A few days ago, while I was eating a falafel someone asked me “is this falafel gluten-free?” I said with a smile “ This is a regular falafel!”. When I went home I googled “is falafel gluten-free?” there were millions of results that made awestruck! No wonder people hype about gluten-free foodstuffs.
After this incident, I was more interested in falafels which are gluten-free. Genuinely, I wanted to taste them and know if they could satisfy my taste buds. C’mon, who are we kidding? We all love our food tasty; no one likes to have poor tasting food even if it is healthy.
Hence there is a whole article on gluten-free falafel. Find out for yourself whether is falafel gluten-free and how does it taste.
Before jumping immediately to find out is falafel gluten-free, take a look at basics first.
What is Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free products have grown in popularity in novel years. But with so many “-free” products on the market, it can be troublesome to know how “free” a product exactly is? unless there is regulated labelling.
Gluten is a species of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley.
The two principal proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is liable for most of the negative health effects
Combining flour and water makes the gluten proteins form a sticky network. This network has a glue-like consistency.
Gluten is what gives the dough its elasticity. It is responsible for shape, strength, and texture to bread and other grain products.
In August 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared a new definition for “gluten-free”. Creating an easier way for food labelling.
For food to be labelled as gluten-free, the FDA states that it must hold no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.
What is Falafel Made Of?
Many decades before pizza, hamburgers and French fries, there was falafel. A traditional Mediterranean dish that has been savouring for centuries. Why? To simply put, it tastes excellent, and it’s rather good for you, too – a winning combination. But what’s in a falafel? The name “falafel” can refer to the entire dish, but it more precisely defines the main ingredient – falafel balls.
Formerly falafel balls were made out of fava beans, chickpeas or some blend of both. Nowadays, falafel balls are usually made out of chickpeas. You can still find different variations depending on where you purchase your falafel.
The chickpeas are soaked, then ground up. Seasoning with onions, scallions and spices like parsley, garlic, cumin and coriander adds extra flavour. Then, the mix is shaped into balls and deep-fried in a big vat. The oil has to be hot sufficient so that when you drop the balls in, the outside gets nice and crispy and the inside doesn’t get too oily. The falafel balls are oftentimes garnished with salads, ketchup, chutneys and various dips.
Is Falafel Gluten-Free?
Answer to your question is a delicious YES. A falafel made strictly from chickpea flour is gluten-free.
As we read earlier falafels are made from soaked ground chickpeas with herbs and spices. These ingredients are gluten-free. Although saying that, in this world of “food innovations” you need to double-check the ingredients of falafel before ordering one unless the eatery is serving certified gluten-free menu.
Gluten-Free Falafel Recipes
How can I conclude this article without a few good recipes
Easy Falafel Recipe (Gluten-Free)
- 16 oz dried Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, soaked*
- 1 small Yellow Onion, sliced
- 2 cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 bunch fresh Cilantro, chopped
- 1 tbsp Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- Black Pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- Juice of 1/2 Lemon
- 1/4 cup Chickpea Flour*
- 2 tbsp Tahini
Optional Serving Suggestions: Hummus, Tahini Sauce, Pickled Onions, Tomato, Parsley, Pita
- Preheat your oven to 400F, if you are using it. Place the Soaked Chickpeas, roughly chopped Onion, and Garlic into a large Food Processor. Process until the mixture is finely chopped, but not mush.
- Next, add in the fresh Herbs, dried Spices, and Lemon Juice. Process again until well incorporated — the mixture should turn a bright green colour.
- Finally, add the Chickpea Flour and Tahini to the Food Processor, and pulse until well combined.
- Transfer the falafel mixture to a large bowl, and use your hands to form round balls using ~2 tbsp of the mixture.
- In the Oven: Bake at 400F for 18 minutes, flip, then bake for another 15-18 minutes.
- In the Air Fryer: (recommended) Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. For extra crispy Falafel, spray the balls with some oil or a nonstick cooking spray before baking.
- On the Stovetop: add 1 tbsp of heat-safe oil to the pan for every 5 Falafel balls. Pan-fry over medium heat, rotating the balls every 2 or so minutes, to brown all sides. This process took about 20 minutes for me.
- Serve as desired. The Falafel will dry out slightly in the fridge but will keep well in a sealed container for up to 5 days.
- To soak your Chickpeas, simply place them in a large bowl and cover them with water for 12-24 hours at room temperature. Keep in mind that they will expand with time, so make sure you add enough water!
- I have not tested this recipe with any other regular or GF flours. I imagine you could substitute any grain-based flour for the Chickpea Flour happily.
Falafel is made from chickpea flour which contains no gluten. Beware of store brought falafel which may contain some gluten or sometimes added gluten. Key is to check the label for ingredients. Secondly, while eating out you can go to certified gluten-free restaurants. You can ask whether the served falafel is gluten-free (just to make sure). There are many who offer falafel gluten-free for you to live worry-free!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What are the ingredients in a falafel?
Falafel balls are usually made out of chickpeas, herbs and spices.
- Does falafel contain wheat?
No traditional falafels do not contain wheat
- Is Roti falafel gluten-free?
No, roti is made from a mixture of whole wheat flour and refined flour. Hence it clearly has gluten in it. Therefore roti falafel is not gluten-free!