A homemade vegan falafel sandwich with all of the fixings – lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and fresh dill. This Mediterranean lunch or dinner idea is full of plant-based protein and flavor!
Falafel is a delicious food from the Middle East and is naturally vegan! You can eat it on its own or use it as the base for an incredible vegan falafel sandwich. It takes a little bit of time and effort but is easier than you might think!
This vegan falafel sandwich recipe will keep you full with its plant-based protein and is seriously addictive! It delivers restaurant-quality falafel that you’ll want to make again and again.
Read on to learn more about falafel and how to make a super tasty vegan falafel sandwich yourself!
What is Falafel?
Falafel is incredibly popular throughout the Middle East, particularly in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon. Typically made with garbanzo beans (or chickpeas—more on that below), some falafel sandwiches are made with another ingredient, such as fava beans (this is the Egyptian way, for example).
The chickpeas or fava beans are typically accompanied by other ingredients like herbs and spices. Although recipes vary, common ingredients include onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, and parsley (among others).
Falafel is typically fried in oil, which makes it somewhat less healthy but definitely extra delicious. It’s always best when falafel is nice and crispy, something you don’t always get from store-bought falafel or pre-prepared mixes.
In general, falafel is a great source of plant-based protein, with plenty of protein and fiber. The herbs and spices are also a great source of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Falafel can be eaten on its own or as part of a large plate of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food. That said, it’s a killer street food when made into a sandwich with pita bread and other ingredients such as cucumber, red onion, lettuce, and tomatoes. Falafel is also wonderful when served with tahini, hummus, or tzatziki.
Chickpeas vs. Garbanzo Beans – What’s the Difference?
Quite simply, chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same things. They’re two names for the same legume, like how arugula is called “rocket” (from the French “roquette”) and cilantro is called “coriander” in England. There are also “scallions” and “green onions” (and even “bunching onions”), different names for what is the exact same thing.
Whatever you call it, chickpeas and garbanzo beans are a fantastic option for boosting your protein intake as a vegan. They’re also rich in fiber as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals such as folate (B9), manganese, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium (among others). However you eat them, chickpeas/garbanzo beans are a tasty and healthy addition to your diet.
One particularly tasty way to eat them is in a vegan falafel sandwich, for which you can find the recipe below!
Falafel Sandwich Ingredients
Many of these ingredients are vegan staples so you’ll probably already have a lot of these on hand!
- Chickpeas – Also known as garbanzo beans (see more above), chickpeas are a fantastic source of plant-based protein, fiber, and many vitamins and nutrients (e.g. folate [B9], manganese, copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and more)! They’re the star of this recipe as they form the base of the falafel. Just make sure to get dried chickpeas (you can typically find them in the bulk section of the grocery store). Canned chickpeas will lead to mushy falafel.
- Baking soda & powder – Baking soda and powder will help your falafel balls fry up better! Adding some baking soda into the water that your chickpeas soak in overnight will also help the chickpeas soften more (which means better baking/frying later).
- Herbs & spices – Parsley, cilantro, pepper, coriander, cumin, and cayenne pepper help give falafel its distinctive and delicious flavor! You can add more or less of these ingredients as you prefer. The best part is that these herbs and spices are not only delicious, but they help boost the overall nutrition of falafel by adding lots of essential vitamins and minerals as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. If you like you can also use mint or parsley instead of dill if you prefer—simply pick whatever you like best!
- Garlic – Garlic belongs to the allium family. Allium vegetables are rich in organosulfur compounds, which research shows may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure!
- Salt – If you try to be health-conscious like me, it can be tempting to skip or reduce the salt, but don’t! Adding even a little salt really helps bring out the other flavors.
- Chickpea flour – Chickpea flour is simply flour made out of dried chickpeas and helps add more substance (as well as more of the nutrition of chickpeas) to this recipe.
- Lemon zest – Lemons are delicious in so many recipes, and the same is true for this falafel recipe. These citrus fruits, like their cousins, are chock-full of vitamin C, which is famous for helping boost our immune system!
- Oil – You can fry these or bake them according to your preference. Vegetable oil is best for frying, whereas olive oil is better for baking. It’s easier to get a crispier falafel by frying, but it’s undeniable that baking them is healthier.
- Pita bread – Pita is a delicious type of bread with an origin in the Middle East. They’re perfect for stuffing or wrapping depending on the style of the pita, and either way they make for a delicious falafel sandwich. A hearty pita (like one made from whole wheat) will also add more fiber and protein to the recipe.
- Hummus, tahini, or vegan tzatziki – Falafel sandwiches are best topped with a delicious sauce or spread. You can use anything you prefer, but these three work especially well. Tzatziki creates more of a Greek vibe, whereas hummus or tahini keep it more Middle Eastern style.
- Vegan feta – Feta is also a great addition to a falafel sandwich. If you’re vegan, you’re in luck because there are now some delicious vegan cheese options out there. I really can’t recommend Violife’s vegan feta enough—it’s incredible!
Falafel Sandwich Filling Options
Falafel sandwiches commonly come with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and red onion. Apart from that, you can get creative and add whatever you like! Here are some falafel filling options you might consider based on what you have on hand and/or what you prefer:
- Pickled vegetables
- Spinach or arugula
- Cabbage slaw
- Bell pepper (especially fire-roasted bell peppers)
- Kalamata olives (or whatever olives you prefer)
- Pepperoncini peppers
- Vegan feta (my favorite is from Violife)
- Mint or any other herbs/spices you prefer
Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions
- A day in advance, soak the chickpeas with the baking soda (see notes) overnight in your refrigerator. Make sure the water is about 2-3 inches above the chickpeas because they will expand. When ready to make the falafel, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
- Add all of the falafel ingredients to a food processor, and pulse until well-combined. Be careful to not over pulse, you still want some texture, not mush.
- Place the falafel mixture in a bowl, and refrigerate for an hour. This will allow the starches from the chickpeas to develop more and the falafel balls will hold together better during the cooking process.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop 2-tablespoons of the falafel mixture. Shape into a ball, flatten the top and bottom just a little to form a disk shape and place on a plate. Repeat until all of your falafel disks are made (you should be able to make about 9 falafel).
- You can either fry or bake the falafel. To fry: heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Place a few disks in the hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil. Repeat until all of the falafel are fried. To bake: Preheat your oven to 400°F, and brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Place all of the falafel on the baking sheet and brush each of them with oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once halfway through baking, until golden brown.
- Now assemble the pitas! Cut about 1 inch off the top of each pita, forming a pocket. Add 3 falafels to each pita, and divide the toppings (lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley/dill) evenly between the pita pockets. Finish off the pitas with a drizzle of tahini or vegan tzatziki, and some vegan feta if desired.
- Enjoy your falafel sandwich!
Tips for Making Homemade Falafel
Here are some key tips for making homemade falafel to ensure that yours comes out well!
- Be sure to use dried chickpeas, NOT canned ones
- Soak the chickpeas overnight (or at least eight hours) in water (leave at least two or three inches of room because the chickpeas will absorb some water and expand)
- Use baking soda in your chickpea soak. This will help the chickpeas soften up more and they will also cook much better during the frying or baking process.
- Use a food process instead of a blender (if possible) to get the best texture for making falafel.
- You can either fry or bake. If frying, you can do traditional frying with vegetable oil or you can try an air fryer. This is a better method in terms of getting a crispier falafel. Baking is also an option and definitely a healthier one, if that’s a concern of yours.
What Sauces/Dips Should I Use?
Falafel sandwiches are delicious when covered in sauce. Don’t ask me why, they just are (like a lot of food, to be honest). My personal favorite is probably tahini, but there are a ton of different options. Here are some to consider:
- Vegan tzatziki (here’s a recipe from Veggies Don’t Bite)
- Mediterranean dressing (recipe from Eating by Elaine)
- Baba Ghanoush
Other Ways to Enjoy This Recipe
This recipe is specifically for making falafel sandwiches, but feel free to just make the falafel patties! They’re a delicious plant protein option that you can eat on their own or add to salads. You can also put them on a Mediterranean-themed charcuterie or grazing board with other items such as hummus, pita, olives, vegan cheeses, roasted bell peppers, dolmas, etc. Just thinking about it is making me hungry!
Let me know if you try this recipe for vegan falafel sandwiches, and if you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
Try more vegan entrees below:
- Crispy orange tofu
- Chipotle burrito bowl
- Yellow curry
- Pineapple fried rice
- Creamy pink pasta
- Tofu Poke Bowl
- Pumpkin Pasta
- Grilled Tofu Burger
- Mediterranean Buddha Bowl
- Spicy Noodle Stir Fry
- Pumpkin Soup without Stock
- Beyond Sausage Paella
- Greek Lemon Soup
- Broccoli Leek Soup
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Shepherd’s Pie with Beyond Beef
- Quinoa Lentil Meatloaf