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Air Fryer Falafel – Crispy and Healthy

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Crispy air fryer falafel is a crisp, nutritious, and delicious meatless meal! This traditional Middle Eastern food is crispy outside, soft and fluffy inside, and full of flavor from fresh coriander, parsley, and mint.

Traditional falafel is a dish that seems like it should be healthy – it is vegan, gluten-free, and full of nutritious chickpeas. But it is also fried, which cancels out many nutritional benefits!

So air frying falafel is a great way to create this tasty dish without lots of added oil and calories. It is incredible to make food that is good for you, but that isn’t bland and boring!

Looking for more meatless air fryer meals? Try air fryer tuna melt!

top view of falafel rice bowl meal

Why You Will Love Healthy Air Fryer Falafel

It is better tasting and better for you than store-bought.

In addition to being vegan and gluten-free, these are high in protein and fiber, making them excellent for anyone trying to eat healthily.

Falafel is versatile. Serve it as part of a rice bowl, in pita bread, on a salad, or as an appetizer. 

This Middle Eastern street food does take some preparation time, but the time is primarily hands-off, waiting for the chickpeas to soak.

This is an easy dish to make ahead of time, making it perfect for meal prep.

falafel ingredients with labels
Falafel Ingredients

Key Ingredients

For exact amounts needed see the recipe card below

Chickpeas – Buy a bag of dry chickpeas, as they work much better than canned ones. (Why? Learn more.) Fava beans have a similar texture and can be substituted for chickpeas.

Fresh herbs – Fresh herbs help give the falafel its distinctive flecks of green. The exact seasoning can vary, but I like to include fresh cilantro, parsley, and mint. Many recipes don’t have mint, but it gives the dish a zesty taste that goes amazing with a yogurt-based sauce like tzatziki sauce.

Spices – Cumin combines with salt and pepper to flavor these little chickpea balls. If you like spicy food, you can add a little bit of cayenne pepper.

Aromatics – Onion and garlic add flavor and texture.

falafel in a bowl with rice

How to Make Air Fryer Falafel

1. Soak

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them and at least 2 inches more. They can double in size as they absorb water, so make sure you use a big enough bowl.

drained chickpeas
Draining the chickpeas

Leave them for at least 12 hours, then drain the water in a colander and pat them dry. At this point, you can continue with the recipe or put them in an airtight container in the refrigerator to use within the next 2 days.

2. Mix

Roughly chop the onion, garlic, and fresh herbs. Put them in the container of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Then add the chickpeas to the food processor.

ingredients in food processor
Ingredients in food processor

Pulse the mixture until it is coarsely mixed. It should not be completely mixed but have a texture similar to sand with bits of the herbs visible. It will get pasty if you mix it too much, which is not ideal.

making the mixture in the food processor
Ingredients with coarse texture after mixing

Put the dough in a bowl and refrigerate it for 30-60 minutes. This lets the starch soak in so that the balls hold together as you cook them.

3. Scoop

Take the chilled falafel mixture and scoop it out into balls about the size of a golf ball. Use a small ice cream scoop or a cookie scoop to help make the balls even. Wet your hands and gently roll the balls between your palms to make them smooth.

balls of falafel dough on a cutting board
Forming the balls

I usually make falafel balls because they fit better in the air fryer basket. But you can also make them into falafel patties if you prefer.

falafel before air frying
Before air frying

Put the completed falafel balls in the air fryer basket. Fill it up, leaving space between them so that the air can circulate. Cook in batches if you have a smaller air fryer.

4. Air Fry

Spray the balls with a little bit of olive oil spray so that they get nice and crisp. Don’t use commercial spray oil since it contains chemicals that can damage the nonstick finish of the air fryer basket.

air frying falafel
After air frying

Air fry falafel at 380 degrees F for 12-14 minutes. Pull the basket out halfway through the cooking time and turn them over with tongs. 

Cook time will depend on the shape and size that you made. They are done when the outside is brown and crispy, and the inside is warm.

falafel cut open to see the herbs inside

Serving Ideas

These crispy falafel are very versatile. Here are some suggested ways to serve them.

  • Put them in Lebanese bread with tzatziki sauce.
  • Make a falafel bowl by serving with rice and veggies.
  • Go for a low-carb meal by putting them in lettuce wraps.
  • Serve them with hummus. The more chickpeas, the better!
  • Make larger patties instead of balls and use these instead of hamburgers.
  • Put the falafel on top of a fresh salad.
  • Use these as an appetizer, served with a series of dips like yogurt sauce, tahini, or hot sauce.

How to Store

After cooking, these will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can eat them cold, but I think they taste better warmed up. To reheat leftover falafel, put them in the air fryer at 350 degrees F for 3 minutes.

How to Freeze

If you are not going to use all the falafel mixture, form it into balls and freeze uncooked falafel for up to 3 months. To thaw, put them in the refrigerator overnight and then cook them as directed in the recipe.

closeup of falafel in a bowl

FAQ

Why not use canned chickpeas for falafel?

Canned chickpeas just don’t work as well. They are wetter and mushier, so your homemade falafel is more likely to fall apart as it cooks. Additionally, they have a pastier texture, while traditional falafel should be light and fluffy inside.

Some people also find that canned beans have a metallic aftertaste, although I haven’t noticed that. Overall if all you have is canned chickpeas, you can use them, but they won’t be as easy to make or taste as good.

Can I use Trader Joe’s Falafel Mix in the air fryer?

Yes, instead of soaking chickpeas, you can just mix up a box of Trader Joe’s falafel mix. Make it as the package directs, refrigerate it for 30 minutes, then form it into balls. Spray them with oil and air fry at 380 degrees F for about 10 minutes, turning once, until they are brown and crispy.

Why did my falafel disintegrate in the air fryer?

If falafel doesn’t hold together during air frying, it is too wet. The best way to fix this is to use dried and soaked chickpeas. If you used canned chickpeas, try stirring a small amount of flour into the mixture. Chilling the falafel dough mixture for 30 minutes before forming it into balls will also help it hold together better.

How do I cook frozen falafel in an air fryer?

To cook frozen falafel, like Trader Joe’s frozen falafel, first preheat the air fryer. Then put it in the air fryer basket in a single layer and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Air fry at 370 degrees F for 7-10 minutes. Turn them over part way through the cook time to ensure even browning. The shape and size of the falafel will determine how long they take to cook.

Key Tips for This Recipe

Be sure to check out the step by step instructions

Use dried chickpeas not canned for a better texture and taste.

Refrigerating the chickpea batter for 30 minutes makes it a lot easier to work with.

You can make these any shape, from balls to patties.

Do not overcook them, or they will get dry.

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Yield: 20

Air Fryer Falafel Recipe

closeup of falafel in a bowl

Crispy air fryer falafel is a crisp, nutritious, and delicious meatless meal!

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Soaking Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 59 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup of dry chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper 
  • Oil in a spray bottle

Instructions

  1. Soak the chickpeas for at least 12 hours in a large bowl filled with water. Make sure they are covered by at least 2 inches of water, so they have room to expand.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and pat them dry.
  3. Peel and roughly chop your garlic and onion. Do the same with the fresh herbs. 
  4. Add all the ingredients to a food processor. Mix until the texture is coarse and a little sandy. Don't overmix it; it should not form a paste, and there should be visible bits of herbs.
  5. Put the falafel dough in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. This will make it hold together better as it cooks.
  6. Use a small ice cream scoop or a cookie scoop to form the falafel mixture into balls about the size of golf balls.
  7. Put the balls in the air fryer basket. Spray with olive oil spray. 
  8. Cook at 380 ˚F for 12-14 minutes. Pull the basket out and use tongs to flip them over halfway through cooking.
  9. You can serve them with yogurt and garlic sauce, hummus, and tahini sauce.

Notes

  • Use soaked, dried chickpeas instead of canned for a better texture and taste.
  • Refrigerate the chickpea batter for 30 minutes makes it easier to work with.
  • You can make these any shape, from balls to patties. Adjust the cooking time based on the thickness.
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    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    20

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 75Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 85mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 4g

    Nutrition facts are estimates.

    top view of air fryer falafel served with rice
    By on January 25th, 2022

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