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Paleo Falafel


The inspiration for this recipe occurred when I came across a falafel recipe in the Penzeys’ Spice catalog.  I had made falafel a few years ago with a recipe that I found in Cuisine At Home magazine, so I saved the recipe from Penzeys in order to compare the two.  Even though falafel is a Middle Eastern dish, it has similar flavors to Mediterranean cuisine.  When I lived in the Seattle, Washington area in 5th and 6th grade, my Papou (Grandpa in Greek) visited and we ate at a restaurant where I had my first ever falafel and Turkish Delights (a jelly-like candy typically coated in powdered sugar and flavored with rose water).  I remember loving the mixture of cool and refreshing tzatziki (one of my favorite condiments) with the slight crunch and warm pillowy insides of the falafel.  It is a hearty and satisfying dish, even for meat-eaters.

There are many variations of the ingredients in falafel, but they are typically made of chickpeas and then fried.  The recipe that I made a few years ago for Taylor and me was baked, so when I came across the falafel recipe in Penzeys and saw that it was fried, I was certain that I could take ideas of ingredients from both recipes, while adapting it to be Paleo.

Chickpeas are not Paleo because they are a legume.  I still enjoy hummus occasionally (made of mashed chickpeas) with fresh veggies, but I wanted to recreate the food memory of falafel in a dish that was strictly Paleo.  I had fun trying to come up with substitutions for the chickpeas, fava beans and flour.  A combination of grated zucchini, riced cauliflower, red onion, and almond meal created a deliciously moist, yet hearty base for all of the healthy spices.  I also chose to borrow a method from my Paleo Keftedes recipe, and to coat the meatballs in a small amount of coconut flour for extra crunch on the outside.  I’ve said before that I will not post a recipe that was not immensely successful in my kitchen, and this recipe was a home run.  I made it on three separate occasions to ensure that I had the ratios of ingredients and flavors down to a science.

Not only is this dish healthier because it is baked with a small amount of organic olive oil instead of fried, but it is also full of veggies and healthy herbs like turmeric- an herb known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Traditionally, falafel is made with a lot of fresh herbs, but I substituted dried, and they still came out moist and flavorful.  I created my Avocado Tzatziki to serve with them, and the combination brings me right back to that restaurant in Seattle with my Papou.  Taylor and I have enjoyed this as a meal and a snack, from breakfast to dinner.  I hope you enjoy these flavorful vegetarian meatballs as much as we did!

Ingredients

  • 1 lg organic zucchini (or 2 small), rinsed, grated, and squeezed of excess water
  • 2 cups cauliflower, riced (about a 1/2 a head of cauliflower)
  • 1 cup onion (yellow or red), finely diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • scant 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour (for falafel mixture)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour (to roll falafel in before baking)
  • 1/4 cup organic olive oil

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • 2. Using a handheld cheese grater or food processor, grate zucchini, then remove excess water by squeezing with a paper towel over the sink
  • 3. Place grated and drained zucchini in a large bowl
  • 4. To rice cauliflower: rinse, cut into florets, then place florets in Vitamix (on power 3), a food processor, or grate with a cheese grater to create the texture of couscous/uncooked rice
  • 5. Add 2 cups of riced cauliflower to zucchini, and stir until evenly incorporated
  • 6. To vegetable mixture, add onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, mint, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, lemon zest, salt, pepper and stir well
  • 7. In a small bowl, beat egg, then whisk in baking soda until it has dissolved
  • 8. Add egg mixture to large bowl, then stir in 1 cup of almond meal/flour
  • 9. Let mixture rest for a few minutes
  • 10. In a large plate, add about a 1/4 cup of coconut flour
  • 11. Cover large baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil, and spread a small amount of olive oil over the aluminum foil with your fingers
  • 12. Form a medium sized ball (about 2 tbs) with your hands, then carefully roll into coconut flour before placing on aluminum foil-covered baking pan (making about 12 falafels)
  • 13. Using a silicone brush, paint the tops of the falafel with a little olive oil
  • 14. Bake for 40-45 minutes, flipping them halfway with a spatula, painting a little more olive oil on top, then sprinkling a small amount of sea salt on top – falafels should become golden brown
  • 15. Enjoy!