Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun

It may surprise you to find that this is the first time I have posted a falafel recipe. Falafels are emergency vegetarian food, especially when out and about. Wherever you are there is normally a Turkish kebab shop that can save your life when starvation takes hold and you need something quick and tasty.

I have a theory though. A falafel conspiracy theory, if you like. I think that the falafels you buy in most Turkish or Lebanese restaurants or cafes are made out of a packet mix. I know, controversial. My reason for this slanderous outburst is sound and based on personal experience. Theirs hold together and mine, do not. See the picture below for an example of a very lovely falafel we bought from an Israeli vendor at the market.

 Along with a delicious tabouli salad, spicy tomato dip, broad bean dip and cheese and potato puffs. Perfect picnic food. For when your friends have very kindly allowed you to spend the day by their pool while they are away.

I also some bought some gorgeous gladioli and a big box of irresistible looking plums at the market. I see plum recipes coming up. Anyway back to the falafels.

Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure you will, but aren’t falafels made from chickpeas? The ones you buy seem to be made from bulgur wheat or couscous. They have a distinctly grainy inside that looks and tastes nothing like a chickpea, cooked or uncooked. Am I the only person that has noticed this? Don’t get me wrong they taste great and I love them but pureed chickpeas they ain’t.

That’s my excuse anyway. I’ve tried with cooked chickpeas and dried, soaked overnight chickpeas. Whatever, I have always had a disaster. Either too dense, hard and chewy because I’ve added so much chickpea flour to make them hold together or too sloppy and they fall apart and disintegrate as soon as I start to cook them in the oil. Until now that is…..

…actually that is a little bit of a lie. The first lot of these I cooked in oil and they disintegrated as usual. Tasted good but had to be scooped into a flatbread and eaten.

My success came about through baking them rather than frying. Mould them into patties, dust with a little polenta or cornmeal, brush with a tiny amount of oil and bake for about 30 minutes. They are still not the most stable of snacks, you couldn’t throw one at someone from the other side of the pool, for instance but they are soft, delicious and a little crumbly.

And they taste of chickpea. Enhanced with a few herbs, spices and harissa. Perfect. You just need a little tahini yoghurt sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

Serves 3, makes about 9, vegan, (without the sauce) gluten-free.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time 30 mins

  • 1 tin/jar cooked chickpeas (400 gr), drained, rinsed & dried
  • 50 g of fresh peas (not frozen too wet) optional
  • 25 g hazelnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a big handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used, mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  • 1/2 tsp or more harissa paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • the juice of half a lemon plus wedges to serve
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • polenta or cornmeal fro dusting

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smoothish and it has come together. If you need to, add a bit more lemon juice to get it moving but not a lot. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mould into cakes and put in the fridge to firm up for a while or overnight.

When ready to cook preheat oven to 200 C. Put the polenta on a flat plate and roll the patties in it to lightly coat all sides. Line a baking tray with baking paper place the patties on the tray and brush very lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly browned and serve with the tahini yoghurt sauce.

Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

  • 1 pot (125ml) Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handfull of fresh herbs, chopped I used mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  •  a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch ground cumin
  • a pinch sumac (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust lemon & salt as necessary.

Serve the falafel cakes with the tahini yoghurt sauce, lemon wedges and some salad leaves. In a flatbread/pita or not, it’s up to you.

I might have to buy a packet mix for falafel just to find out if that’s what they use. Just to prove to myself really. If it’s not I can’t understand it, any ideas?


33 Responses to “Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce”

  1. ceciliag June 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    I have always been deeply suspicious of the bought falafel, in fact my research took me to a packet of instant falafel that I found in NZ.. made said falafel and they were just like the ones down the road.. aha i thought. And now I discover that this is an international phenomena!! baking them is inspired, i will try that next, as i love these little fellas and have a vege living in the house. nice pool.. lucky you! have fun.. c

  2. smileysoyabean June 22, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I always have the same problem with my falafels too, will have to try this recipe, thanks!

  3. Big Hungry Gnomes June 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Your falafel recipe sounds absolutely delicious and your presentation is just lovely. I love the idea of mixing more middle-eastern fresh herbs like mint and coriander with the more Mediterranean end of the spectrum of parsley and oregano, together with using cumin, grassy ground coriander and sweet ground cinnamon to make a really unique taste, which I can’t wait to try out for myself. Thanks for sharing the wonderful recipe

  4. Annie Flowers June 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Absolutely delicious put into wraps with green salad, sliced red onions and the dip or sweet tomato chutney for a great transportable, clean to eat lunch.

  5. frugalfeeding June 22, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    What a gorgeous top photo – these look truly yummy. Little falafel-type burgers. I adore veggie burgers 😀

  6. peasepudding June 23, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    Yes definitely with chickpea and good idea with the polenta, mine always fall apart too. I like the Harissa with them.

  7. Priya Sreeram (@priyasreeram) June 23, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    good one !

  8. dassana June 23, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    finally you posted the falafel recipe. even when i fry them i am so alert that they do not break in oil. if they do, then i add some more flour to the mixture. i know baking won’t break them but at home we prefer fried than baked…. typical indian tastebuds 🙂

  9. kellie@foodtoglow June 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    I think you have just uncovered an international conspiracy because here in the UK it is the same thing: the consistency of bought falafels are just too smooth and cohesive. Tasty though. I have better luck when adding wrung out beetroot shreds or sweet potato, which I have to add as I can’t really tolerate chickpeas in quantity. And as a good little cancer nutritionist I do the baking thing too – just as tasty, so no compromise. The whole recipe is stunning Natalie. I really love sumac (I have a Lebanese neighbour who keeps me well supplied – lucky me). Anyone reading this – don’t forget the sumac!

  10. musingmar June 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    These sound amazing and your photography is beautiful!

  11. thebigfatnoodle June 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Well done for attempting to make them. I buy falafels from M&S in London – they taste amazing and are very lemony. Anything that has chickpeas in them gets my vote.

  12. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide June 24, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Simply gorgeous!

  13. The Art of Color June 24, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    reading this has made me sooo hungry! going to try this delish recipe tomorrow. thank you for sharing!

  14. Riley June 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Hooray for not-messy falafel! Looks delicious.

  15. DB-The Foodie Stuntman June 25, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    I’m craving this right now. Congratulations on making the foodbuzz Top 9!

  16. The Mistress of Spices June 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    I think you’re right…the majority of store-bought or restaurant falafel is suspiciously different from the homemade kind. Yours look great though, and beautiful presentation as always! Congrats on top 9 today!

  17. Vicky June 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Looks scrumptious! I’ll take a homemade falafel anyday over a store bought one. Congrats on making the top 9 today!

  18. Ally June 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    These look absolutely perfect… tons of flavor but not dry! Amazing!

  19. chichibun June 25, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    These look delicious! thank you for the recipe.

  20. CJ at Food Stories June 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Congratulations on your foodbuzz top 9, today!

  21. Rebecca June 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Oh no… it is possible to make perfect falafel at home, from scratch. I know this because my husband makes the best falafel from scratch. He sometimes uses a combination of chickpeas with fava beans and sometimes just the chickpeas. There have been times that they fell apart but his tricks are: 1. soak the chickpeas over night. 2. Do not cook them prior to forming the falafel; the chickpeas should be raw. 3 add a little bit of bread to the mixture – this seems to have a real effect. Not much bread, as you don’t need to taste it, but a little bit goes a long way. 4. Then let the mixture rest for a good 30 minutes before frying.

  22. April June 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    I’ve been wanting to make falafels forever, your version looks amazing! and beautifully presented!!

  23. Le Petit Potager June 27, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    I use a recipe (IIsraeli)? that uses uncooked, coarsly ground chick peas and 15g fresh yeast or equivalent dry yeast shaped into spheres and they stay together well……or the Egyptian version using ful nabed (white broad beans) rissole shaped.
    Baking is a great idea!…….must try next.

  24. Tammy June 27, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    As always, this is a stellar presentation. I am so hungry for falafel right now.

  25. john June 27, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Hey People!

    Nice post! i love it! I think we have to start thinking on that, couse the world will need it, we will need it! I foun some info, you migh want to see… Plant Your Food at Home -Tips for home cultivation – http://www.planthome.blogspot.com



  26. Maura C July 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm #


    Hello from Wales – though I am from the Emerald Isle myself – his nibs is Welsh.

    I think that I am your newest subscriber/follower. Just happened on your blog today and have already spent a few hours on it!

    What with also literally discovering Niamh Shields, an Irish food blogger based in London (http://eatlikeagirl.com/ – apparently one of the top 10 food bloggers in the internet world), this weekend I am a very happy bunny! His nibs actually bought me Niamh’s book – Comfort & Spice. So when is your book coming out?!

    By profession I am a biologist and environmental scientist but my real love is cooking,
    cooking and well cooking! Neighbours here go and hide when I am in cooking mode (well no they don’t, they just turn up on the doorstep with stuff from their garden which they are never going to do anything with, but with the idea that Maura will find some use for it!)

    Loads of your recipes I will be trying but had to comment on the falafel recipe – my efforts at same have been totally rubbish as well. Yes cooking in oil they disintegrate and I twigged the cook in oven idea sometime ago – dry and tasteless was the result.

    Will try your recipe in huge anticipation of great results!

    A virtual handshake and hug to you from Wales.

    Maura C.

  27. Dotty Finlow August 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Made and devoured with relish! Thank you.

  28. Gabe March 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    The reason why your falafel are falling apart when you fry them is because you are using cooked chickpeas. In making falafel you should soak the chickpeas over night but never cook it.

  29. Helen April 7, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    There are also recipes not using chickpeas, only habas. Will dig one out and try it.


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