Is falafel gluten-free? There are 3 reasons why the answer is no: flour can be an ingredient, it is served with wheat flour-based pita bread, or cross-contaminated during deep frying. But if you want to be 100% sure, try our crispy gluten-free falafel recipe which uses no flour at all.
Do you need more ideas to serve with falafel? Take a look at these gorgeous falafel sandwiches or these delicious falafel gyros in pita bread. Not to mention we show you how to build the ultimate falafel platter.
Is falafel gluten-free?
Falafels served in restaurants or out of food trucks most likely are not gluten-free. Why? I give you 3 reasons:
- The falafel mixture sometimes contains wheat flour or all-purpose flour as a binder. Some recipes may use chickpea flour or some kind of starch. But you cannot be sure which one unless you ask.
- Even if there are no gluten-containing ingredients, restaurants probably deep fry them in oil which is likely contaminated since they use the same oil to deep fry other non-gluten-free dishes.
- Last but not least, falafel balls are usually served with pita bread. And that is almost never ever gluten-free. Depending on the restaurant you may be able to ask to be served as part of a falafel platter where you can choose not to use pita bread. I mean provided the flour and the cross-contamination I explained above is not relevant.
In any case, the safest for anyone having coeliac or gluten sensitivity is to try making real gluten-free falafels at home. And I give you the perfect recipe to do just that.
What to expect from this recipe?
Falafel is a typical Middle Eastern vegetarian dish albeit its origins are under debate. It appears to be that the original ingredient was fava beans and not chickpeas which is how it may have gotten its name. So does an authentic version exist? Not really. Since all these cuisines were falafel appeared changed the ingredients a bit. Some used another type of legumes and some used other herbs and spices. What we know today is that it gained popularity over the years and you can find falafel stalls in lots of countries.
If there is no exact recipe, then what can you expect this gluten-free falafel to taste like?
- Since chickpeas are not pureed, the texture of falafel is quite grainy and crumbly on the inside.
- The most popular way to make them is deep frying which gives falafel a crunchy and crispy shell.
- It is mildly spiced since fresh herbs are more important than any other seasoning.
- Chickpeas are quite neutral in taste. Falafel does have a slightly nutty flavor, but you can’t really tell what it is made of.
- Falafel balls are always accompanied by a juicy dip or sauce or dressing otherwise they are too dry on their own.
While it is certainly not a 3-ingredient recipe, you don’t need a lot of things to make them. All the below ingredients are usually in your pantry or easily available anywhere. Here are 10 ingredients to make a crispy vegan gluten-free falafel.
- Dried chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) – Don’t use canned or cooked chickpeas. They will turn to mush after adding them to a food processor. If you do that you will lose the texture of classic falafel. This recipe typically uses soaked but uncooked chickpeas.
- Onion – We recommend red onion purely for color. A purple onion will make the expected color a bit off.
- Fresh parsley – This falafel recipe will not work with dried ground herbs. Fresh leaves have the best flavor not to mention you only get the vibrant green color if you use them.
- Fresh cilantro (aka coriander leaves) – The same goes here.
- Sesame seeds – It is an optional ingredient, but it gives an additional subtle nutty flavor. It also makes the falafel balls lovely.
- Black pepper
- Baking soda – You need just a pinch really to make sure that it is fluffy inside.
- Cold water
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Preparing the ingredients
- Soak dry chickpeas in cold water overnight. No cooking is needed. Drain them before using them.
- Wash and chop the leaves off parsley and cilantro.
- Peel garlic clove.
- Wash and roughly chop an onion.
- Measure all other ingredients.
Making the falafel mixture
- Use a food processor and add chopped onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, black pepper, cumin, baking soda, and water.
- Pulse them until the mixture got a creamy, grainy but not completely pureed texture.
- Take a large bowl and empty the food processor into it. Add sesame seeds and mix them well.
- Chill the falafel mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour. It is easier to form balls like that.
- Use a spoon or your palms and form balls out of the chilled mixture.
- Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Add sunflower oil or coconut oil (not olive oil, but something that is high-heat resistant and suitable for deep frying).
- Gently place a couple of balls in the hot oil. Don’t drop it as hot oil can splash up and can cause blisters. Don’t overcrowd the pan as well.
- Fry them for approx. 5 minutes. Fried balls should be brown but not burnt and vibrant green in the middle like in the below picture. We usually place them on a paper towel to capture any excess oil.
- Use a spoon or your palms and form patties rather than balls since flat patties are easier to flip and fry on all sides.
- Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add sunflower oil or coconut oil (not olive oil, but something that is high-heat resistant and suitable for deep frying).
- Gently place a couple of patties. Don’t overcrowd the pan. You should have enough place to flip them easily with a slotted turner.
- Pan fry them for approx. 2-3 minutes on both sides. Fried patties should be brown with a greenish unfried part like a ribbon around the side. We usually place them on a paper towel to capture any excess oil.
Top tips to make it perfectly
- Baked vs fried – There is a huge difference between baking and frying. The latter gives you a much crispier and crunchier shell for the falafels. In the oven, even if you spray it with some oil will not be the same. And you may end up with really dry falafel balls.
- Can you skip the chilling time? – We did skip it when we were short on time and this gluten-free falafel mixture was quite delicate and soft to work with. We needed to handle it very gently to form the balls. They didn’t fall apart during deep frying though. So all in all, you can try skipping the chilling, but it will be harder to work with.
- Canned vs dried chickpeas – I cannot highlight enough that the texture will be completely different if you try using canned or cooked chickpeas. You can probably see the difference better if you take a look at our chickpea meatballs.
- Deep frying 101 – The oil has to be hot. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Don’t drop the balls to avoid splashing. Place the fried balls in a paper towel to soak up any extra oil.
- We love to serve them as a falafel sandwich with this maple dijon tahini dressing. It is a quick 5-minute no-cook sauce that is nutty, a little bit tart, but still sweet.
- Although we often change it up and use this lemon herb tahini sauce just to make things interesting.
- You can serve them as falafel gyros with a light yogurt-based tzatziki.
- Or make the ultimate falafel platter (pictured below) or a Mediterranean grazing board with a variety of dips, sauces, salads, veggies, crackers, and so on.
- Serve it with your favorite hummus. We have recipes for oil-free hummus, beet hummus, harissa hummus, and roasted red pepper hummus. Even one where we make hummus without tahini.
We also have a whole list of creative ideas you can serve with hummus. Since falafel and hummus are a must-have pairing, you can go and choose one or more out of those 16 ideas as well.
FAQs and substitutions
How to store it?
You can store the gluten-free falafels in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 3-4 days. It will lose its crispy outer crust the next day though. You can pop them back in the oven to make them crispy again. Reheating them in a microwave will not do that.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, you can store them in a freezer. It is a perfect recipe for batch booking. We don’t recommend freezing the un-fried balls as excess moisture can ruin the texture after thawing. Re-heat them in the oven to make them crunchy and crispy again.
This Gluten-free Falafel recipe is meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.
- Vegan – All ingredients are supposed to be vegan.
- Nut-free – All ingredients are supposed to be nut-free. Check for cross-contamination issues in any products you buy.
- WFPB-friendly (whole foods plant-based) – This recipe is oil-free if you bake the falafels or use an air fryer.
- Gluten-free – Baking soda is one of the ingredients you should watch out for as not all baking soda brands are gluten-free. All other ingredients are supposed to be gluten-free, but always check the packaging for cross-contamination info. Serve them in gluten-free pita bread.
- Soy-free – All ingredients are supposed to be soy-free.
More vegan chickpea recipes
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Crispy Falafel (Gluten-free, Vegan)
How to make homemade falafel?
- Soak dry chickpeas in cold water overnight. Don't cook them.
- Drain them and add them to a food processor. Add peeled and roughly chopped onion, peeled garlic cloves, parsley, cilantro, salt, black pepper, cumin, baking soda, and water.
- Blend until you got a creamy but not completely pureed texture.
- Take a large bowl and empty the food processor into it. Chill the falafel mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour. This is easier to form a ball after that.
- Use a spoon or your palms and form balls or patties out of the chilled mixture.
- Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Add sunflower oil or coconut oil (something that is high-heat resistant and suitable for deep frying).
- Gently place the balls in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry them for approx. 5 minutes. They should be brown but not burnt and vibrant green in the middle.