Is Falafel Healthy?

Explore the health benefits of falafel, a popular Middle Eastern dish, as we dive into its nutritional content and how it fits into a balanced diet.

Falafel, those crispy, deep fried to perfection, balls or patties tucked into fluffy pitas, are a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. And if you are a foodie who has been up to date with all the street food trends then you have already come across this treasure at some point!

But beyond their deliciousness, is falafel healthy?

Falafel boasts a rich history and a surprising nutritional profile with a vegan friendly ingredient list.

Let's delve deeper into this vegetarian delight, exploring its origins, how it's made, and its place in a healthy diet. 

A History Steeped in Tradition

The exact origin of falafel remains debatable, though evidence points towards Egypt as a possible birthplace. Coptic Christians, who observe periods of fasting, may have developed falafel as a meatless source of protein during these times.

Over centuries, the recipe spread throughout the Middle East, particularly the Levant region (present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel), where it became a popular street food. Today, falafel is enjoyed worldwide, cherished for its versatility and affordability. 

From Vegetarian/Vegan Ingredients to Flavorful Fritters:

Falafel's core ingredients are either chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or fava beans, or a combination of both. Soaked and drained, these legumes are then combined with fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro, and a vibrant blend of spices such as cumin, coriander, and garlic.

Traditionally, the mixture is ground using a mortar and pestle, but food processors have become a common tool. This flavorful paste is then shaped into balls or patties and cooked.

Deep-frying is the classic method, resulting in a satisfyingly crispy exterior and a soft, flavorful interior. However, baking offers a healthier alternative with a slightly different texture.

While frying does not negate falafel's benefits entirely. However, the quality of ingredients matters. Falafel made with unhealthy oils and fillers might be best avoided.

Sodium content is another factor to consider. Restaurant or vendor-bought falafel in pita bread can sometimes reach 1,500 milligrams of sodium, which is the recommended daily limit. With added sauces, you might be consuming your entire day's worth of sodium in one meal.

Calorie intake is important, but the source of those calories matters more. In falafel, most calories come from fat, around 18 grams per half-cup serving. While these fats are mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fats, it's something to keep in mind for weight management goals. 

A Nutritional Powerhouse (with a Few Caveats)

Falafel's vegetarian and vegan credentials make it a popular choice for those following these dietary restrictions. But its health benefits extend beyond simply being meat-free.

Chickpeas are a good source of plant-based protein and fiber, keeping you feeling full for longer. They also contain essential minerals like iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

The herbs and spices add antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.

However, it's important to consider how falafel is prepared. Deep-frying adds significant calories and fat, especially saturated fat.

To maximize the health benefits, opt for baked falafel or pan-fried falafel using minimal oil. 

Nutritional Profile

So, what exactly does a serving of falafel offer from a nutritional standpoint?

A typical 100-gram serving, which translates roughly to six deep-fried falafel patties, packs around 333 calories. The protein content is impressive, clocking in at 13.3 grams per serving, making it a great source of plant-based protein that can keep you feeling full for longer.

Falafel also boasts a good amount of carbohydrates (31.8 grams) for sustained energy. While the fat content can vary depending on the cooking method, a typical serving may contain around 17.8 grams of fat. Don't forget the fiber – a 100-gram serving offers a respectable 4.9 grams of fiber., aiding digestion and promoting gut health.

Falafel goes beyond just being a source of calories and macronutrients. It's a treasure trove of vitamins and minerals.

A single serving provides a whopping 94% of the Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin B6, essential for energy metabolism. and nervous system function. Manganese, crucial for bone health and enzyme function, comes in at 30% of the DV. Copper, a mineral involved in iron absorption and energy production, makes up 29% of the DV, while folate, important for cell growth and DNA synthesis, contributes 26% of the DV. This list doesn't end there – falafel also offers a good dose of magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, and potassium.

In conclusion, falafel is more than just a delicious and satisfying vegetarian treat. It's a cultural icon steeped in history and a nutritional powerhouse. By understanding its versatility and making informed choices about preparation methods, you can fully experience the goodness of falafel. So next time you're looking for a flavorful and healthy vegetarian option, consider giving falafel a try. You might just discover a new favorite food.

A typical 100-gram serving, which translates to roughly six deep-fried falafel balls, can pack around 333 calories. That's something to keep in mind when planning your meals.

Here's a breakdown of the nutrients you might find in a similar serving:

  • Calories: 333
  • Protein: 13.3 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 31.8 grams
  • Fat: 17.8 grams
  • Fiber: 4.9 grams

As you can see, falafel offers a decent amount of protein and fiber, but the deep-frying method can contribute a significant amount of fat, including saturated fat. 

Unveiling the Health Other Benefits of Falafel

Falafel isn't just a delicious Middle Eastern treat; it's packed with potential health benefits, especially when prepared wisely. Let's explore how the ingredients and cooking methods can make falafel a nutritious addition to your diet. 

Protein Power for Plant-Based Eaters

Falafel's base of chickpeas or fava beans makes it a fantastic source of plant-based protein. This is great news for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone looking to add variety to their protein sources. 

Potential Heart Health Benefits

1. Weight Management Support

Feeling full for longer can help curb cravings and prevent overeating. Additionally, chickpeas, a key ingredient, are considered low-glycemic index (GI) foods. 

2. A Source of Essential Vitamins

Falafel is a sneaky way to incorporate essential vitamins like B6, manganese, iron, and folate into your diet. These vitamins play crucial roles in maintaining well-being.  

3. Gluten-Free Option

Made primarily from chickpeas or fava beans, falafel is naturally gluten-free. This makes it a perfect choice for people with gluten allergies or sensitivities. 

4. Satisfies Hunger

Falafel's protein and fiber duo work together to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

5. Smooth Moves

The dietary fiber in chickpeas can promote smoother and more frequent bowel movements. 

By being mindful of preparation methods, like baking instead of deep-frying, you can maximize the benefits of falafel and enjoy this flavorful food as part of a balanced diet. 

Falafel's Culinary Canvas

The beauty of falafel lies in its versatility. The most common way to enjoy it is tucked into a pita bread with a generous helping of hummus, tahini sauce, chopped vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and perhaps a kick of hot sauce.  

Falafel also shines in bowls with salad greens, quinoa, and a light vinaigrette. It can even be crumbled and added to soups or stews for a protein boost. 

While falafel can certainly hold its own as a satisfying side dish, it truly shines when incorporated into other dishes.  

Falafel can also be a delightful component of a meze, a vibrant selection of small plates meant for sharing. This allows you to enjoy falafel alongside other flavorful appetizers, creating a delightful and social dining experience. 

Making Falafel at Home

While falafel is readily available at restaurants and street vendors, creating it at home allows for complete control over ingredients and cooking methods.  

Many recipes are available online, offering variations on the traditional blend of spices. If you're new to falafel-making, start with  THIS  basic recipe and experiment with different herbs and spices to personalize the flavor profile. 

Craft Delicious and Healthy Falafel at Home

Falafel doesn't require a complicated recipe or a trip to the store. With a handful of ingredients, you can whip up a healthy batch right in your own kitchen. Here's the beauty of making your own falafel: you control the cooking method.  

By opting to bake instead of deep-frying, you significantly reduce the amount of fat and calories in your falafel. 

This recipe yields roughly 12 falafel balls: 


  • 1 can (15 oz or 425 grams) chickpeas, drained and rinsed 

  • 4 cloves garlic 

  • ½ cup (75 grams) chopped onion 

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice 

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 

  • Pinch of salt 

  • Pinch of black pepper 


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and lightly grease a baking sheet. 

  1. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic, onion, parsley, olive oil, flour, baking powder, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture for about 1 minute, until everything is well incorporated. 

  1. Take scoops of the falafel mixture and form them into small patties. Place the patties on your prepared baking sheet. 

  1. Bake the falafel for 10-12 minutes, then flip them over. Bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. 

Enjoy your homemade, healthy falafel! 

Making Your Falafel Even Healthier

While falafel is a great choice overall, here are some tips to maximize its benefits: 

  • Bake it, don't fry it. Baking offers a healthier alternative to frying, significantly reducing fat content. 

  • Oil matters. If frying is unavoidable, choose a high-quality oil with a high smoke point, like avocado oil. 

  • Go whole wheat. Opt for a whole-wheat pita bread for added fiber and better digestion. 

  • Fresh over pickled. Skip the pickled vegetables, which can be loaded with sodium. Fresh, crunchy veggies like carrots and cucumber are a tastier and healthier choice. 

  • Hummus for the win. Hummus is a fantastic condiment, offering plant-based protein. Ask for it on the side to control your sodium intake. 

  • Carb-conscious options. If you're watching your carb intake, ditch the pita and opt for a falafel platter served over a bed of greens. Hummus, babaganoush, or yogurt sauce can be healthy add-ons. 

  • Deconstructed delight. For a lighter option, ask for chopped raw vegetables and hummus for dipping, creating a deconstructed falafel experience. 

Over to You

There's no such thing as inherently "bad" or "good" food. It all boils down to preparation and portion control. 

Falafel shines as a delicious option for those looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diet. This not only benefits your healthy lifestyle, but also the environment. 

Chickpeas, the heart of falafel, are packed with protein and fiber (think 15 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber per cup!). But the goodness doesn't stop there. Chickpeas are also a great source of iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin B. The various spices that add depth to falafel, like cumin, coriander, and cardamom. 

Falafel is more than just a tasty treat; it's a cultural icon and a nutritious vegetarian option. By understanding its origins, appreciating its versatility, and making informed choices about preparation methods, you can fully embrace the goodness of falafel.  

So next time you crave a satisfying and flavorful vegetarian meal, consider giving falafel a try. You might just discover your new favorite food.