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Falafel Sandwich, but make it Summer – Grilled Falafel Burgers!
To me, nothing screams SUMMER quite like a great grilled burger. Because it’s always great to have a solid veggie burger in your arsenal to offer as an option for anyone who sticks to a plant-based diet or likes having plant-based choices (myself included there!), I’ve had a lot of fun in the past couple of years creating grill-friendly veggie burger recipes. We made the BEST Grilled Black Bean Burgers last summer, & we’re following them up this year with an equally epic chickpea veggie burger recipe – The Ultimate Grilled Falafel Burgers!
What is Falafel? ⇢ If falafel is a new-to-you food, you’re in for such a treat! Falafel, an iconic Middle Eastern staple, consists of a finely chopped mixture of chickpeas (or fava beans), fresh herbs, & spices. The mixture is formed into patties or balls & fried until crisp. Falafel are commonly served with sauces, on salads, or wrapped into a falafel sandwich. No matter how you serve them, they’re absolutely delicious – fresh, crispy, & SO satisfying. One of my all-time favorite vegan meals!
What are falafel burgers, then? These grilled falafel burgers are a cross between a falafel sandwich & the ultimate summer veggie burger. The base is a chickpea veggie burger with the herbs, aromatics, & spices you’d typically find in traditional falafel, plus the addition of roughly chopped pistachios to create satisfying texture. They are flavor-filled, hearty, & grill like a dream. & I mean, really, do veggie burgers get better than that?!
Brought to you in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill!
Bob’s Red Mill is my longtime favorite natural food brand; I count on Bob’s for seriously high-quality staples that I can put to use in a variety of different ways. It’s been especially fun to see more & more of their products pop up at my co-op & other grocery stores here in Minneapolis in recent years. I’m thrilled to partner with them throughout 2021 to highlight some of my favorite products!
I make these falafel burgers with one of my all-time favorite Bob’s products – their amazing dried chickpeas. Chickpeas are one of my favorite easy plant-based proteins & Bob’s Red Mill chickpeas are the best. Their flavor & texture is amazing, which is especially important for falafel burgers since chickpeas are such a crucial key ingredient. I always have a bag in my pantry!
Falafel Burger Recipe Highlights
This Falafel Burger recipe is…
- FILLED WITH GOOD-FOR-YOU INGREDIENTS. Just like falafel, these falafel-inspired chickpea burgers are filled with veggies, high-fiber chickpeas, & healthy fat.
- PERFECT FOR GRILLING. Grilled veggie burgers are hard to come by, but that’s not the case here! Developed specifically with grilling in mind, these falafel burgers hold up beautifully on the grill without falling apart or crumbling.
- SERIOUSLY SATISFYING. The combination of hearty chickpeas & crunchy pistachios create ultra-satisfying veggie burgers, on top of which you can add any & all toppings you love!
Pure plant-based goodness! ♡ Read on to learn more about these falafel-inspired chickpea veggie burgers, or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!
Falafel Chickpea Burger Key Ingredients
These falafel burger are made with the key ingredients you find in falafel, with a couple of additions that help bind them together as larger veggie burgers that do not fall apart or crumble on the grill. While they’re made with a decent number of ingredients, most are simple staples that break down into a couple of categories – texture builders, flavor builders, & binders – & can be easily swapped with other common staples you might already have on hand.
You will need…
- Texture builders – Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, ceci beans) are the heart of these falafel burgers. It’s best to start with dried chickpeas, which allow for better control of the texture & seasoning of the falafel burgers (no one likes a mushy veggie burger!). Pistachios add another element of hearty texture & rich flavor.
- Aromatics – Namely red onion, garlic, ground coriander, & ground cumin. While not necessarily traditional, I also love using jalapeno & lemon zest in these falafel burgers. Jalapeno adds the perfect kick of heat, while lemon zest adds bright flavor that brings out the freshness of the herbs.
- Fresh herbs – Namely cilantro & parsley, both of which are commonly used in traditional falafel. I use both the leaves & tender stems for maximum flavor.
- Binders – A little flour & mayonnaise bind these chickpea veggie burgers together, preventing them from falling apart or crumbling on the grill. I like using this Garbanzo Fava Flour. It has a nice nutty flavor, plus it’s naturally gluten-free & keeps these falafel burgers completely gluten-free by extension. A little bit of mayonnaise makes these falafel burgers moist. I use fabanaise (vegan mayonnaise made from aquafaba/chickpea cooking liquid), though you can use your favorite vegan or non-vegan mayo of choice.
- NUTS – If you don’t keep pistachios on hand, swap them with another meaty nut you love, like walnuts or almonds. For a nut-free veggie burger, try pine nuts, pepitas, or sunflower seeds.
- HERBS – You can easily swap some or all of the herbs out with another leafy herb you love, like basil, dill, mint, green onions, chives, oregano. You can also combine a few to make an herb blend that’s completely tailored to your tastes.
- FLOUR – Feel free to use all-purpose flour or another flour substitute you have on hand.
Cooking Dried Chickpeas for Chickpea Veggie Burgers
Note: Full Recipe Directions provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Canned chickpeas vs Dried Chickpeas ⇢ One of the most common questions when it comes to making falafel is whether it’s best to use dried chickpeas or canned chickpeas. Traditional falafel is always made with dried chickpeas, & these falafel burgers follow suit. Because they’re the heart of these falafel burgers, it’s best to start with dried chickpeas, which gives us better control of the texture & seasoning of the falafel burgers. & while it may seem like a pain to cook chickpeas yourself, it’s actually really easy – especially if you have an Instant Pot or another electric pressure cooker!
How to cook chickpeas in an Instant Pot ⇢ Simply add the chickpeas to the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker & cover them with water. I like to add in a couple of simple aromatics, like garlic & bay leaves, to flavor the beans from the inside out. The chickpeas cook to the perfect al dente texture in a mere 30 minutes.
Meal Prep Tip: ⇢ Rather than waiting until dinner time to get started on your falafel burgers, cook the chickpeas in advance! Cooked chickpeas will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week. At dinnertime, all you have to do is mix & form the chickpea veggie burger patties – easy!
How to Make Falafel Burgers (from Scratch!)
With the chickpeas cooked to al dente, all that’s left to do is prep the chickpea veggie burger patties. The food processor does most of the work here, so it’s really easy!
Note: Full Recipe Directions provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Here’s what you’ll do…
- Roughly chop the pistachios & al dente chickpeas. Working one at a time, use a food processor to roughly chop the pistachios & al dente chickpeas. Both of these elements add wonderful meaty texture to the falafel burgers, so avoid over processing. It’s totally fine if there are larger pieces of pistachio & chickpea left – we don’t want to process them too, too fine!
- Process the falafel aromatics. Add all of the falafel aromatics to the same food processor (onion, jalapeno, fresh herbs, etc.). Pulse until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Mix & form the falafel burger patties. Add all of the elements to a large mixing bowl, & mix to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 portions & shape into 1-inch thick veggie burger patties. I find it’s easiest to roll each portion into a compact ball first, then press it into a patty shape. If the edges crack a little as you press it down, simply use your hands to press the edges in toward the center of the burger patty, keeping the mixture really tightly formed.
Meal prep tip ⇢ The falafel burger patties can be mixed & formed up to 3 days in advance. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, separating each patty with a piece of wax or parchment paper. When you’d like to make your falafel burgers, simply preheat the grill & get grilling. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more meal prep & make-ahead guidance!
Grilling Veggie Burgers – Tips & Tricks
While veggie burgers have a notorious reputation of being difficult to grill, there are a couple of simple things you can do to make grilling veggie burgers a total breeze. Here are a few quick tips:
- Form compact veggie burger patties! While over mixing animal protein burgers is a big no-no (it leads to tough burgers), veggie burgers don’t behave the same way. It’s actually essential to form them into really compact patties to avoid crumbling on the grill. I find it’s easiest to roll each veggie burger into a compact ball first, then press it down into a patty. If the edges crack a little as you press it down, simply use your hands to press the edges in toward the center, keeping the falafel burger patty really tightly formed.
- Chill before you grill! Once the veggie burger patties are formed, pop them in the freezer to set while the grill preheats. Another must-do, which helps bind them together & prevents them from crumbling apart on the grill.
- Grease the grill grates generously & lightly brush the veggie burger patties with oil. Since sticking ultimately leads to crumbling, make sure the grates are very clean & well-greased before placing the burgers on the grill. Generously spritz a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray & use the grill tongs to run it over the grill grates. To take this one step further, lightly brush the surface of the veggie burger patties with your favorite neutral high smoke point oil (e.g. avoacado oil, grapeseed oil).
- Grill with high heat. Since the components of these veggie burgers are all fully cooked, the goal of grilling them is to simply heat them through. Grilling with high heat creates a nice crust on the burgers, making them easier to flip.
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Falafel Burger Serving Suggestions & More…
With your falafel burgers grilled, all that’s left to do is the very best part – serving & enjoying them! You can serve them with your favorite burger toppings, of course. There are a few special touches I like to add to take them totally over the top.
Falafel Veggie Burger Topping Ideas:
Pile your chickpea burgers high with whatever toppings you love most. Some ideas to get you started:
- Buns – I love pillowy-soft brioche burger buns; spritz them with a little bit of cooking spray & toast them up on the grill for a couple of minutes for the best charred flavor & crispy texture. It’s also really fun to tuck a falafel burger into a fluffy pita for the ultimate falafel sandwich vibes. I’ve successfully made this easy homemade pita recipe a few times – highly recommend if you’re looking for a fun & delicious baking project!
- Greens – Use crisp romaine for nice texture or grab a handful of your favorite salad greens.
- Toppings – Try juicy summer tomatoes, crunchy sliced cucumber, & thinly sliced red onion or quick pickled red onions.
- Veggie burger sauce – Instead of topping them with cheese, I like drizzling or slathering a creamy plant-based sauce over veggie burgers to keep them totally vegan. Hummus is always a great creamy spread, make homemade or buy whatever flavor sounds great to you in the moment. Or, try toum (a delicious Lebanese creamy garlic sauce), make a quick yogurt sauce spiked with harissa for a little kick, or tahini sauce!
Don’t Forget Sauce – Try Spicy Green Tahini!
Tahini sauce (a mixture of tahini/sesame paste & lemon juice) is a traditional accompaniment for falafel. This spicy green version offers a fun twist, plus it’s really easy to make since you’ll already have nearly all of the ingredients you need on hand.
Spicy Green Tahini ⇢ Add 2-3 cloves garlic (finely chopped or grated) to a small bowl with the juice of 1 lemon. Add 1/2 cup runny tahini (this is my fave!) to a food processor with 1/4 cup packed cilantro, 1/4 cup packed parsley, 1 jalapeno (deseeded as desired), 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, & 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add in the garlic & lemon mixture. Process to combine. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in water until desired consistency is reached (about 1/4-1/3 cup). Taste & adjust seasoning as desired. Easy, zippy, herbaceous, & so good!
I can’t wait for you to try this Grilled Falafel Burger recipe! These burgers are flavor-filled, hearty, & wholesome – the perfect plant-based summer meal! If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!Print
Falafel-inspired chickpea veggie burgers filled with fresh flavor thanks to a handful of simple ingredients like herbs, garlic, & spices. The use of al dente chickpeas & pistachios give these meatless burgers satisfying, hearty texture. Developed specifically for grilling, these falafel chickpea burgers won’t stick to or fall apart on the grill – perfect for weeknight grilling & backyard BBQs this summer!
Naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, & vegan.
for the chickpeas:
- 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Chickpeas (dry), rinsed & picked over to remove any small rocks/pebbles
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 6 cups water
for the falafel burgers:
- 3 cups al dente chickpeas (above)
- 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
- 1/2 medium red onion, peeled & roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno, deseeded as desired & roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup packed cilantro leaves & tender stems
- 1 cup packed parsley leaves & tender stems
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Garbanzo Fava Flour
- 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise or mayonnaise
- kosher salt & ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
- nonstick cooking spray, for the grill grates
- for serving, as desired: warm pita or toasted burger buns, lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, sliced onion or pickled red onion, hummus, tahini sauce, etc.
- Cook the chickpeas: Add chickpeas, garlic, bay leaves, salt, & water to an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. Cover & cook with manual high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position to vent out any residual pressure in the pot. The chickpeas should be tender with al dente texture, a little firmer than that of canned chickpeas. Carefully strain off the cooking liquid. Remove & discard garlic & bay leaves. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Chop the pistachios, prep the falafel mixture: Add the pistachios to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped. Transfer to a large mixing bowl & set aside. T0 the same food processor, add the red onion, jalapeno, garlic, lemon zest, cilantro, parsley, cumin, & coriander, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer to the same mixing bowl as the pistachios. Add the drained & rinsed chickpeas to the same food processor & pulse until roughly chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer to the bowl with the pistachios & onion mixture. Add in the garbanzo fava flour & vegan mayonnaise. Stir until just combined.
- Form the falafel burger patties: Divide the mixture into 4 even portions & shape into 1-inch thick burger patties. I find it’s easiest to roll each portion into a compact ball first, then pressing it into a patty shape. If the edges crack a little as you press it down, simply use your hands to press the edges in toward the center of the burger patty, keeping the mixture really tightly formed. It’s important that your chickpea burger patties are as compact as possible; this will help prevent them from crumbling or falling apart on the grill. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Set in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes while the grill preheats.
- Prep the grill: Prepare your grill for high heat direct cooking, about 550-600 degrees F. Make sure the grates are clean. Immediately prior to grilling, grease the grill grates. Generously oil a paper towel (or spritz it with nonstick cooking spray). Use the grill tongs to run the oiled paper towel over the grill grates.
- Grill the falafel burgers: Remove the falafel burgers from the freezer. Lightly brush avocado oil over each side, then carefully place on the prepared grill grates, directly over the fire. Grill for 4-5 minutes per side, flipping once halfway through. Take care as you flip, working as gently as possible to keep the burgers from crumbling. If they stick to the grill grates, let them cook 1 minute longer to help them set up.
- Serve: Build your falafel burgers as desired. I like stuffing these falafel burgers in fresh pita with lettuce, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, pickled red onions & a generous drizzle of tahini sauce – delish! Enjoy!
- Spicy Green Tahini: An easy, zippy sauce to pair with your grilled falafel burgers since you’ll already have nearly all of the ingredients you need! Add 2-3 cloves finely chopped or grated garlic to a small bowl with the juice of 1 lemon. Add 1/2 cup runny tahini to a food processor with 1/4 cup each packed cilantro & parsley leaves & tender stems, 1 jalapeno (deseeded as desired), 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add in the garlic + lemon juice mixture. Process to combine. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in water until desired consistency is reached (about 1/4-1/3 cup water). Taste & adjust seasoning as desired. Set aside or transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Stovetop falafel burgers: If you do not have access to an outdoor grill, you can also cook these chickpea burgers on the stovetop. Rather than using a grill pan, I suggest using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive or avocado oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the falafel burgers, working in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the pan. Cook according to Step 6 of Recipe Directions, above.
- Make-Ahead & Storage:
- Make-Ahead falafel burgers – refrigerator instructions: The chickpea burger patties can be mixed & formed up to 3 days in advance. Follow Steps 1-3 of Recipe Directions above. Rather than placing the formed patties on a baking sheet & freezing to chill, transfer the formed patties to an airtight container, separating them with a piece of wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. When you’d like to make your falafel burgers, simply preheat the grill & get cookin’ – easy!
- Make-Ahead falafel burgers – freezer instructions: The chickpea burger patties can also be mixed, formed, & frozen. Follow Steps 1-3 of Recipe Directions above. Freeze as directed, transferring the frozen chickpea burger patties to a freezer container or freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator & re-shape as needed to ensure the burger patties are compactly formed when you place them on the grill.
- Storage: Leftover falafel burgers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- 20-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for these grilled falafel burgers comes from cooking the chickpeas & prepping the veggies. Prep either or both in advance for a great head start on your grilled falafel burgers dinner – it’ll take 20 minutes (active), tops:
- Cook the chickpeas according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. Strain as described & rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (10 minutes active prep)
- Prep the vegetables: Peel & roughly chop 1/2 red onion, roughly chop 1 jalapeno pepper (deseed as desired), & measure out 1 cup each packed cilantro & parsley tender leaves & stems. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)
Keywords: falafel burgers, chickpea burgers, vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, healthy, easy, grilled, summer
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.
Ready to Hit the Grill?
If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.
All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.
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