Tonight We Veg: Roasted Falafel-Spiced Tofu with Whipped Tahini
Whether you are completely plant-based or just want to go meat-free once a week, Tonight We Veg will bring you the feel-good vegetarian meals you crave. Twice a month, in addition to our existing lineup of great veggitarian recipes, we’ll share easy weeknight recipes that prove how varied produce-forward food can be. And each recipe is packed with smart tips we’ve picked up over the years. Cook along with us, and share your creations using #tonightweveg.
My relationship with falafel is complicated. When it’s good, it’s good — few things compare to biting into a freshly fried falafel’s deep brown crunchy coating, revealing a creamy center of garlicky, herb-packed chickpea goodness. And when said falafel is smothered in tahini sauce or tzatziki and tucked into a warm pita packed with crunchy veg? Nothing is better.
But making that kind of falafel at home is a different story — at least for me. That’s because I don’t like deep-frying. I think of deep-fried foods as a treat. On the rare occasions I eat them, I leave making it to the experts. But I recently stumbled across a trick that lets me enjoy all the flavors of falafel in a healthier way, and with much less fuss — I think you’ll want in on it.
Falafel Spice Is My New Favorite Flavor-Booster — And It’s Easy to Make at Home
After continuing to spot the descriptor “falafel-spiced” on restaurant menus and recipe titles (falafel-spiced tomatoes, falafel-spiced chickpeas), I had to know: Were these recipes using a homemade spice blend or something pre-mixed? As it turns out, my local Middle Eastern market (Brooklyn-based spice importer Sahadi’s) sells Falafel Seasoning. You can buy it directly from them, but it’s available on Amazon, too). It’s a blend of cumin, coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, paprika, red pepper, and cloves. Spice Bazaar also sells one — theirs is a combo of coriander, cumin, white pepper, salt, garlic, and cayenne.
I quickly began to brainstorm all the potential uses for this new-to-me spice blend (which is officially the best spice-aisle discovery since Everything Bagel Spice). I could use it to season raw or roasted vegetables, or sprinkle onto dips. I could make falafel-spiced croutons, or popcorn, or pita chips. But I decided the simplest and most straightforward thing would be to make falafel-spiced roasted tofu and then give it the full falafel treatment, complete with tahini and fresh herbs and warm pita bread.
Unlike baked falafel, which I find usually turns out dry, baked tofu emerges from the oven with super-crisp edges and a soft, chewy interior, making it a much better candidate for my falafel cravings.
So that you don’t have to wait to get your hands on falafel seasoning (or have something shipped) I created a homemade blend that works very well. It’s a mix of garlic powder, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. If you want, you can triple or quadruple the mixture and keep it in bulk, then sprinkle it onto anything that needs a boost of flavor.
How to Serve Your Crispy Falafel-Spiced Tofu
I crave the nutty flavor of tahini when I eat falafel, but instead of a drizzly sauce, I decided on a dippable, swoosh-able base for the tofu and pita. Enter: whipped tahini, the product of whipping tahini in a food processor to aerate it. Here, I’ve added yogurt for extra creaminess (and to mellow the bitterness of the tahini), a squeeze of lemon juice for tang, and a bit of harissa for some kick.
The rest is simple: Spread the spicy whipped tahini into shallow bowls, top with the tofu, then add some fresh herbs, red onion, and crunchy sliced cucumbers. Instead of wrapping the tofu in a pita, I like to serve the pita on the side, using it to mop up any remaining tahini.
Falafel-Spiced Tofu with Whipped Tahini
For the falafel-spiced tofu:
- 14 to 16 ounces
- 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon
- 3/4 teaspoon
- 3/4 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon
freshly-ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons
olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking sheet
For the whipped tahini (makes 1 cup):
- 1/2 cup
- 1/2 cup
whole or 2% plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon
Kosher salt, to taste
small red onion
Torn fresh herbs (such as parsley and mint)
Warm pita bread (optional)
Heat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the block of tofu in a few layers of paper towels, then set on a dinner plate or cutting board. Weigh it down with a heavy object like a skillet, pot, or large can while the oven preheats, about 15 minutes. Thinly slice 1/2 red onion and place in a bowl of ice water (this will take off its bite); set aside.
Make the falafel seasoning: Place 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir to combine.
Tear the pressed tofu into bite-size pieces, then add to the bowl — along with any small crumbles of tofu — and gently stir to evenly coat. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil (about 1/2 tablespoon), then spread the tofu into an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast, flipping after 20 minutes, until golden and crispy all over, 30 to 35 minutes total.
Meanwhile, make the whipped tahini: Zest half the lemon and place zest in the bowl of a food processor. Slice the lemon half and squeeze the juice from one half into the food processor (about 1 1/2 tablespoons). Add 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini. Process, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl if the tahini gets stuck, until it begins to aerate, 5 to 7 minutes. With the processor running, slowly stream in ¼ cup cold water. Scrape down the sides and add 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 teaspoon harissa paste. Process until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. If you’d like a spicier tahini, add more harissa 1/4 teaspoon at a time.
Thinly slice 2 Persian cucumbers and slice the reserved lemon half into wedges. Drain the onion. Divide whipped tahini between four plates or shallow bowls. Top with tofu, cucumber, onion, and torn parsley or mint. Serve with lemon wedges, and torn soft pita, for mopping up any extra tahini.
Falafel seasoning: If using store-bought falafel seasoning (such as Sahadi’s), replace the spice blend above with 1 tablespoon Falafel Seasoning. Check the seasoning’s ingredient list: if salt is not listed, add 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
Tahini: The flavor and consistency of tahini varies greatly between brands. Our favorite brand is Soom, which is super-smooth and not too bitter.
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