• Matt

Crumble It: Tempeh Falafel Lettuce Cups

Updated: Apr 14, 2019

Tempeh Falafel Lettuce Cups with Olives, Pickled Onions & Tahini Dressing

This recipe uses tempeh as a substitute for the chickpeas that are normally used as the basis for this Middle Eastern snack.

One of our favorite things about tempeh is the versatility it's mycelial texture offers. Cut it thinly into bacon-esque slices, cube and drop in a curry, or leave as thicker slices to marinate as vegan steaks. Recently we started experimenting with crumbling it and found the texture held up well for shaping into patties of all sizes.

This falafel recipe combines the firm texture of crumbled tempeh which means it holds together in the pan, with tempeh's wonderful ability to absorb flavors from herbs and spices.


Serves 2 people

Prep time 20 minutes

Cooking time 5 minutes


Pura Tempeh 200g

1 red onion

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Your favorite olives to taste

1 head of Romaine or other broad leaf lettuce

Falafel Spice Mix

3 tablespoons chickpea/gram flour

1 tablespoon panko

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 tablespoon ground garlic

Thick bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pickle the onions

Chop the onion in half lengthways then into thin strips. The thinner you can cut the strips, the quicker the marinade will penetrate and the more intense the flavor.

Put the apple cider and white vinegar in a pan, heat slowly to a light boil and add the sugar until it's dissolved. Pour this over the chopped onions and leave for 30 mins to cool down. Pickles done!

2. Get the chia seeds going

Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to 2 tablespoons of warm water in a bowl and set aside for 20 minutes. You'll find after this time that the seed and water mix turns quite glutinous - this will act as a binder for the falafel mix and gives the whole thing a bit of extra structural integrity. Non vegans who don't have any chia lying around can use an egg yolk in this step for similar results.

3. Prepare the tempeh

As the falafel balls will cook quite quickly in the oil it is important to pre cook the tempeh, this also allows it to soak up the spices in the falafel mix. Cut the Pura Tempeh into thick blocks and submerge in boiling water and poach for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the tempeh, pat dry and place into a blender. Blend the tempeh for a minute or 2 until it retains a chunky texture.

4. Form the falafel patties.

In a large mixing bowl combine crumbled tempeh, hydrated chia seeds with the falafel spices, flour and roughly chopped parsley.

Chickpea flour, also known as gram flour is a staple of middle eastern and Indian cuisine and is a great thing to have in your pantry. If its hard to find in your local store it can be easily made by blitzing the hell out of dry chickpeas in a blender for about ten minutes and then passing through a fine sieve.

With wet hands, combine the ingredients into a solid ball then break off ping pong ball size pieces and form into pucks, approximately 2 cm thick and 4 cm across. Allow the patties to rest in the fridge for a few minutes to set. Turn a pan onto medium heat and full with enough neutral oil like canola to halfway submerge each patty. Fry the patties for 3 minutes on each side then flip when they are golden brown and crispy.

We served these in lettuce wraps topped with the pickled onions and olives with a side of whatever dip takes your fancy - hummus or a lemon tahini sauce works really well. Or if you are like Emily, you can just drown everything in Frank's Red Hot sauce.


You can reuse the pickling sauce for the onions - just keep adding cut onions to the liquid and if you want to level it up even more throw in a bunch of dry spices like cloves, whole cardamom pods and coriander seeds.
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