One of the best ways to get me excited about a salad (especially when it's cold and dreary out) is to add a falafel!
Falafels are typically deep fried balls of chickpeas, spices, and herbs. They are often served at greek restaurants on top of a bed of romaine lettuce and tzatziki sauce, or in a big pita wrap.
They became a favorite of mine when I first started experimenting with vegetarianism. I would often find myself at a food court or airport, not having any clue what I could order without meat and still enjoy. I quickly got tired of quesadillas, and though I could never tire of pizza, I knew I needed to figure something out that was a notch healthier. I discovered falafels and I was hooked!
Now, usually falafels are deep fried, which isn't something I would consider real, whole, or clean food. Making these puppies at home ups the nutritional content exponentially. And with this recipe, we heat them in a pan with a little oil- no deep frying allowed! (I mean you can deep fry them instead, if you must.) They have lots of real foods, like chickpeas, which are loaded with fiber and are a perfect combo of carbs + protein. They also have lots of greens- my fave! Cilantro and parsley are both great for the gut and have dexofiying properties. There is a smidgen of flour, but I used an oat flour which is gluten free and it worked perfectly!
I must say (in bold letters) THIS RECIPE TAKES A BIT OF PLANNING. It calls for dried chickpeas (which you can find in the bulk section of most grocery stores) that need to be soaked for 12 hours, or overnight. Canned chickpeas just don't work as well. And after soaking, they need to be drained and laid out on a paper towel for about an hour to dry.
But once the chickpeas are taken care of they are super easy to make! And the best part is that you can double the batch, freeze half, and cook them up whenever you feel like a falafel! Whoop! Totally worth a little planning, IMO.
This is a falafel salad recipe, but obviously, falafels are good with so many things. Pair with rice and baked veggies for a nice rounded out meal. Throw them in a tortilla or pita with a few pieces of lettuce and tomatoes for an on-the-go option. Or have them solo with a little of the dressing recipe below as a dip for an exciting new snack!
Whatever you do with your new, homemade falafels, I hope you enjoy!
Homemade Falafel Salad Recipe
This makes about 2 dozen falafels. I strongly encourage you to double and freeze half!
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas (same thing as garbanzo beans)
1/2 onion, cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper
1 large handful cilantro
1 large handful parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons oat flour (or flour of choice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
Olive oil or avocado oil
Falafel Salad Dressing
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Salad Ingredients- For 1 salad
Large bunch of greens of your choice, washed and chopped (I like romaine)
1 tablespoon pinenuts, toasted
5-8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1/8 cup kalamata olives
Sprinkle of feta cheese
Rinse chickpeas and place in a large bowl. Cover with water so that there is 2 inches of water above the top of the chickpeas. Leave on the counter and let soak over night, or for 12 hours. (Make sure to check that the chickpeas are covered with water the entire time.)
Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Lay out a long paper towel and lay the chickpeas on the paper towel. Let them air dry for an hour.
Place the onion, garlic, and pepper in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the parsley and cilantro and process until they are combined and chopped. Add the chickpeas to the processor and process until it is all combined and the mixture sticks together when forming balls.
Place the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the remainder of the falafel ingredients except for the oil and mix well until completely combined.
Cover a large plate or baking sheet with parchment paper. Using your hands, make about 1 1/2 inch wide patties (patties cook more evenly than balls) from the mixture and place on the parchment paper. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. Place the plate in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Place patties on the pan so that they each have their own space on the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan (if you have a lid) and fry until the bottom gets golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Flip the patties and repeat on the second side. Continue until all the falafels are cooked!
Whisk together all of the salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Plate all of the salad ingredients, top with dressing and falafels, and enjoy!
If you are interested in freezing the falafels, follow directions through step 5. Once they have been frozen on a plate for about an hour, you can transfer them to a bag or container and place back in the freezer.
Vegan Option- Omit the feta cheese. Omit the greek yogurt in the dressing- it is still really good! Or you could add hummus in place of the greek yogurt.
Meal Prepping Tip- Portion out all of the salad ingredients into containers. Place the dressing in small containers for each salad. Cook up the falafels and then place in microwavable containers. When ready to eat, dump the dressing onto the salad, replace the lid and shake so that the dressing disperses evenly. Heat falafels in the microwave or stove (if you have access to one) and top salad with them.