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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Falafel and Gyro Bowls with Tzatziki (grain-free)

Here's something different to spice up your family dinners: Falafel and Gyro bowls with Tzatziki! This grain-free recipe combines flavors from the Middle East and Greece, with fried chickpea patties, gyro-spiced ground beef, and cucumber yogurt sauce. Delicious!

I love experimenting with international foods in the kitchen. Sometimes I tie these into our homeschool history or geography studies, taking our learning to a new level. For instance, did you know that archaeological evidence shows that chickpeas were one of the earliest crops to be used in farming? Remains of domesticated chickpeas have been found dating back to around 10,000 years ago.

Healthier Falafels

Falafels are delicious fried dough patties made with ground chickpeas, onions, and spices.

My falafel recipe begins with soaking dried chickpeas in water with a dash of vinegar. This important soaking step reduces the phytic acid antinutrient that is naturally present in grains and legumes.

Phytic acid can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Soaking the chickpeas overnight helps to reduce the phytic acid content, thereby making their nutrients more bio-available.

The easiest way to make falafel dough is with a food processor, which makes it easy to grind the ingredients together. Although falafels are usually formed into balls, I make my falafels into patties so I can cook them well without a deep fryer.

Simplified Gyro-Spiced Beef

Typically, gyro meat is made of spiced lamb and beef, cooked in a vertical rotisserie.

For my falafel and gyro bowls, I've kept the meat relatively simple by using grassfed ground beef cooked with onion and spiced with cumin, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and garlic.

Cool and Creamy Tzatziki

Tzatziki is a cucumber yogurt sauce and has many different variants throughout Greece and the Middle East.

For my tzatziki recipe, I combine Greek yogurt or sour cream with chopped cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic, and mint. These creamy and cool flavors pair wonderfully with the warm spices in the falafel and gyro meat.

Falafel and Gyro Bowls with Tzatziki

Fried Chickpea Patties with Gyro-Spiced Ground Beef and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Serves 5-6

To bring this recipe all together:

  • Soak the chickpeas overnight.

  • Make the Tzatziki and let it rest in the fridge while you make everything else. You could also make the tzatziki earlier in the day or even a day in advance.

  • About 75 minutes before dinner, start cooking the onion for the gyro-spiced beef.

  • While the onion is cooking, make the falafel dough and get the patties scooped out and ready.

  • Prepare some lettuce and tomatoes as additional toppings.

  • Then fry the falafels and cook the gyro-spiced beef with the onion.

  • Assemble your bowls with 2-3 falafel patties, gyro-spiced beef, and tzatziki sauce, topped with lettuce and tomato.

Falafel: Fried Chickpea Patties

Makes 14-15 falafels

Required equipment: 7-cup food processor

To soak the chickpeas:

Falafel flavoring ingredients:

To fry the falafel:

  • ~1/2 cup of refined coconut oil or other high-temp cooking oil (such as sunflower oil or avocado oil)

  1. Place the chickpeas in a large glass bowl. Cover the chickpeas with plenty of filtered water, enough for them to easily double in size. Stir in 1/2 Tb raw apple cider vinegar. Allow to soak overnight.

  2. In the morning, drain the chickpeas. Add fresh water and another 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Allow to soak until about an hour before dinner.

  3. Drain the chickpeas well.

  4. Put the chickpeas and all falafel flavoring ingredients into the food processor. Pulse and process until the mixture is finely ground. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once or twice and then continue mixing. Dump the dough into a large bowl.

  5. Use a 3Tb scoop to create falafel balls. Place the falafel balls on a large cutting board or plate. Use your hands to flatten the falafels into patties that are ~3/4 inch thick.

  6. Heat up a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. I like to use a 10-inch cast iron skillet for this recipe. Add enough oil to the pan to give an oil depth of ~1/3 to 1/2 inch.

  7. Once the oil is shimmering and hot (but NOT smoking), add the flattened falafel patties. Make sure to leave enough room so that the falafels are not touching each other, and will be easy to turn.

  8. Allow the falafels to cook undisturbed for a few minutes until they've reached a medium brown color. Carefully flip over each falafel patty using tongs or a spatula. Cook the second side for a few minutes until you've achieved the same medium brown color.

  9. Line a plate with paper towels. Place the cooked falafels on the paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Gyro-Spiced Ground Beef

  1. Melt the butter(or bacon grease) in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and a little sprinkle of salt. Saute for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft. It's totally fine if the onion takes on a bit of browned, caramelized color while cooking.

  2. Crumble the ground beef into the skillet. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, thyme, and rosemary. Stir to combine.

  3. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beef is nearly done. Add the fresh garlic and cook for another minute or two, stirring as needed to make sure the garlic gets lightly cooked.

  4. Turn the heat down to very low to keep warm while you finish cooking the falafels.

Tzatziki: Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Makes ~3 cups

  • 1&1/2 cups plain, whole milk Greek yogurt OR sour cream

  • 1&1/2 tsp dried mint

  • 1/2 tsp finely-ground Celtic sea salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed

  • 2 Tb fresh lemon or lime juice

  • 2 cups chopped cucumber (if the skin is thick, peel the cucumbers!)

  1. Combine the yogurt, mint, salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. A lemon reamer works well to juice the lemon. Stir to combine.

  2. Stir in the chopped cucumbers.

  3. Store in the refrigerator while you prepare the falafel and ground beef.

Assembling Your Falafel and Gyro Bowls

  • Falafel

  • Gyro-spiced ground beef

  • Tzatziki

  • Chopped lettuce and tomato

  1. Assemble your bowls with 2-3 falafel patties, gyro-spiced beef, and tzatziki sauce, topped with lettuce and tomato.

  2. Serve and enjoy!

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