Falafel Burgers


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or as needed)
  • 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • 1-3/4 cups (1 15-ounce can) cooked and drained chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Coarsely chop onions, garlic and carrots, just small enough to work well in the food processor with the rotary blade.  Process until really small and minced.

Put a little oil into a skillet (I use a nonstick skillet with a little oil) and cook the onions and carrot with the ground cumin seed.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to wilt and give up their juices — a total of about 7 minutes.  Then turn off the heat under the pan.

Put the drained chickpeas into the food processor (no need to clean it out first; all this food ends up together in a big bowl by the end) along with the parsley and process until the chickpeas are broken down into shards and bits.  Put the processed chickpeas into a big mixing bowl.

Add the peanut butter and mix the chickpeas and peanut butter together.  Use the technique of ‘cutting in with two knives,’ similar to that used for cutting butter into pastry flour, if the peanut butter is reluctant to mix in.  Then add the heated vegetables and cumin from the skillet and mix; the heat will help really blend everything together.

Then add the flour and baking soda and salt and mix in well.  You are done making the falafel mixture.

To cook the burgers: The batch of mixture makes 4 servings.  For each person, dig out 1/4 of the batch, divide it in half, and with floured hands — or lightly rolling the two pieces of dough in flour — make two small burger-type patties from it.  Do this again for each additional person to be served.  Why two small ones for each person?  Much easier to handle in the skillet.

Before I cook the falafel burgers I toast sunflower seeds in just enough oil to cover the bottom of a large flat skillet, then remove them from the pan with a spoon, putting the seeds on a dish to one side lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.  Then I place the burgers in the hot oil in the skillet, let the first side brown (1-2 minutes) and then turning them over gently (I use two pancake turners; they are fragile, and you also don’t want to splash the oil around).  Once both sides are darkish brown, take them out of the pan onto a separate dish, again with a paper towel for drainage.  (While the burger-patty treatment uses less oil than traditional falafel deep-frying, it still uses some oil.)

Place the toasted sunflower seeds on the prepared salad-covered plates, then put two burgers on top of each, and pass the peanut sauce.


Penny says: I like to serve the falafel burgers on a plate covered with sharp lettuce leaves with sliced radishes and a few kalamata olives, and with toasted sunflower seeds. I serve separately a peanut sauce (see below) for diners to put over everything, to taste.


Penny Mattern’s version - Starting from Didi Emmons’s great Vegetarian Planet, from Harvard Common Press (Boston: 1997)

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