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Tennessee's Winning Recipe: Awesome Baked Falafel with Mango Salsa

“Leya was inspired to make this dish by her uncle,” says Leya’s mom, Deena. “As a family of Middle Eastern descent, Leya and her uncle love to create traditional dishes with a twist. Falafel and mango salsa are a favorite in the Middle East, so this was an attempt to make a healthier version. Falafels are usually deep fried, whereas in this recipe they are baked and are just as delicious. The salsa includes tomatoes, which is Tennessee’s state fruit. Tennessee is now home to a large Middle Eastern immigrant population, so there are many falafel places opening their doors in the state.”

- Leya Alani, Age 9, is the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winner from Tennessee. 

Makes 6 Servings


For the Falafel:

  • 2 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander powder
  • ¼ cup chopped chives
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups instant oats
  • Toasted sesame seeds

For the Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • Salt

For the Mango Salsa:

  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 2 green onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 6 whole-wheat pita breads, halved  


  1. To make the Falafel: Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a blender, combine all ingredients except breadcrumbs, oats, and sesame seeds. Puree mixture until well blended. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs and oats to mixture and mix by hand. Let stand for 10 minutes, then shape into balls and place on a greased or nonstick baking sheet. Brush balls with olive oil and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip falafel balls over and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  2. To make the Yogurt Sauce: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss well.
  3. To make the Mango Salsa: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss well.
  4. To Assemble: Spread the yogurt sauce on the inside of the halved pita bread, place 2 to 3 falafels inside the bread and top with salsa. You can have 1 or 2 halves, depending on how hungry you are. Enjoy!  

494 calories 14g fat 75g carbohydrates 21g protein