Nutty Falafel

Summer is an interesting season if you’re trying to be VB6. While the bounty of fresh summer produce can all-but make you forget about meat, the smell of backyard grilling makes you crave it. Striking a balance is the key. With that in mind, here are my favorite summery recipes from VB6, some with meat, most without, all delicious.

Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce

Makes: 8 servings

Time: 45 minutes, plus up to 24 hours to soak chickpeas

Falafel is easy: just soak raw chickpeas until they’re soft enough to grind in the food processor, combine with some spices, shape, and bake. The baking makes lighter falafel, but they’re just as crunchy as deep-fried. This makes a big batch, which is fine, since you can refrigerate the leftovers for several days, or freeze them for a couple of months. To reheat, wrap them in foil and bake at 350°F until they’re hot throughout, 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether they were frozen. Here are some serving suggestions: Make a sandwich with half a whole wheat pita, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other raw vegetables, then drizzle with sauce. Or add lemon juice to the sauce and eat on top of a green salad, using the tahini for dressing.

1¾ cups dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
1 tablespoon cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup tahini

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches—the beans will triple in volume as they soak. Soak for 12 to 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged. (If the soaking time is inconvenient for you, just leave them in the water until they’re ready; you should be able to break them apart between your fingers.)

2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, cayenne, herb, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, baking soda, and lemon juice. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary; add water tablespoon by tablespoon if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but keep the mixture as dry as possible. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or cayenne as needed.

3. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Roll the bean mixture into 20 balls, about 1½ inches each, then flatten them into thick patties. Put the falafel on the prepared pan and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes on each side.

4. Meanwhile, whisk the tahini and remaining salt with ½ cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the falafel drizzled with the sauce.

Nutty Falafel Replace ½ cup of the beans with an equal amount of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or hazelnuts (don’t soak the nuts). Omit the cumin and cayenne and use the cilantro instead of the parsley or try a tablespoon or so of thyme leaves. Proceed with the recipe.

Nutritional Info (with 1 whole wheat pita):

Calories: 502 • Cholesterol: 0mg • Fat: 20g • Saturated Fat: 3g • Protein: 18g • Carbohydrates: 68g • Sodium: 813mg • Fiber: 14g • Trans Fat: 0g • Sugars: 6g


Spiked Guacamole

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Avocados are full of nutrients and good-for-you fat, but they’re also calorie dense, so I like to extend guacamole to turn it into a thick, rich snack with great crunch. Here the avocado is combined with tomato, radishes, and lettuce, but you can use thawed frozen peas or corn, chopped asparagus, jícama, even mango or peaches. Eat with oven-baked corn tortillas, whole-grain crackers, crudités (page 191), or in lettuce cups or on celery sticks.

1 ripe avocado
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tomato, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
5 or 6 radishes, chopped
1 cup shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
1 fresh hot chile (like jalapeño), stemmed, seeded, and minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper to taste

Mash the avocado in a large bowl until it’s as smooth or chunky as you like. Stir in the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust the seasoning. Eat immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a day.

(After an hour or so it will start to darken a bit, but will still be fine to eat.)

Double Green Guacamole

Puree the avocado with 4 cups chopped steamed asparagus in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and serve as directed in the headnote.

Nutritional Info (for the guacamole alone):

Calories: 104.36 • Cholesterol: 0mg • Fat: 7.6g • Saturated Fat: 1g • Protein: 2g • Carbohydrates: 9.9g • Sodium: 497mg • Fiber: 5.6g • Trans Fat: 0g • Sugars: 2.4g

Photo credit: Daniel Meyer

Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes, Uncategorized


  1. Nice! Barbecues are tough when you’re skipping meat. I’ve been trying various recipes for “pulled squash” (like pulled pork, but with spaghetti squash) with high hopes, but spaghetti squash resembles pork about as much as it does spaghetti. Oiling, dry-spicing, and under-roasting helped, but it’s still not quite doing it for the meat-lovers in the family. Any suggestions? Progress so far (with a little plug for VB6):

  2. Sharon said...

    Can falafel be made without a food processor?

  3. honore kligerman said...

    Thank you for this column. I think this is what you do best

  4. Betty Rhodes said...

    I am such a fan!! I started reading you in the New York Times….have all your cookbooks except your latest.
    Thanks so much for your generosity. these recipes are delicious sounding. Thanks for sharing. It is appreciated!
    I live in Napa, California where we have great food and terrific wines and you are still the outstanding one in my book. If I had a Jewish grandmother, I would hope that she would cook like you.

  5. Mark McMahon said...


    I have been following you for years. Love your sense of humor and cooking suggestions and solutions. Just finished read VB6 and decided that for my 60th birthday this will be my present to myself.


  6. Seth Chandler said...

    Another amazing suggestion. I love your whole approach to food. The email that alerted me to this recipe reminded me to check the iBook store to see if the book was there yet. It was, and I bought it.

  7. Miki said...

    I love your recipes, but too often find the sodium content very high. Can you make any suggestions?

  8. Annette Magjuka said...

    I own hundreds of cookbooks and have been cooking all my life. You are by far my favorite cookbook author. Your down to earth attitude, your respect for home cooks, your food activism–I love it all. Thank you for all you do. You have made me a better cook.

  9. Annette Magjuka said...

    Oh, and my husband and I are trying VB6! So far, so good.

  10. Markus said...

    the photo is deceptive because there’s no way to tell the size of the falafel balls from looking at it.

    is it artsy? yes. accurate in terms of “true to scale”? there’s no way to know, and this isn’t helpful.

    as a ready reference, all food photos need something like a hand or an eating utensil in them to help the viewer understand the actual size of whatever’s being shown.

    all the best to Mark Bittman and the VB6 book and project.

  11. Rob P said...

    Great recipe, I even had some homemade tahini, but I used cannellini beans because I don’t care for garbanzo. Is it still considered falafel if I use a bean different from garbanzo?

  12. Betty K.Taylor said...

    What a joy it is to read your recipes and try them! I made falafel and baked them years ago, and your recipe is finer than the one I made up. How much fun it is to see all the good bites that you expertly create. Thank you so much!

    Betty K. T.

  13. Jane A. Drury said...

    Where are the other recipes? Only two are shown.

  14. Pat McT said...

    Hi, I’m planning to try the baked falafel. Thanks for sharing the recipe. What is your opinion about canned chickpeas? Will they do (for the time stressed)?

    Also want to say that the reason I appreciate you so much is that you say, in the nut version, “don’t soak the nuts.” Even I know that, but it needs to be said, if you are giving instructions, right?

  15. Chandika said...

    What about a good vegan BBQ sauce recipe for tempeh, tofu, etc? Seems like a staple, but I can’t find a good one.

  16. Okrafreak said...

    I’ve been VB6 for almost a month now and LOVE IT! I feel lighter, healthier and very well-nourished. Admittedly, it takes some planning to make filling breakfasts and lunches to take to work but it’s a fun challenge.
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and insight into re-thinking our daily diets. What a huge difference this would make if we all followed the plan.

  17. Sandy said...

    Mark: I have been inspired by your real food cooking style since I purchased “How to Cook Everything”(10th anniversary). Today I begin my VB6 journey. Thank you for writing this important book.

  18. Elise said...

    I made the baked falafel for dinner a week or so ago – it was WONDERFUL. Since I didn’t have any tahini, I used plain yogurt with fresh mint, parsley, salt, pepper and lime juice.

  19. Primož said...

    I have never eaten a falafel before. I had a chance when I was in Budapest, but I went sick later that day and I couldn’t didn’t have any interest in food 🙁
    Now is a great chance to make my own to try it.

  20. Wayne said...

    Have tried this falafel recipe a couple of times and have a problem with the patties falling apart. Had been concerned that the mixture was too wet after adding a little water to the food processor, so even squeezed moisture out by the handful before forming the balls — so maybe I made it too dry? Also wonder whether my smallish food processor (I had to do this in 3 batches) couldn’t produce a fine enough mixture. Great flavor, but frustrating results.

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