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Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Yogurt Sauce

April 11, 2013

Baked Falafel, Tzatziki Yogurt Sauce, Homemade Pita Bread, and HummusPin it!

I have a fear of deep-frying things.

Well not so much a fear, as an unshakable ambivalence.

And no, not just for health reasons. I’ll happily order deep-fried calamari, french fries, falafel, or agedashi-doufu at a restaurant. I’m just eternally reluctant to make them at home.

Chickpeas, cilantro, mint, and parsley for Falafel

My history with deep-frying things is short and tinged with disappointment:

  • In high school, some friends and I made some (moderately successful) vegetable tempura. (The success was thanks to the friends.)
  • In college, a friend and I made some (complete failure) samosas, which were mainly a complete failure because we undercooked the potatoes, and they poked through the too-flimsy dough, so it wasn’t really a deep-frying-related failure, but still.
  • [In Japan, I barely cooked for three years, instead subsisting entirely on restaurant food + copious amounts of homemade hummus, or bowls of chopped tomato and avocado laced with Sriracha.]
  • In Philadelphia, a friend and I deep-fried some onion rings, which began as a moderate success, but then ended with some smoking black oil. (There was drinking involved.)

Baked FalafelPin it!

That’s it! In California, I’ve stood by as sous-chef as friends have fried up potato latkes, and as Paula has crisped up tortillas for chicken enchiladas, but I generally avoid deep-frying at all costs.

Cucumber and Yogurt for Tzatziki

What am I afraid of exactly? I’m afraid that hot oil will splatter and burn me; that the food will absorb too much oil and become greasy or soggy; that the oil will start smoking or turn black and I’ll have to start over with more oil; and the worst part of all is the clean-up: what do you do with all of that oil after you’re done frying with it? Can you save it and use it again? Is that gross? If you don’t, isn’t that wasteful?

I obviously have a lot of questions here. Contrary to what you might think of the typical Wisconsin diet, when I was growing up, we were not a household of Deep-Fried Things.

Homemade Pita Bread, Hummus, Baked Falafel, and Tzatziki

Easiest to avoid these questions altogether and go with baked versions of everything instead! (Or, you know, eat out.) This is why I already have a collection of baked-versions-of-things on my blog so far: baked oven fries, baked pita chips, baked “fried” green tomatoes

Now add to that list: Baked Falafel!

Baked FalafelPin it!

I’ve been unimpressed before by many an overly-fried falafel with a hardened exterior and a dry center. (Worse yet, are falafels that are dry all the way through.) This recipe– slightly adapted from the singular Jerusalem cookbook– offers up rich, herby, and succulent chickpea patties, so delicious on their own, you don’t even need Tzatziki.

Cucumber Tzatziki Yogurt SaucePin it!

(Try making some homemade tzatziki anyway, though; its delicious on its own, too!)

Pan-frying the falafel before baking

Paula devised a perfect-baked-falafel method of starting with cooked chickpeas, shaping slightly more sizable patties than called for in the cookbook, pan-frying them lightly first in cast iron to brown the tops and bottoms nicely (pan-frying, I can handle!), then baking them until the centers are cooked through, but never dry.

Chickpeas, cilantro, mint, and parsley for Falafel

So now we can have all the makings of a Middle Eastern feast in just a fraction of our evening: homemade pita bread, hummus, falafel, and– quickest of all– tzatziki: a garlicky cucumber yogurt sauce, that takes just minutes to whisk up, and a good deal of willpower to stop eating. Greek Tzatziki is similar to Turkish Cacik, though a little less liquidy. Garlic, herbs, and olive oil perk up the tangy Greek yogurt, while the grated cucumber makes it surprisingly refreshing.

Tzatziki Greek Yogurt Sauce

You can make the tzatziki, hummus, and even the falafel “dough” ahead of time– storing them in the fridge. Pair it all with a Shepherd’s Salad— if you have a bit more time to devote to chopping and dicing– for a feast that’s grander still; but even without any extras, this is already one of my favorite dinners of all time. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Homemade Pita Bread and Baked Falafel

Homemade Hummus, Baked Falafel, and Tzatziki

Print both recipes (Falafel and Tzatziki). (PDF)
Print Tzatziki recipe only.
Print Falafel recipe only.


Tzatziki Yogurt Sauce

(Serves 4)

~ 1 small cucumber, or ½ large cucumber
~ ¾ cup Greek Yogurt, Labne, or strained plain yogurt
~ 1 small clove garlic, minced
~ small drizzle of olive oil, to taste
~ sea salt and black pepper, to taste
~ pinch of fresh chopped dill
~ pinch of fresh chopped mint

How to make it:

1. Peel the cucumber, then grate it (or dice it) into a colander. Sprinkle the grated cucumber with a pinch or two of sea salt, then set aside for about 10 minutes– over a bowl or in the sink– to allow the liquid to drain away from it.

Cucumber, yogurt, and garlic for TzatzikiGrating the cucumber for Tzatziki

2. In a small bowl, whisk the minced garlic into the yogurt. Gently squeeze any excess liquid from the grated cucumber (and rinse off excess salt if necessary), then add it to the yogurt.

Tzatziki with a drizzle of olive oil

3. Stir in the dill and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste (though it might not need more salt). Serve slightly chilled with pita bread or over falafel.

Homemade Pita Bread, Baked Falafel, and Tzatziki

Baked Falafel
(Recipe adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook.)

(Makes 12-15 large falafel; serves 4)

~ 1¾ cups cooked chickpeas
~ ⅓ onion, chopped
~ 2 cloves garlic, chopped
~ 2 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped
~ 2 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
~ 3 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
~ ½ tsp. ground cumin
~ ½ tsp. ground coriander
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
~ dash of ground cardamom
~ dash of dried red pepper flakes
~ pinch of salt
~ ½ tsp. baking powder
~ 3 Tbsp. water
~ 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
~ several Tbsp. sunflower oil, for pan-frying

How to make it:

1. Use a food processor to blend the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. Pulse ingredients together in small batches until finely and evenly chopped, but not too mushy.

Falafel dough

2. Transfer to a bowl and add the spices, baking power, water, and flour. Mix well, by hand or with a rubber spatula. (Make ahead: optionally cover and chill in the fridge until just before dinner.)

3. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a tablespoon or two of sunflower oil in a skillet (preferably an oven-safe skillet, like a cast iron pan).

Shaping the falafel dough

4. With wet hands, shape the falafel dough into small round patties, squeezing gently to shape them. Pan-fry the falafel in batches over medium heat, for 2-3 minutes, or until they start to brown, flipping them over as needed (and adding extra oil as needed).

5. Transfer to oven– on the same skillet(s) or on a parchment-lined baking sheet– and bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve warm with pita bread and tzatziki.

Print both recipes (Falafel and Tzatziki). (PDF)
Print Tzatziki recipe only.
Print Falafel recipe only.

Homemade Pita Bread and Baked Falafel

Homemade Pita Bread, Baked Falafel, and TzatzikiPin it!

Related recipe posts:
> Homemade Pita Bread and Hummus
> Shepherd’s Salad (Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Feta)
> Tabbouleh (Bulgar Wheat Salad with Parsley and Mint)

50 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandhya permalink
    April 11, 2013 9:22 am

    wait, am i the college friend you made samosas with? i thought they came out well!

    anyway, what is this silliness with not deep frying??! health concerns yes, I will grant you those — but the fear of deep-frying is worth conquering for the gastronomic benefits that await you at the end of the chore. the trick, of course, is to get the oil at exactly the right temperature — I suppose a thermometer might help but the easier and time-tested way to test the heat, in the case of deep-frying some sort of batter-based deliciousness (samosas/pakoras/onion rings etc) is to drop little drop-sized morsels of batter into the oil. If the oil is cold, the batter will sink; it it’s too hot, it will fizz and rise to the surface with alarming ferocity (although, I suspect you will have had other indicators of overheating, like *smoke*, by then!). If it’s just right, it will rise to the top and slowly turn golden. That’s when you start frying. We made onion pakoras just two days ago, and they turned out beautifully. As for what to do with the leftover oil, our rule of thumb is to filter out all the deep-fried dregs and store/use the oil for a week or so after the frying event. It works out just fine.

    Of course, your other concerns are legitimate: you *do* need to be extra-careful about the oil-spatter and the clean-up can be a pain in the ass. But the rewards, the rewards! — these cannot be overstated. I urge you to give it another shot. Happy + safe frying!

    • April 11, 2013 9:58 am

      Thanks, Sandhya! I think you actually answered all of my questions. :) And yes, you are the friend I made samosas with! Our memories of how they turned out are very different though I guess… did we make them twice?

      Since you have stressed the rewards (though they could also be found at nearly any restaurant without the clean-up concerns…) I promise to try deep-frying something at least once sometime soon. Just for you. :)

      • Sandhya permalink
        April 12, 2013 7:16 am

        No, I don’t think we made them twice, just the once. It took forever, I remember, and that was frustrating, but that had more to do with getting the shape of the samosa right than with the actual deep-frying. Or so I thought. Have since made samosas with puff-pastry on many an occasion and with considerably more success — with puff pastry, though, you gotta bake. The deep fried version actually doesn’t taste as good.

        (and of course you can purchase deep-fried goodnesses in restaurants, but that argument could be made for lots of other dishes that also require cumbersome prep, no? plus, there’s that whole culinary satisfaction thing…)

      • April 15, 2013 10:56 am

        Oo, baked samosas with puff pastry… now THAT sounds like something I would love to try! And yes, you have a good point– sometimes the challenge of creating something yourself adds to the satisfaction.

  2. April 11, 2013 10:44 am

    I used to hate deep-frying as well, and still do on the stove, but I’ve gotten quite comfortable with it in my counter-top deep fryer (Rival’s Chef’s Pot, it’s technically a multi-use thing, but we keep it for frying).

    I like that with the plug-in fryers I can set the temperature and wait until the light goes off to know it’s just right. I also like that I can then just put the lid on it to save the oil for another use rather than have to worry about cleaning the pot every. single. time.

    Some say that if you want to “clean” your oil, you fry a batch of potatoes (fries or chips, your choice), but I generally don’t worry about it that much. If I fry something strong like fish, then I’ll toss the oil after that use (and I dump mine out in a corner of the yard–not sure it’s 100% correct but at least it doesn’t clog the pipes), otherwise the canola oil I use seems to hold up for 2-3 uses, and we don’t fry that often (just keep the lid on the fryer and leave it on the counter.

    • April 11, 2013 1:20 pm

      Wow, you make a counter-top electric fryer sound so appealing! I will add one to my mental list of things I would like if I ever have enough money to live somewhere with a bigger kitchen. (Right now our kitchen-y items are literally spilling out into our living room– we have a stockpot and a molcajete stuffed under a side table next to our sofa!) I also currently don’t have a yard that I could toss used oil into… but I like your approach of just leaving the fryer covered and using non-fishy oil for 2-3 uses; that sounds do-able!

  3. April 11, 2013 1:36 pm

    Baked or not, looks tasty. We don’t love to fry at home either (we make a special event of it a few times a year but prefer to let the pros do it).

    • April 11, 2013 7:00 pm

      I’m glad to hear that even some pros-in-the-kitchen like you guys are with me on this one. :) If I ever conquer my fear of deep-frying, I’m sure I’ll still only do it a few times a year at the most.

  4. April 11, 2013 2:59 pm

    Fabulous falafel Allison :-)

  5. April 11, 2013 4:31 pm


  6. April 11, 2013 5:43 pm

    Haha, i’m exactly the same when it comes to deep frying at home. Restaurants though? Bring.that.shit.on. ;) These falafels look amazing!

    • April 11, 2013 7:01 pm

      Yes, my sentiments exactly. (And thanks! I am lucky that Paula not only makes me dinners like this one, she also lets me blog about them :)

  7. April 11, 2013 6:30 pm

    Nothing wrong with baked falafel, especially when it’s as green and brightly flavored as this! I like them better, actually, since they’re less greasy and thus easier to eat. Not to mention, no guilt, even after you eat half a batch in a sitting! Not that I’d ever do such a thing…

    • April 11, 2013 7:03 pm

      True! I think I just prefer falafel this way in general: more herbs, less grease. (Not that I’m not a fan of deep-fried greasiness in other edible contexts…)

  8. April 11, 2013 9:39 pm

    Love, love, love this post and the one before. I must start writing my shopping list. Yum! :P

  9. April 12, 2013 1:42 am

    Love falafel! Will try this recipe!!!

  10. April 12, 2013 6:20 am

    wow! it’s 9:20am and you’re making me want to eat this! i love this post :)

  11. April 12, 2013 7:23 am

    THat looks like my ideal meal – will be whipping some up (with your hummus and pita bread recipe too!)

  12. April 12, 2013 7:31 am

    I always pan fry, I can’t afford all the oil it’d take to deep fry! Haha. I looove falafel, and taziki. I want to make these!

  13. April 12, 2013 8:22 am

    Great idea, I’m also a little afraid of deep frying and tend to stick to baking or pan frying whenever possible.

  14. April 12, 2013 11:21 am

    >These look great, i have always fried my falafal, as that is how i was taught to make them, however i am not a huge fan or frying so as soon as we move to our new palce (HOPEFULLY) with an oven i will definalty try baking next time. Do they still get nice and crispy on the outside?

    • April 15, 2013 11:00 am

      Thanks! And yes, they definitely get crispy on the tops & bottoms at least, because we pan-fried them for a few minutes first before sticking them in the oven– best of both worlds! :)

  15. April 13, 2013 2:13 am

    Love your list of deep frying fails. Cracked me up! And baked felafels are the best – no complaints here!

  16. April 14, 2013 11:35 am

    Fabulous falafel Alison, and what a pair with cacik dip, yummy! Many thanks for giving a link to my cacik recipe : )

    • April 15, 2013 11:01 am

      Thanks, Ozlem! I was happy to link to your cacik recipe; it’s so similar to the way I’ve been making tzatziki for ages now, that I couldn’t not make that comparison! :)

  17. April 14, 2013 8:42 pm

    I love felafel & that cookbook, and now that you’ve suggested baking these I will be trying them pronto!

    • April 15, 2013 11:02 am

      Yay, I hope you enjoy them! I love that cookbook too, but I’ve been pathetic at really digging in (i.e., sitting down to add ingredients to my shopping list, or really pinpointing what recipe I want to try on which night). I think the falafel recipe is the only recipe I’ve truly (mostly) followed from it so far, but I look forward to trying out many more of them soon!

      • April 15, 2013 12:18 pm

        My top recommendation is that you buy sumac & make the spinach salad. Then za’atar and make the roasted squash with tahini. :)

      • April 18, 2013 9:09 am

        Thanks, I will definitely try those! Also, I already (always) have sumac and za’atar (and spinach), so basically I’d have to buy: squash. Don’t know what I’ve been waiting for! :)

  18. April 16, 2013 1:48 pm

    Yummmm! This sounds wonderful, I love tzitziki and your recipe sounds just perfect. I much prefer the cucumber grated (like yours) rather than chopped. I have yet to try making falafels though, even though I love eating them. This must change soon :)

    • April 18, 2013 9:10 am

      Thank you! I prefer grated (and then drained/not-too-watery) cucumber in tzatziki too! I hope you do get to try making your own falafel soon.
      Your blog is beautiful; thank you so much for visiting mine! :)

  19. April 28, 2013 9:48 pm

    It looks so yum! :) I was looking for a good falafel recipe..

    • April 28, 2013 11:17 pm

      Thanks! Yes, this was a great recipe in the first place (from the Jerusalem cookbook), and we mostly just modified it by adding more fresh herbs, and baking instead of deep-frying, which I think makes it even better!

  20. April 30, 2013 1:22 pm

    I share the same fear, Maybe that’s why my falafel never turn out too good, lol;) Yours look absolutely perfect and love the method. Thanks for sharing and for being a part of the YBR this month.:)

  21. May 3, 2013 3:40 pm

    Oh, I have this book on my shelf and have been trying to figure out what to cook first from it! I’ll def. check out this recipe for sure! Love the idea of baking instead of frying, too.

    • May 4, 2013 12:31 pm

      Yes! It makes it a much more approachable recipe I think (for those who have a fear of deep-frying like I do). I just love all the photos of the cookbook– and the artfully messy yet insanely appetizing style of food photos. Every time I sit down to choose something to cook from it, I’m a little paralyzed with indecision, because there are so many amazing options! :)

      • May 4, 2013 12:41 pm

        Agreed! Love the photos in the book. Makes me want to travel!

      • May 4, 2013 12:46 pm

        Yes, same here! I was only talking about the photos of the recipe results above, but the travel-y photos of markets/food stalls/etc. in Jerusalem are also gorgeous!


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