Is Falafel Healthy?
This classic dish is loaded with fiber- and protein-packed chickpeas, but is it good for you?
Falafel is all about one special legume – chickpeas! Balls made from heavily spiced mashed chickpeas are fried golden and served with sauces made using tahini or yogurt. Typically flavored with warm, earthy spices like cumin and coriander, falafel can also be flavored with fresh herbs, garlic, onion, cayenne and red pepper flakes. While these flavor-packed balls are delicious, their fried nature may have you wondering: Is falafel healthy?
Falafel Nutrition Facts
Chickpeas are chocked full of plant-based protein and fiber. One cup of canned chickpeas contains 265 calories, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 12.5 grams of fiber. There are also ample amounts of B-vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Four to five pieces of traditionally prepared, deep-fried falafel contains about 540 calories and 26 grams of fat, but there is also a whopping 17 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein. Overall, not such a bad meal. The common accoutrements like tahini sauce, vegetables, pita bread and yogurt will add more calories, but from healthy sources.
How to Lighten Up Falafel
There are plenty of ways to capitalize on the healthy aspects of falafel and cut back on the fat and calories. To start, skip the deep frying. Sauté falafel in a nonstick pan with a few tablespoons of oil or consider baking it in the oven or air fryer to almost eliminate the need for oil. Tuck your lower-fat falafel into whole grain pita with a chopped salad made with tomato, cucumbers and bell peppers or serve with bulgur along with measured portions of sauces and lots of fresh vegetables. Make a falafel-inspired salad with seasoned, baked chickpeas and tangy yogurt dressing.
Falafel and Falafel-Inspired Recipes to Try
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.