Falafel Challah Burger Recipe

falafel challah burger

Falafel is a mixture of mashed chickpeas, onions and herbs and spices, formed into a small cake and deep fried. It’s traditionally served in a pita or flatbread, with vegetables and tahini sauce or hummus, but you will also find it served over salad greens or part of a mezze platter of small bites.

Falafel is rooted in a long tradition, and its devotees are protective of that tradition. At The Culinary Institute of America, students are encouraged to research the history of the falafel to ensure that their modern interpretations maintained the integrity of this ancient food. It is a dilemma they will face time and time again in their careers: respecting a traditional recipe while using their style and creativity to make it fresh and appealing to a new customer.

The Advanced Cooking students rose to the challenge. In addition to the Falafel Challah Burger we’ve included here, they presented dishes like pumpkin falafel, falafel-style corn dogs, and cream-cheese-filled falafel in carrot soup.

The burger stood out. It gave us everything we love about falafel — a crispy patty, fresh vegetables, and creamy tahini — with the modern appeal of America’s go-to to-go favorite. The addition of a tangy red onion relish helps cut through the richness of the fried patty and challah bread, and we bet you’ll find yourself making a big batch to use again and again.




Start to finish: 9 hours, 45 minutes (8 hours inactive)

Servings: 4


Onion jam (recipe follows)

Cashew tahini (recipe follows)

Sweet potato chips (recipe follows)

Falafel burgers (recipe follows)

Challah bread (see instructions below)

Beef tomato, sliced

Fresh avocado, sliced

Iceberg lettuce washed and dried


Onion Jam

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 red onions, thinly sliced

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup honey

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and honey and simmer, stirring frequently, until the moisture has evaporated about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat and cool completely.


Cashew Tahini Spread

Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup cashews

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons tahini

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the cashews in a large-lidded container. Cover with water and soak overnight. Alternately, bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the cashews, and soak until soft, about 10 minutes.

Drain the cashews and transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the lime juice, water, soy sauce, tahini, and nutritional yeast, if using. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


Sweet Potato Chips

Makes 4 servings

Vegetable oil, as needed for frying

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about ¾ inch thick

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, bring the oil to 300 degrees F. Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown around the edges and crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a paper-towel-lined plate. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


For the falafel burgers:

Makes four 4-ounce burgers

1/2 pound (about 1 cup) dried chickpeas (do not substitute canned beans, as they will not work properly)

1/2 small onion, roughly chopped

3 to 5 cloves garlic or roasted garlic

1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup finely chopped fresh green herbs (parsley, cilantro)

Vegetable oil, as needed for frying


Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Cover and soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans and transfer to a food processor. Add the onion, garlic, flour, salt, baking powder, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cayenne, and fresh green herbs.

Pulse until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process until the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. The mixture should hold together, but not be as smooth as hummus.

Transfer the chickpea mixture to a large bowl and stir with a fork to ensure the ingredients are distributed.

Fill a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil until it is about 1 1/2 inches up the side of the pan. Slowly heat the oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into 4-inch round slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop. If the falafel won’t hold together, return it to the food processor and continue processing until it has formed more of a paste. If necessary, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the shape holds. They may seem delicate at first but will hold their shape once they are in the oil.

Fry the falafel patties until they are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the falafel to a paper-towel-lined tray.

Slice the challah into eight 1/2-inch slices. Use a circle cutter or jar to cut a 5-inch round from the center of each slice.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of cashew tahini spread on half of the challah rounds and top with a falafel patty. Top the falafel with the onion jam, a slice of tomato, avocado, and lettuce. Spread another 1 tablespoon of cashew tahini spread on the remaining challah rounds and top the sandwiches. Serve with sweet potato chips.