This is one food that is especially good when hot, it has a window of about 30 minutes, after which it won’t be close to its best.
In countries outside the Middle East this street food is sold in all kinds of non-fresh and less than ideal ways.
People really don’t know any better until they try a falafel straight out of the deep fryer from the falafel man himself!
That person may be you after learning this recipe!
What is Falafel?
It is a kind of a croquet-fritter type food made from chickpeas, spices, and some herbs.
Deep fried and served hot, usually for breakfast or lunch.
However, there is no right or wrong time to eat this dish so feel free to have them for dinner, and as snacks as well.
The reason this is such a staple in Arab countries is that it is very filling, nutritious, and very cheap.
There are some varieties of falafel that incorporate fava beans as well as chickpeas.
The Egyptian version is exclusively made from fava beans and locally known as ta’amiyeh.
Both these legumes are high in fiber and nutrition and falafel is appealing to those living within a budget.
And like so many of the best dishes around the world, this one is also cheap, and available to the masses.
What Makes a Good Falafel Sandwich
As a kid in Jerusalem the best falafel came from a hole in a wall place near the Old City.
Abu Al Abed was the guy’s name, and he literally sold this beautiful fried food out of the front door of his house; they were incredible.
It is the recipe as well as the freshness that make falafel good, and maybe even the location!
A good falafel needs to puff up when cooked, to be full of air, with a thin crispy skin around a soft moist inside.
Fresh falafel, fresh bread, and fresh condiments, what is not to be totally in love with?
I get really hungry just by thinking about it.
Eaten with or without bread it is exponentially better when served with a tahini, yogurt dip, so be sure to add that.
Where is Falafel From?
It is believed that falafel originated in Egypt where it was first made from fava beans.
It then moved to the Arab countries of the Levant where the fava beans were replaced by chickpeas.
There is a myth that falafel, like the myth of hummus, is Israeli food.
However, Israel has only been in existence for seventy years and those foods are thousands of years old.
Falafel was incorporated into the diet of the earliest Jewish settlers to Palestine.
Palestinian family recipes were shared with them by their Muslim and Christian neighbors.
This food was good, hardy sustenance that kept you full while you worked the land.
Like many foods around the world, falafel has been adopted by populations all over.
What is Falafel Made Of?
In most countries of the Levant they are made from chickpeas, spices and herbs.
In Egypt this dish is made from fava beans which is the original form of the recipe.
There are some recipes that are a combination of both chickpeas and fava beans.
Is Falafel Healthy?
One of the reasons I love falafel is not only because it tastes good, but because it is relatively healthy.
There is a ton of goodness in falafel whether made from chickpeas, or fava beans.
But it depends on how often you eat them.
Like anything deep fried, falafel should be part of a wider balanced diet.
Falafel has a good amount of fiber, and is probably more healthy when made at home.
If you bake or pan fry it will in fact be more healthy for you.
But when I think of that I feel like it would be sacrilege to do!
Because only a deep fried falafel is a real falafel!
But at the end of the day both chickpeas and fava beans are at the top of the list of most nutritious legumes.
Is Falafel Gluten Free?
The original traditional recipe is one hundred percent gluten free.
But you do need to be careful when eating falafel at eating establishments which may add other ingredients.
I have seen recipes that have included breadcrumbs of all things.
One of the challenges for falafel is in its binding, if the mixture is too wet, it will fall apart when frying.
Some people remedy this by adding breadcrumbs or even flour which of course are not gluten free.
You can get around the binding issue just by making sure your mixture is not too wet.
My advice would be, let the buyer beware and check the ingredients.
Are They Vegan?
Again, they are meant to be vegan if traditional recipes are used, however, you must be aware of the ingredients.
I have seen people use eggs in their recipes, again to get around the binding issue, and maybe to get them to puff up a bit.
Falafel should also be dairy free.
These days all kinds of other ingredients are added to things like falafel in an effort to ‘jazz’ them up.
How to Make Falafel
The first thing to do is to soak the chickpeas overnight to rehydrate and make them soft.
Make sure to cover the chickpeas generously with water, since they will soak it up overnight.
Drain and dry chickpeas in the morning and place them in a food processor.
Process until you have something that has the consistency a little looser than a cookie dough.
You want it to be gummy and to stick to itself.
If too wet, drain the mixture in a fine sieve allowing extra liquid to run off.
If still too wet, you can add chickpea flour to dry it up a bit, but you need to maintain a good balance.
Make sure it’s not too dry, otherwise it will crumble when fried.
This recipe should provide your falafel mixture with just the right amount of moisture.
Heat vegetable oil to between 350ºF (175ºC) to 375ºF (190ºC).
Either using a specialized falafel mold or a spoon to shape the mixture, make into small falafel ball shapes.
As you shape the falafel, drop them into the hot oil, being careful not to let too much time pass between shaping, and dropping in the oil.
Avoid the temptation to pack them too tightly in the molds, or when shaping into a ball.
Remove and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.
Other ways to cook:
This mixture can be cooked by making patties, adding oil and pan frying.
You can also bake the falafel in the oven on a baking sheet.
Brush falafel patties with olive oil, place on a baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes each side or until crispy.
You can also use an air fryer for an ultra healthy version.
What to Eat it With
There are so many things to eat alongside this delightful dish of goodness.
Traditionally a breakfast food, falafel is often eaten alongside hummus, fuul and labneh.
Frequently served with a tahini, yogurt and lemon juice sauce that is enjoyed as a wonderful dip.
Extra onions, garlic mash with olive oil are all things you will find on the table.
Another thing I like as an addition to my falafel sandwich is turnip pickles.
These are made by cutting turnips into baton shapes and then pickling them alongside a few chopped beetroots for color.
The same is also done with cauliflower, and I can tell you it’s a delicious pickle to eat.
This fried ball of flavor is also very commonly served with lunch, and is included as part of a mezze.
Chicken livers, labneh and manakeesh, a type of flat bread with zaatar and olive oil, are all appropriate as well.
All of this mezze before the main course of grilled meats and vegetables even arrive.
One of the incredible street foods of the Arab world, this is always the authentic one to try.
- 1 cup Chickpeas dried, soaked overnight
- ¼ cup Cilantro finely chopped
- ¼ cup Parsley finely chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tsp Coriander ground
- 1 tsp Cumin ground
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice ground
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tbsp Vinegar
- 1½ tbsp Tahini
- 1 Hot Chili Pepper
- ½ Onion
- Vegetable Oil for Deep Frying
- Soak chickpeas overnight in a generous amount of water.
- Drain chickpeas and add to a food processor.
- Add all other ingredients to the chickpeas.
- Process until well mixed and mixture resembles coarse wet sand.
- Use a falafel scooper or shape into balls using your hands.
- Deep fry until golden brown.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Serve while hot.