One of the most quintessential and beloved of Middle Eastern foods is the falafel sandwich, a warm pita bread stuffed with crispy hot falafel balls, surrounded by cool and crunchy diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, and drenched with nutty tahini sauce. All ingredients for this wonderful dish are easily found in standard supermarkets, and although it has many components, its simplicity makes it a wonderful weekday lunch or dinner, or a meal-prep staple that you can cook and freeze.
Falafel has gained notoriety in the U.S. thanks to halal street carts and food trucks that proudly make and serve this Middle Eastern treat. But falafel is also found on the menus of most Mediterranean restaurants and as a vegan and vegetarian meal it has gained popularity as it is filling and delicious.
Falafel is traditionally made from chickpeas. It can be fried or baked for a lighter version. Restaurants sometimes serve falafel as a platter, over a bed of rice, but stuffed into pita bread is the more popular, easy, and on-the-go version. In the Middle East, it shares popularity with the sabich sandwich, a pita stuffed with eggplant, hardboiled eggs, Israeli salad, hummus, and amba sauce.
For our recipe, you'll need to have ready falafel balls, from scratch or from a mix.
Click Play to See This Traditional Falafel Pita Sandwich Recipe Come Together
2 medium tomatoes (diced)
1 medium cucumber (diced, with peel)
1 medium onion (white or red, sliced)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 sandwich pickles (sliced)
Tahini sauce (homemade or use store-bought; to taste)
Gather the ingredients.
Heat a large frying pan or griddle to medium-high heat. Coat with olive oil and heat the pita rounds for 2 minutes on each side. The pita may begin to brown a little.
Heat up all the pita rounds and cut the top part to reveal the pocket.
Stuff each pita round with 3 falafel balls, a spoonful each of diced tomatoes and cucumbers. Top with sliced onions, chopped parsley, the optional pickles, and a generous drizzle of tahini sauce.
Serve and enjoy!
How to Bake Falafel?
Falafel is typically fried, which makes it really crunchy and decadent. If you're trying to keep your added-oil intake on the lower side, baking your falafel is a great alternative. To successfully bake the balls, you'll need to:
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, grease it with vegetable oil, or line it with parchment paper.
- Place the falafel balls with at least 3 inches of space between.
- Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for an extra 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown.
Additions and Substitutions
Falafel, as they are typically made, are vegan, but check the label if you're using store-bought mix as some use egg as a binder. Here are some suggestions to spice-up your falafel sandwich or to add different flavors and sauces:
- Use a dill tzatziki sauce instead of the tahini sauce for a creamy and refreshing addition. For dairy allergies try a soy-based tzatziki sauce.
- Add some crumbled feta to add some tang and creaminess into the sandwich.
- Add a spoonful of tabouleh salad to the pita for flavor and texture.
- Make pitas with baba ganoush, roasted vegetables, and hummus.
- Make a dressing with 1/2 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of a lime, 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, 1/2 cup of parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend all of the ingredients and use this herby sauce for the sandwich.