Crispy, golden-fried balls of chickpea, onion, and fresh garlic are certainly delicious when stuffed into pitas or served on salads, but how healthy is falafel? We've got all of the falafel nutrition information you need, along with a healthy recipe for baked falafel.
Falafel is a mainstay of Middle Eastern cuisine, fried until crispy and wrapped into a soft-pocketed pita or another flatbread like taboon.
This dish is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, but meat-eaters certainly won't complain if served a big plate of these rich, spiced chickpea balls.
While the baked version is nutrient-dense and relatively healthy, the traditional deep-fried pieces can give the dish a questionably high-fat content.
Read more below about falafel health benefits, and discover just how to make falafels with our healthy falafel recipe.
What is falafel?
Falafel itself refers to small, fried balls that are the perfect blend of mashed chickpeas, parsley, garlic, onions, and Middle Eastern spices. A little lemon juice adds some zing and lightness to the dish.
Once formed into falafel balls, they're traditionally deep-fried but often baked instead.
What's in a falafel?
Chickpeas, parsley, garlic, onion, and rich Middle Eastern Spices make up a falafel.
The falafel, once fried or baked, is served with a few traditional garnishes. First, it's likely stuffed into a pita, flatbread, or served on a fresh salad.
Decide what to eat with falafel with the options of freshly-sliced tomatoes, cucumber, onion, lettuce, hot sauce, pickled vegetables, feta cheese, hummus, and tzatziki sauce.
What does falafel taste like?
The garlic flavor is very loud in any good falafel, meaning a delicious pay-off that's good for your health, too. The earthy chickpea flavor also comes through, with bright notes from the fresh parsley and lemon juice.
The cumin and dried coriander produce a savory, warm flavor, with some extra hints of lime.
The taste of falafel is excellent, but the texture is even better. Between the crunch of fresh veggies and pickles, soft flatbread, and crispy falafel fritters, these wraps are ridiculously addictive.
Is falafel good for you?
Falafel is full of fresh, healthy ingredients and makes a nutritious plant-based meal.
Chickpeas are the falafel base, and these tasty legumes are stuffed full of healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals, and increase the protein in falafel significantly. Fresh herbs and spices also provide essential nutrients.
The toppings of falafel are mostly fresh, nutrient-dense veggies and gut-healthy pickles. And both of the sauces used are relatively healthy - the nutritional value of hummus and tzatziki is high as they're both loaded with protein and fiber.
Fried vs. baked
While some health experts suggest that deep-fried falafel is less healthy than a baked version, it depends on the type of oil used. Vegetable-based, unsaturated fats are healthy in moderation, meaning the fried version can still be beneficial.
In baked versions of falafel, calories are always a little lower than fried, so the choice you make depends on your health goals.
Is falafel vegetarian?
Yes! Falafel contains no meat.
Is falafel vegan?
The falafel fritters are vegan, but tzatziki is a yogurt-based sauce, so omit it for a vegan version.
Is falafel gluten-free?
Falafel often contains wheat flour, but you can easily replace it with a gluten-free variety or omit it altogether.
Is falafel keto?
If you’re on the keto diet, you won’t be reaping the full chickpea health benefit because they are too high in carbs to be keto-diet approved. Try a tofu-based version instead - you can learn how to make tofu taste good and enjoy a falafel dish that fits well into the keto diet guidelines.
How to make healthy falafel
- 1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 4 cloves of fresh garlic, whole
- 1/2 c onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- a pinch of salt and black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Grease your baking sheet with vegetable oil.
- Combine all falafel ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined, approximately 1 min.
- Form the chickpea mixture into small patties. Place them onto the baking sheet.
- Bake the falafel patties for 20-24 mins, flipping halfway.
- Serve and enjoy!
Final Verdict: Health Benefits of Falafel
The falafel nutrition facts speak for themselves - there are plenty of health benefits you can reap by eating this nutrient-dense and delicious plant-based meal.
Whether you choose baked or deep-fried pita or flatbread, you can feel good getting high levels of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that will keep your belly full.