Crispy, crunchy, tangy, this Falafel Salad has it all! Crackling, lightly-fried falafel sit atop refreshing lettuce, cucumbers, punchy red onions, and arugula then drizzled with a creamy lemon-tahini dressing. Vegan and gluten-free!
I’ve had my ups and downs with homemade falafel. I’ve tried making them from a boxed mix, from canned garbanzo beans, and from dried and never been able to make them as good as the ones I get from our local Mediterranean market that are soooooo good.
They either totally fall apart or are too mushy or gummy. Or they are crispy on the outside but still not cooked in the middle. Anyone else had these issues?
But after many, many, many tests, I think I’ve finally figured out the secret to really great falafel. Keep reading for all my tips and give them a try. I’m excited for you to dive into this recipe and let me know what you think.
Once you make your ultra-crispy but still soft and fluffy falafel the best way to enjoy them is in a falafel salad on top of a bed of fresh veggies with tangy tahini dressing and warm wedges of soft pita. For me, the interplay of the warm-from-the-fryer falafel and the cold salad is everything.
What is Falafel?
If you are unfamiliar with the wonderful world of falafel, let me convince you why you want to make this recipe. Falafel are lightly-fried patties made from garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), spices, onions, and herbs. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein.
Falafel is an ancient food dating back to biblical times eaten in Egypt and Syria and, to this day, as The New York Times describes, is a contested food between the Palestinians and Israelis.
A good falafel is crunchy on the outside and fluffy and moist on the inside. They are perfumed with warm spices like cumin and coriander and get their green color from the addition of herbs like parsley.
- Dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Yellow onion
- Ground coriander
- Ground cumin
- Cayenne powder
- Baking soda
- Italian parsley
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Grapeseed oil or mild olive oil, not extra virgin
- Persian cucumbers
- Kalamata olives
- Baby gem lettuce or Romaine lettuce
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red onion
- Pita bread
How To Make This Recipe
Soak the dried garbanzos. The day before you want to have falafel you need to soak the garbanzos in water. Place them in a large bowl and cover by 3 inches with water. Leave on the counter to soak overnight.
Make the tahini sauce. Combine tahini, lemon juice, the garlic clove, parsley, water, and the tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed. Pour into a container and set aside while you prepare the falafel and salad.
Chef’s tip: If you feel confidant that you are pretty fast, you can also do steps 2 and 3 while the falafel are chilling in the refrigerator.
Prep the salad ingredients. Wash and dry the lettuce, cut the veggies, and prep everything you need for the salad.
Drain. Drain the garbanzos, but save the water. You will only need a couple of tablespoons but this starchy water is one of the keys to getting the falafel to stick together and not fall apart.
Blend. Combine drained garbanzos, onion, garlic, cumin, baking soda, coriander, cayenne, lemon juice, parsley, the teaspoon of salt, and pepper in two batches in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
Pulse. Pulse mixture in 2-second pulses until a crumbly mixture forms. Add a tablespoon of the reserved water, scrape down the sides of the food processor, and keep pulsing until the mixture holds together easily when you squeeze a handful and has a bit smaller than cooked couscous consistency. Don’t process so long that it becomes a paste. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and repeat with the second batch of ingredients.
Form into patties and refrigerate. Scoop the falafel mixture into heaping tablespoon-sized balls (I used this cookie scoop). You can then roll them into round balls or flatten into patties like I did. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or even overnight. If you are going to do overnight, loosely cover with plastic wrap.
Fry. Line a baking sheet with paper towel and keep close. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Give oil a few minutes to heat up. You’ll know it is ready when a wood chopstick inserted in the oil is immediately covered in bubbles. It should be about 350°F if you have a deep fry thermometer.
Add a few falafel to the oil at a time—do not crowd. Let fry until golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, another 3 minutes. If the falafel is cooking quicker than this, lower the heat. You need to give it the 3 minutes or so to cook all the way through. If it is taking longer, raise the heat.
Remove with a slotted spoon to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and repeat with remaining falafel. You can keep them warm in a low oven if needed.
Toast the pita. Warm the pita until lightly toasted on both sides on a griddle or dry frying pan. Wrap in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.
Assemble falafel salad bowl. Divide and layer the torn lettuce and arugula, then arrange the cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, and sliced avocado around the bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper (especially avocado and tomatoes). Top with falafel and parsley and drizzle the tahini lemon dressing over top (you may not need all). Cut pita into wedges and add a few to each bowl. Enjoy immediately while falafel and pita are still warm.
If You Love This Recipe, Try…
- Vinegar and Spice Baked Baby Back Ribs
- Blueberry and Lemon Verbena Popsicles
- Zucchini Pasta with Pine Nuts and Mint
- Double Pork Pork Burgers
- Blueberry Buttermilk Popsicles
- Tofu and Asparagus Stir Fry
- Vegan Pesto Pasta with Green Beans
Perfectly Executed Falafel Salad
Can be yours at home! When you make them, let me know how it went by leaving a comment below! Share a photo and tag me on Instagram using @katesbestrecipes so that I can see (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating)! Also, sign up for my weekly recipe newsletter so you never miss a thing.
Falafel Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
For the Falafel
- 1 3/4 cup dried garbanzo beans
- 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/2 small yellow onion, quartered
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 2 cups Grapeseed oil for frying, or vegetable oil
For the Lemon Tahini Sauce
- 5 ounces baby gem lettuce or Romaine hearts, washed, dried, and torn (about 1 small head Romaine)
- 2 cups arugula, washed and dried
- 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 large ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 4-6 pieces pita bread, toasted and quartered
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
For the falafel:
- Soak beans overnight. Place beans in a large container and cover by 3 to 4 inches with water; they will triple in size. Let soak overnight, add more water if necessary.
- Combine in food processor. Drain beans, saving the soaking water. Working in 2 batches, place half the beans in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add half the parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, cumin, salt, coriander, pepper, baking soda, and cayenne.
- Grind into falafel mixture. Pulse in 2 second pulses until all ingredients are minced and mixture comes together, but doesn't form a paste. Stop motor occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl and add reserved soaking water a tablespoon at a time if necessary to get a nice mixture that holds together easily when you squeeze a handful. Repeat with remaining falafel ingredients.
- Shape and chill. Scoop into balls with a cookie scoop and leave as round balls or shape into 2-inch patties and set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. If chilling overnight, cover loosely with plastic wrap. While falafel are chilling, make the tahini sauce and prep the salad ingredients.
- Heat oil. Pour oil in a large cast iron skillet or frying pan until it reaches an inch up the sides of the pan. Heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F on a deep fat fry thermometer or until a wooden chopstick inserted in the oil is immediately covered with bubbles. This can take up to 5 minutes to heat.
- Fry. Add patties a few at a time and let fry until browned on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side. (If they are browning too quickly reduce heat or raise the heat if not fast enough.) Remove from oil to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining patties.
- Enjoy! Continue with instructions to make the salad. You can also serve the falafel on their own with the tahini sauce as an appetizer or make into a sandwich by tucking them into a toasted pita or lavash with some lettuce, cucumbers and olives and a drizzle of sauce on top.
For the tahini-lemon dressing
- Puree. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until smooth, start with 1/4 cup of water adding more water if necessary to make into a pourable dressing. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if needed .
For the falafel salad
- Assemble falafel salad bowl. Divide and layer the torn lettuce and arugula, then arrange the cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, and sliced avocado around the bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper (especially avocado and tomatoes). Top with falafel and parsley and drizzle the tahini lemon dressing over top (you may not need all). Cut pita into wedges and add a few to each bowl. Serve with extra lemon wedges for squeezing. Enjoy immediately while falafel and pita are still warm.
- Tahini sauce: If you don’t feel like making the tahini-lemon dressing, stir together equal parts tahini and yogurt then add a few generous dashes of hot sauce. Taste and season with salt.
- Tahini: Look for tahini in a plastic jar. You should be able to squeeze the outside of the container incorporating the hard tahini that sits at the bottom into the oil at the top. Shake until it is smooth before measuring.
- Flour: Many falafel recipes call for flour or cornstarch for holding the falafel together but this makes them mushy and gummy. Don’t be tempted to add it. If your falafel are not holding together, pulse the mixture longer and add another tablespoon of the soaking liquid.
- Baking soda: This is a controversial ingredient but I believe it makes the falafel fluffy and light.
- Make ahead: You can make and shape the falafel up to a day in advance then fry when you are ready to eat. Tahini dressing can be made up to a week in advance.
In support of this small business, Kate’s Best Recipes earns revenue in a few different ways. Several sponsored posts are published each month. I also earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products I link to— there are a few of those links in this post. I only feature items I genuinely love and personally use on a regular basis. This commission is an arrangement between the retailer and Kate’s Best Recipes (readers never pay more for products). This income allows me to run the site. Thank you for reading!