Healthy Falafel

For those of you who have never tried falafel, you’re definitely missing out. What is falafel? It’s a traditionally deep-fried chickpea ball or patty that is a Middle Eastern delicacy. While chickpeas themselves are very nutritious, providing good doses of plant-protein, fiber, and minerals such as iron, potassium, and magnesium, deep-fried falafel may not be so healthy.

This recipe originally called for pan-frying the falafel, which turn out better if they are formed into thinner patties rather than balls. The falafel can also be oven-baked to minimize oil.

With my recent discovery of an air-fryer, I’ve found that this method of preparation results in the best texture (crispy on the outside and soft in the middle), in the shortest amount of time (they cook in about 10 minutes), and with the least amount of mess (which is all contained within the fryer).

My delicious air-fried falafel sandwich with whole wheat pita, baba ganoush, cucumbers, and tomatoes

Falafel sandwiches are traditionally served on a pita and topped with tahini sauce. This is tahini paste (made from sesame seeds) mixed with water, lemon, and garlic. If you mix these same ingredients with roasted eggplant (and maybe add some smoked paprika), you get a delicious baba ganoush spread. I also like to top my sandwich chopped tomato, cucumber, and red onions.


  • 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs or panko
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg (or flax egg to make vegan. This is 1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons water).
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (my favorite is Whole Foods 365 brand because they are organic and BPA free, and only cost $1.00)
  • Olive oil (optional for pan frying or brushing on top of falafels for air frying)
  • Optional: Tahini, lemon, garlic, salt (for tahini sauce), eggplant and smoked paprika (for baba ganoush), chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions (for topping), and pita bread (preferably whole wheat or multi-grain (I like Joseph’s brand)


  • Place first 8 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth
  • Form into small balls or patties (1-inch)
  • If pan-frying, brush a (preferably nonstick) skillet with oil (olive or avocado). Heat over medium heat and and cook falafel patties for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. If cooking in oven, preheat to 350 degrees. Place falafel patties on a baking sheet covered with nonstick foil or parchment paper, and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown (flip over half-way so both sides get browned). If air frying, preheat fryer to 400 degrees. Arrange falafel balls in the basket with some room between each to allow circulation. Cook for 10-12 minutes until brown. (Optional: can lightly brush with oil prior to cooking which makes falafel more crispy).

There are various recipes for baba ganoush. I roasted a whole medium eggplant for an hour at 350 degrees and scooped the flesh into a bowl. I then mixed the juice of one small lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/4 cup tahini paste. Can also add red pepper flakes for heat. All seasonings can be adjusted to taste. Tahini sauce alone can also be made by mixing the above ingredients without eggplant, although I’d suggest using 1/2 lemon and adding 1/4 cup of water (or more to desired consistency).