Crispy Homemade Falafel (2 Ways!)

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE SALES LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY FULL DISCLAIMER POLICY FOR DETAILS.

There's nothing better than golden brown Crispy Homemade Falafel! Choose your own adventure with this falafel recipe by making either traditional herbaceous green falafel or harissa-spiked spicy red falafel. Either way, the result is light & airy fried falafel balls, perfect to enjoy on a falafel salad, in a falafel sandwich or wrap, or mezze-style (drizzled with tahini sauce, of course)! Naturally vegetarian, dairy-free, & vegan, & easily gluten-free.

Pan-fried, baked, air fryer, & make-ahead instructions provided.

Want more feel good recipes? Sign up for our PWWB email list HERE & we’ll send you 7 flavor-forward, totally nourishing, feel good dishes plus NEW recipes as soon as they hit the blog – all delivered straight to your inbox!
Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa and herby green falafel balls arranged on a gray ceramic plate. The plate sits atop a creamy white textured surface and is garnished with fresh parsley leaves. Two small white bowls filled with seasoned diced cucumber and tomatoes and tahini sauce, respectively surround the plate as well as a small bowl filled with a small bunch of fresh parsley.

Choose Your Own Homemade Falafel Adventure!

I absolutely, whole-heartedly, 100% LOVE falafel. Falafel is amazing because it’s naturally vegan, entirely plant-based, & tastes super fresh & light despite being fried food. It’s my go-to order whenever I see it on a restaurant menu!

My first experience with amazing falafel, though, was from a street cart in New York City. With every bite of crispy & herbaceous goodness, I became more & more inspired to learn how to make falafel at home. So, I stocked up on an abundance of dried chickpeas & got to work recipe testing different kinds of falafel. It was a lot of fun & in the end, I couldn’t pick just one homemade falafel recipe…so we’re sharing 2!

While falafel may feel like a super intimidating thing to make (frying at home is daunting, right?!), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple homemade falafel is! Everything about this vegan falafel recipe is pretty traditional – so take your pick between a classic herbaceous green falafel with fresh herbs & a spicy red falafel with harissa paste. I love them both equally, so there is no wrong choice!

Homemade Falafel Recipe Highlights

You’ll love making homemade falafel because they’re…

  • LIGHT & CRISP. These falafel balls are seriously crispy & golden brown on the outside while being totally light & airy inside. The perfect contrast!
  • SIMPLE TO MAKE. Homemade falafel may seem complicated, but it’s truly so simple! Homemade falafel balls come together quickly, plus they can also be prepped ahead of time for ease! You simply need 10-ish ingredients & a food processor.
  • PLANT-POWERED. This falafel recipe is naturally vegetarian, dairy-free, & vegan, plus easily gluten-free. Friendly for all types of diets!
  • SERIOUSLY VERSATILE. Choose between herbaceous green falafel or spicy harissa falafel depending on what you’re craving. Enjoy falafel on a sandwich, salad, mezze plate, or however your heart desires – just don’t forget the tahini sauce!

I can’t wait for you to fall in love with homemade falafel too! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Crispy Homemade Falafel, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

An overhead shot of a small gray ceramic plate filled with homemade crispy falafel balls. The plate is garnished with fresh parsley, lemon wedges, and a drizzle of tahini sauce. A small white bowl filled with tahini sauce and another small gray ceramic plate filled with pita rests alongside the falafel balls on the plate at center. All items sit atop a creamy white textured surface.

First, Falafel 101 – What is Falafel?

Falafel is an iconic Middle Eastern staple & classic street food around the world. Falafel is typically made from mixture of finely chopped chickpeas (or fava beans), fresh herbs, & spices. This mixture is formed into patties or balls & fried until crisp. It’s often served with sauces, on salads, or wrapped into pita bread as a sandwich. No matter how you serve it, airy & crispy vegan falafel is downright delicious – if it’s new-to-you, you’re in for such a treat!

Key Falafel Ingredients

Of the 2 types of falafel included in this recipe, both use the same base mixture ingredients. From there, a few simple add-ins create either a traditional herby green falafel or spicy red harissa falafel.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s what’s in falafel:

  • Chickpeas – Falafel is typically made with fava beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), or a combination of the two. To keep things simple, I only use chickpeas. Use dried chickpeas instead of canned chickpeas when making falafel –more detail on why in the Ingredient Spotlight below!
  • AromaticsRed onion & garlic give the falafel punchy flavor, while jalapeño pepper adds nice, fruity heat. I also add a bit of lemon to my falafel since its brightness draws out the flavors in the aromatics & spices.
  • Spices – I season my falafel with equal parts ground cumin & ground coriander for citrusy warmth.
  • All-purpose flour – Swap in chickpea flour for all-purpose flour to make gluten-free falafel!
  • Baking powder – Though it’s not traditional, I’ve found that a little bit of baking powder helps create the absolute BEST light & airy falafel balls.
  • Add-ins – If you’re making classic green falafel, use the tender stems & leaves of fresh cilantro & parsley for a vibrant herby falafel mixture. Spicy red falafel uses the concentrated flavor of harissa paste for a kick of heat (you can find a great harissa paste at Trader Joe’s!).
Grilled Falafel Burger staple ingredient arranged on a white textured surface: A package of Bob's Red Mill Dried Chickpeas rests on the surface with a measuring cup of dried chickpeas sitting alongside it, & loose dried chickpeas spread scattered around.
Ingredient Spotlight

Dried vs Canned Chickpeas

When it comes to making falafel, one of the most commonly questions is whether it’s best to use dried chickpeas or canned chickpeas. Traditional falafel is always made with dried chickpeas. 

Whereas canned chickpeas aren’t ideal for falafel because they have too much moisture for falafel-making, (plus, they also don’t compare to the more pure flavor of dried chickpeas!), working with dried chickpeas allows for greater control over the texture & seasoning of the falafel balls. Most homemade falafel recipes – this one included – will call for soaking dried chickpeas a day ahead of time to get the right soft (but not too soft) texture.

You can find dried chickpeas easily in the whole grains aisle or bulk foods section at most conventional grocery stores. I’m partial to Bob’s Red Mill.

How to Make Falafel from Scratch

Full Recipe Directions with step-by-step photos provided in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Soak the chickpeas. 12-24 hours before you want to start making falafel, place the dried chickpeas in a bowl of water to soak. Keep in mind that the chickpeas will absorb this water over time, so use a large bowl with at least several inches of water. Why? ⇢ Soaking chickpeas (rather than using cooked, canned chickpeas) allows for greater control over the falafel balls. An overnight soak makes chickpeas perfectly tender, but not so soft that they lose their shape!

2

Prepare the falafel mixture. The food processor does all the work here! Pulse the base ingredients together in the food processor, then pulse the soaked chickpeas & any extra seasonings for the herby green or spicy red falafel separately. Mix everything in one bowl for forming the falafel balls. Falafel Tip! ⇢ Don’t over-process the ingredients here! Everything should be finely chopped without losing too much texture.

3

Form the falafel balls. The mixture should be a soft consistency at this point – the perfect texture to form into falafel balls! Falafel Tip! ⇢ Use a spring-loaded scoop to form the falafel into even, round balls. Each falafel ball should be about two tablespoons in size – be careful not to make them too big or the outside will be crispy before the insides are fully cooked.

4

Fry the falafel. Frying at home can feel kind of intimidating, but it’s super straight-forward – promise! Heat oil in a deep skillet or saucepan, then work in batches to fry the falafel balls. Be careful as you work to avoid splashing any hot oil! The falafel should fry to crispy, golden brown perfection in about 2 minutes. Frying Tip! ⇢ The most important thing is to make sure the oil stays nice & hot, which is easy to do with the help of a candy thermometer. Aim for 375 degrees Fahrenheit when frying falafel.

Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa and herby green falafel balls arranged on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. The baking sheet sits atop a creamy white textured surface.

Serving Suggestions + Falafel Sauce!

The beauty of falafel is its versatility – one of the many reasons why I love it so much! Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy homemade falafel (each one always comes with a drizzle of homemade tahini sauce, of course!):

  • Falafel Bowls – Mediterranean-inspired salads are so fresh & satisfying! One of my favorite ways to enjoy homemade falafel is with a falafel salad. Pile a bowl of greens with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives, & a dollop of hummus. Then add some homemade falafel! Feel free to use your favorite combination of toppings to make it your own, & be sure to skip the feta if you want to keep things dairy-free & vegan!
  • Falafel Sandwich – There’s no better combination than fresh falafel & fluffy pita bread! Buy your pita at the store or go the extra mile to make your own for falafel sandwiches (this pita recipe is my go-to!). My grilled falafel burger recipe also uses pillowy-soft brioche buns for serving. Whatever bread you love most is great! All that’s left is to load your falafel sandwich with toppings like sliced tomato, crisp romaine lettuce, or quick pickled red onions. This is one epic vegetarian sandwich!
  • Mezze-Style – I can’t resist the temptation of a beautiful mezze platter – it’s such a fun shareable way to enjoy falafel! Serve your homemade falafel on a platter with tabbouleh, olives, fresh pita bread & your favorite roasted veggies. A show-stopping party app!

The Best Falafel Sauce – Tahini Sauce!

Tahini sauce is the perfect pairing with falafel, no matter how you serve it! My go-to lemon tahini sauce is super simple to make & has endless, easy tweaks for several different flavors. Try a combination of herbaceous green tahini, spicy red tahini, or orange maple tahini with whatever type of homemade falafel you make. There are so many different combinations of falafel & tahini to enjoy!

Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa and herby green falafel balls arranged on a gray ceramic plate. The plate sits atop a creamy white textured surface and is garnished with fresh parsley leaves. Two small white bowls filled with seasoned diced cucumber and tomatoes and tahini sauce, respectively surround the plate as well as a small bowl filled with a small bunch of fresh parsley. A gold spoon that holds a spoonful of tahini sauce is being held above the plate of falafel & used to drizzle tahini sauce atop the falafel balls.

Easy Falafel Variations & FAQs

Still have some questions about making homemade falafel? Let’s clear up a few common falafel questions!

Is falafel vegan?

Yes! This is a naturally vegetarian and vegan falafel recipe, but it’s packed with tons of plant-based protein thanks to all those chickpeas. Vegan falafel is a big win for both plant-based eaters & anyone craving a healthy & satisfying dish.

How can I make gluten-free falafel?

Easy! In this falafel recipe, simply swap all-purpose flour with your favorite 1:1 gluten-free flour. You can also use naturally gluten-free chickpea flour to double down on the chickpeas – my preferred way to make this falafel recipe gluten-free.

Can I bake falafel in the oven instead of frying?

For sure! Baked falafel is an easy, no-mess way to make falafel. I find that falafel bakes best when it’s formed into thick patties vs. falafel balls, so I recommend re-shaping the mixture for baked falafel. See the Recipe Notes, below, for more details!

Can I make falafel in an air-fryer instead of frying?

Yes, though I admit it’s my least preferred way to cook falafel. As I developed this falafel recipe, I tested pan-frying, baking, & air-frying. Using an air fryer was convenient, but I preferred the texture from other cooking methods. Regardless, directions for air-frying falafel are included in the Recipe Notes, below – give it a try & see what you think!

Can I make falafel ahead of time?

Sort of – while falafel is definitely best served fresh, the falafel mixture is super make-ahead friendly. Prepare it up to 3 days in advance & store pre-scooped falafel balls in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking. So easy & a great way to meal prep for the week!

Can I freeze falafel?

Yes, but there’s a trick! First, freeze the cooked & cooled falafel on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes. Then transfer the chilled falafel balls to freezer containers for long-term storage. Freezing the falafel on a flat surface first helps them keep their shape. Since they’re so soft, if you freeze them in a container immediately they’re likely to get stuck together (& that’s no fun to deal with when you’re trying to reheat dinner!).

I can’t wait for you to try this Crispy Homemade Falafel Recipe! 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! Happy cooking! ♡

Love healthy & hearty meatless meals? Us too! Check out PWWB’s Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup, easy Sheet Pan Veggie Shawarma Bowls, or the best Roasted Veggie Tacos with Smoky Chipotle Cashew Crema next!

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa and herby green falafel balls arranged on a gray ceramic plate. The plate sits atop a creamy white textured surface and is garnished with fresh parsley leaves. A small white bowl filled with tahini sauce and a small bowl filled with a bunch of fresh parsley surround the plate.

Crispy Falafel (2 Ways!)

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours 40 minutes (includes inactive time)
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Fried, Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

There’s nothing better than golden brown Crispy Homemade Falafel! Choose your own adventure with this falafel recipe – make traditional herby green falafel with the fresh flavors of leafy herbs or try harissa-spiked spicy red falafel. Enjoy on falafel salads, in falafel sandwiches, or mezze-style (& drizzled with tahini sauce!). 

Naturally vegetarian, dairy-free, & vegan, & easily gluten-free. Pan-fried, baked, air fryer, & make-ahead instructions provided in the Recipe Notes, below. 


Ingredients

Scale

Traditional Herby Green Falafel:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded as desired & roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 1 cup packed cilantro tender stems & leaves
  • 1 cup packed parsley tender stems & leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powderGreen falafel ingredients arranged on a white surface: fresh cilantro & parsley, red onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, flour & baking powder, dried chickpeas, spices, lemon & frying oil.

Spicy Red Harissa Falafel: 

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded as desired & roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 1/4 cup harissa paste (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (see Recipe Notes)
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powderSpicy red falafel ingredients arranged on a white surface: harissa paste, red onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, flour & baking powder, dried chickpeas, spices, lemon & frying oil.

Instructions

  1. Soak the chickpeas: 12-24 hours before you’d like to prep your falafel, soak the chickpeas. Sift through your chickpeas to pick out any small rocks or pebbles (which sometimes sneak their way into the mix) & rinse well to remove any dirt or debris from the surface. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl & cover with 3-4 inches of water. Cover and set aside. The chickpeas will triple in volume as they soak; once tripled in volume, drain the soaking liquid & rinse. Set aside. How to make homemade falafel, Step 1: Soaking dried chickpeas in water in a large glass mixing bowl, which sits atop a white surface.
  2. Preheat the frying oil: Add 3-4 inches of oil to a medium saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of room to cook several falafel balls at a time, as the falafel will displace the oil. Heat to 375 degrees F, about 10 minutes. A candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer are highly recommended to accurately gauge the temperature of the oil.
  3. Prep the falafel mixture:
    1. For Traditional Herby Green Falafel: Add the red onion, jalapeño, garlic, lemon zest & juice, cilantro, parsley, cumin, coriander & kosher salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the onion mixture to a large mixing bowl & set aside. To the same food processor bowl, add the drained & rinsed chickpeas. Pulse until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer to the bowl with the onion mixture. Add in the flour & baking powder. Stir until just combined.
    2. For Spicy Red Harissa Falafel: Add the red onion, jalapeño, garlic, lemon zest & juice, cumin, coriander & kosher salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the drained & rinsed chickpeas. Pulse until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add in the harissa, flour & baking powder. Stir until just combined.
  4. Prep the falafel balls: Using a 2-tablespoon scoop, form the mixture into tightly packed balls. Herby green falafel mixture fills a clear glass mixing bowl. A spring-loaded 2-inch scoop rests inside of the bowl while a baking sheet sits alongside the bowl filled with four rows of four prepared herby green falafel balls and three rows of four spicy red harissa falafel balls. The baking sheet & mixing bowl sit atop a creamy white textured surface.
  5. Fry the falafel: Use a spoon to gently drop the falafel into the oil. Work in batches to give the falafel plenty of room – I find frying 4-5 falafel at a time to be the sweet spot. Fry 90 seconds – 2 minutes, until the falafel are crispy & golden brown. Use a spider strainer to carefully drain the falafel & transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Season with a generous sprinkling of salt while the falafel are still hot. Repeat until all of the falafel are fried. Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa falafel balls are being lifted out of a sauce pan filled with frying oil by a spider strainer being held by a woman's hand. A candy thermometer rests inside of the sauce pan on top of a gas stovetop range. A crock filled with kitchen utensils and a baking sheet filled with finished falafel sit atop an adjacent butcher block countertop while a white subway tile and a vertical magnetic kitchen knife storage solution is shown in the background.
  6. Serve the falafel immediately as desired. We like serving our falafel with warm pita, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, & lots of tahini sauce. Enjoy!Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa and herby green falafel balls arranged on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. The baking sheet sits atop a creamy white textured surface.

Notes

  • Ingredient Notes: 
    • Harissa paste: If making spicy red harissa falafel, harissa paste is preferred over prepared harissa sauce. As you may guess, harissa paste has a thicker consistency & a more concentrated flavor. Trader Joe’s sells a great harissa paste (take note – it is quite spicy!). This harissa paste, available online, is also well-reviewed. If you plan to use harissa sauce, reduce the amount used in the falafel to 2 tablespoons to help keep the falafel from becoming too wet or soggy. It will result in a subtler flavor, however, which is why harissa paste is preferred. 
    • Gluten-free falafel: For gluten-free falafel, swap all-purpose flour with your favorite 1:1 gluten free flour or use chickpea flour. I absolutely love this Stone Ground Chickpea Flour from Bob’s Red Mill. 
  • Storage & Freezing:
    • Falafel Storage & Reheating: Crispy falafel are best enjoyed fresh, immediately after frying, though leftovers will keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes, shaking the falafel halfway, or until warmed through. 
    • Freezer Instructions: Place cooked & cooled falafel on a baking sheet & set in the freezer for 30 minutes. Transfer the chilled falafel to a freezer container. Freeze up to 6 months. Thaw frozen falafel overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes, shaking the falafel halfway, or until warmed through. 
  • Alternate cooking methods: As I tested this falafel recipe, I tested a variety of different cooking methods. The deep fry method detailed in the Recipe Directions, above, is my preferred method for perfectly light & crisp falafel. You can also use this recipe to create pan-fried falafel, baked falafel, & air fryer falafel (listed in order of preference), following the high-level directions detailed below:
    • Pan-fried falafel: For pan-fried (shallow-fried) falafel, it’s best to press the falafel balls into thick patties (vs falafel balls). Add vegetable oil to a small skillet, creating a layer of oil that is about 1/2 as deep as the falafel. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the falafel & cook 2-3 minutes per side, until golden & crisp. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the skillet. 
    • Baked falafel: For baked falafel, it’s best to press the falafel balls into thick patties (vs falafel balls). Add 1/4 cup olive oil to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Set the baking sheet on an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Once the oven is preheated, carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven & place the falafel on the baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, carefully flipping the falafel halfway through, until golden & crisp. 
    • Air fryer falafel: Preheat your air fryer to 375 degrees F. Once hot, spray the air fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray. Add the falafel balls to the basket, lightly spritzing with nonstick cooking spray, as well. Cook 12-15 minutes, until golden & crisp. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the air fryer. 
  • Make-ahead falafel: Another nice thing about falafel is the falafel mixture is incredibly make-ahead friendly – you can prepare it up to 3 days in advance. Follow Steps 1 & 3 of Recipe Directions, above. If desired, you can scoop out the falafel balls as well (Step 4). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When you’d like to prep your falafel, simply preheat the oil & get frying – easy! 

Keywords: falafel recipe, falafel sandwich, falafel pita wrap, herb falafel, spicy falafel, easy, fried, vegan, vegetarian, plant-based

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Browned & crispy cooked spicy red harissa and herby green falafel balls arranged on a gray ceramic plate. The plate sits atop a creamy white textured surface and is garnished with fresh parsley leaves. Two small white bowls filled with seasoned diced cucumber and tomatoes and tahini sauce, respectively surround the plate as well as a small bowl filled with a small bunch of fresh parsley.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Love Feel-Good Recipes? Join Our Email List!

Sign up for the PWWB email list & we’ll send you 7 of our all-time favorites straight to your inbox. These recipes are…

  • Flavor-forward – Life’s too short for boring food.
  • Nourishing comfort food – Made with real, wholesome ingredients!
  • A joy to cook & a joy to eat.

Plus, we’ll keep you in the loop by sharing every NEW recipe as soon as they go live on Plays Well With Butter – all delivered straight to your inbox!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

Topics

Sign up for our newsletter

Leave a Rating & Comment

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FREE Grilling Guide

Tips for your BEST grilling season yet with TONS of delicious recipes + 15 BONUS

go-to grilling marinades!

5-DAY EMAIL SERIES

Jess of Plays Well With Butter stands on a deck behind a stainless steel Weber Genesis II propane grill. In the background, a blossoming tree & a house with beige siding.