Enjoy this traditional falafel recipe with a twist; Ditch the deep-fryer and turn to your air fryer for these healthier, air fryer falafel with a tender center and crispy outer shell. This recipe is gluten-free, vegan, high-protein, and perfect for meal-prep!
Flavorful & Crispy Homemade Air Fryer Falafel
With my Gluten-Free Pita recipe now posted, it was inevitable that falafel would follow shortly after. Falafel & pita bread go together like… Hummus and pita (i.e., a match made in heaven!). I couldn’t wait to have a go at putting a healthier twist on the authentic falafel recipe with this lower-calorie, lower-fat, air fryer falafel.
What is Falafel?
Falafel is a Middle Eastern street food that has grown in popularity over the last couple of decades, particularly in the vegetarian and meat-free food scenes. Authentic falafel recipes are made up of chickpeas and/or fava beans, along with garlic & onion, and several herbs and spices. They are then formed into balls or disks and deep-fried in oil before serving as a falafel pita/sandwich.
The results are a flavorful bite with a tender center and super crispy outer shell. Unfortunately, traditional falafels aren’t a great choice for those who avoid deep-fried foods or want a low-calorie/healthier option. Healthier baked versions can be somewhat lacking too on the texture front (though not always, I admit), which is where these air fryer falafel come in.
Luckily, after lots of experimentation, learning how to make falafel with the right consistency, I’ve got it! These air fried falafel avoid the copious amounts of oil yet still manage to end up with a wonderfully crisp shell and tender middle!
By using an air fryer for cooking homemade falafel, you may not end up with falafels that are quite as crispy as deep-fried versions, but it certainly comes close! Plus, this healthy falafel recipe is great for meal-prep and freezer storage, which is a massive bonus!
These are the ingredients that you will need:
How To Make Falafel
Note: For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
Step 1: Soak the chickpeas
Place the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and fill it with plenty of water (the chickpeas should be always covered by at least 3 inches). Leave the chickpeas to soak for 18-24 hours.
Then, drain the chickpeas completely and use a paper towel to pat them dry, if they are too wet.
Note: Chickpeas can soak up enough water to double in size, so you must use enough water.
Step Two: Process the falafel dough
Transfer the chickpeas and remaining ingredients to a food processor and process for around 20 seconds, scrape down the sides and repeat. Do this a few times until the mixture is well combined as a coarse meal, but not too mushy.
Then chill the mixture (in the food processor jug) in the fridge for 45-60 minutes.
This allows the starches to soak and will help the falafel hold together and not crumble apart as they cook.
Step Three: Shape the falafel
Use an ice-cream scooper to measure the mixture and shape it into a ball (you can also shape it into a disk/patty if preferred). Repeat this step with all of the falafel mixture.
Spray the ice-cream scoop with a little olive oil if you find that the mixture is sticking.
Step Four: Cook the falafel
Spray the air fryer base and also the falafel balls with a little cooking spray, and then cook them at 375ºF/190ºC for 15 minutes, flipping over at 10 minutes. Once ready, they’ll be crispy and lightly browned on the outside.
Do this step in batches, based on how big your air fryer basket is. Once ready, you can eat the crispy falafels immediately!
How To Serve
There are tons of ways to enjoy falafel. Here are just some of my favorite options.
- As an appetizer with your favorite dips – such as a tahini sauce, vegan tzatziki, Hummus, or even this Vegan Mayo.
- Make a falafel pita pocket with salad veg (these gluten-free falafel go amazingly with my Gluten-Free Pita!)
- Served as a falafel sandwich – within a flatbread style wrap with traditional salad veg and extras like Keto Coleslaw Recipe
- Alternatively, in lettuce wraps
- Serve within a salad bowl – like this Brown Rice Salad (use the falafel in place of the rice!)
- Serve as part of a Mediterranean mezze or plate, with hummus, olives, pita chips, and more.
- Form larger patties and use as burgers
- Use crumbled, as a pizza topping on this Homemade Pizza Dough, alongside grilled veggies like eggplant and zucchini.
How To Make Ahead & Store
To Make Ahead:
Homemade falafel can be prepared to several ‘points’ in the recipe and be left until you’re ready to bake them.
- You can store the processed falafel dough or the rolled falafel balls, covered, in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- The uncooked mixture can also be frozen for 1 month (although possibly even up to 3 months – I just haven’t tried longer than a month).
Do this by par-freezing the shaped falafels on a large flat surface (so they don’t stick together) and then transferring them to a large freezer-safe bag/container. You can thaw the falafel overnight before using or even cook them from frozen.
Any leftover falafels can be stored in the fridge for a few days (up to 5), though they will lose their crispness as they chill.
Place the falafel in the oven or air fryer at 375F/190C until warmed through.
To cook them from frozen, cook in the air fryer with an extra few minutes onto the cooking time.
Useful Ingredient & Recipe Notes
- Flour: I didn’t add any flour to the falafel mixture because it held very well together and didn’t require a binder. However, if you notice that your mixture is a little wet, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch/chickpea flour to the gluten-free falafel.
- You can optionally add a little baking powder to the falafel mix, and it’ll result in slightly lighter and airier, tender falafel. Add this just before frying (i.e., don’t add it to the mixture when making ahead and chilling in the fridge/ freezing).
- You can experiment with different herbs and spices; cilantro, cumin, coriander, parsley, dill, turmeric, cardamom, cayenne, paprika, etc.
- Don’t be tempted to use a ‘quick soak’ method for this recipe’s chickpeas, as it simply won’t work. The same goes for using canned or cooked chickpeas – the texture simply won’t be correct for these falafels. It might be mushy and fall apart (which no-one wants).
- You can experiment with subbing some of the chickpeas in this vegan falafel recipe for beetroot, sweet potato, pumpkin, etc. (add some flour as a binder if the recipe is a little wet).
- You can shape your homemade falafel into balls or disks. In fact, disks can work better in some cases for air fryer falafel (depending on your fryer).
- Oven-baked falafel: It’s better to shape the falafel mixture into patties if you want to oven-bake them. Bake at 375F/190C for about 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. I recommend spraying them with oil (cooking spray) before baking and after flipping, as they will turn out crispier.
- If you plan to make them often, you can purchase a ‘falafel press,’ which makes ‘puck’ shaped falafels easily, without you having to shape them by hand.
Other Recipes You May Like:
- Vegan Kebab Sandwich (Veg Shawarma)
- Chickpea Tacos (Meatless, Gluten-Free)
- Vegan Stuffed Zucchini Boats With Chickpeas
- Garlic Broccoli Stir Fry With Chickpeas
- Vegan Shakshuka With Chickpeas
- Avocado Chickpea Pizza
- Vegan Chickpea Curry (Oil-Free)
If you try this crispy air fryer falafel recipe, I’d love a comment and recipe ★★★★★ rating below. Also, don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan/ #elavegan – I love seeing your recreations.
Air Fryer Falafel
- 2 cups (400 g) dried chickpeas (not canned or cooked chickpeas)
- 5 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 cup parsley leaves chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves chopped
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 tsp baking powder (optional, see notes)
- Cooking spray
- The day before you start making the falafel, place the dried chickpeas in a large bowl. Fill it with plenty of water (the chickpeas should be covered by at least 3 inches/7 cm but add more water if needed) and soak for 18-24 hours. Drain the chickpeas completely and use a paper towel to lightly pat dry them (if they are too wet).
- Transfer the chickpeas along with all other ingredients to a large food processor. If you have a small food processor, you will need to work in batches. Process everything for about 20 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the food processor and blend again. Do this a few times until the mixture is well combined, but not mushy.
- Refrigerate the falafel mixture (in the food processor bowl) for about 45-60 minutes (or longer).
- Use an ice cream scooper to scoop the falafel mixture and shape it with your hands to form a ball (or make a patty/disk if you wish). Do this with the remaining falafel mixture.
- Use the cooking spray to lightly spray the falafel balls. Also, spray the basket of your air fryer to avoid sticking. Heat the air fryer to 375ºF (190ºC) and set the timer to 15 minutes. Cook the falafel balls in the air fryer, flip them after 10 minutes. They should be crispy and slightly brown on the outside. You might need to fry them in batches if necessary.
- Serve hot on its own or assemble the falafels in pita bread with tahini, lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers. Enjoy!
- Make sure to use dried chickpeas, not canned or cooked chickpeas.
- Flour: I didn't add any flour to the falafel mixture because it held very well together and didn't require a binder. However, if you notice that your mixture needs a binder, you can add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or chickpea flour (or regular flour).
- Baking powder: You can optionally add a little baking powder to the falafel mix, and it'll result in slightly lighter and airier, tender falafel. Add it just before frying (i.e. don't add it to the mixture when making ahead and chilling in the fridge or freezing).
- Oven-baked falafel: It's better to shape the falafel mixture into patties if you want to oven-bake them. Bake in a 375ºF (190ºC) heated oven for about 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. I also recommend spraying them with oil (cooking spray) before baking and after flipping, as they will turn out crispier.
- If you want to deep-fry them, fill a large frying pan or medium saucepan with oil (to a depth of about 2 1/2 or 3 inches) and heat it to 360-375ºF (180-190ºC). Add in a couple of falafel balls (don't overcrowd the pan) and fry for about 4 minutes, turning as needed. Place the fried falafel on paper towels to soak up excess oil.
- You can freeze the uncooked falafel balls for up to a month.
- Check the helpful tips and step-by-step photos in the blog post above.
- The total time doesn't include the soaking- and resting time.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
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