This Southwestern Falafel is inspired by the traditional Middle Eastern favorite of chickpea patties in pita bread, this Southwestern twist features chili powder and cilantro flavored pinto beans in a nice healthy patty with lots of veggies.
These are always a hit with the family, especially the kids!
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What is falafel?
Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern food made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both, that’s made into a ball or a patty shape and usually deep fried. The balls or patties are served in a pita bread, which acts like a pocket to hold all the goodies inside.
Falafel is a good source of fiber and protein, and may help curb your appetite, support healthy blood sugar, and lower your risk of chronic disease.
I’ve made it even healthier by not deep frying it, and instead browning it in a small amount of oil or in non stick cooking spray. I’ve also given it a Southwestern flavor twist with pinto beans, chili powder, cilantro, and tortilla chips. I originally found this recipe in Redbook, and have actually shared it twice on the blog: once in 2010 and again in 2015.
How to make
Smash the pinto beans. This can be done with a sturdy fork, a potato masher, or in a food processor. The fork is my preference here, not much to clean up, and it doesn’t take that long to mash them up.
The falafel requires a little bit of chopping, but once that’s done, mixing it together and cooking it up is a snap.
Oh, and don’t worry about it looking a little dry once you put in the egg white – it holds together pretty well.
I rarely have them fall apart on me when I’m cooking. But, it can happen. The nice thing is that if you do end up with scrambled falafel, it gets hidden in the pita anyway, and it tastes just as good.
Can this be made ahead?
Yes, absolutely these can be made ahead.
Make the patties a day in advance, and store them in a covered dish until you’re ready to cook them up and eat them.
I also think they’re great eaten cold from the fridge. So I’ll cook up the whole batch and save half for tomorrow. It makes a great summer meal when you don’t want to cook anyway. And they’re great cold on a falafel bowl!
They can also be frozen for longer storage. Make up the patties. Layer them with sheets of parchment paper in between each patty, and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to cook them, simply defrost them in the fridge the day before you want to cook them.
You can also cook them from frozen, they will take a little longer to cook. Cook them at a little lower temperature to help them cook all the way through without burning the outside.
This is a great freezer meal that you can double the batch and freeze!
Can I make these even healthier?
There are several ways to make this recipe even healthier!
Use low sodium ingredients wherever you can. I always buy low sodium beans. They also sell no salt added beans. Though I prefer the added flavor of a little sodium, if you’re really watching your sodium intake, the no sodium will work great.
Also, look for low salt tortilla chips. I prefer these for general eating anyway. Sometimes those bags of chips have way too much salt for me!
Look for reduced fat cheeses to save some calories.
Used baked, not fried, tortilla chips in the patties.
Serve these in whole-wheat pitas for a fiber boost that white bread pitas won’t have.
How to serve
Serve these yummy vegetarian falafel patties in pita bread for a great fusion twist on the traditional sandwich. Stuff the pitas with lettuce, cabbage, red peppers, tomato, hummus, Tzatziki, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, chopped red onion, and/or cilantro.
Want to try some delicious homemade sauces and toppings that would be perfect with these patties? These would be my top choices for fun ways to top these falafel, whether you’re making stuffed pitas or bowls: The best avocado sauce, Roasted jalapeno and avocado hummus, vegan Tzatziki, Pineapple Serrano hummus, and Awesome sauce.
These falafels are also great in a bowl. Load up the bowl with greens, veggies, rice, and drop in a couple of falafel patties. Delicious! Dress the bowl with Italian dressing or any of the sauces listed above!
Want to make a super easy Spanish rice (the one in the picture just under the recipe card) to go along with these patties?
Simply take some cooked rice (brown or white or a combination of both) and mix in a little salsa. I usually do about 1 cup rice to 2 tablespoons salsa, or more or less to your liking. That’s it. Easy & yummy.
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Southwestern Falafel Recipe
- 15 ounce can low sodium pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup shredded pepper-jack or Monterey Jack cheese
- ½ cup finely crushed tortilla chips
- 3 scallions minced
- ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Place pinto beans in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until a coarse puree forms. Add cheese, tortilla chips, scallions, bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, and salt, and pulse until well combined. Add egg white, and pulse a couple of times to lightly combine. Remove mixture from food processor, and stir in egg white to thoroughly combine.
- Scoop mixture using ¼ cup measuring cup, and shape into 8 (3-inch) patties.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add patties to pan, you may need to work with only 3 or 4 patties at a time, and cook until golden brown on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip patties and cook until underside is golden, 2 to 3 minutes.