- Falafel is a hearty and delicious dish
- Falafel may be gluten-free or not, depending on the ingredients used
- You can prepare gluten-free falafel at home
- Some brands offer pre-made certified gluten-free falafel mixes
Falafel is a simple but delicious Middle-Eastern dish, featuring fried balls or patties, made with simple, everyday ingredients. But, is falafel gluten-free?
Falafel can be gluten-free or not. It all depends on the ingredients used. Some people will add gluten-containing binders, meaning it won’t be gluten-free. Preparing your own falafel at home using only gluten-free ingredients is the safest way to avoid gluten if you are on a gluten-free diet.
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What Is Falafel?
Falafel is one of the most popular Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern dishes. It’s also one of the most popular street foods across the world.
And, if you were to visit Egypt, Israel or Syria, there’s a high chance that almost every street food vendor will have it on their menu. In fact, most people consider falafel the national dish of Israel.
This food comprises deep-fried patties or balls, with a crispy texture outside and an extremely soft and delicious inside. Falafel can either be served as a main dish or appetizer, depending on the occasion.
It is worth noting that falafel is considered naturally vegan. Therefore, if you like vegan foods and a vegan diet, this is an ideal product to choose.
How Is Falafel Made?
Falafel is made of simple, everyday and easy-to-obtain ingredients. The main ingredients used in traditional falafel are canned chickpeas, ground chickpeas, or garbanzo beans. Falafel can also be made with a combination of fava beans and chickpeas if you do not want to use canned chickpeas.
The beans will then be combined with fresh herbs like cilantro, dill and parsley. Spices like coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, and cayenne will also be added.
Other ingredients that may be added to falafel include aromatics such as garlic, shallots and onions. It is also possible to prepare chickpea flour falafel, falafel balls, falafel patties, and falafel mixture.
Some people may also add binders such as eggs, all-purpose wheat flour or breadcrumbs, to help the balls maintain their shape when being deep-fried. The ingredients used will vary from one chef to the next.
You may also find that olive oil is a critical component of falafel. When it comes to the use of chickpeas, the best thing to do is to soak dried chickpeas overnight. Soaked chickpeas work very well with this food. Mushy falafel is also an ideal choice.
Falafel can be served with various accompaniments. They include pita sandwiches, pita bread, tahini sauce, as well as vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers,and tzatziki sauce. Some varieties such as roasted falafel have a high smoke point.
Gluten is the family name for the proteins found in barley, wheat, triticale, and rye. It acts like some sort of glue, which helps to hold the grain together. It also adds the elasticity that you see in dough while giving bread a soft, chewy texture.
Considering that gluten is a naturally-occurring protein in these cereals, it’s almost impossible to separate it from the grain. And, this explains why processed wheat products, barley products and rye products contain gluten.
Therefore, gluten will be present in pastas, breads, candy bars, soups, breakfast cereals, beer, brewer’s yeast, rye flour, bakery items and rye milk. You can also find some products that you will least expect, like soy sauce.
And, most people can comfortably tolerate gluten. In fact, studies show that approximately 99% of the human population can consume any gluten-containing food or drink without experiencing any negative reactions.
But, for those with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can trigger numerous adverse reactions. Most notably, people with these conditions will experience a wide range of stomach-related complications, among other symptoms.
And, if you happen to fall in the latter group, then you have to tread carefully regarding your diet choices. As far as possible, you should take food which is completely gluten free. This will help you avoid deteriorating symptoms that are associated with celiac disease.
Does Falafel Have Gluten?
So, is falafel gluten free? If you have celiac disease, non-gluten celiac sensitivity or any other form of gluten intolerance and you are looking to try falafel for the first time, you may be wondering whether falafel is safe for you.
For instance, you may be having questions such as; does falafel have gluten? Is falafel gluten-free? Is falafel safe for a gluten-free diet? Can you take falafel if you have gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance?
The answer to the above questions can be a yes or a no. It all comes down to the ingredients used to make falafel. Original, authentic falafel is usually made with ground garbanzo beans or canned chickpeas, mixed with fresh herbs, spices and aromatics.
But, we also mentioned that a binder is usually added, which helps the balls or patties maintain their shape when being fried. And, the binder used can be eggs, wheat flour or bread crumbs.
If either breadcrumbs, wheat flour or other gluten-containing ingredients are used as the binder, then this traditional Middle-Eastern food will not be gluten-free. On the other hand, if eggs or gluten-free flour are used as the binder, then the falafel will be gluten-free. Simply put, it all depends on the ingredients that have been added.
Many of the gluten free food products get contaminated at the stage of using the food processor. This is because equipment for food processing is expensive and is often shared in preparing different foods.
How To Enjoy Gluten-Free Falafel
Falafel can be gluten-free or not, depending on what has been added. And unfortunately, the falafel that you will find in most eateries will contain wheat as the binder, meaning the falafel won’t be gluten-free.
So, if you are on a gluten-free diet, make sure you first enquire from the restaurant or the chef whether they’ve used gluten-containing ingredients as a binder. At the end of the day, you want to ensure you are having gluten-free falafel.
However, if you want to enjoy 100% gluten-free falafel, the best choice will be to learn how to make them yourself and making falafel is not difficult. And, you can easily find gluten-free falafel recipes online.
And using the gluten-free falafel recipe, you can then be preparing them yourself, using only gluten free fresh ingredients. With the right process, you can follow a gluten free falafel recipe.
And, you will now be able to enjoy this gluten-free delicacy if you are on a gluten-free diet, without any gluten-related complications or allergies. For instance, you can make gluten free pita bread at your own comfort. However, if you decide to make this product at home, do not substitute the fresh parsley with dry parsley or dried chickpeas.
You also have the option of buying pre-made gluten-free falafel mixtures and then finalizing the cooking at home, if you don’t fancy preparing your own gluten-free falafel from scratch.
WunderBites Mediterranean Falafel and Trader Joe's Falafel Mix are both labeled gluten-free falafel.
The gluten free industry is vast and you can get a restaurant falafel which will serve what you want, or get the food components from the stores.
The good thing with this food is that you do not have to waste leftover falafel. You can always recycle this food, and therefore save some money.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker