This Quinoa Falafel recipe is gluten-free, naturally vegan, and most importantly, makes the best falafels with chickpeas and quinoa that are wonderfully crisp on the outside with a tender, moist middle that is packed with flavor and protein. Make these as baked or air fryer falafels, cooked to perfection, then serve immediately or store/freeze for later!
Table of contents
- Crispy, Tender Quinoa Falafel
- Why This Chickpea Quinoa Falafel Recipe Works?
- The Ingredients
- How to Make Chickpea Quinoa Falafels
- Top Tips For Best Results
- Optional Add-ins and Recipe Variations
- Healthy Falafel Dinner Ideas and Serving Suggestions
- Making Falafel Recipe in Advance
- More Healthy Quinoa Recipes
Crispy, Tender Quinoa Falafel
I feel like we’ve all had a lackluster falafel – you know, the ones that are super dry, gummy, and stick to the roof of your mouth. In some cases, they’re bad enough to put people off falafel for life! That’s probably why it took me so long to attempt this quinoa falafel recipe instead of relying on chickpea salad with avocado, stew, soup, and creamy hummus to get my chickpea fill.
I was so afraid that the homemade falafel would end up super dry because I’ve found that many baked vegan patties look so dry (sorry! even my vegetarian healthy black bean burgers contain egg to bind and zucchini for lots of moisture!). However, I may have to bite my tongue because these quinoa falafels came out wonderfully tender and moist in the middle! Even better, they have a lovely crisp outside too! Whereas traditional falafels are deep-fried, for this quinoa falafel recipe, you can ditch the copious amounts of oil and still end up with impressive results whether you’re making them baked or as air fryer falafel.
Also, straying away from tradition, I decided to add the protein powerhouse that is quinoa to this recipe. Quinoa is one of (if not) the best plant-based sources of protein there is – as well as being low GI and packed with antioxidants. I love swapping out grains for quinoa whenever possible, like this Mediterranean quinoa salad, Instant Pot stuffed peppers, quinoa vegetarian chili, and quinoa topped healthy chicken pot pie casserole! You can even use leftover cooked quinoa (Instant Pot or stovetop) for this recipe, cutting down on the prep time!
When combining the baked chickpea quinoa falafels with tomatoes and cucumber all wrapped up in a warm pita and creamy tahini sauce – pure healthy meal with falafel perfection!
Why This Chickpea Quinoa Falafel Recipe Works?
- You can prepare these as baked or air fryer falafels, with a crisp shell and tender middle without the giant vat of oil, unlike traditional falafel!
- These chickpea quinoa falafels are flavorful and packed with protein for a great addition to any meat-free meal!
- These are perfect for making in bulk for meal prep and storing in the fridge or freezer!
- The quinoa falafel recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and even grain-free!
- They are also perfect for enjoying year-round as there are no seasonal ingredients required!
- Quinoa: This method is best for white quinoa, which has a subtler flavor. You can also use leftover cooked quinoa.
- Chickpeas: I used a can of low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed. You could also use home-cooked chickpeas (Instant Pot or on the stovetop).
- Water: Filtered or tap water is fine.
- Aromatics: I used a combination of fresh onion and garlic, classic additions to any falafel.
- Seasonings: I used a combination of fresh parsley, ground cumin and coriander, and salt.
- Oil: I used sesame oil, which adds a little extra flavor. You can use other neutral oils like avocado oil instead.
- Cornstarch: Helps to thicken and bind the falafel mixture.
- Cooking spray: To spray the falafel before baking/ air frying.
- Tahini: Use a smooth creamy tahini. Some brands may be more bitter than others.
- Water: To help thin the sauce to the desired ‘drizzle’ consistency.
- Lemon: Use fresh lemon juice for a bright zingy flavor.
- Garlic: I love garlic in everything – feel free to adjust the amount to personal preference.
- Salt: Just a little to help season the sauce.
- Pita: I used whole wheat pita, but you can use the pita of your choice – including gluten-free if necessary.
- Vegetables: I used a combination of cucumber and tomato. You could optionally also include lettuce.
Keep reading below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on recipe add-ins and variations!
How to Make Chickpea Quinoa Falafels
Not only is this recipe super simple to follow, but it makes a whopping 46 falafels – perfect for meal-prepping and storing in the freezer. However, feel free to halve the recipe if preferred.
- Prepare the quinoa: First, cook the quinoa with a pinch of salt as per the package instructions (or using my stovetop or Instant Pot methods). Meanwhile, line two large baking trays with unbleached parchment paper or silicone baking mats and spray with cooking spray. Also, set aside a bowl with cold water and a small trigger scoop (or falafel scoop).
- Blend the falafel mixture: In a large food processor, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, coriander, sesame oil, cornstarch, and salt and water. Blend into a semi-smooth paste. You want there to be some chickpea chunks left; otherwise, the falafel will be ‘stodgy.’
If your mixture ends up too wet or too dry (it shouldn’t, but just in case), you can add in a tsp at a time of water (if too crumbly) or chickpea flour (if too wet). The consistency should be thick enough to hold together and form the falafels with a slight stickiness.
- Add the quinoa: Combine the blended chickpea mixture with the cooked (and fluffed) quinoa in a large bowl, using a spatula to combine the two. When using tinned/cooked chickpeas, you can now taste the mixture and adjust any of the seasonings to taste.
- Shape the falafel: Preheat the oven to 450F/232C. Meanwhile, using a small scoop, scoop some of the quinoa falafel mixture, packing it tightly, and roll it into golf-ball-sized balls. Then place the rolled balls on the prepared baking sheet, about 1-inch apart.
I recommend dipping your hands in the water in-between to stop sticking. You can also spray the scoop with a bit of cooking spray/oil to reduce sticking.
- Bake the falafel: Spray the quinoa falafel with a little cooking spray and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping once until they are golden brown and crispy. Check the FAQs for the air fryer falafel method.
- Prepare the tahini sauce: As the falafel bake, prepare the tahini sauce. In a food processor combine the tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Process until smooth.
Tahini can react with water and lemon juice and thicken up into a paste. This reaction is normal. However, when using the processor and enough water, it will smooth out again into a creamy sauce.
- Prepare the pita: Once baked, serve the falafel warm in pita pockets with some sliced cucumber, tomatoes (and optionally lettuce), and drizzled with lots of sauce.
Top Tips For Best Results
- Don’t over process the mixture: It’s essential to get the right texture for the best results. Process too much, and the texture will be oof, not enough texture, or under process and you might end up getting a big beautiful of garlic/onion or herb – not pleasant!
- Using dried vs. cooked/tinned chickpeas: Traditional falafel use chickpeas that have been soaked in water overnight and are uncooked to achieve the perfect texture. However, with the addition of quinoa, the extra ‘mushy’ ness of the pre-cooked quinoa helps hold everything together while still maintaining a good moist falafel consistency.
- If using canned chickpeas that aren’t low sodium: Make sure to adjust the amount of salt used in the remainder of the recipe.
- Using leftover quinoa: This quinoa falafel recipe is excellent for using up leftover cooked quinoa. There’s no need to cook it freshly every time and it’ll save a bunch of prep time!
- Round vs. patty falafels: You can shape the falafels into golf balls, flatten them slightly, or even increase their size to create falafel burger patties. If you make falafel patties, then you’ll need to increase the cooking time by several minutes.
Optional Add-ins and Recipe Variations
- For heat: You could add a little cayenne pepper or chili to the falafel mixture.
- Other spices/herbs: Feel free to experiment slightly with the herbs and spices you add to your quinoa falafels. Paprika, turmeric, dill, coriander powder, etc., are all potential add-ins.
- Baking powder: Around 1 tbsp added to the falafel mixture will result in lightly lighter, airier falafel. However, if you plan to include this, make sure to do so just before cooking them. It will lose potency if left in the chilled/frozen mixture.
- Make gluten-free: This is simple to do – the falafel mix is already gluten-free. Just make sure to use a GF pita if you want to serve them in a pita pocket.
- To add to the falafel pita: Alongside the veggies I’ve suggested, you could also add lettuce, pickled turnips, or even hummus (garlic or this sweet potato hummus).
You sure can – just make sure to half the sauce too, if you’re making it.
You can make air fryer falafel at 350F/175C for 14 minutes; no need to turn or shake. I’ve experimented with both rolled and flattened shapes with no difference; however, if your air fryer rotates/moves while it cooks, then it may be best to flatten the falafel so they don’t roll around.
I wouldn’t recommend it as the falafel mixture is too thick and won’t process properly in the machine. In fact, I used a blender this time and I don’t know what I was thinking, it didn’t move around well at all and I’ll definitely be going back to my food processor next time!
Healthy Falafel Dinner Ideas and Serving Suggestions
Whether you’re looking for a snack, light lunch, or delicious falafel dinner ideas- here are some of my top suggestions for what goes with falafel.
- With a dip: You can serve these quinoa chickpea falafels as a snack with the dip of your choice; tzatziki, hummus, or just a little of the tahini sauce.
- With salad: Swap out other proteins (or increase the protein) for these protein-packed vegan quinoa falafels, like this Italian chopped salad, simple lettuce salad, avocado corn salad, or even tabbouleh.
- Falafel sides ideas: Side dishes such as Mediterranean salad, baked zucchini sticks, greek vegetable salad or balsamic grilled veggies are excellent choices for a well rounded meal.
- As a wrap/Pita: Serve them up as I have with tomato and cucumber or add in extras like healthy coleslaw, potato salad, or hummus. You could also use falafel patties to create a veggie falafel burger.
- As part of Mezze spread: Alongside various dips, Middle-Eastern appetizers, olives, fresh veggies, pita bread, etc.
- Tacos: Crumbled and used as a vegetarian taco filling alongside guacamole and salad veggies.
- Pizza: crumble the chickpea quinoa falafels over your pizza of choice for an interesting new topping.
- Quick dinner bowl: Serve the quinoa falafels over spiced eggplant with air-fryer tofu on a bed of leafy greens and drizzled with the tahini sauce for a simple, healthy falafel dinner idea. You could also use them in meal prep meals. For example, use them to substitute chicken for this chicken burrito bowl.
Making Falafel Recipe in Advance
Make ahead: You can refrigerate the prepared chickpea quinoa falafel mixture covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can also freeze the uncooked falafel mixture ready to bake at a later time. I prefer to do this with pre-rolled falafel. Lay them on a large parchment-lined tray and freeze until solid. Then transfer to a large Ziploc bag for up to three months. Bake from frozen adding 5-10 minutes of extra time.
Storing: Refrigerate the baked quinoa falafel in an airtight container for up to 5 days. The tahini sauce can be stored, separately, for up to a week.
Freeze: You can store the baked falafel in the freezer the same way you do when making ahead (freeze on a tray, then transfer to bag and store for three months). Spray with cooking spray, bake from frozen in 450 F degrees oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, turning once.
Check out my full list of 20 healthy frozen meals. I’m obsessed!
Reheat: You can reheat the falafels in the oven or air fryer until warmed through.
More Healthy Quinoa Recipes
- Spinach artichoke quinoa casserole
- Quinoa blueberry and pecan salad
- Broccoli quinoa salad
- Quinoa black bean salad
- Southwest quinoa salad
Need more inspiration? Check out 30 quinoa recipes because there is sure to be something for everyone!
Quinoa Falafel with Tahini Sauce
- 2 cups quinoa dry
- 2 14 oz cans low sodium chickpeas drained & rinsed
- 1 medium onion coarsely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves large
- 2 cups parsley packed
- 4 tsp cumin ground
- 2 tsp coriander ground
- 4 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Cooking spray I use Misto
- 14 whole wheat pitas for serving
- 1 long English cucumber, thinly sliced for serving
- 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced for serving
- 1 cup tahini
- 1 cup water
- 2 lemons juice of
- 1 garlic clove large
- 1 tsp salt
- Cook quinoa with a pinch of salt as per package instructions, get perfect results with this method. In the meanwhile, line 2 large baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper or silicone baking mats and spray with cooking spray. Also get a bowl with cold water and small trigger scoop ready. Set aside.
- In a large food processor, add chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, coriander, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt and water. Blend until semi-smooth with some smaller chickpea chunks left.
- In a large bowl, add cooked and fluffed quinoa, and blended chickpea mixture; mix with spatula until well combined.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Using small scoop, scoop falafel mixture, packing it tightly, roll into golf size balls (helps to dip hands in water in between) and place on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
- Spray with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, turning once.
- While falafel is baking make Tahini Sauce. In a food processor, add tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic and salt; process until smooth.
- Serve falafel warm, in a pita pocket with some sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and drizzle with lots of sauce. Great for meal prep, lunches and potlucks.
Make Ahead: You can refrigerate the prepared chickpea quinoa falafel mixture covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.
Freeze: Lay rolled falafel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, freeze completely and transfer to a large Ziploc bag. Bake from frozen following recipe's instructions plus extra 5-10 minutes.
- This recipe makes a lot: You can cut all ingredients in half for less servings.
- Cooking your own beans: I cook Instant Pot chickpeas or check out my tutorial how to cook dried beans from dried on the stove.
- If using not low sodium canned beans: Because cooked at home beans do not contain salt, add less salt if you can’t find low sodium canned garbanzo beans.
- Blender: I do not recommend to use blender because falafel mixture is too thick.
- Air fryer falafel: You can air fry falafel at 350 degrees F for 14 minutes, no need to turn or shake. I experimented with both shapes, flat and rolled, and noticed no difference.
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