Small Kitchen, Gluten-Free: Baked Falafel with Tahini Aioli

Gluten-free living is short on quick, portable lunches. It’s not like the corner deli can offer to put your sandwich filling inside an arepa. Luckily, in New York, for every corner deli, there is also a freakishly fragrant halal truck sitting right outside its door. As I mentioned in my guide to eating out gluten-free, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines are great go-to’s. It might not be quite as portable without the requisite pita pocket, but you can still easily pick up a plate of schwarma or halal with rice and condiments on a whim in Manhattan.

Falafel in theory is a great gluten-free item from this culinary repertoire. A lot of recipes don’t use flour. But you have to be careful. I like to stick to Taim, my favorite falafel of all time, which I already went on about in last week’s post. Taim offers three types of falafel, all gluten-free. The spicy harissa flavor is the one I crave on a daily basis. I attempted to recreate it earlier this summer in Josh’s kitchen while he was still at work. In general, I try to avoid deep frying at all costs, and this experience did nothing to quell my fears. Upon contact with the hot oil, my falafel balls fizzled and spattered until they were reduced to nothingness, leaving me with a thick skillet full of hot oil and burnt falafel particles.

Fool me once, shame on you, fried falafel. The next time, I turned to my oven.

Of course, nothing really tastes quite as good when it’s baked instead of fried. But these falafel did the job. The chickpea mixture, packed with fresh herbs and laced with spicy red harissa paste, was so flavorful, you didn’t miss the extra crunch of the fried exterior. I served them as part of a casual weekday dinner for Essie alongside Israeli salad. And to make up for the un-fattiness of the baked falafel, I decided to whip together tahini with a little bit of mayonnaise, and drizzle the aioli over the top of each cute little pattie.

This falafel didn’t exactly turn out to be the answer for that portable lunch or dinner I’m always after. But in the comfort of your small, gluten-free kitchen, it doesn’t need to be.

From my kitchen, baking not frying, to yours,



Spicy Baked Falafel with Tahini Aioli (Gluten-Free)
Makes 20 small balls (serves 2-4)

1 large shallot, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 can chickpeas, drained
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons harissa
2 tablespoons chickpea flour (you can use regular flour in you’re not GF)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small food processor, pulse the shallot and the garlic until finely chopped. Add the chickpeas, cilantro leaves, cumin, coriander, salt, and harissa. Blend until the chickpeas are coarsely chopped and the other ingredients are incorporated. You don’t want it to be completely smooth and paste-like.

With a spatula, transfer the chickpea mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Add the flour and stir until incorporated. Form the mixture into 1 inch patties and place them on an oiled, parchment-lined baking sheet. They wont expand like cookies, so you don’t have to worry too much about spacing them out. You should have 16-20 patties.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking process so both sides brown. Serve alongside Israeli Salad (recipe follows) and drizzle with Tahini Aioli (recipe follows) and Green Harissa.

Tahini Aioli
Makes 1/2 – 1 cup aioli

¼ cup tahini
¼ cup mayo
1 lemon, juiced
1 garlic clove
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Aioli will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Israeli Salad
Serves 2-4

2 tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
1 seedless cucumber, diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as needed. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve alongside falafel and tahini aioli.


  1. That Essie, she gets all the best food. I wish you guys ran a cart in NY, I’m sick of imagining what these fab recipes taste like.

  2. Oh yum!  Falafel is my fiancee’s favorite food ever!  But I have never attempted to make it!  Perfect push in the “Mediterranean” direction.  This will be the best surprise for him ever!

    • Jenn–what a sweet gesture! If you’re not gluten-free, definitely get some good pita to go with. the aioli is awesome, but a little green harissa would be great too if you want to go all out! xo

  3. This is so great! I’m gluten and dairy free, and I’ve been relying heavily on asian recipes (rice, eggs, veggies, that sort of thing) for my lunches. And while that’s easy to have pre-made and quick, it’s starting to get a bit old. But I saw a falafel recipe (which I had never heard of before) and I was so happy! But, as you noted, most pre-made mixes use non-GF flours. THANKS SO MUCH!

  4. These were yummy! I managed to fry them and they kept their shape well, dipped in egg and then rolled in gluten free breadcrumbs. A definite recipe to keep.

  5. I have made this a few times now, and let me tell ya, it is delicious! I made 2 substitutions: I cannot find harissa and instead put some red pepper in to add some heat, then to make the tahini healthy I sub the mayo with 0% FAGE greek yogurt! It is fantastic 😉 Thanks for the recipe!

  6. I made these for dinner tonight to go along with a Middle Eastern lentil soup. Only omitting the harissa to make it less spicy, my 4-year-old and 15-month-old ate them up and asked for more! I really liked the tahini aioli, too. Different, and really nice. I’m always nervous trying new recipes from blogs that are new to me, but you really delivered! I’ll be trying some other recipes too… 🙂

  7. I just made the falafel with the aioli sauce! I subbed the harissa for hotsauce and the mayo for plan Greek yogurt (with a tiny bit of dijon mustard). I really wish I’d been able to find the harissa, because I think that might have improved the flavor overall. In general, I really liked the aioli sauce, and the falafel were acceptable. However, it is important to keep the substitutions I made in mind, and of course- baked can never beat fried. Overall decent recipe. Thanks!

  8. Great recipe, I dusted in GF breadcrumbs, fried first then baked. Some of it crumbled off in the oil. I think I used too much oil, next time I will use less and fry just long enough to get the crust. the aioli is great, but next time I would use 1/2 the water or less. I used veganaise instead of mayo which may have contributed to the wateriness. To solve this

  9. Can someone tell me the weight of drained chick peas to use? I’m in France and we have several sizes of cans … HEEELP!

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