Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Baked Falafel Sandwiches with Homemade Tzatziki

This past holiday weekend I did something weird.  Well... it was weird for me.  For the first time in who knows how long, I took a real day off.  Not my usual kind of "day off" that's filled with errands and side projects and several hours cooking, photographing & writing (which is really just time away from the regular job, not an actual day off). 

No, this was the real deal: the kind of day off that actually left me feeling somewhat rested, rejuvenated & recharged, because that's all I focused on doing.  There was no blogging, no cooking (well, nothing special... though, that new sorbet was quite lovely...), no photographing, no volunteering for others' projects, no playing unofficial counselor/business consultant to everyone... in short, it was everything I dreamed a day off could be.  And I liked it. 

My mom used to do this many moons ago (only she called it going "on strike", lol), and now I understand why.  There's something to be said for a few moments of real "me" time, especially if you're like me and you're the "helper" type who thrives on helping others.  Sometimes I forget to take care of myself as well as I take care of everything else, so even if it was just for one day, I'm glad I took the time to remind myself that it's okay to take a breather every now & then.

After a relaxing day spent lakeside with a good friend & plenty of sun, I was absolutely ravenous.  Who knew vegging out could rev up the appetite so quickly, right?  I didn't feel like making anything too complicated, but I wanted to have something tasty & filling.  Top that with the random, mad craving I had for tzatziki, and a decision was made: it was time to make falafel.

It's a little weird that I haven't posted a falafel recipe yet.  After all, it pretty much covers all the PGEW bases: quick, easy to prepare, relatively healthy, and ridiculously affordable. Whether you use the canned variety or you cook your own from dried, chickpeas (the base for falafel) are very inexpensive.  Once you have that figured out, all it takes is some parsley and a well-stocked spice pantry, and you're just minutes away from falafel bliss.

Most falafel recipes call for frying as the cooking method, but I'm not all that into fried food.  Instead, I prefer to bake mine; they still have that same crispy exterior & soft interior, just without all that extra fat.  It's also usually served with hummus or tahini, but I prefer to serve mine with a healthy amount of tzatziki for some reason.  Not that I don't like falafel with hummus; there's just something about the tangy, garlicky coolness of tzatziki that really enhances the flavor for me.  And because I make my falafel a little on the spicy side, the tzatziki helps with some of that extra heat.

One last note before we delve into this super easy recipe: if you don't have any pita or lavash bread handy, feel free to deconstruct your sandwich & turn it into a falafel salad.  With the tzatziki drizzled on top as a cool, creamy dressing, you can't possibly go wrong!

Spicy Baked Falafel Sandwiches with Homemade Tzatziki (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.75)


For the falafel:
2 14 oz. cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T finely chopped parsley
1 T finely chopped cilantro
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 T crushed red chile flakes
1 t salt
2 T flour
1 T olive oil

For the tzatziki:
8 oz. Greek yogurt*
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded & finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 T dill (fresh is preferable, but if you only have dried dill like I did, that works too)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt

4 whole wheat pita pockets
1 large tomato, sliced
4 large lettuce leaves
Red onion slices, separated into rings

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then prepare the tzatziki by combining the yogurt, garlic, cucumber*, herbs, lemon juice & salt in a bowl and mixing until well combined.  Cover & chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the falafel.

2.  In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas using a fork or a mortar & pestle.  Add the onion, garlic, herbs, spices & flour, and mix together to make a thick paste.  Roll small amounts if the mixture into ping pong sized balls, then flatten slightly to form small discs.

3.  Line baking sheet with foil.  Lightly brush both sides of each falafel disc with the olive oil and place on baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking process so they're evenly browned.

4.  Assemble your sandwiches by stuffing each pita pocket with 2-3 falafel pieces and as many veggies as you can fit in there.  Drizzle with a generous amount of tzatziki (or hummus, or tahini, for the purists), and enjoy!


  1. this is AWESOME! My roomie just asked if i had ever had tzatiziki sauce and well, now I shall. When I go shopping next week, I am getting these ingredients so I can make it :) thanks!

  2. Great recipes! Thanks :)
    I really like falafel but never tried making it myself. i see now that it's ridiculously easy! Yay :)
    Funny, I too had a random tzatziki craving recently and finally whipped up a batch yesterday along with some Mediterranean style yogurt chicken, greek style rice and greek salad (with home-made dressing). I didn't used to be very comfortable in the kitchen so I'm pretty proud of how far I've come in the past few years! Your blog is a big part of why :D
    PS: This is driving me NUTS so I HAVE to ask... There's an asterisk after the Greek yogurt and after the word cucumber but there is no note anywhere that I can see. Am I blind or stupid or...?

  3. Thanks for the recipe. I'm going to try it. And great job for taking some time for yourself :)

  4. This looks so awesome.
    By the way, it is a pain trying to leave a comment here. Takes forever.

  5. ooooh, how I love falafel! I like to add a bit of leftover quinoa to mine for extra crispiness, and while I love me some homemade cilantro hummus, I have plenty of cukes right now, so the tzatziki is perfect for the season! thanks for yet another awesome recipe! ...and glad you got a "real" day off too :)

  6. Ooooh, love me some falafel!!! Thankfully I was just making my shopping list for next week so I can add on these ingredients! :)

  7. I feel absolutely the same, falafel with hummus is fine, but sooo much better with tzatziki - I think it also helps the falafel not feel too dry, which I think it sometimes can be.

  8. Yum! I've been wanting to try falafel...this sounds pretty easy!

  9. Reporting back to say that this recipe was FABULOUS! And much easier than I expected. Mine didn't turn out quite as neat as yours, but it tasted great. This recipe is a keeper.



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