Lately, I am legume obsessed, especially with lentils! After making a traditional falafel for dins one night last week, I decided to eat falafel much more often, yet regular falafel isn’t the most healthy option, as it is deep fried, so I set out on a quest to create a healthy falafel one could enjoy multiple times a week. After 3 experiments in the kitchen, what I came up with was a baked red lentil falafel that is just as scrumptious as its fried counterpart, yet super healthy and delish, so, mazel tov to me!
Side note: traditional falafel is made out of chickpeas, which are great, but red lentils are even better than chickpeas, seeing as how they have less calories and fat, and more protein and fiber in comparison.
Without further ado, here is the recipe for Fried Not Fried Red Lentil Falafel.
*For a gluten-free option, skip the panko and pita (serve atop a salad), and donzo!
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 cups filtered water
1 cup uncooked red lentils
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
2 tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
2 tsp. cumin, divided
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. gluten-free flour
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
cooking spray, such as canola oil or olive oil
4 cups romaine, chopped (8 cups, if making salad instead of garnish)
1 medium firm tomato, diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
2 cups Fage brand lowfat plain Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced
2 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 lemon, zested then juiced
1 package whole wheat naan, such as Whole Foods brand 365
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Rinse lentils in a colander until water runs clear and not bubbly. In a medium pot, heat filtered water over medium high heat with lentils until just boiling then cover mostly and simmer for about 10 minutes, until lentils are half-cooked.
Drain lentils and let cool about 10 minutes.
Place 1 1/2 cups lentils into food processor with onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, cayenne, and gluten-free flour and pulse until combined. Scrape edges of processor and pulse again until almost pureed. Cover and place in freezer for about 15 minutes to become firm.
Spray large sheet pan with cooking spray. Pour panko into a small bowl. Remove falafel mixture from freezer and scoop into golf ball size portions rolling with your hands. Drop falafel ball into panko and roll to cover. Place panko covered falafel balls onto sheet pan. Spray outside of falafel balls with cooking spray. If you are making this meal gluten-free, simply skip the panko and place naked falafel balls onto sheet pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
While the falafel is baking, make the yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cucumber, mint leaves, remaining cumin and salt, lemon zest and juice by stirring. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Wash and dry romaine, chopping in thin slices. Dice tomatoes and bell pepper and set aside on garnish plate.
I served the falafel with sweet pickled shallots which added another dimension of flavor. If you would like a recipe for sweet pickled shallots, please let me know in the comments.
To serve, place all components out on a counter or middle of the dining room table and let guests build their own falafel pitas or salads. If serving as a salad, you may want to slightly thin the yogurt sauce with extra lemon juice and/or water to use as a salad dressing.