You Can Take It With You: Sweet Potato Falafel

Lunchtime: unequivocally the best part of the day. But could it be better? Yes sir, it can. You don’t have to spend gobs of money going out, but you also shouldn’t be packing the same peanut butter sandwich year in and year out; there is a middle way. The path to becoming a lunch box buddha isn’t so hard. All you need is a good balance of inspiration and  improvisation. Every week, we’ll make one or two packable recipes so that you have something new to fill your lunch box and your stomach. 

Last week, I mentioned that Spanish food and I don’t really get along. To illustrate my point, I took a picture of the fruits and vegetables section of my grocery last time I went shopping.


One of these things is not like the other

Spanish people are obsessed with pigs. There’s just no getting around it. Galicians in particular also seem to have a borderline-abnormal fixation on plastic bags. Because I am Captain Planet (and also just because I hate when I have a lot of groceries and my bag breaks on the walk home), I always bring my own bags. Unfortunately, the ladies who weigh your produce at the frutería don’t like it if you try to put your onions in your own bag because it’s “unhygienic” (this coming from a people who think it’s totally 100% no big deal to put a severed pig’s head in a pile of lettuce).

So anyway, lunch! This week I invited my German friend Julia over to make lunch with me because it’s Carnaval so all our friends were glamming it up in the Canary Islands and also because I like her a whole lot. Cooking lunch for the week is a whole lot easier when you have someone cooking with you. Not only does it mean half as much chopping, for this particular menu it means you get done faster because one person can roll the pita/falafel while the other cooks them.

This Week’s Menu

Pita Bread 


1 of cup warm water (not hot or boiling)
2 teaspoons of yeast
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1-2 teaspoons of olive oil


1. Dissolve the sugar and yeast and let it sit for ten minutes to rise.

2. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and flour until you have a shaggy dough. Now knead the dough for 10 minutes on a (heavily) floured surface and then let it rise for 1 to 2 hours.

3. Pinch of a small amount and, using flour (and not oil) to keep it from sticking to your rolling pin/beer bottle and surface, roll it out as thin as you can get it.

4. Cook in a dry skillet on super-duper hot. It’ll only take a couple seconds to cook and then when you flip it it should puff up like a pita!

+ Storage and eating: Store flat on a plate covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature so that the bread doesn’t get hard and break when you try to fold it into a sandwich.

Sweet Potato Falafel


Inspired by Simply Cooked

2 sweet potatoes OR 1 sweet potato + 1 cup of chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 of an onion
1 c of chickpea or regular flour
2 t of cumin
2 t of garam masala
2 t of pepper
1 t of paprika
1 t of salt
2 big handfuls of fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 a lemon
olive oil


1. Chop the sweet potatoes into 4 pieces, cover them with olive oil, and then roast at 350° until they’re soft. For me, that took about half an hour.

2. While you’re waiting for them to cook, chip the onion, garlic and cilantro.

2. Once the potatoes have cooled enough to touch them, peel the skins off with your fingers and then mash the insides.

3. Throw the aromatics, flour, spices, cilantro and lemon juice into the mashed potato bowl and mix everything together.

4. Put the mixture in the freezer for 10 minutes or so so that it’s easier to form balls or patties.

5. Now you’re ready to cook. You can either bake, fry or deep fry your falafel.

To bake them, form little balls and cook for 15 minutes at 200.°

To fry them, heat olive oil up over high heat, form patties, fry one side and then the other.

To deep fry them, heat olive oil up in a deep pan. Form balls out of the dough and fry them until they have a crispy coating.

+ Storage and eating: Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Take your falafels out of the fridge (but keep them in a container) the night before so that they’re not still cold at lunch. You can either assemble the sandwiches the night before or take a few containers each filled with pita, falafel toppings (I did avocado, spinach, sautéed zucchini and feta cheese) and make your sandwiches at lunchtime to avoid any potential sogginess.

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


    • stef, it’s so vegan! we didn’t even end up liking the cheese so we got rid of it and made and ACCIDENTALLY VEGAN MEAL and it was delicious.

    • there’s more to come! but for now i will tell you that i made my students valentines yesterday and signed them “xo laura” and they went around saying “xo” (pronounced “sho”) to each other all day because they thought it was some weird american way to say bye.

  1. THIS IS THE MOST GLORIOUS IDEA. Did your pita puff enough that you could open it up into a pocket? I managed to make semi-decent gluten free pita pockets and it was reallyyyy exciting.

    • when i have my real pans and my real stove: yes! when i have my stove that likes to turn off whenever it feels like: no. i’m convinced that the trick is the hotter the better because it sears the outside really fast before the inside and cook which lets the insides separate and make a pocket. do it!

    • Marika, would you share your gluten-free pita recipe? How did you make them without them crumbling?

      –Inquring Minds/Hungry Bellies

  2. This is quite nice, I’ve made lentil falafel before, but haven’t even thought about using non-bean/legume substitutes. I will try this (well, minus the cheese).
    And absolutely agree about the bag issue. Working in health-food industry, I deal with a variety of people and their justifications for using the bags they are using, the best ones come from “plastic addicts”. I do bring my own.
    Thanks for sharing this, by the way.

  3. This sounds delicious. Sweet potatoes are dirt-cheap around here and I keep meaning to find more things to do with them other than “microwave until soft, eat with melted butter” which is getting kind of old.

  4. Back in Chicago there was this place like two blocks from where I lived that made arguably the best falafel in Chicago for dirt cheap and so I would eat it like all the time but since I’ve moved to Phoenix I’ve tried multiple different Mediterranean places and first of all they’re all super expensive and they suck. I’m talking dry, flavorless pieces of fried chickpea with barely any tahini sauce so it makes it seem even more dry. So I have decided that I may just have to start making my own.

  5. Everytime I make falafel, I lose half of them to crumbling while frying, so this sounds not only delicious but like a trick for better consistency. I’m definitely going to try this soon.

    Also, for sweet potato month– they’re really good steamed in the microwave and then with tahini and soy sauce on top? If you want to go fancy, grated sweet potatoes with garlic and butter and a lot of freshly ground black pepper, cooked over medium heat with a fair bit of stirring, become really sweet and almost caramel tasting. If you put fried sage leaves on top (especially if you do them in garlic butter too) it’s superlative.

  6. My partner and I are looking forward to trying this. It would be a nice change when the vegan step-son comes over.

  7. Yesterday I made double batches of this (sans pita because: lazy) and the pasta from v day with my girlfriend and ahh I am eating it at my desk right now and it is so good. Autostraddle is becoming my favorite cooking blog and this feature in particular is right up my lazy cooking alley.

  8. This sounds SO GOOD. Thank you for including a gluten-free version of the recipie. I’ll have to try this!

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