This cozy & flavorful falafel sandwich is packed with cucumbers, lettuce, pickled onions, and tomatoes in warm pita bread. It’s finished with a tangy lemon tahini dressing.
This dish is super satiating but not too heavy, thanks to baked or air fried falafel.
Falafel pita sandwiches are a well-known & beloved Middle Eastern street food. Their popularity is wildly understandable.
You’ve got hearty, protein-packed falafel along with cool & crunchy vegetables in warm pita pockets.
(They give new meaning to the excited phrase that’s usually reserved for dresses. “It’s got pockets!”)
Usually falafel is made with dried chickpeas that have to soak for a long while before breaking them down in the food processor & then frying.
However, I like to use canned chickpeas for less planning ahead. That’s very convenient when the urge for falafel suddenly strikes!
Then I cook them in the air fryer or oven.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this falafel sandwich recipe.
Pita bread: Pita is the envelope for this sandwich. You can find it at most grocery stores.
For the best pita experience, look for local brands that are made fresh daily.
Romaine lettuce: Mild romaine is the nest that all of the other veg sits atop. It fills out the pocket without any bitterness.
Cucumbers: Cucumbers add freshness & crunch. They can also be replaced in full or in part with homemade or jarred pickles.
Cherry tomatoes: They add color and sweetness. Plus, they are less apt to make pita pockets wet than standard chopped tomatoes.
Pickled red onions: This briny veg offers vibrant pink color as well as tang. Replace with chopped yellow onion if you prefer.
Air fryer falafel (or oven baked): The main event in this pita sandwich is beautifully golden brown, homemade falafel.
They are easy to make, thanks to canned chickpeas. No soaking or pre-planning required!
The air-fried version is ready in just 30 minutes. Baked falafel takes about 10 minutes more.
Cilantro: This fresh leafy garnish is full of vibrant herbaceousness. It complements the cooked cilantro in the falafel.
Tahini sauce: This easy, 4-ingredient dressing ties everything together.
Step by step instructions
Make a batch of falafel in the air fryer or oven.
Make lemon tahini dressing with:
- Lemon juice
Warm the pita bread in the oven, stovetop, microwave, or air fryer.
Then cut the pita bread in half using kitchen shears or a knife.
Open the pita pockets.
Stuff with the following toppings:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Pickled red onions
Drizzle with lemon tahini dressing.
Make it your own
You can make this easy lunch or dinner your own by varying the ingredients.
Vary the bread
- Instead of cutting the pita in half, cut closer to the top & fill the whole thing.
- Don’t cut the bread at all & use it more like a wrap.
- Instead of pita bread, use lavash or any vegan flatbread you enjoy. (Other flatbreads don’t have a pocket. So don’t cut in half.)
- You could even make the sandwich on a hoagie roll or wrap in a tortilla.
Vary the fillings
- Instead of falafel, use vegan chick’n strips, roasted cauliflower, or roasted chickpeas. (I’m especially fond of roasting canned Greek chickpeas from Trader Joe’s.)
- Instead of romaine, use spinach, mixed greens, or arugula.
- Instead of plain cucumbers, use pickles.
- Instead of tomatoes & cucumbers, use tomato cucumber salad.
- Instead of cilantro, use other fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or mint.
Add more toppings
- Add crumbled vegan feta cheese.
- Add a generous dollop of plain hummus, dill pickle hummus, or baba ganoush.
- Add kalamata olives for briny, salty goodness.
- Add sliced avocado or guacamole.
- Add pickled jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce for heat.
This pita sandwich comes together even more quickly using some store-bought shortcuts.
- Instead of homemade falafel, use boxed falafel mix or frozen falafel.
- Instead of lemon tahini dressing, finish with a dollop of vegan tzatziki. (Trader Joe’s carries one in their refrigerated section. You can see a pic in my list of favorite vegan Trader Joe’s products.)
Can it be made gluten free?
Make this dish gluten free by using your preferred gluten free flatbread.
Or enjoy the fillings in a falafel bowl instead. It includes brown rice instead of bread.
Falafel sandwiches can be a full meal on their own.
Or enjoy them with any of these side dishes:
- Baked french fries
- Baked or air fried onion rings
- Lemony potatoes
- Grilled vegetable skewers
- Warmed Castelvetrano olives
How to store leftovers
Wrap any leftover pita pockets in plastic wrap. Or put them in a resealable storage bag.
They will last about 3 days in the refrigerator.
You can enjoy them cold straight out of the refrigerator. Or pull out the falafel & reheat it separately.
Reheat falafel in the air fryer by cooking at 360 degrees for about five minutes or until warmed throughout.
If you like, finish leftover pita pockets with a fresh drizzling of lemon tahini dressing.
Leftover tahini dressing will keep in an airtight covered container in the refrigerator for 5 days.
It will thicken as it cools. So when you’re ready to use it again, add a splash of water and/or lemon juice and stir until it reaches your preferred viscosity. If needed, add another pinch of salt.
Falafel sandwich in a pita pocket
- Cut warmed pita in half using kitchen shears or a knife. (If you're using a different type of flatbread, don't cut it. Just use it like a wrap.)
- Open the pita pockets with your fingers. Stuff each pocket with chopped romaine, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled red onions, about 3 falafel, and cilantro.
- Finish each pocket with a drizzling of lemon tahini dressing.
- To heat in the oven, bake at 325 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes.
- To heat in a skillet, warm for a couple minutes on each side.
- To heat in the air fryer, cook at 360 degrees for about 4 minutes, stopping halfway through to flip the pita bread.
- To heat in the microwave, warm for about 30 seconds, stopping halfway through to flip.