Falafel is a favorite topic of mine. These Egyptian and Middle Eastern fritters, made from chickpeas or fava beans (or a combination of the two), are traditionally deep-fried and served in a pita sandwich, as part of a meze (Middle Eastern tray of appetizers), or as a snack.
Confession time: I have an enormous weakness for falafel. If we go out to eat and it’s the menu, there’s really no point in looking any further because that’s what I will order. There’s a restaurant near our house that sells a Mediterranean salad topped with baked falafel that I love, but if I were to go there to order that salad as often as I crave it, it would most likely destroy our food budget, so I decided that it was time to come up with my own baked falafel recipe.
The problem with some falafel is that they get really dense. The problem with a lot of baked falafel is that they are really dry. So my mission for a baked falafel recipe was two-fold: a version that wasn’t dense or dry. My solutions? Making sure not to over process the falafel mixture in the food processor and the addition of a secret ingredient: part of a California Avocado. Over-processing the falafel mixture turns it into a dense paste which results in a dense falafel. Adding California Avocado adds moisture to the falafel as well as acting as a binder.
Making the falafel is easy. Just throw all the ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a cohesive, textured dough, then transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours to let it set up. Then scoop out tablespoons of the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly pat the dough down into small discs so that they bake more evenly, then bake them in a preheated oven.
The finished falafel won’t have brown exteriors like falafel that have been deep-fried. If you want more browning, you can always brush them with some oil during baking, but I like going without, since part of the point of making baked falafel is making them healthier, right? These falafel are very light and fluffy, and full of bright flavor from the mix of cilantro, parsley, and mint used in the dough. If you want your falafel to be a bit firmer, you can stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of oat flour into the dough before putting the dough into the refrigerator to rest.
Now you may be wondering, what do I do with the rest of my avocado, since we only use part of it in the falafel dough? The answer to this is actually my favorite part of this recipe. You use it to make a tahini dipping sauce to serve with the falafel.
The avocado makes the sauce incredibly creamy and smooth and adding fresh lemon juice makes all of the flavors pop and prevents the avocado from browning, so that you can whip this sauce up ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. If you’re not making falafel, and just want to make the sauce, go ahead and throw the whole avocado in. Or just add 3/4 of the avocado, like the recipe directs, and eat the remaining 1/4…nobody will judge you.
Baked Avocado Falafel with Avocado Lemon Tahini Sauce Recipe
Makes 2 – 3 servings
Ingredients For the Avocado Falafel (makes approximately 17 small falafel):
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1/4 large California Avocado, chopped
2/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
2/3 cup roughly chopped mint
6 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshy squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 – 2 tablespoons oat flour, if needed
Ingredients For the Avocado Lemon Tahini Sauce (makes approximately 1 1/3 cups sauce):
3/4 large California Avocado
1/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, more to taste
- Make the avocado falafel: Pulse all of the falafel ingredients in a food processor until combined. The mixture should form a textured dough, not a paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. If you want your falafel to a bit more dense/firm, or if the mixture is too wet to form into patties, stir in 1 tablespoons of oat flour at a time until the mixture is dry enough to handle.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours to chill and firm up. You can skip this step, but the falafel will be more fragile when cooking.
- When you are ready to bake the falafel, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of the chilled mixture (I used a 1 tablespoon scoop) onto a parchment lined baking sheet and use your fingers to gently pat them down until they are approximately ½-inch thick (or slightly more).
- Bake the falafel in the preheated oven for 22 minutes, then gently flip the falafel over. If they won’t flip bake them for several more minutes and then try again. Bake them for additional 8 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes of baking time, then remove them from the oven and let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
- Make the avocado lemon tahini sauce: Process all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Add additional warm water if you want a thinner sauce. Transfer to a glass container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Serve with the baked avocado falafel!