Is Falafel Vegan and Gluten-Free?

Falafel, also called felafel, derives its name from the Arabic word falāfil, meaning ‘pepper’. It is traditionally a deep-fried fitter, in the form of a ball made of ground or mashed chickpeas or fava beans. Sometimes both chickpeas and fava beans are combined to form the recipe’s batter. This Middle East food texture, probably an Egypt-originated dish, intrigues several consumers regarding is falafel vegetarian or does falafel have meat?

Don’t worry! Falafel does not have meat. It is a great plant-based replacement for meat and provides great amounts of protein and fiber. Falafel has a huge vegetarian consumer base for its popularity as vegetarian street food around the globe. It combines a flavorful burst of herbs, spices, onions, lentils, and sauces into a lip-smacking cuisine.

While it does seem that falafel is vegetarian, it might raise another concern: Can dedicated vegans eat falafel? You may know that though all vegan food is vegetarian yet not all vegetarian recipes vegan. So let’s find out!

Is Falafel Vegan?

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On making the first appearance, Falafel may look like meatballs but rest assured that it doesn’t. The traditional falafel recipe doesn’t utilize egg as a binder for two main reasons. Firstly, Aquafaba, which is the chickpea juice, foams akin to the egg white and has vegan baking applications as well. Secondly, the dish is a staple in vegan cultures that avoid using animal products.

What is Falafel made of? – Typical Falafel Ingredients

Falafel can be safely labeled as vegetarian and vegan. It utilizes plant-based products in its preparation. Generally, falafels are made of fava beans, but chickpeas are commonly found in the US and Middle East countries including Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine.

The fava beans or chickpeas are soaked overnight, and the ground with plant-based ingredients like lentils, herbs, spices, scallions, and onions. The mixture is then molded into round balls or patties and deep-fried for a crunchy exterior. Conventionally, Falafel is served over a bed of salad greens and sprinkled with tahini sauce. It is also eaten with other vegan-friendly foods, such as pita bread, salad, and pickled vegetables.

It has plant-based protein and fiber, which can serve as an excellent substitute for meat. Falafel recipes have been used to reformulate vegan-friendly replacements for sloppy joes, meatloaf, spaghetti, and meatballs.

Is Pre-made Falafel Mix Vegan as well?

Is Falafel Vegan

While we highly recommend making falafel on your own and using suitable ingredients to have strong control on quality and vegan-friendliness, yet we don’t aim to generalize it for all. Commercial market and street food junctions are quite a hotspot for falafel when it comes to vegetarian or vegan consumers but sadly, not all commercially available falafel vegan.

Firstly, the oil used to fry the falafel balls might have been used to cook some non-vegan items before its utilization in falafel preparations. Not just the oil but the equipment could be the culprit too. If you pick falafel from a restaurant, check if they are reusing oil from a non-vegan pan.

Secondly, have a strict eye on the ingredients label on falafel packets or premade batter. The additives used might be non-vegan. It might be unlikely that any pre-made falafel or falafel “powder” include animal-derived additives, yet the preservatives, flavorings, and other extracts might not be too safe to trust.

Things to watch out for in Commercial Falafel

1. Oil

Ensure that the restaurant from which you pick the falafel does not reuse the oil, previously utilized to cook a non-vegan recipe, in frying the falafel. Further, it is safer to visit a vegan restaurant if you are a dedicated vegan since equipment like a spatula, knife, etc. might also get mixed up while preparing non-vegan and vegan recipes inside the restaurant’s kitchen.

2. Binders

Though it is unnecessary to use egg to bind falafel, some might add it to enhance the falafel balls’ flavor or texture. Therefore, be cautious and confirm whether the egg or other collagen-based products derived from animals are used in the commercial falafel balls.

3. Additives

Preservatives, additional flavoring, or added colors on the counter-available falafel mixture label should be interrogated to confirm that they are vegan-friendly. If the premade falafel mix contains a fortified substance, it is also worth a confirmation at the manufactures’.

FAQs

1. Are falafel healthy?

Umm, it’s a yes and a no, ultimately, it depends. Deep-fried falafel balls contain a substantial amount of fats. Yet, you can give falafel a healthy twist by replacing the step of frying with baking. Also, note that falafel is a great source of plant-based protein and fiber, making it appropriate for vegans. It also has the following micronutrients:
1. Magnesium
2. Potassium
3. Iron
4. Copper
5. Sodium
6. Manganese
7. Selenium
8. B vitamins

Recommended: Vegan Lifestyle and Nutrient Deficiencies

2. What to eat with falafel balls?

The list can run endlessly!

While Falafel balls are usually consumed as a snack or as an appetizer, it can also be used to fill delicious vegetable burgers, mezze, pita bread, sandwich, or even a wrap. They can be loaded with veggies to give a nutritious boost or enjoy a chickpea-based hummus (check vegan status) or various sauces and pickles.

3. Does falafel have meat?

No. Falafel has a texture similar to that of meat but is not made of meat at all. It is a reliable replacement for meat since it has a great protein and fiber content.

4. Where is falafel from?

The Middle-East takes a majority of the falafel’s credit. Falafel derives its name from an Egyptian Arabic term for pepper. Israel has a cultural hold on the fritters while Lebanon claims the innovation of the “sandwich”. Egypt, Yemen, and Palestine also have relevant evidence to lay similar claims on falafel’s origin, leading to the heated Falafel-debate.

Verdict

No matter where the falafel recipe comes from or goes to, it shall always be whole-heartedly welcomed for its healthilicious benefits! It is vegan friendly and serves as a good source of protein, fiber, and 3% of the daily recommended intake of calcium. It has a lower glycemic index. Further, potassium, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids are also present in necessary amounts. The falafel dish is easy to make and can be clubbed with many vegan items like wraps, sandwiches, burgers, salads, tahini sauce, and vegetable pickles.

We hope the article was insightful regarding whether falafel is vegan, whether it has meat, is falafel healthy, and other similar queries.

Tully Zander

My life literally revolves around optimum health and sustainable living by being a devotional vegan. My mission is to create a community of like minded vegans to go forth in creating a better and brighter world for humans, animals and the planet. Just like Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Gandhi

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