Vegan: Crispy Fried Chickpea Cake and Slaw Sandwiches

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Welcome to the third year of The Vegan Experience! All month we're exploring the vegan lifestyle, from dining out to eating in, developing a slew of delicious recipes for vegan appetizers, snacks, and entrees along the way.

Sandwiches are one of my weekend lunch staples when I'm on a vegan diet, and I'm always looking for new delicious fillings. This time around? Crispy, herb-packed chickpea patties, topped with a bright slaw flavored with tahini and lemon juice. Think of it as falafel in a completely different (but equally delicious) format.

As a vegan, you get used to reading ingredients labels, almost as a point of habit. Sometimes I find myself walking down an aisle in the supermarket that I'd normally never step into just so I can peruse them. You'd be surprised at the number of food items you'd think are vegan that aren't (for instance, almost all flavored potato chips contain dairy-based whey or refined sugar in some form or another). I'm equally surprised by the things that I could swear must contain dairy products but turn out to be completely vegan-friendly.

On that list: Arnold Select Potato Sandwich Rolls, a fine substitute for my beloved (and unfortunately non-vegan) Martin's Potato Rolls. I bought myself a couple bags of and decided to work backwards, coming up with a recipe to suit them. It ended up being pretty straight-forward.

The obvious choice would have been to use my Vegan Burger Patty recipe, but I've been itching to turn my Chickpea Cakes into a more substantial sandwich for a while. I used the same basic technique—combining cooked bulgur wheat with mashed chickpeas and aromatics, then breading and frying them—altering the flavors a little bit. Rather than the trio of herbs called for in that recipe, I used a dash of cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper with some straight-up parsley.

The key to getting coherent patties with a tender-but-interesting texture is to pulse half of the chickpeas in the food processor until they're very finely chopped, then combine them with chickpeas that are only roughly chopped, leaving you with a mix of big and small pieces.


I won't lie: breading these patties is not the easiest thing in the world. They're a little bit delicate, so it requires some finesse to transfer them from their flour slurry to the panko bread crumbs, but it's worth the effort for the golden brown, crisp crust the crumbs produce.

To top the sandwich, I go with some classic falafel pairings: shredded cabbage, which I turn into a slaw with some tahini and lemon juice, along with onions, pickles, and pickled peppers. The assembled sandwich is big, filling, and packed with contrasting textures and flavors.