Falafel Salad with Lemon Garlic Dressing is chickpea salad taken to the next level! This easy falafel recipe uses canned chickpeas, skips the deep fryer, and can be made in 30-minutes!
I’ll never forget the first time I had a falafel. We had just exited the old city in Jerusalem, the sun high in the sky, and our stomachs looking for lunch. Yossi, the guide my parents had hired for our trip throughout Israel, walked us over to one of the carts along the sidewalk outside the ancient city walls.
Being the naive New Yorker, I thought he was guiding us to a hot dog cart, but he quickly placed a wrap in my hands, the warm pita bread bursting with fresh vegetables and what looked like meatballs, all drizzled in an herbed sauce. It smelled heavenly, and one bite in, I marveled at how the meatballs were not meatballs, and how they were tender and fragrant, and utterly delicious. Up until then, I had never encountered a falafel, and it was love at first bite.
That was in high school. And from that moment on, I have been on the hunt for a falafel that could come close to that stand in Jerusalem. Back then, through college, through my twenties, and so on, any time I saw a falafel on a menu (and there weren’t many for a long time, here in the US), I would order it, hoping that it would come close.
It usually disappointed. Some were dense, some were too grainy, some had no flavor, and some were as hard as a field hockey ball.
WHAT IS A FALAFEL?
Falafels are deep-fried balls or patties usually made with ground chickpeas, herbs, spices, and onion, and popular throughout the Middle East. Its history is storied and debatable, and for a taste of its controversial origins, check out Falafel on History Today. The piece A History of the Mideast In the Humble Chickpea in The New York Times dives deeper into the evolution of the falafel.
Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with chickpeas, my devotion to it going beyond the deep-fried falafel. One of my favorite recipes of all time, and a reader favorite, as well, is my simple, but vibrant Chickpea Salad, a summer staple at my house. When nectarines and corn are in season, then it’s time for Tomato, Corn and Nectarine Chickpea Salad. And let’s not forget baked goods! If you’ve tried my Carrot Cake Cupcakes, then you’ll know that chickpeas are the secret ingredient!
But I’ve avoided tackling the falafel for a few reasons. For one, I’ve always worried that it would never stand up to that Israeli falafel I fell in love with as a kid. Secondly, purists argue that the best falafels can only be possible when made with dried chickpeas, a cooking process I’ve always found tedious, even when I call in some help from a pressure cooker. Lastly, I’ve avoided deep frying – the idea of going through so much oil is never my first choice.
But here’s the thing. It is possible to make falafel with canned chickpeas. And it is possible to make falafel without a deep-fryer. And most importantly, it is possible to come close to that falafel in Jerusalem, fluffy and fragrant, and bursting with herbs.
This falafel recipe may take some short cuts, but it comes close to what I remember. And the best part is that it can be made in 30-minutes, lightly fried in a skillet. Served on a bed of fresh veggies with hunks of toasted pita, your favorite street food transforms to your favorite table meal, without ever having to leave home.
MORE CHICKPEA RECIPES TO TRY
Italian Chopped Salad with Marinated Chickpeas from Foodie Crush
Lemony Chickpea and Avocado Sandwich with Feta and Arugula from Aggie’s Kitchen
Falafel Salad with Lemon Garlic Dressing
- 14 oz canned chickpeas
- 2 scallions roughly chopped
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1/2 cup mint
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoons olive oil for frying
- 4 cups mixed greens
- 1 1/2 cups cucumber chopped
- 1 1/2 cups tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced
- 2 pieces pita bread
Lemon Garlic Dressing
- 1 tablespoon garlic finely minced/mashed
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon cilantro finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon coriander
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Rinse and drain chickpeas and place in the bowl of a food processor, along with the scallions, cilantro, mint, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not mushy or too fine. Add the flour and baking powder and give it a few more pulses to combine.
- Use a small 2-inch scoop to portion and form 2-inch balls, rolling them with your hand. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
- While the falafel rests, start assembling the salad. Mix together the mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, and onion in a large bowl.
- Make the dressing by placing the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, honey, cilantro, salt, pepper, cumin and coriander in a small bowl or jar. Whisk well (or cover jar and shake). This can be made a day in advance.
- Add about 2-3 tablespoons dressing on the salad and toss. Reserve the remaining dressing for serving.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet, ideally about 8-10 inches in diameter, so that you have about 1/4-inch of oil, over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the falafel to the pan and fry until brown on all sides. Drain on a paper towel. This can be done in advance and kept warm in a 175°F warm oven until ready to serve.
- Toast the pita and slice in chunks.
- Place the falafel and some pita bread on the salad, and serve immediately with additional dressing and pita on the side.