Chickpea falafel don’t get easier than this baked falafel recipe. These gluten-free, vegan falafel use canned chickpeas for the ultimate falafel convenience. The freezer-friendly falafel mixture is perfect for meal prep.
But the best part? They’re utterly delicious and flavour-packed with soft, fluffy centres – thanks to months of repeated recipe testing. You’re welcome!
Fresh, homemade falafel are less than 40 minutes away. Keep reading for tips on how to make these easy plant-based falafel with canned chickpeas, or jump straight to the recipe card.
Why this is the best baked falafel recipe
Yes, I know. The best baked falafel recipe might raise an eyebrow or two. But I don’t use this phrase lightly.
I love the soft herbed centre and crispy exterior of traditional deep-fried Middle Eastern falafel. But I’m not always in the mood for deep frying in hot oil, and I often fail to plan for that overnight soak the dried chickpeas need.
This baked falafel recipe is honestly my most tested recipe to date. I tried and tweaked dozens of recipes – not all were great, and not one was perfect.
But perseverance is key. And I am thrilled that the recipe development led me down this path of testing (and eating) all the baked falafel out there until I found my favourite baked falafel using canned chickpeas.
Here is why I think you will also love this recipe:
- It’s quick and easy: Canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) require no overnight soaking. All you need is a food processor – though a potato masher and a finer dice on the ingredients should also do the trick – and you’ll have your baked falafel on the table in under 40 minutes.
- The falafel have a great texture: My biggest issue with other baked falafel recipes that use canned chickpeas is the texture. The falafel are often dry or dense and mushy. But inexpensive sunflower seeds add texture that does not break down to mush once baked – you can also use walnuts or pistachio nuts. And they’re nutrient dense – a healthy bonus.
- They won’t fall apart: The second problem with canned chickpea falafel is that they lack the starch of uncooked dried falafel. So, to hold things together, we add chickpea flour.
And if that is not enough, these falafel are also freezer-friendly, perfect for meal prep, naturally gluten-free and plant-based.
Ingredients and substitutes
This easy falafel recipe uses canned chickpeas to save time and effort. And the recipe is flexible in terms of flavour – swap out the herbs and leave the chilli flakes if you want.
But don’t leave out essential ingredients:
- Don’t omit the sunflower seed element (or its nut substitute) – it creates a beautiful texture similar to authentic falafel.
- Don’t leave out the flour – it holds the mixture together.
- And don’t use dried chickpeas.
Why canned chickpeas?
When you use dried chickpeas for traditional falafel, you need to soak the chickpeas overnight.
But if you, like me, want this healthy oven-baked version ready within the next hour, canned chickpeas are the way to go!
You can also use home-cooked chickpeas – the instant pot is great for cooking chickpeas if you don’t have time for soaking. But don’t overcook your chickpeas, or the falafel will be mushy and dense. Use about 9 ounces (255 grams) of cooked chickpeas to replace a can of chickpeas.
I tried dozens of baked falafel recipes during recipe development. Most falafel recipes with canned chickpeas result in dense and mushy falafel. But we have a few tricks up our sleeve!
Oven-baked falafel ingredients
- Sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds add much-needed texture to the falafel. They’re inexpensive and neutral-tasting. But you can also use walnuts or pistachios – anything that will give the oven-baked falafel a bit of bite.
- Fresh herbs: Fresh parsley and fresh cilantro are essential for flavourful falafel. I use flat-leaf parsley, but you can use curly if that’s what you have. And you can also mix up the flavours with some fresh dill or mint. You want roughly half a packed cup of chopped fresh herbs per drained can of chickpeas.
- Spices: I use ground cumin and coriander for their earthy flavour, with Aleppo pepper flakes for subtle heat. You can substitute the Aleppo chilli flakes with freshly ground black pepper, or find the best Aleppo pepper substitute for your pantry. Or try a premade spice mix like Ras el Hanout instead.
- Onion: I use standard yellow onion. But you can also use white onion – or even red onion. Or try a banana shallot instead. You need about half a cup of roughly chopped onion (or finely chopped for a more uniform falafel texture).
- Garlic: I use two minced garlic cloves for a savoury flavour boost. You can also use one teaspoon of garlic powder if you prefer.
- Lemon juice: The lemon juice adds a touch of acidity and just enough liquid for the falafel mixture to bind. You can replace it with water if you don’t have a lemon lying around.
- Chickpea flour: Chickpea flour is a great binding agent for the falafel mixture – it also adds authentic falafel flavour. You can use all-purpose flour, but the recipe will no longer be gluten-free. I did not test the recipe with non-starchy gluten-free flour (like almond flour).
- Baking powder: The baking powder helps the falafel to puff up while baking. You can use half the quantity of baking soda instead – but don’t leave out the lemon juice if you do.
- Olive oil: I brush the falafel with olive oil before baking for a golden-brown colour and to keep them from drying out. You can also use avocado oil or cooking spray.
How to make baked falafel with canned chickpeas
Homemade baked falafel is easier than you think! This easy plant-based falafel recipe uses canned chickpeas and takes less than 40 minutes to make. (See the baked falafel recipe card for ingredient measurements.)
Step 1: Prepare and measure your ingredient. Drain a can of chickpeas, then rinse and dry them to remove excess moisture. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. And preheat your oven to 400 °F (205 °C).
Step 2: Pulse the sunflower seeds, fresh parsley, fresh cilantro, ground cumin, ground coriander, Aleppo pepper flakes, and sea salt in a food processor. Blitz it until the sunflower seeds break in half, but the mixture is still coarse – about 10 seconds.
Step 3: Add the chickpeas to the food processor bowl along with the onion, garlic, lemon juice, chickpea flour and baking powder. Pulse until there are no whole chickpeas left. But don’t overprocess it into a paste. The falafel mixture should hold together when pressed into a ball, but the texture should be coarse and chunky.
Step 4: Lightly oil your hands. Then shape the falafel by rolling two tablespoons of falafel mixture (about 30 grams) into golf ball-sized balls. Gently flatten them into small patties. Then smooth the rough edges.
Step 5: Place the falafel patties on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Then place it on the centre shelf of your preheated oven.
Step 6: Bake the falafel for 20 to 25 minutes. They will puff up slightly, and the bottoms should be golden brown. The falafel patties should also feel firm to the touch. Allow the falafel to rest for 5 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet.
Refrigerate leftover falafel in an airtight container for up to three days. Eat them cold in pita sandwiches, wraps or work lunch salads. Or pan-fry the falafel in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes per side to reheat.
To get ahead, refrigerate the falafel mixture without the baking powder a day before you bake the falafel. Mix in the baking powder before you shape the falafel patties.
Freeze uncooked falafel patties in a single layer, then transfer the frozen falafel patties to a freezer bag. Alternatively, freeze them in layers separated with parchment paper in an airtight container. Cook them, within one month, straight from frozen on a preheated baking sheet with an extra five-minute bake time.
You can also freeze leftover baked falafel for up to three months. Allow them to defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a lightly oiled skillet for two minutes per side.
Serving suggestions for baked falafel
Baked falafel make a deliciously healthy, plant-based, and gluten-free meal or snack.
Make a large batch of oven-baked falafel and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days – ready to reheat in a flash. And let me know how you served your falafel in the comments below!
Frequently asked questions
Canned chickpeas are already cooked and lack the starch of uncooked, dried chickpeas. Without the starch, falafel balls fall apart in the hot oil. But you can make baked falafel with canned chickpeas.
You can bake the traditional falafel mixture that uses soaked dried chickpeas or fava beans. But you can also make baked falafel using cooked chickpeas from a tin or jar.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a leavening agent activated by the combination of liquid and acid. Baking powder is a complete leavening agent activated by only moisture and again by heat. So, don’t use baking soda if your recipe lacks acid (like lemon juice).
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 can (14.5 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) , drained and rinsed
- ½ cup diced onion* , about ½ whole onion
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil , for brushing the falafel
To serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F. And line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the sunflower seeds, parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, Aleppo pepper flakes and salt to a food processor. Blitz until the sunflower seeds break into smaller pieces, but the mixture is still very coarse – about 10 seconds.
- Use a clean kitchen towel and dab the drained chickpeas to remove excess moisture. Then add them to the food processor bowl along with the diced onion, minced garlic, lemon juice, chickpea flour and baking powder. Pulse until there are no whole chickpeas left. But don’t overprocess it – we’re not making hummus here. The texture should be coarse and chunky, but the mixture should hold together when pressed into a ball.
- Scoop 2 tablespoons of falafel mixture (about 30 grams) and roll it into golf ball-sized balls with lightly oiled hands. Gently flatten them into small patties (about ½ inch thick). Then smooth the rough edges until you have a uniform disk.
- Brush both sides of the falafel with olive oil. Then place them, evenly spaced, on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm to the touch with a cracked golden top and deeper brown bottom. Allow the falafel to rest for 5 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet.
- The can of chickpeas I used for the final recipe testing had a drained chickpea weight of 255 grams (9 ounces or about 1½ cups). You can weigh your chickpeas to follow the recipe precisely, but a few extra chickpeas won’t be a problem.
- I dice my onions into medium-sized pieces (around ½ inch) because I love larger bits of onion in my baked falafel – the exposed bits of onion on the outside of the falafel caramelise beautifully. Go for a small dice if you want a more uniform falafel instead of relying on the food processor to break them down – overprocessing in the food processor will result in mushy falafel.
- This recipe is for baked falafel using canned chickpeas. If you prefer deep-fried falafel (the traditional way), use dried chickpeas soaked overnight. See this recipe for authentic Middle Eastern falafel.
- Refrigerate leftover falafel in an airtight container for up to 3 days. And reheat in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes per side. See the full blog post for freezing instructions.
Middle Eastern recipes to serve with falafel
- Arabic salad: A classic Middle Eastern-style chopped salad to serve alongside the baked falafel.
- Kuku sabzi: An easy Persian herb frittata recipe packed with greens and just enough eggs to hold it all together. Stuff leftover kuku into your falafel pita sandwich for a protein boost.
- Lemon tahini sauce: Often called falafel sauce because it pairs so well with falafel.
- Harissa hummus: Flavour-packed and super creamy hummus is excellent on a falafel plate.
- Bulgur wheat salad: It’s a ready-to-go plant-based work lunch when topped with baked falafel.