Baked Falafel Bowls: Baked falafel (chickpea patties), cukes, tomatoes, feta, hummus, and tzatziki sauce piled high on top of a bed of nutty, chewy farro, this weeknight meal will be on your table in under 30 minutes!
Have you ever had falafel? And if you haven’t, do you know what falafel even is? Well whether or not, let’s dive a bit into what falafel is while I introduce you to the ultimate baked falafel bowls today.
OK, a little backstory first. This shouldn’t be a surprise, right? I’m all about the backstory!
About 10 years ago, a work friend and colleague introduced me to this little Mediterranean restaurant in New Haven, CT. It was an easy place to pass by if you were looking for Mediterranean food in New Haven because a giant slice of pizza hung outside the front door.
Not the most obvious sign for a Mediterranean restaurant! But the place is located smack in the middle of the downtown bar area so I’m guessing the pizza sign was a bigger draw at 2am when the bars closed than a sign with a gyro on it.
From the outside, you would also never know that the restaurant was known for the best falafel in the area. We love these little hidden gems, don’t we?!
My friend begged me to walk over to this place for falafel one suuuuper hot day in the middle of August. It wasn’t even remotely the kind of day that I craved something hot to eat. But I went anyway.
And I’m SO glad I did because the falafel I had that day was delish! It was my first time trying it so I didn’t really know what to expect but they were fluffy, flavorful, fried balls of deliciousness. And I was instantly hooked.
Flash forward a few years to the summer Kyle decided he wanted to try a vegan diet. It was 2015 and OMG this change to his eating preferences killed me.
Not literally of course. I’m being dramatic. But cooking and baking vegan for those 4 months was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. And Kyle’s tree nut allergies cut out a number of protein sources he could eat and I could cook with which further complicated this new food lifestyle.
Anyway, he fell off the wagon when we vacationed in Maine towards the end of the summer. All the lobster got the better of him and we both returned home having eaten more lobster rolls and fried whole belly clams than we would care to admit. And I secretly couldn’t have been happier. Ha!
It was that summer that I started making falafel at home. But because I only deep fry food on a rare occasion (see also: orange chicken and beer-battered fish) due to the incredible mess the process tends to make and how unhealthy it can be, I baked the falafel instead.
What is Falafel?
If you’re as clueless as I was when I was first introduced to falafel, I’ll simply describe them as spiced chickpea fritters. Or chickpea balls. Or chickpea patties. Sorry! That wasn’t so simple I suppose, because how you make them sort of changes how you can describe them. I’ll explain this a little more below.
My falafel are a mixture of pureed chickpeas, olive oil, ground spices like cumin and coriander, red onion, fresh garlic, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and flour. It’s a mix of really basic ingredients that come together in an amazing way! There are lots of different ways you can make falafel but I’ve been using these ingredients to tweak my recipe over the past few years.
You can shape the mixture into patties and either bake or fry (shallow or deep fry) them. Or you can dollop scoops of the mixture directly into hot oil to fry them. Like I mentioned, I prefer to bake them in order to make them a little healthier. But deep fried falafel are so good too!
How to Bake Falafel
To bake falafel, you’ll heat your oven to 425° F and coat a large baking sheet with olive oil. After you’ve prepared the falafel mixture in the food processor, shape the mixture into patties about 2 ½ inches in diameter, and place the patties on a plate.
Once you have shaped all of the falafel and the oven is preheated, transfer the patties to the baking sheet. You’ll want to hold on placing them on the baking sheet until you’re just ready to bake them or they will soak up too much oil while you shape the rest of them.
Bake the falafel for about 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the time. The baked falafel should be golden brown and crispy on both sides when fully cooked.
Baked Falafel Bowls
From there, you can serve the falafel lots of ways! My favorite way is in these baked falafel bowls.
Essentially, these are Mediterranean grain bowls with a bed of farro and piled high with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, tzatziki, hummus, feta cheese, and my baked falafel. I liken them a bit to the concept of my ever favorite chicken fajita burrito bowls, which you can never go wrong with.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly delicious these falafel bowls are!
The farro adds a healthy amount of whole grains that are rich in fiber and protein to help fill us up. And when paired with the protein from the chickpeas in the falafel and hummus, and the yogurt tzakziki sauce, these bowls become protein powerhouses.
The falafel are just bursting with flavor from the herbs and spices and I’m thrilled to say that Riley utterly devours this meal every time I make it!
The last time I made these bowls, she ate 3 of the falafel, all of the tomatoes, hummus, tzatziki, and feta, and most of the cucumbers that were on her plate. This kid is an eating machine when she’s hungry! She wouldn’t touch the farro but it’s only a matter of time before she realizes this is so much like the rice she adores.
If farro isn’t your thing or it doesn’t mesh with your diet/eating preferences, quinoa would be a great alternative. I’ve also made these bowls into salads as well by simply swapping out the farro for a bed of lettuce.
This is a versatile, healthy, and downright awesome meal that fills us up, makes mealtime with a toddler easy breezy, and keeps everyone super happy. Could you possibly ask for more than this out of a quick weeknight meal?
For the falafel:
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped red onion
- Juice of ½ lemon
- A small handful of parsley and cilantro (a few sprigs of each)
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Few cranks of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 to 4 tbsp all-purpose flour (or a gluten-free substitute)
For the bowl:
- 1 ½ cups dry semi-pearled farro, cooked according to package directions and cooled to room temperature (this farro should take about 15 to 17 minutes to cook)
- 1 medium cucumber or 3 Kirby cucumbers, sliced
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Tzatziki sauce
- Roasted chickpeas, optional for garnish
- Prepare the farro according to package directions.
- To make the falafel: Preheat oven to 425° F. Pour 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) olive oil onto a large baking sheet and tilt the pan around until the oil completely covers the pan; set aside.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and all of the falafel ingredients through the black pepper to a bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until everything is roughly chopped. Add the chickpeas and 2 tablespoons of flour and pulse until the chickpeas start to breakdown and incorporate into the mixture and everything starts to come together into a loose ball. If the dough is very sticky, pulse in up to another 2 tablespoons of flour.
- Using a small cookie scoop, shape approximately 3 tablespoons of the dough into a ball and let it rest on a plate while you shape the remaining falafel. You should get 12 to 14 falafel. After you have divided up all of the dough, transfer the dough balls to the baking sheet and space them evenly in 4 rows of 3 (if you get 14, squeeze the last 2 at one of the edges of the pan). With damp fingers, light press the falafel down into approximately 2 ½-inch patties.
- Bake for 15 minutes, flip the falafel and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, until both sides are golden brown and crispy. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
- While the falafel bake, slice the cucumbers and tomatoes.
- To assemble the bowls: Divide the cooled farro between 4 bowls. Layer the cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus, tzatziki, and falafel on top of the farro. Add some feta and drop a few baked chickpeas, if using, to the top. Serve while the falafel are still warm or cover and chill for a quick dinner later in the day.
The prep time on this recipe is a little deceiving. It will take you about 10 minutes to prep the falafel for baking. Before you start making the falafel, start cooking the farro. While the falafel bake, cut up the veggies. If you're feeling ambitious, you can also make your own hummus and tzatziki sauce too but nobody will judge you for using store-bought versions of either.
Do ahead: All of the major bowl components can be made in advance and chilled.
- Falafel: Up to 2 days in advance and served cold or reheated in a 350° F oven for about 10 minutes.
- Farro: Up to 3 days in advance.
- Hummus: Up to 1 week in advance.
- Tzatziki: Up to 2 days in advance.
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Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless Steel, White
Solula Professional 18/8 Stainless Steel Small Cookie Scoop (1 1/2 tablespoons)
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J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL CLASSIC Hollow Edge Santoku Knife 7-inch Black/Stainless Steel