Easy Zero Waste Falafel Recipe
I first fell in love with falafel when I was living in Germany and Austria. Due to the high Turkish population, there is falafel to be had in every major city, in tiny dives, and vendors strewn throughout the narrow cobbled streets.
When I started dating my husband in New York, that was something we shared. We would make late night runs to our favorite food truck and gorge ourselves on the stuff, slathered in thick creamy yogurt sauce and hot sauce.
Zero Waste Falafel
What we didn’t love was all the styrofoam packaging and other waste that came with eating out. When I went zero waste, we decided to try making it from scratch, and what we found is that not only is it incredibly easy to make, but it tastes more delicious than any falafel we’d ever eaten.
Most Middle Eastern cultures have a version of falafel. In Egypt, it’s made with the green fava bean. In Israel, it’s made with chickpeas. But they are all versions of the same delicious fried vegetable fritter. What’s even better is that they are traditionally gluten free and vegan. They are often served with hummus, tahini and a creamy yogurt sauce. In Israel they are always accompanied by Israeli salad with cucumber and tomato.
Part of going zero waste, for me, has been a return to the joy of making things by hand. Our modern lifestyle allows us the luxury of convenience, but I’m not sure that’s always good for us. There is value in slowing down and taking a little extra time to nourish ourselves. I place more value on food that I’ve intentionally prepared, than something I’ve just taken out of a package and slapped in the microwave.
So while this might take a few extra minutes than eating out, in my opinion it tastes even more delicious because I made it myself and know exactly what’s in it.
Below is the falafel recipe I’ve been playing with for the past few months. I wanted to share it because I know that zero waste cooking can seem a bit daunting. But I want to prove how easy and fun it can be.
(Read to the end of the article for bonus creamy yogurt sauce and chicken schawarma recipes).
Traditional Israeli Falafel Recipe:
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes:
Total time 35 minutes
1 cup dried chickpeas (I buy mine in bulk to avoid waste)
3/4 cup fresh parsley de-stemmed (get it zero waste in a mesh reusable produce bag!)
1 cup roughly chopped onion (I use red because it’s slightly sweeter)
3-5 fresh garlic cloves
1 pasture raised egg (substitute with 2 Tbsp water to make vegan)
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying (I use organic non GMO canola oil, but other good high heat oils are coconut, avocado, grapeseed, and sunflower oils).
Needed: 1 food processor or blender
Note: Please compost all your food scraps! That way they can return to the earth as soil for more food to grow.
How to make it:
1. Soak your chickpeas overnight in water. They should double in size.
2. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly and put them into your food processor along with the parsley, onion, garlic, egg, flour, salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and cardamom.
3. Pulse the mixture in your food processor until a rough meal forms. Scrape it down on the sides with a spatula periodically to insure all ingredients are properly incorporated. Note: make sure not to grind it too fine – you don’t want hummus!
4. Place it in a large container and stir through with a fork, removing any large chunks of chickpea the food processor missed. Refrigerate for 1 hour before frying.
5. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Form the meal into balls roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Insure the oil isn’t too hot that it will cause the falafel to cook too quickly on the outside before it cooks in the middle. Cook the balls 2-3 minutes on each side before flipping.
6. Drain them on a towel when they’re fully cooked on both sides. I use bamboo paper towels, which I then compost, but a kitchen towel you don’t mind getting oily is also fine. Allow them to cool for a few minutes before diving in.
Note: We reuse the oil to be more sustainable! We pour it into a mason jar and keep it in the fridge to get at least a couple more fries out of it.
Falafel is best enjoyed freshly fried, therefore I like to put it into several smaller containers and freeze it to avoid it going bad. We thaw one portion out at a time a day or so before use.
Creamy yogurt sauce recipe:
Note: This isn’t strictly zero waste because I haven’t experimented yet with making my own yogurt. However, the container can be recycled.
Prep time: 5 minutes
3 Tbsp yogurt (I use goat yogurt, but coconut is also great if you want to make it vegan)
3 Tbsp mayonnaise (or veganaise, brand of choice)
1 tsp water
1/2 lemon – squeezed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
Mix it up and drizzle it over the falafel.
Chicken schawarma recipe:
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
1/2 lb chicken thighs (from a humane/sustainable source – we use Mary’s brand from Natural Grocers because the chickens are pasture raised)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp oil for frying
Serves 2 – double recipe to serve more people
Cube the chicken thighs into 1/4 inch cubes (roughly). Add the spices, garlic and oil. Mix it all together and let it sit for a few minutes. Fry on medium to low heat until juice runs clear (about 15 minutes).
We serve our chicken schawarma and falafel on a bed of lettuce with rice, tomato, cubed red onion, and of course drizzled in our creamy yogurt sauce.
This is our favorite recipe
My husband and I cook it almost every weekend when we spend intentional time together. We usually finish up the evening cuddling on the couch watching a Miyazaki film. (You caught us, we’re nerds lol!)
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you try the recipe, post a picture! I love cooking and nothing would make me happier than to know something that I enjoy so much has brought someone else joy as well.
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