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Falafel Pitas With Cilantro-Cashew Sauce

Falafel Pitas With Cilantro-Cashew Sauce 4.000

(Justin Tsucalas for the Washington Post; food styling by Nichole Bryant for The Washington Post)

Plant-Powered Newsletter Jul 12, 2019

Perhaps the world’s most iconic vegetarian sandwich, falafel deserves its place in a plant-based-eating repertoire. It requires a bit of planning, but it’s well worth the effort, and leftovers reheat easily.

Dried chickpeas, not canned, make for just the right texture in these pan-fried patties. Combine them and fresh vegetables in a creamy cilantro-cashew sauce, and a few dollops of harissa for good measure.

A food processor is helpful here, and a high-powered or standard blender.

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Make Ahead: The cashews and dried chickpeas need to soak for 10 to 12 hours. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for 2 to 3 months. Falafel are easy to make ahead and reheat. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for months. Reheat the falafel on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes until heated through.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings; makes 24 small disks

  • For the sauce
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) raw, unsalted cashews, soaked (see headnote)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves (1 cup packed)
  • 1/2 cup water, or more as needed
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • For the falafel
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) dried chickpeas, soaked (see above)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/4 medium red onion, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 small carrot, scrubbed well and coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro stems
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons neutral oil or more as needed, for frying
  • For serving
  • 4 pita bread rounds, each cut in half
  • 1/2 English (seedless) cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cup (2 ounces) baby spinach
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Mild harissa (store-bought; optional; see note)


To start this recipe, we’ll soak the dried chickpeas and raw cashews separately to get that perfectly fluffy falafel and creamy sauce. Place the chickpeas in a medium container and cover with 4 cups of water. Place the cashews in a small container and cover with 2 cups of water. Cover both and let them sit for 10 to 12 hours.

When the cashew soak is complete, blend that sauce: Drain the nuts and throw them into a blender along with the cilantro, water, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper, if using. Whiz it all up until a creamy sauce forms. A high-speed blender is the quickest tool for the job, but a standard blender works, too; it just takes a few minutes longer. You’ll need to eyeball it to get to a creamy consistency; you may need to add an extra tablespoon or two of water. Taste, and add another pinch of salt, as needed. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until serving. You should have about 1 1/3 cups.

On to the falafel: Warm the garlic in a medium (dry) skillet over medium heat, flipping it once or twice, until just browned, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a food processor, along with the red onion, carrot, cilantro stems and parsley. Process until finely chopped, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Drain the soaked chickpeas and add them to the food processor, along with the cumin and salt. Process for about 20 seconds total, stopping and scraping down the bowl a few times, until a crumbly dough forms.

Take a heaping tablespoon of the dough and use your hands to form it into a disk about 2 inches in diameter and just under 1/2-inch thick. Falafel dough is crumbly (not like the consistency of cookie dough), so don’t be alarmed. It takes a little pressing to stay together.

Repeat to make 24 disks, placing them on a baking sheet. Because you will be pan-frying and not deep-frying, the flat disk shape will help the falafel get cooked through.

Heat the oil in the same skillet you used for the garlic, over medium-high heat. Place a crumb from a falafel disk in the oil, and once it starts to sizzle, the oil is ready. Fry about 8 falafel at a time, for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are lightly browned all over. We like using chopsticks to flip them, and we do it carefully to avoid spattering oil. Transfer the cooked falafel to a plate. Add a bit more oil to keep the bottom of the skillet covered for the next batch.

Once the falafel are done, you can eat them immediately, or refrigerate or freeze them.

To serve: Stuff each of the pita halves with 3 falafel, cucumber slices, red onion, spinach and tomatoes. Dollop with enough cilantro-cashew sauce to cover the filling, and some harissa, if using.

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Recipe Source

From Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser, of

Tested by Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser.

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Avg. Rating (19)

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 630

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 24g 37%

Saturated Fat: 4g 20%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 730mg 30%

Total Carbohydrates: 78g 26%

Dietary Fiber: 14g 56%

Sugar: 5g

Protein: 21g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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