There’s something about eating delicious food that automatically makes me shy away from trying to replicate it at home. My initial thought is since the food item is so good, it must be difficult to make, there has to be some complicated technique, and before the venue began selling it, they must have spent years perfecting the recipe. Who am I to try to recreate it? Just go out and buy it! Of course, most of the time, I come to find out that the item is not that difficult to make, the technique really isn’t all that complicated after a few rounds of practice, and I may not come up with the exact recipe as the chef’s, but I can come pretty darn close.
The falafel (pronounced fah-lah-feel) fell into this category for me. I was first introduced to the falafel over 10 years ago. It was my stepping stone into Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine. Since, I have journeyed into the lands of shawarma, hummus, dolmades, tabbouleh, spanakopita, pink pickled turnips and cabbage, and baba ganoush. This cuisine is one of my absolute favorites. Typing out of all of those items was enough to whet my appetite :) Anyway, the falafel is no longer a stranger to most and for good reason. Made of ground chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), herbs & spices, and fried to a deep golden brown, it is vegetarian-friendly, completely satisfying, and versatile. They can be appetizers, a side-dish, enveloped in a pita pocket, wrapped in flatbread, or added to a salad, just to name a few.
I feasted on falafels at restaurants for years before channeling Julia Child, “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” All 4 bullets on that list were checked when I was developing this recipe. Although it was intimidating when I first decided to attempt the falafel, once I delved into it, I really had a lot of fun and felt so accomplished when I arrived at a recipe with the perfect crunch, moistness, and flavor.
Without further ado, let’s make falafels!
The day before you start, soak dried chickpeas in salted water overnight for 8-24 hours. I soaked them for about 20 hours. Canned chickpeas are not ideal for this recipe because it contains too much water and will result in a mixture with excess moisture. After the soaking period, drain and rinse.
Combine the chickpeas and everything else (shallot, parsley, cilantro, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, crushed pepper flakes, cayenne, and baking powder) in the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse until pieces are uniform, but slightly coarse.
Form into a ball about 3 tablespoons of the mixture. To make sure I formed equal sized falafels each time, I used this Hamilton Beach Disher. At this point, you can leave it as a ball, as it is traditionally, or if you plan to stuff them in a pita pocket later, you can slightly flatten them to form discs, which is what I did.
Next, fill a skillet with a high rim or a small to medium sized sauce pan, with canola or vegetable oil. Add enough oil to fill the vessel half to three-fourths high. Over medium heat, bring the temperature of the oil to 375°F. I used this, which was very handy because it had a “deep fry” mark and I just waited until my oil reached and remained that mark.
Carefully add each ball or disc into the oil. I used tongs when transporting discs and a slotted spoon when transporting balls into the oil. To keep track of your falafels, drop them clock-wise around the edge of the skillet or pan so that you know which falafel was added to the oil first and hence, which to flip first.
Once the underside of the first falafel reaches a deep golden brown, flip it over to brown the other side. Repeat with the remaining falafels. See why adding them in a clock-wise fashion comes in handy?
Once the entire falafel is a deep golden brown, carefully remove from the oil, one-by-one, and place on a cooling rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet to drain the oil.
Serve them with tahini sauce, which cannot be easier to make. Simply process tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice, and water until well-combined. Since it was such a small amount of sauce, I just used my Magic Bullet.
Now, the kitchen is your oyster. You can serve them as an appetizer, stuff them into warm pita pockets, wrap them in flatbread, or top a salad.
For Warren, I stuffed them into a pita pocket on a bed of arugula and sprinkled with diced tomatoes and crumbled feta. For myself, I used romaine lettuce instead of arugula. Next time, I will add diced cucumbers and Kalamata olives. Yum!
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- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 cup dried chickpeas, picked over and rinsed
- 1 shallot
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tablespoon ground corriander
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Vegetable or canola oil
- Add salt to 2 quarts of water and stir until dissolved. Add the chickpeas and soak overnight for 8-24 hours*. After soaking, drain and rinse.
- Combine the chickpeas, herbs and spices, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until pieces are uniform, but slightly coarse, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- Form about 3 tablespoons of mixture into a ball**.
- Fill oil about half to three-fourths high in a deep skillet or saucepan and heat over medium heat until 375°F.
- Carefully add each ball or disc into the oil using tongs or a slotted spoon***.
- Once the underside of the first falafel reaches a deep golden brown, flip it over to brown the other side. Repeat with the remaining falafels.
- Once the entire falafel is a deep golden brown, carefully remove from the oil, one-by-one, and place on a cooling rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet to drain the oil.
- Serve with tahini sauce (recipe below)
- *Canned chickpeas are not ideal for this recipe because it contains too much water and will result in a mixture with excess moisture.
- **You can leave it as a ball or slightly flatten them into discs.
- ***To keep track of your falafels, drop them clock-wise around the edge of the skillet or pan so that you know which falafel was added to the oil first.
- 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth and well-combined.