Believe it or not, I had never even heard of falafel until my sophomore year of college.
I must have had a sheltered childhood (at least food-wise), because I had never tried, or even heard of, falafel before my semester abroad in college. Back then, I was not a vegetarian, but I was well into my healthy ways and ate a very plant-heavy diet. While traveling with some friends, we came across a falafel shop, complete with a toppings bar, and everyone seemed very excited about it. I, on the other hand, seemed very confused. How had I never heard of such a thing? And this is a staple among vegetarians? I told you, sheltered.
So of course I tried it and, obviously, I loved it! And that day marked the first of many falafel experiences, both out to eat and in my own kitchen. When I first tried to create my own falafel, I knew I wanted to bake them instead of frying them. I attempted a few versions, but most of them ended up being pretty bland and dry. I wanted to preserve the flavors and textures of a fried falafel, but I was really struggling to find a healthy recipe that did that.
Finally, I came up with this beauty! The magic, I’ve decided, is in the herbs. The addition of the large amounts of fresh cilantro and parsley keep this falafel flavorful AND healthy, while also maintaining a crunchy exterior with a moist interior. I also made my falafel gluten-free by substituting oat flour instead of whole wheat flour. It didn’t change the texture or taste one bit!
Now, we don’t eat dairy all that often in my house, but once in a while, we make some homemade tzatziki to go along side these delicious falafel. Because I made a salad this time, I turned my usual tzatziki recipe into a dressing by throwing it in the food processor with some olive oil… super easy! You just dump all the ingredients in together, blend, and you’ve got a creamy, tangy yogurt dressing. This adds the perfect creaminess to the crispy falafel! If you are vegan, I’ve also topped mine with a simple hummus dressing (hummus thinned out with water) or a homemade red wine vinaigrette (see my Autumn Quinoa Salad).
Hope you enjoy!