Red Lentil Falafels
For my money, a good falafel sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches, including all those of the meat variety. I like them because they are hearty, really filling, and have lots of interesting flavors.
I’ve made baked falafels before using normal chickpeas but I figured that you can make little falafel balls out of a bunch of different legumes (or even grains). When I wanted to try this theory out, lentils was the first thing that popped into my mind. I love their flavor, they are really easy to cook, and they mash well so I figured they would make good falafels.
I actually found lentils easier to work with than chickpeas so if you want to try your hand at homemade falafels, this might be a good beginner version.
Yield: 4 sandwiches
3 cups cooked red lentils (about 1 1/2 uncooked cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 large egg
1 lemon, juice only
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
Quick yogurt sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 lemon, juice only
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 pita breads, halved
Cucumber, sliced thin
Red onion, sliced thin
Feta cheese, crumbled
1) Cook red lentils according to package. Be sure to rinse them and sort through for any pebbles. Cook until soft, then drain and cool slightly.
2) Mash together lentils with spices, parsley, and cilantro. Mix in egg, lemon juice, baking powder, flour, and a big pinch of salt and pepper.
3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use a tablespoon to scoop heaping tablespoons of lentil mixture into breadcrumbs. Toss to coat and transfer coated falafel ball to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue with forming falafels until you have used all the mixture (you should get 26-30 falafels).
4) Drizzle falafels well with olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until lentils are cracked and cooked through.
5) Meanwhile stir together greek yogurt sauce ingredients and prepare other garnishes.
6) When falafels are done baking, make a sandwich by microwaving a pita for 10 seconds so it's easier to open. Stuff with a few falafel balls and any other garnishes you want. Eat up!
The Lentil Mixture
I used red lentils for this version but you can use any lentil really. Ideally, you could make a big batch of lentils and then save a few cups of the leftovers for these falafels later in the week.
There’s nothing tricky about cooking lentils. Just follow the instructions on the package. If I’m eating lentils on their own, I’m very careful not to overcook the lentils because they can get mushy quickly. This is less of a concern if we are making falafels because everything needs to be mashed together anyway.
If you do cook lentils fresh just for this dish, be sure to let them cool before proceeding with the recipe.
Once your lentils are cooked and cooled, just mash them together with the garlic, spices, and herbs. Feel free to go big on the flavors here. Also add a big pinch of salt and pepper to the mix at this point.
Once the spices are mashed in, add the egg, lemon juice, baking powder, and flour. The baking powder helps keep the falafels nice and light and gives them a bit of a puff. Without it, they might be too thick and chewy.
Once your falafel mixture is ready, you need to answer the big falafel question:
To Bake or Fry?
Quite honestly, I do both. Baking is obviously healthier, but you do miss out on some crunchy deliciousness that results from frying. I also think baking is easier. You can just form them all, slide them in the oven, and forget about them while you prep your other ingredients.
I went with baking for this version, but if you want a falafel frying tutorial, I did that a few years ago also.
Either way though, form the falafels by scooping out heaping tablespoon balls and rolling them in bread crumbs.
If you’re baking, add the shaped falafels to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once they are all formed, drizzle the falafels really well with olive oil. I also like to gently press falafels down to make them thinner and easier to fit in a pita later.
Bake these guys for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and they will get slightly cracked and lightly browned around the edges. That’s when they are done!
While the falafels bake, you can prepare the other toppings.
I whisked together a quick Greek yogurt sauce and also chopped up some tasty crunchy veggies for my sandwiches.
Once the falafels are baked, make a sandwich by stuffing everything into a pita half! I recommend microwave the pita for 10 seconds which makes them easier to open up and stuff.
Doesn’t that sandwich look tasty and delicious?
I loved these and they are beautiful for weekday lunches. You can reheat the little falafel balls in the microwave in just a few seconds and then make your sandwich on the spot.