Vegan Falafels

An authentic-tasting vegan falafel recipe, made using fresh chickpeas, fresh herbs, and spices – perfect for a party platter or snack.

‘What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.’ John Steinbeck

I am feeling the above quote very much right now!

As South Africa enters level one of our lockdown, with restrictions easing, the weather warming and celebrations beginning to fill my calendar, I am very much feeling like the proverbial (and literal) sun has come out after the storm. (My brain has now spontaneously begun to sing the song ‘The sun will come out tomorrow’ from the Broadway musical production ‘Annie’ … 🤦🏼‍♀️).

2020 has been rough, let’s face it. It has been dark, it has been cold (winter down here in the southern hemisphere), it has been gloomy on every level.

Without the warmth of friends and family due to covid restrcitions and social distancing, it has been that much more cold.

BUT! The sun is coming out people. It really is. At least that’s how I’m feeling anyway.

‘If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.’ Anne Bradstreet.

I am currently looking forward to a big event coming up this very week – the wedding of one my very best friends! It is taking place in Tulbagh and so we will be taking a much-needed little road trip, to go and celebrate the union of two super special people. Warm, sunny country weather and wine-tasting included!

Spring has sprung and the flowers are out in full force, everything is warming up, the ground is drying, and the fear of this horrible virus is weakening. I am under no delusion that it has gone, but there is a certain freedom that I have begun to enjoy, the freedom of the mind that comes with hope. Summer is on it’s way!

Ask any South African what they most strongly associate with a hot South African summer, and I would put money on at least 90% of the answers being *BRAAI’S! ( *A braai is a South African term for barbeque, or grill. Basically to cook food over an open flame, preferably outside).

The other answers could be: the sea/ocean – salty, sun-kissed skin and hair; enjoying an ice cold beer in the sun; eating chunks of watermelon on the warm paving around a swimming pool; the smell of sunscreen; soft serve ice cream eaten out of a cone; the smell of freshly cut lawn on a balmy Sunday afternoon…

As you can probably tell, summer is my favourite season!

Not least of all because I love a good braai! Yes, I’m vegan, yes, braai’s are synonymous with large chunks of marinated meat sizzling over the coals. No, it does not matter (just give the grid a good clean with a metal brush please LOL). There are honestly so, so many vegan options to cook on a braai. I could (and should) write a full blog post on that!

But as we start mingling with friends and family more, comes a need for snacks! Who wants to be drinking our gorgeous, coastal, cool climate sauvignon blancs on an empty stomach, am I right?

Enter falafels!!

These guys are so good on a snack platter. They are:

  • vegan
  • easy
  • healthy
  • can be made oil free
  • super tasty
  • bite-sized
  • filling
  • nutritious
  • budget-friendly
  • freezer-friendly

When I was creating this recipe, I tried cooking them three different ways – 1) I fried them in oil in a frying pan, 2) I fried them in an airfryer without any oil (except a spray of coconut oil to prevent them from sticking), and 3) I baked them in the oven.

Taste wise, the frying pan cooking method was the best in my opinion. The oil frying created a brown and crispy crust while keeping them soft and moist inside. I would use this method when serving these to others at a party or braai.

Here is what they look like when fried in oil in a frying pan.

Health wise, the air-frying is the best, as you don’t get the unnecessary calories from the oil. This is how I would cook them if I were making them for myself and my fiancé for meals during the week. I found the air-fryer tended to dry them out ever-so-slightly more, although still created a crisp and brown crust. I wouldn’t have a problem serving these to others at all though, so it is either/or for me really. Personal preference!

Here is what they looked like air-fried with a light spray of coconut oil to prevent sticking.

I am often asked to bring snacks to a braai or get-together, and if I’m not asked I often do anyway as there is inevitably not that much, if any, vegan snacks. And like I said, sauvignon blanc + empty tummy = nope (not for a lightweight like me anyway!).

I would put these on a platter with my vegan yoghurt-free tzatziki and some homemade hummus for dipping, fresh red pepper slices, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, toasted mini pita breads, and possibly some marinated olives. This will be a crowd pleaser, and not much fuss to put together. Just don’t forget the soaking time – remember to soak the dried chickpeas the night before you intend to make them, as well as the cashew nuts for the tzatziki. From there it’s easy peasy.

Here is the recipe for my vegan no yoghurt tzatziki, and here is the recipe for an easy hummus.

If you live in the northern hemisphere and are feeling a little left out of all the summertime talk, I’m sorry 🥺

These are great for a snack platter for any occasion though. I also make them in advance to eat with meals throughout the week.

A bonus is that they freeze well, so you can always have snacks to take with you without having to lift a finger, or if someone pops by unannounced – just cook then freeze in a ziplock bag or food container. When you are ready to eat them, let them thaw at room temperature, or put them in the microwave on the defrost setting (be careful not to microwave too long though as it can dry them out or make them hard).

They make a great lunch – I make a salad with fresh lettuce and greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, and top with the falafels and tzatziki, hummus, or even vegan mayonnaise. Alternatively you can have them like an individual mezze platter = put them on a plate alongside steamed brocolli and cauliflower, some toasted pita bread strips, carrot and cucumber sticks, some hummus or tzatziki, and you have a pretty balanced lunch.

For a visual reference I have included photos of how my mixture looked once it had been blended in my food processor. This was the mixture once I had just blended all the ingredients together, before I added the chickpea flour to help bind it. You will see you can pinch it together, but it would not hold up in a shape at this point in a frying pan. This is why I found the chickpea flour to be necessary.

I’d love to know how you like to eat these if you make them, be sure to leave a comment as I would love your feedback and to hear your ideas!

Vegan Falafels

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Recipe by Catherine Stevenson Course: Appetizers, Lunch, SnacksCuisine: Middle-EasternDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




falafel balls

A delicious middle-eastern style chickpea falafel ball, which is vegan, gluten-free and can easily be made oil free. Perfect for a snack platter or an easy addition to a lunch meal.


  • 2 cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped

  • 3 large or 4 small garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

  • 3 tsp ground cumin

  • 2 tsp ground coriander

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 3-5 Tbsp chickpea flour, or as needed, to bind

  • A few good grinds of black pepper

  • Dips, to serve
  • Vegan tzatziki

  • Hummus


  • The day before you intend to make these, place dry chickpeas in a large bowl, and fill with water. Leave them to soak overnight, or for at least 8 hours. (If you are making these together with my tzatziki recipe, you can soak the cashews, in a seperate bowl, at the same time).
  • Discard the soaking water and rinse the soaked chickpeas, then drain well.
  • Add the chickpeas to a food processor and blend on high speed until they are broken down slightly, about 30 seconds or so.
  • Add the onion, garlic, fresh parsley, fresh coriander, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, baking powder and black pepper to the chickpeas in the food processor.
  • Blend until completely broken down into very fine crumbs, scraping down the sides every so often to ensure even blending. Times may vary depending on the power of your processor. Mine took roughly 3-5 minutes in a high-speed blender. (see photographs above of how my mixture looked at this stage).
  • Empty the chickpea mixture into a large bowl. Start by adding 2 Tbs chickpea flour and mix it in. If the mixture forms a ball in your fist and keeps its shape easily, you may not need any more flour. If it still seems a bit moist or loose, add another tablespoon at a time of chickpea flour, until you get a mixture that holds together when squeezed. I used about 4-5 Tbsp of flour.
  • Grab handfuls of the mixture and compress tightly to form into small, oval patty shapes (I find these cook easier than ball shapes). For my photographs I used a small cookie cutter and compressed the mixture into it to create uniform rounds, but using your hands to create the shapes is perfect too.
  • For frying in oil in a pan
  • Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add about 2 Tbs of oil and let it heat up. Once warm, add your falafel rounds and allow to cook and brown for a few minutes on each side.
  • Remove with a spatula/egg flipper and place onto kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
  • For cooking in an airfryer
  • Heat the airfryer up to 180C.
  • Once it has reached temperature, use an oil spray and grease the fryer basket.
  • I usually spray my falafels with a coconut oil spray lightly on each side, but if you want to be completely oil free you can leave this out, just ensure your fryer basket is greased well to avoid sticking.
  • Place the falafels in the fryer basket, leaving adequate space so as not to overcrowd the basket. I have a small airfryer so mine only fit about 6 falafels in at a time.
  • Airfry for 10 minutes, flipping the falafels halfway through.
  • Serving
  • Serve with fresh tzatziki.
    If you are making these for party snacks, they also go well with hummus, alongside fresh vegetable crudités, and toasted pita bread fingers. Links to recipes for these dips can be found above.


  • The serving amount is based on serving this as an appetizer, and would mean an average of 3-4 falafel balls per person.
  • The prep time does not include the soaking time.
  • I have not tried myself, but I imagine that replacing the chickpea flour with regular all-purpose flour would work. Just add it a tablespoon at a time, as you may need less than when using chickpea flour. I can’t vouch for this though as I have not tried it myself. Let me know if you do!

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