A firm favourite of New Yorkers, vegetarians and vegans, falafel is a Middle Eastern dish which probably originated in Egypt in around 1000BC, although its origins are hotly contested.It is thought that it might have been chosen as an alternative to meat during Lent, thanks to the fact that falafel balls look like meatballs.1
Fast forward to the present day and falafel is still a viable meat alternative and can be used in a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes.In the Middle East, it is served as a kind of fast food and you can find street vendors serving it in most towns.2
What exactly is falafel?
Falafel is deep fried patties or balls which are made from chickpeas, herbs, spices, onion and dough.
They have a bold and spicy flavour and are suitable for anyone following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Is falafel healthy?Falafel is a great source of fibre as well as plant-based protein, containing around 13g of protein for every 100g serving.3
Vegetarians and vegans may find it difficult to get the daily recommended amount of protein since they do not eat any meat or fish and, in the vase of vegans, eggs or dairy.
Therefore, it is important that this is substituted with plant based protein, as protein is essential for muscle repair, growth and maintenance.
Both fibre and protein fill you up quicker and keep you feeling fuller for longer which means that you will not have to snack between meals or end up overeating or making unhealthy choices at mealtimes.
Is falafel vegan?
Yes, most types of falafel are vegan. You can easily make homemade falafel so you will know exactly what is going into it. Or just make sure that you check the ingredients if you are buying ready made from the supermarket.
Ten ways to use falafel
There are lots of different ways to eat falafel making it a versatile food, which can be eaten for a variety of lunches or dinners.
Here we have put together a list of ideas to give you some inspiration:
1. Falafel pittaThe most common way to eat falafel is by putting it inside a pitta bread and adding tomatoes, cucumber and pickled onions before topping with hummus, tahini or a spicy sauce.4
Perfect for a light lunch or a falafel kebab fakeaway.
2. Falafel ballsThese protein falafel balls are packed with B vitamins to help our bodies convert food into energy.
They are made with lentils, spring onions, black beans and chick peas plus herbs and spices.
Grab one as a snack when you need an energy pick me up.
3. Peppers stuffed with falafel
Stuff a red pepper with falafel, before seasoning with fresh lemon juice, basil and parsley.Bake in the oven and serve with a hot sauce for a tasty, filling lunch.5
4. Falafel poke bowlFor this light and healthy Asian-inspired summer salad, just add your falafel to a bowl with rice, radishes, avocado, cucumber and edamame beans and season with a soy sauce dressing.6
5. Falafel, hummus and tabboulehThis is a great dish for vegan nibbles at a dinner party.7
The tabbouleh adds some super-fresh tasting ingredients and you can eat these with your fingers, dipping the falafel into the hummus and tabbouleh, or with a knife and fork.
6. Falafel sliders
Some delicious vegetarian junk food for treat day!
For this, you will need to place your falafel balls into mini burger rolls and top with lettuce, onions and tomatoes.
Add ketchup or mayonnaise and a slice of cheese or vegan cheese for some yummy mini veggie burgers.
7. Use as a meatball substitute
Thanks to their round size, falafels make the perfect vegetarian substitute to meatballs.
Serve with spaghetti (or courgetti if you are cutting down on carbs) and a tomato sauce for an easy mid-week meal.
8. Falafel scotch eggs
This one is not suitable for vegans, but makes a great vegetarian alternative to picnic favourite scotch eggs.Simply surround boiled eggs with your falafel mix and then coat with panko or breadcrumbs before frying.8
9. Falafel lettuce wraps
Packed with plant based goodness, falafel lettuce wraps are a great low carb alternative to fajitas.
Simply stuff little gem lettuce leaves with falafel and add other vegetables like mushrooms and peppers if you wish.
Serve with guacamole and tomato salsa for some Mexican flavour.
10. Falafel tacosStaying with the Mexican theme, top warm tortillas with falafel, salad, avocado and radishes before topping with tahini sauce.9
An easy midweek dinner that the whole family will love.Shop Food & Drink
Last updated: 20 January 2021
Author: Donia Hilal, Nutritionist
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018. Donia has 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.Donia has a special interest in; weight management, plant-based nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, special diets and disease risk reduction. Donia's LinkedIn profile