Yes, you can make falafel on a weeknight! These lightened-up pan fried falafel are easy to prepare but are packed with flavor. You can even cook them ahead and freeze them, perfect for quick lunches or dinners! Go straight to the recipe.

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Pan fried falafel

This week marks the launch of my new class, Plant Based Meals, on NBC Universal’s new streaming platform, Bluprint (formerly Craftsy)!! I’m so excited about this class, which features vibrant, delicious and nutritious recipes that use fresh vegetables, whole grains and beans as their star. Don’t go thinking the dishes might be bland or boring—these are some of my family’s favorite meals. From quick sweet potato and beet burgers, to a comforting (but healthy!) chili millet bake that’s reminiscent of cornbread casserole, to chickpea waffles, to two brand new recipes from my new book, Build-a-Bowl, including these falafel!

While I’m not a vegetarian, my family eats mostly plant-based meals during the week. Not only do I truly love vegetables (check out my last class, Vegetables for Every Season!), but eating plant-based is also better for the environment and our wallets. We try to buy local or organic meats, which come with a (rightfully) high price-tag. For us, they’re therefore usually reserved for the weekends, or as an accent to a meal. My Plant Based cooking class showcases five of my favorite weeknight vegetarian meals. These are dishes that Ella and Juniper devour, and I offer variations to accommodate picky eaters (ahem, like said daughters), as well as different tastes and tolerances.

Easy pan fried falafel

Back to those falafel. They’re made with canned chickpeas and a heap of fresh herbs right in the food processor, meaning they come together easily. The patties are pan-fried until golden and crisp with an ultra tender center. A creamy (but dairy free) tahini sauce takes them over-the-top, although a drizzle of yogurt or spoonful of hummus would also be delicious. You can serve the falafel over whole grains as I do in Build-a-Bowl, or you can eat them over salad greens or stuffed into pita bread (that’s what the girls prefer). No matter which way they end up on a plate or in a bowl, a few fresh toppings, such as chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and feta, provide contrast and texture.

Falafel tips

  • Patting the chickpeas dry before adding them to the food processor helps them keep their texture instead of processing to a puree (which would result in a heavy falafel).
  • You can either use almond or oat flour—almond flour will give the falafel a lighter, slightly crumblier texture while oat flour will be a bit heartier. If you don’t have almond or oat flour at home you can make your own by blending old-fashioned rolled oats or raw almonds in a food processor or high-speed blender until finely ground.
  • The falafel patties can be prepped the day before and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them, or you can completely cook them off. Once cooked, let them cool then freeze them in between layers of parchment or wax paper. From there all they need is a quick stint in a toaster oven before eating.

You can cook the falafel right alongside me in my Plant Based Cooking class; check out the trailer below!

*All photos by the amazing team at Bluprint!

Watch the trailer!

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Quick Pan-Fried Falafel with Tahini Sauce

Adapted from Build-a-Bowl: 77 Satisfying & Nutritious Combos: Whole Grain + Vegetable + Protein + Sauce = Meal (Storey Publishing 2018), By Nicki Sizemore.

Homemade falafel on a weeknight? In under an hour? Yes you can! These easy falafel are made with canned chickpeas and a heap of fresh herbs right in the food processor. The falafel patties are pan-fried until golden and crisp then served with a velvety, dairy-free tahini sauce. You can serve them in pita bread or over grains or even salad greens. The falafel can be made with either oat or almond flour—oat flour creates slightly denser falafel, but they’re easier to flip, while the almond flour falafel will be a bit lighter but crumblier.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword easy falafel recipe, pan fried falafel, quick falafel
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4
Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

Tahini sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ cup well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Falafel

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup lightly packed parsley
  • 1 cup lightly packed cilantro
  • 1 scallion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 15- ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oat or almond flour
  • 4-6 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil, such as grapeseed

For serving

  • Pita bread, cooked grains or lightly dressed salad greens
  • Chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and thinly sliced red onion
  • Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Instructions

Make the sauce

  1. Drop the garlic clove into a food processor with the blade running. Add the tahini and lemon juice, and season with salt. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. With the blade running, slowly pour the water through the feed tube. Scrape the sides and bottom of the work bowl, and process again until the mixture is light and creamy. Season with salt to taste.

Make the falafel

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the garlic cloves into a food processor with the blade running. Add the parsley, cilantro and scallion. Process until the herbs are finely chopped. Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, cumin and tahini. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until the chickpeas are finely chopped and sticky, about 20 pulses—you should still see little chickpea chunks (you’re not going for a puree).
  2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and gently fold in the oat or almond flour. Season with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 12 patties (they should be about 2-inches wide and ½-inch thick). Place the patties on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange half of the falafel in the pan, leaving plenty of space in between each. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and season with salt. Pour in another 1 to 2 tablespoons oil (as needed) and repeat with the remaining falafel.

Serve

  1. Serve the falafel in pita bread, or over whole grains or over lightly dressed salad greens. Drizzle with the tahini sauce and garnish with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced red onion and a sprinkle of feta cheese (if using).

Recipe Notes

  • The tahini sauce can sit, covered, at room temperature for up to 6 hours, or it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving (if needed, thin it with another 1 to 2 tablespoons of water).
  • The uncooked falafel can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.
  • The cooked falafel can be frozen between pieces of parchment or wax paper. Reheat in a toaster oven until warmed through.

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