas, you should not need to add extra water.
- Ingredients 411: I like these falafels soft and tender. Feel free to add another 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup of oats (and another pinch of salt) to make a little firmer. Serving Suggestions: Serve in pita with fixings, or on their own drizzled with tahini sauce (try Smoky Spiked Tahini Sauce or Peanut Tahini Sauce). Up the ante by making a falafel platter, including Quinoa Tabbouleh with Olives (shown in photo, also from LTEV), and roasted potatoes!
- Ingredients 411: I like the amount of smoked paprika at just a lightly rounded 1⁄4 teaspoon, but you can try adding more if you love the flavor. Try 1⁄2 teaspoon and see how it works for you.
- I always like a touch of sweetener in tahini sauce to offset the slight bitterness of the tahini. The amount you use depends on personal preference and also the brand of tahini used. Start with 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 teaspoon, and add more if needed.
- Serving Suggestions: This sauce is an absolute must as part of a falafel dinner platter. Serve alongside Panfried Falafel Patties, Quinoa Tabbouleh with Olives, and whole-grain pita bread. So satisfying and delicious! This sauce will also add a punch of flavor to wrap sandwiches and roasted vegetables.