Falafel is a flavorful appetizer or meal that can be made right in your air fryer! They are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, and I think they are even better than when they are deep fried. What really sets this recipe apart from the falafel I've tried at various restaurants is the flavor! These falafel balls are packed with flavor and they are wonderful eaten plain, dipped in Tzatziki sauce, or put into a pita for a falafel sandwich.
There are definitely some tips and tricks that I learned while testing the recipe and I will share them all with you so that you can make perfect falafel at home in your air fryer!
Ingredients & Substitutions
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are most commonly what is used when making falafel, but you can use other dried beans like fava beans (broad beans), green lentils, or dry soya beans. I've even seen falafel made with nuts and not beans, but I have not tried it that way. No matter which bean you choose, you will want to make sure they are dry starting out.
I tried very hard to simplify the process of making air fryer falafel by par-cooking the garbanzo beans or using the ones in the can and I can tell you that, while I had mild success with the par-cooking, it was actually easier to just soak the chickpeas before making the falafel and the outcome was MUCH better!
I do not recommend using par-cooked or canned chickpeas in this recipe, but if you want to give it a try, you certainly can. My suggestions are to use this recipe for cooking chickpeas and cook them to the firm stage as outlined in the recipe here ➡️ Pressure Cooker Chickpeas Instructions
When using par-cooked chickpeas in this recipe I do recommend refrigerating the cooked chickpeas for about an hour and then dry them very well before processing them in your food processor. I also recommend using a chilled falafel mixture to make the falafel balls. This means that once you make up the mixture, refrigerate for a few hours.
I have tried this recipe so many different ways and I think you'll also find it's easier to plan ahead and use soaked chickpeas rather than try to use canned or cooked ones. It takes a little more time, but it's all hands off and actually takes less of your time to simply throw the dried chickpeas in some water and put it in the fridge overnight.
I also tried using a little chickpea flour in the mix and didn't find this to make any difference in the outcome, so I didn't use it.
Fresh Herbs and Seasonings
I use fresh parsley and fresh cilantro along with a simple blend of salt, black pepper, cumin, and onion powder for my dry seasonings. I also add in 2 cloves of raw garlic and a green onion, which I forgot to add in the recipe video and they still turned out delicious.
There are many different fresh herbs you can use to make falafel, but it is important to use at least 1 cup of fresh herbs in the recipe, because it is what binds together the chickpeas to form the balls. Some choices that would be good substitutes for the parsley or cilantro include: mint, basil, or dill. Each one of these herbs will change the flavor of the falafel, but all will work. If I was using fresh dill or fresh mint, I would only use ¼ cup of it and use ¾ cup of parsley or cilantro with it.
As far as the dry seasonings go, you can use anything you like. If you don't have a green onion or regular onion, try adding a ¼ teaspoon of onion powder instead.
If you like things spicy, add in some red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or chipotle powder if you want a smoky heat.
Garlic & Onion
I used two garlic cloves in this recipe and I recommend sticking to that amount the first time you make them. Raw garlic is very pungent and, even if you are a garlic lover, adding too much will result in a bitter tasting falafel.
In my test recipes, I added one green onion to the mix and for some reason forgot it when I did the video, but I do recommend using one green onion or about ⅛-¼ cup of finely chopped white or red onions. While they were still delicious without it, I think the onions do add another layer of flavor and I'm all about layering those flavors!
When I first started testing this recipe with par cooked chickpeas, I found the texture to be very dry and crumbly. I fixed that with some olive oil in the falafel mix. This is completely optional, especially when using dry chickpeas that you soak overnight. I left it in because they turned out so well and I think the oil helps hold everything together.
For the best texture, you will also want to spritz the falafel with a little olive oil spray or vegetable oil before air frying. The amount of oil used is much less than when deep frying and I encourage you to spritz with oil for crispy falafel.
How to Make Homemade Falafel in an Air Fryer
Soaking the Chickpeas
As much as I was trying to create a recipe that didn't involve soaking the chickpeas, I often ask myself why, when soaking the chickpeas, is so easy and more hands off than cooking the chickpeas.
It might take you 5 minutes to put the chickpeas in the water and then set it in the fridge. One thing to keep in mind is if you think you might want to make a few batches, soak more chickpeas. Just keep the minimum water/chickpea ratio to 2 cups of water per ½ cup of chickpeas.
I use a large measure cup for this and fill it with 3 cups of water and ½ cup of dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Then, set it in the fridge overnight or at least 8 hours. The beans will double in size and then they are ready for use.
I have kept my chickpeas in the water, in the fridge, for over 24 hours and have not noticed any difference in using them. So, they can certainly sit it the fridge longer than 8 hours, if that is more convenient.
Making the Falafel Mix
Once the chickpeas have been soaked, you will want to drain them and dry them as part of the prep for making the falafel mix.
I do this by putting them through a (affiliate link)fine sieve strainer and then drying on paper towels. Don't skip this step or the falafel mix may end up too wet.
You also want to make sure the fresh herbs are dry, so if you recently rinsed them under water, pat them dry with paper towels before roughly chopping them. When measuring out the cilantro and parsley, you will want 1 cup of each packed.
That means that you will press the herbs down when measuring so they are packed into the measuring cup. While I don't use many of the parsley stems, I definitely use the cilantro stems. Just make sure they are well processed in your food processor or blender.
Peel the garlic cloves and roughly chop the green onion. I forgot to add the green onion when I did the video and the falafel were still delicious, but I do like the flavor of a little onion, so I recommend using either a small amount of diced onion or the green onion.
I will also caution against using more than 2-3 cloves of garlic because the raw garlic (even though it's air fried later) is very pungent and too much can cause the air fryer falafel to taste bitter.
Add the ingredients to your food processor or blender that doubles as a food processor. I used the Ninja Foodi Power Blender & Food Processor. There is also another Ninja Blender that comes with discs for food processing.
I like to put the chickpeas at the bottom and then the garlic, spices, fresh herbs and onions. The last thing I add is the oil.
Pulse blend and use a tamper or long spatula to frequently scrape down the sides of the blender. I use a heavy duty long scraper from Pampered Chef that is designed for their blender. You can find that here ➡️ (affiliate link)Pampered Chef Long Skinny Scraper
The falafel mix texture should be finely ground, but not mush. You should still be able to see little bits of the chickpeas and the herbs.
Preheating the Air Fryer
For the best results, you will want to preheat your air fryer on the hottest setting for a full 10 minutes. It's important that the air fryer is hot when the falafel balls go into it, so the outside sets quickly to avoid sticking.
If you are using an air fryer basket or an air fryer crisping plate, make sure that is inside the appliance when air frying.
I used the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Fryer for this recipe and I preheat on broil/grill because it is the hottest setting.
Forming the Falafel Balls
You can certainly form falafel patties instead of balls, if you prefer, but I like the round shape for an appetizer. The patties would be great in a pita pocket because they would fit in the pocket easier.
The only difference in forming the balls or patties is the shape. To form a patty, take a scoop of the mix and make a flat round disc about the size of half dollar. The air frying time may also be reduced when making falafel patties, so keep an eye on the first batch to get the best timing for your air fryer.
To form the falafel balls, you want to scoop about 1 ounce of the mix so that each falafel is about the size of a golf ball. I use my Pampered Chef medium size scoop for this, but you can use a cookie scoop or an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon also works. *For those that watched the video, I incorrectly said 1 Tablespoon. Sorry about that!
Each ball is about 2 Tablespoons.
Once you have the scooped out the mix, gently form the ball in the palm of your hands. Repeat until you have used all the mix. This recipe makes about 10 (1 ounce) falafel balls.
You can also make them smaller for more of a bite-sized appetizer and you would get about 18 falafel balls. The air frying time would be less if they are smaller, so adjust accordingly. I haven't made them smaller, but I would probably increase the temperature to and decrease the cook time by 2-3 minutes. This way you will get the crunchy exterior with less cooking time.
Air Frying the Falafel Balls (or Patties)
Once all the balls are formed and the air fryer is preheated, spritz the basket or cooking surface with a little oil. This helps prevents the balls from sticking, however it is optional.
Place the falafel balls in a single layer in the air fryer and air fry on 375℉/190℃ for about 12 minutes. I like to flip them after about 6 or 7 minutes. The total cooking time will depend on your air fryer, so adjust the time accordingly.
The best judge of when they are done is when they are nicely brown and set on the outside.
Remove them from the air fryer and let them cool on a cooling rack until you are ready to serve them. Air fryer falafel are great served warm or at room temperature.
What to Serve with Homemade Falafel
Now that you've made the delicious air fryer falafel, what do you serve with it? Personally, I like it just as it is with a cucumber and yogurt dipping sauce. I will share my recipe below.
You can also turn it into a sandwich by stuffing it inside of warm pita bread with some sauce and a few slices of cucumber or put the falafel balls on top of a salad for some added flavor and texture.
You can also create an appetizer platter with a bowl of homemade hummus with fresh veggies and homemade falafel. Don't forget a dipping sauce for the falafel.
Homemade Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
This version of tzatziki sauce is super easy to make and only requires a few ingredients; yogurt, cucumber, parsley, a lemon and some fresh parsley and/or cilantro along with a touch of salt.
You will need thick Greek yogurt and I recommend making your own and then letting it strain overnight in the fridge until it is as thick as sour cream. Here is my recipe for homemade yogurt which uses the dehydration function of the Ninja Foodi, if you have a yogurt function I recommend using that instead. (link): Homemade Yogurt in the Ninja Foodi
Any cucumber is fine to use, but you don't want the seeds. I use an English cucumber and don't have to worry about a lot of seeds. The most important thing is to squeeze the liquid out of the grated cucumber before adding to the yogurt. If you don't do this, your sauce will be very runny, especially as it sits.
- ¼ cup Greek Yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons shredded and squeezed cucumber
- ¼ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs (I use a combination of cilantro and parsley in equal amounts)
Measure out the Greek yogurt into a small bowl (that can hold at least 1 cup). Shred the cucumber using a fine grater and squeeze the cucumber with your hand to remove the liquid. Add the cucumber to the bowl of yogurt and season with salt. Add in finely chopped parsley and cilantro.
Zest the outside of the lemon until you have about 1 teaspoon of zest. Cut off an end of the lemon and squeeze out 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice. How much lemon zest and juice you add depends on how much of a lemon flavor you like. Start out with less and add more to taste.
Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and put in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. The flavors really come together after a few hours in the fridge, so it's great to make this sauce in advance of serving the air fryer falafel.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are having issues forming the falafel balls, it could be that the mixture is either too wet or too dry.
If you think it's too wet, then try adding a little chickpea flour to the mix or a little almond flour will also work.
If you think it's too dry, then add a little more oil to the mix.
Yes, you can make as many falafel as you want. Simply increase the amounts of the ingredients based on how many falafel balls you want to make.
I would not try to freeze the mix itself because it may become too wet when thawed to form the balls. I would make the balls, place them in a single layer on a parchment lined tray and freeze until they are frozen solid. Then put them in an airtight container in the freezer until you want to air fry them. To cook from from frozen, I would increase the cooking time to about 15 minutes.
Personally, I think you will have a better outcome if you air fry the falafel before freezing because there will be less chance of them becoming too wet and falling apart in the air fryer. Just make sure to let them cool all the way and then freeze them individually on a parchment lined tray before putting them into an airtight container.
Air Fryer Appetizers that Everyone Loves
Air Fryer Falafel Recipe
- Any appliance that has an air fry function
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ cup dried chickpeas soaked they become 1 cup
- 1 cup packed freshly chopped cilantro about ½ bunch
- 1 cup packed freshly chopped parsley about ½ bunch
- 1 green onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1½ Tablespoons olive oil optional
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons shredded and squeezed cucumber
- ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- ½ Tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Soak the dry chickpeas in 2-3 cups of water in the fridge for at least 8 hours. They should double in size and become 1 cup of soaked chickpeas.
- Roughly chop the parsley and cilantro until you have 1 cup each packed into the measuring cup.
- Peel 2 garlic cloves and remove the root end of the green onion.
Making the Falafel Mix
- Combine the chickpeas, garlic, spice blend, green onion, parsley, cilantro, and olive oil into the bowl of your food processor or blender with food processing capabilities.
- Pulse blend until the mixture is finely chopped, but not mushy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender pitcher as needed.
- Scoop out 2 tablespoons (about 1 ounce) and form falafel balls.
- Preheat the air fryer on the hottest setting with the basket or plate inside the appliance for a full 10 minutes.
- Lightly spritz the basket with oil and place the falafel in a single layer. Air Fry on 375°F/190°C for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through. You may need to increase or decrease your time based on your air fryer. When the falafel are done, they are nicely brown and fully set.
- Remove and place the falafel on a cooling rack until you are ready to serve them.
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
- Finely grate the cucumber and squeeze out the liquid. Add to the yogurt along with the salt.
- Finely chop parsley and cilantro and add to the yogurt and cucumber mixture.
- Zest 1 teaspoon of the lemon and cut off the end to squeeze about 1 teaspoon of juice into the sauce. Mix well.
- Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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