Air fryer falafel is a delicious, protein-packed addition to salads, wraps, bowls, and pita sandwiches. Thanks to canned chickpeas & the air fryer (or oven), homemade falafel is ready in less time than takeout. Vegan and gluten free.
Whenever I go out to my favorite Mediterranean restaurant, falafel is the star of the show.
Beautifully crisp & satiating, they take an already delicious lunch of hummus, pita, and salad, and take it up a notch.
But when I don’t feel like going out, I like to make falafel at home with simplified ingredients, cooking times, and some low fuss cooking methods.
Enter canned chickpeas & the air fryer or oven.
Falafel gets beautifully browned and crispy on the outside in the air fryer or oven, while the inside stays tender.
Traditionally, falafel is made by soaking dried chickpeas in water for 8 to 12 hours. Then the chickpeas are broken down with seasonings. Finally, they’re shaped into balls and deep-fried.
My method isn’t traditional, but it’s still delicious and satisfying.
It doesn’t take any pre-planning. No soaking. There’s no oil bubbling on the stove.
And it’s ready in half an hour. That’s less time than it would take to run to my favorite restaurant and place an order.
What is falafel?
Falafel is a Middle Eastern dish that’s popular in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey.
It’s made with mashed chickpeas (or fava beans) that are formed into balls, discs, or fritters, and fried.
The first time I served this Middle Eastern street food to my mom, I described it as hush puppies but with chickpeas instead of corn.
Falafel could also be described as a chickpea veggie burger that’s served as a ball instead of a patty.
However you describe them, they’re delicious balls of goodness that add zip & crunch to a meal. They make any lunch or dinner a little more fun.
Falafel is also popular amongst vegetarians and vegans, because the main ingredient in it is garbanzo beans. That makes falafel a substantive, protein-packed addition to salads, pita wraps, and rice bowls.
Here’s what you’ll need to make falafel in the air fryer or oven.
Canned chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) make up the bulk of this dish. Drain before using. Or use beans made from scratch & fully cooked.
Garlic & onions add savory bite & moisture that helps the falafel stick together. I typically use yellow onions, but any color/type will work here. Or use shallots for a milder flavor.
Cilantro adds herbaceous zing.
Don’t worry about pulling off the leaves from the stems. The stems have loads of flavor. Give the whole thing a rough chop, and add it to the food processor.
Cilantro can be replaced with an equal amount of parsley and/or fresh dill.
Lemon juice adds tang. It can be replaced with lime juice.
Hot sauce gives subtle heat. If you’d prefer, you can leave it out, or replace it with more lemon juice.
Chickpea flour is used for binding. (Also known as gram, besan, or garbanzo bean flour.)
This high protein flour can be found next to other flours in natural grocery stores. Or look for it at Indian grocery stores.
Using chickpea flour keeps this dish gluten free. However, it can be replaced with all-purpose flour if you’d prefer.
Cumin and coriander add earthy flavor.
Baking powder is used as a leavener. It keeps the falafel light and not too dense.
Olive oil & oil spray gives moisture & browning.
Salt brings it all together.
Step by step instructions
1. Put the following ingredients into the food processor:
- Drained chickpeas
- Chopped onions
- Minced garlic
- Chopped cilantro
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Hot sauce
2. Pulse several times. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides.
The falafel mixture should be fully combined & broken up. But it should be coarse, not smooth like hummus.
3. Put the mixture into a large mixing bowl along with:
- Chickpea flour
- Baking powder
Combine with a spoon. Then use your hands to finish mixing.
4. Roll the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball. Spray them with oil spray.
TO AIR FRY: Put the falafel balls into the air fryer basket.
Air fry at 370 degrees for 15 to 16 minutes, stopping halfway through to flip.
TO BAKE: Put the falafel balls on two parchment paper lined baking sheets.
Bake at 400 degrees for 24 to 28 minutes, stopping halfway through to flip.
How to use them
Oven baked or air fryer falafel is a delicious appetizer on its own with lemon tahini dressing as a dipping sauce.
Add falafel to any of these dishes:
- Double hummus wraps
- Brown rice bowl with cauliflower
- Tomato cucumber salad
- Veggie wraps (replace vegan chick’n with falafel)
Great for meal prep
Falafel is ideal for meal prep, because it can be enjoyed hot, cold, or at room temperature.
Make a batch on Sundays. Then eat it as a snack, add it to salads and wraps, or include it in an easy lunch with hummus & warm pita bread.
How to store & reheat
Keep any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3 or 4 days.
Reheat in the air fryer at 360 degrees for about 5 minutes or until fully warmed.
Air fryer falafel (or oven baked)
- 1 can (15 ounce) chickpeas drained and rinsed (1 ½ cups)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons chopped onion
- ½ cup loosely packed cilantro roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 3 to 4 Tablespoons chickpea flour
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Spritz oil spray
- Put the following into a food processor: drained chickpeas, minced garlic, chopped onion, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Pulse the food processor several times, stopping to scrape down the sides to get everything. The mixture should be fully combined and broken up, but not smooth like hummus. You want it to be coarse & mealy.
- Add the above mixture into a large mixing bowl along with 3 Tablespoons of chickpea flour, cumin, coriander, baking powder, and salt. Fully combine with a spoon until it is combined enough to use your hands. The mixture should be soft but firm enough that it can be rolled into balls. If it seems too wet, add an additional Tablespoon of chickpea flour.
- Form the mixture into 12 or 13 round, golf ball-sized balls. (The balls should be about 1 ½ inches in width.) Spray the falafel balls with oil spray.
- TO AIR FRY: Put the falafel balls into the air fryer. Air fry at 370 degrees for 15 to 16 minutes. Flip the balls halfway through when they are starting to look brown on the outside.
- TO BAKE: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, stopping once halfway through to flip with a spatula. When they're ready, they should be nicely browned.