Falafel is one of the most popular vegetarian foods in the world and originated in the Middle East or India (it’s still a debate).
Most historians believe the popular food has been around for almost a thousand years. Since then, it’s spread around the world and is eaten in the United States, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, India, and a number of other countries.
Are falafels vegan, though?
Falafel, by itself, is almost always vegan-friendly! Falafel is simply made from mashed beans.
Often, seasonings and herbs are added to the mashed beans before it’s shaped into small balls and deep-fried in vegetable oil. The result is a crunchy, savory, and delicious alternative to meatballs!
Today, I’m going to be talking a little bit about falafel. I’ll explain exactly what falafel is made of, whether or not it’s healthy, and show you a quick and easy recipe for homemade vegan falafel. Are you hungry yet? If not, I promise that you’re going to be!
Is Falafel Typically Vegan?
Many people believe that falafel originated in ancient Egypt. Beans were one of the most commonly eaten foods in ancient Egypt and they were known for their creative bean-based recipes. However, some believe that falafel originated in India, where beans are equally as important.
No matter where falafel comes from, though, it’s almost always vegan! Falafel is always made with a simple recipe that utilizes beans, herbs, and spices.
That being said, there are a couple of reasons why falafel meals may not be vegan. Just as pasta dishes are often non-vegan due to the toppings, falafel can also be non-vegan if it’s covered in a non-vegan sauce or eaten alongside other non-vegan foods.
For example, in Greek cuisine, falafel is typically served with tzatziki sauce. The white sauce is typically drizzled over the falafel, which kind of makes it hard to avoid.
Tzatziki sauce is non-vegan because it’s primarily made from yogurt, which is a dairy product. Vegans don’t consume dairy, as the commercial dairy industry is very cruel and exploitative towards cows. A lot of suffering goes into each gallon of milk, block of cheese, or pint of yogurt.
Does Falafel Contain Eggs?
Traditionally, falafel does not contain eggs. However, given the thick texture and consistency, it’s easy to see why one may think that falafel contains eggs.
For example, most homemade meatballs contain eggs to serve as an emulsifier and hold the meatballs together to prevent them from falling apart while they cook.
I have seen a couple of homemade falafel recipes that are made with egg (particularly Indian-style falafel, as eggs are a very popular food in India). However, it’s not normal. I’d say around 90% of the falafel you’ll find at restaurants and stores is going to be egg-free.
While eggs aren’t living creatures themselves, they’re taken from living chickens. The mother hens that are forced to repeatedly produce chickens are often treated very cruelly and are discarded for meat the day that they stop producing as many eggs.
For this reason, vegans boycott eggs, egg whites, and other egg-related products.
Is Falafel Easy To Make At Home?
If you want to be 100% sure that your falafel is vegan and made with organic farm-fresh ingredients, then I suggest making your own falafel from home.
There are few things that taste as crispy, savory, and delicious as homemade falafel. Plus, it’s one of those dishes that tastes best when it’s cooked and eaten fresh out of the fryer!
All you need to make falafel are a few simple ingredients, a food processor (or blender), and a pan, air fryer, or deep fryer to cook them in. They only take a few minutes to prepare and cook just as fast, so it’s a fast, easy, healthy, and delicious vegan meal option.
Here’s a simple, easy-to-follow vegan falafel recipe that I love:
Falafel is an excellent meat substitute. It’s packed full of fiber and protein from the beans, which means that it’s just as filling (if not more so) than meat. Plus, with the right seasonings, it tastes almost exactly like meat! Many people compare falafel to fried chicken.
What Is Falafel Made From? Simple Ingredients Analyzed
As I mentioned, falafel has been around for a long time. It was being made long before modern processed food additives became commonplace.
While there are certainly some frozen store-bought falafel varieties that contain artificial additives, homemade falafel hasn’t changed much in over a thousand years.
So, what exactly is falafel made out of?
If you’ve ever been curious as to what falafel is made of, then you’ve come to the right place! Below, I’ll show you the most common ingredients that falafel is made of, so you can see for yourself.
1) Mashed Chickpeas
Chickpeas (or garbanzos, depending on where you’re from) are one of the most common ingredients used to make falafel. First, the chickpeas are soaked in water to hydrate them. Then, they’re boiled in a pot until they’re soft and chewy.
The chickpeas are then strained and thrown into a food processor or a blender, Then, they’re ground into a thick dough-like paste. This is the main base of all falafel. It’s as simple as that!
2) Mashed Fava Beans
Occasionally, fava beans are used in place of chickpeas. In some cases, they’re used along with chickpeas to create a more complex flavor. Fava beans are native to the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, so they’re commonly used in Greek-style falafel.
They have a slightly more nutty flavor than chickpeas. They’re also a darker colored bean, which results in a darker falafel. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between the light brown falafel balls and the dark brown falafel balls is, this is it!
Thankfully, falafel isn’t just made from beans. Otherwise, it would taste pretty bland and boring.
Instead, a blend of herbs and spices is mixed into the mashed bean dough. The most common herbs in falafel are onion, garlic, cilantro, and parsley. Sometimes, fresh lemon juice is also added to give the falafel a zesty aftertaste.
Traditionally, falafel isn’t a spicy (hot) dish. However, it is spicy in the fact that it’s flavorful. One of the most common spices used in falafel is cumin.
This is what gives it such an earthy, nutty flavor. Additionally, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, and chili pepper. Indian masala spices are also commonly used as well!
5) Baking Soda
Baking soda is a very common baking additive that’s often used for falafel. When added to the falafel dough, the baking soda helps the dough rise a bit as it’s being cooked. This results in a fluffier, softer falafel. It also helps to create a crispy outer layer on the surface of the falafel balls.
6) Vegetable Oil
Last but not least, falafel is traditionally deep-fried in vegetable oil. The most common type of frying oil that’s used is canola oil, as it’s widely available and great for frying. Most vegetable oil is vegan-friendly and sustainably sourced, so this isn’t a problematic ingredient.
Is Falafel Fried In Palm Oil?
Falafel is almost always deep-fried in oil. The most common oil that falafel is fried in is canola oil. However, sometimes palm oil is used to fry them in, as it’s lower-cost frying oil.
Palm oil is unsustainable vegetable oil, as it’s very destructive to the rainforest and is also a driving factor behind orangutans going extinct.
If you’re ever unsure, just ask the restaurant that you’re buying from to see what type of oil they fry their food in.
The Verdict – Falafel Is A Delicious Vegan Food
Falafel is a traditional vegetarian food that also happens to be 100% vegan! Just be sure to watch out for non-vegan sauces and toppings that falafel may be paired with. Thankfully, there are some really great vegan sauces that you can drizzle over your falafel balls instead.
To see some of my favorite savory vegan sauces, keep on reading here!