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What Is Falafel?
Falafel is a deep-fried ball made from a mixture of ground chickpeas or fava beans, onions, garlic, and spices like cumin, coriander, and cardamom. Falafel is one of the most popular street foods in the Middle East, where you’ll find it sold on street corners. It’s often served in a pita pocket with a mound of cucumbers, tomatoes, pickled vegetables, and tahini or hot sauce.
What’s in Falafel?
Originally falafel was made out of fava beans, but they are now more commonly made out of chickpeas. The traditional version uses:
- Dried chickpeas (or canned chickpeas), soaked and puréed.
- Onions or shallots.
- Herbs like cilantro and parsley.
- Flour (or if you're gluten free, baking powder), for deep-frying.
Two Necessary Tools for Making Falafel
- A food processor: To make a smoothly blended falafel mixture, you’ll want to use a food processor. If that’s not available, a blender can also work.
- A deep pot: The key to frying is a roomy, deep pot that gives your food more room to cook in. Using a pot that’s too small can cause overcrowding of food, which can lead to a temperature drop in your oil, resulting in greasy, undercooked food.
How to Make Healthy Baked Falafel
Although falafel is typically fried, baking it cuts down on fat and calories. To make a healthy baked version, brush the balls with olive oil and bake at 425°F for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking, until golden and crisp.
While you’re on a healthy kick, you can swap out white pita bread for a whole wheat version, or skip the carbs and wrap the falafel in lettuce cups.
3 Tips for Making the Best Falafel
The ideal falafel is golden-crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. A bite into the thin crisp exterior should reveal a soft, fluffy chickpea center that is packed with flavor from fresh herbs, garlic, cumin, and coriander.
One of the problems that comes up when making falafel at home is that the mixture tends to disintegrate into hot oil while cooking. Here are three tips for making sure your falafel hold their shape during frying:
- Use a cookie scoop: Swiftly scoop and form balls using a cookie dough or ice cream scoop to prevent breaks and cracks.
- Smaller balls: When forming your falafel balls, make them 1 ½” in diameter. The smaller size will be easier to work with in the pan and give you a crispier finish.
- Chill: Chill the falafel balls in the fridge for a minimum of thirty minutes before cooking so they can firm up. Your falafel mixture can be made up to three days in advance—keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use.
6 Ways to Serve Falafel
- In a pita pocket. A falafel pita sandwich garnished with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and tahini sauce is the most common way to eat falafel. Try it in true Israeli style with hot harissa sauce, pickled turnip, and amba mango sauce.
- In a burger. Try replacing your burger patty with an extra large falafel on your bun for a vegetarian friendly option.
- In a salad. Make a mediterranean salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, onions, feta, and olives. Finish it off with a vinaigrette made with fresh lemon juice.
- In a grain bowl. For a hearty and healthy lunch: combine torn kale, quinoa, shredded carrots, and chopped peppers in a bowl. Top with falafel, parsley, and tahini dressing.
- In tacos. Swap out chickpeas for black beans in your falafel mixture. Serve the fried balls in tortillas with green onions, shredded cheese, salsa, and fresh cilantro leaves.
- Dip it. Serve falafel as an appetizer with hummus.
Can You Freeze Falafel?
Falafel is best when eaten fresh, although leftovers will keep in the refrigerator covered for several days, or in the freezer for a few weeks. Reheat falafel in your oven at 375°F for 10 minutes for crispier results. Pre-fried falafel mixture can be refrigerated or frozen before cooking.
Quick and Easy Homemade Falafel Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time45 min
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Tahini sauce, hummus, and pita, for serving
- In a food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, shallot, parsley, cumin, coriander, and flour. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture clumps together.
- Shape mixture into 1 ½-inch round balls. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile heat vegetable oil in a large pot to 330°F, about 3-inches in depth. Add a drop of water to test the oil, once it sizzles it is hot enough for frying.
- Fry balls in batches (don't crowd the pot!) until golden brown, flipping occasionally, about 3-4 minutes in total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Serve warm with tahini or hummus and a side of pita bread.