Falafel

In Israel, falafel stands are as numerous and plentiful as McDonalds here in the U.S. Falafel is the unofficial “national snack of Israel.” If only we had half as many falafel stands in the U.S. as we do McDonalds, I’d be a very happy girl. It’s a delicious form of fast food that is much lighter and better for your heart than burgers and fries.

Falafel is a traditionally Arab food that has been adopted by Israeli Jews. The word falafel may descend from the Arabic word falāfil, a plural of the word filfil, meaning ”pepper.” These fried vegetarian fritters are served in most Israeli restaurants along with hummus and tahini sauce (known as a “falafel plate.”) The idea of stuffing falafel into pita pockets is actually an invention of Yemenite Jewish immigrants to Israel. The introduction of falafel pita sandwiches made falafel portable, which expanded its popularity and made it into the number one “fast food” in Israel.

So just what is the history of this tasty little fritter? According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, “The first known appearance of legume fritters (aka falafel) in the Middle East appears to be in Egypt, where they were made from dried white fava beans (ful nabed) and called tamiya/ta-amia (from the Arabic for ‘nourishment’); these fritters were a light green color inside. Many attribute tamiya to the Copts of Egypt, who practiced one of the earliest forms of Christianity. They believed that the original state of humankind was vegetarian and, therefore, mandated numerous days of eating only vegan food, including tamiya.”

When falafel is made the traditional way, is indeed a vegan food; it’s a great source of protein for people who have cut meat out of their diet. It’s relatively low in fat and has no cholesterol if you fry it in heart-healthy grapeseed oil. And if you top it with veggies in a pita, it becomes a filling and nourishing meal! Sure beats a Big Mac, if you ask me.

On my trip to Israel this past summer, one of the last food stops we made was for a falafel pita. I asked our friend Hagai to take us to his favorite falafel restaurant; he took us to Mana Mana on Yehuda Hamaccabi street in Tel Aviv. At that time, it was run by a three-generation family—grandfather, father, and son. The young son ran the cash register with the confidence and authority of a 40 year-old. Apparently the restaurant has changed management since then, so I can’t vouch for the food now, but at the time they made a truly delicious falafel—crispy on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside, with fresh toppings grown on local kibbutzim.

Here’s my favorite way to make a falafel pita: start with a layer of hummus deep inside the pocket, then add the falafel, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Top with a thin layer of tahini sauce. Oy, I’m making myself hungry! :)

Here is my recipe for falafel, along with a few variations you can try. Falafel was originally made with fava beans and continues to be made that way in Egypt and other Arab countries, but Israeli falafel is made from chickpeas. This is because many Jews have a medical deficiency called G6PD, which is a hereditary enzymatic deficiency that can be triggered by fava beans. I have included an Egyptian falafel recipe variation at the end of the blog if you’d like to try making it that way. It’s greener and spicier than the Classic Falafel.

You will need to soak dried chickpeas overnight for your falafel to turn out right; canned beans are too tender and contain too much moisture to achieve the right consistency. Don’t cook the beans, because this will result in a mushier and denser falafel, which is not the proper texture. I’ve also included instructions for constructing your own falafel pita. As they say in Israel, Bete’avon!

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)

You will also need

  • Food processor, skillet
Servings: 30-34 falafels
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak – you will have between 4 and 5 cups of beans after soaking.
  • Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
  • Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that... but don't overprocess, you don't want it turning into hummus!
  • Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Note: Some people like to add baking soda to the mix to lighten up the texture inside of the falafel balls. I don’t usually add it, since the falafel is generally pretty fluffy on its own. If you would like to add it, dissolve 2 tsp of baking soda in 1 tbsp of water and mix it into the falafel mixture after it has been refrigerated.
  • Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. I prefer to use cooking oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop. I usually use about 2 tbsp of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference. The balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry.
  • Note: if the balls won't hold together, place the mixture back in the processor again and continue processing to make it more paste-like. Keep in mind that the balls will be delicate at first; if you can get them into the hot oil, they will bind together and stick. If they still won't hold together, you can try adding 2-3 tbsp of flour to the mixture. If they still won't hold, add 1-2 eggs to the mix. This should fix any issues you are having.
  • Before frying my first batch of falafel, I like to fry a test one in the center of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown (5-6 minutes total). If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Cool the oil down slightly and try again. When the oil is at the right temperature, fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides.
  • Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon.
  • Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot; they go best with a plate of hummus and topped with creamy tahini sauce. You can also stuff them into a pita.
  • Troubleshooting: If your falafel is too hard/too crunchy on the outside, there are two possible reasons-- 1) you didn't process the mixture enough-- return the chickpea mixture to the processor to make it more paste-like. 2) the chickpeas you used were old. Try buying a fresher batch of dried chickpeas next time.
  • SESAME FALAFEL VARIATION: After forming the balls or patties, dip them in sesame seeds prior to frying. This will make the falafel coating crunchier and give it a slightly nutty flavor.
  • HERB FALAFEL VARIATION (GREEN FALAFEL): Add ½ cup additional chopped green parsley, or cilantro, or a mixture of the two prior to blending.
  • TURMERIC FALAFEL (YELLOW FALAFEL): Add ¾ tsp turmeric to the food processor prior to blending.
  • EGYPTIAN FALAFEL: Use 1 lb. dried peeled fava beans instead of chickpeas; cover them with cold water, soak them for at least 24 hours, then drain and rinse. You can also use a mixture of fava beans and chickpeas if you wish; just make sure the weight of the dried beans adds up to 1 lb.
  • After the beans are soaked and rinsed, add the Classic Falafel ingredients to the processor along with the following ingredients – 1 leek, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered; ¼ cup chopped dill; ¼ cup chopped cilantro; and an additional ¾ tsp cayenne pepper. When mixture is processed to a coarse meal, pour into a bowl. Stir 2 ½ tbsp sesame seeds into the mixture with a fork until it’s evenly dispersed throughout the mixture. Refrigerate and proceed with frying. If mixture seems too “wet” when making the falafel balls, add additional flour by the teaspoonful until the mixture sticks together better. Continue with frying.
  • HOW TO MAKE A FALAFEL PITA: Making a falafel pita is actually really simple. The two main ingredients are pita bread and falafel.
  • Cut the pita bread in half to form two “pockets.” Each pocket is a serving size. Stuff the pocket with falafel, as well as any add-ons you fancy.
  • Here are some traditional add-ons that can be added to your pita; these are the ingredients most widely available at falafel stands throughout Israel:
  • Tahini sauce
    Shredded lettuce
    Diced or sliced tomatoes
    Israeli salad
    Onions
    Dill pickles
    Hummus
    Tabouli
    French fries
  • Here are some less traditional add-ons that are also tasty:
  • Sprouts
    Cucumber slices
    Roasted peppers
    Roasted eggplant slices
    Sunflower seeds
    Feta cheese
    Yogurt
    Tzatziki

 

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Category: Appetizers, Entrees, Finger Foods and Dips, Healthy, In the Kitchen, Pareve, Recipes, Salads and Mezze, Side Dishes, Tomato Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

Comments (377)Post a Comment

  1. Krissy says:

    This is a great recipe, this is the very first time I have made these with success thanks :-)

  2. Ashley says:

    I just made this falafel and I have to tell you, it was just spectacular. Although I added a couple eggs to hold things together a touch more, I think it would have been fine without. The finished product was better than I’ve had in restaurants. Thanks so much for sharing this post!

  3. Kris says:

    My wife was surprised at the great results. I made the batter for her following the recipe. I think 2 hours in the fridge before frying is the trick. Thanks for your recipe.

  4. Eva says:

    Hi Tori,

    I came across your blog when looking for Passover recipes. I ended up making your chocolate chip cookies and they were very good. So I wanted to make felafel from scratch and to you I came. And I was not disappointed. I was soooo proud of them, they came out great and even happier that I will not have to buy the frozen or boxed versions of felafel ever again. Your recipe is AWESOME! Now I gotta try your tahini recipe…Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Joyce Rose Nazareth says:

    I enjoyed eating falafel during my trip to the Holy Land and ever since have been wanting to try making this recipe at home. Thank you for sharing the recipe. God bless you.

  6. Helge says:

    YUMMY, thanks a lot Tori for sharing this nice recipe. Yesterday I suddenly got the urge to make yummy homemade falafels, which I ain’t done in years, and now the chickpeas are soaked and I got all the ingredients ready.
    I will also add a small quantity of soaked Mung Dal (split mung beans without coating – tiny yellow things) to my Falafel paste. I think I did this once before, and seem to remember it being good.
    Also, I’ll use Garam Masala spice mix and probably an egg or two.
    Can hardly wait! :-)

  7. Annamarie says:

    Having never really liked the falafel on sale in London, I just got the urge to try and make some. This recipe seemed the most authentic so I gave it a try today. Wow wow wow! NOW I see what the fuss is about! They turned out perfectly and were more tasty than in my wildest dreams! I’m not Jewish, but I’m gonna try more recipes on your site. Thank you very very much!

  8. Puja says:

    HI.. thanks for the recipe.. really looking forward to trying this. Can i make the mixture and keep it for longer in the fridge so I can fry them just before serving? e.g. overnight or from morning to evening?

  9. grace says:

    thank you for such a great recipe post and all the variations – i cannot wait to try this out !

  10. Eve says:

    This is an excellent recipe! I LOVE the layout of the page, with your personal & detailed/researched information, coupled with the really good photos of interim stages. The only problem I encountered was that there was insufficient flour to bind the mixture – I had to add double the amount, plus I put in a little cornstarch, to boot. My question is, whether I should NOT have drained the soaked garbanzos/chickpeas? IN other words, whether the mixture was missing the water, to create the paste…just a thought!
    FYI, the oil I used to cook is optimal for frying, i.e. coconut oil. But I prefer the taste of olive oil, of course…only i’ve heard, that olive oil breaks down under high temperatures yielding some toxin or other (?!), so i refrained. Because I am one of those folks who experiences difficulties digesting legumes unless in combination with rice, I forewent the pita bread & I served it with fresh-cooked basmatic-coconut rice. Unfortunately, no Tahini was handy, so it’s a tad dry served that way…BUT hey, it was an excuse to wash down with chilled white wine – which ALSO works well!
    ;)

  11. Anxious to try these…have heard so many say how great they are but haven’t yet tested….know I’ll love them though since they’re made with all my fav ingredients….thanks for sharing!

  12. puja says:

    I finally tried these and they are perfect.. my husband loved them. Thank you for sharing!

  13. rebecca says:

    We live in Israel so have ample opportunity to eat falafel but these days we are on a somewhat restricted diet so need to know exactly what is in our food.

    We made these and loved them. We did boil the chickpeas since I wasn’t sure the exact definition of “overnight” and got concerned that even after around 10 hours the chickpeas were still quite hard so at that point I boiled them for another hour or so, making sure not to boil them until they were very soft (unlike if I were making hummus for example).

    We used whole wheat flour and did end up having to add 2 eggs to get it to stick together, but they fried up wonderfully. I ended up freezing around half of the balls for another day since it was just too much goodness for one meal.

    We ate it with an Israeli chopped salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, carrot, red onion, dill pickle, red pepper, salt, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

    Also tahina for those of us that eat sesame.

    And the best hack of all was the “pita” bread

    • rebecca says:

      Oops I must have hit submit too early… Anyway we made “pita” by mixing whole wheat flour, salt and water, making flat rounds and flying on a hot skillet. It doesnt puff or have a pocket like real pita but it’s fine for rolling up salad and falafel (kind of like a lafa bread which you can also buy falafel in here) and delicious when eaten warm.

  14. Nicklas says:

    Isn’t adding ‘French fries’ a bit of defeating the objective? I’m fairly certain that’s been added to accommodate us ‘westeners’ Great page however, a lot of love for the falafel!

  15. Nicklas says:

    For you Brits ending up on this page – Asda sells falafel mix (ca. £1.50), add water and oil, make your appetizing balls and get frying… Certainly the lazy option but very quick and for being pre mixed, I must say they’re very good!

  16. Pdale says:

    I have what may appear to be a silly question, but what is the proper consistency of a correctly fried falafel? I have purchased falafel with a firm inside from a food cart and with a creamy–almost gooey inside from a “Greek” restaurant. I prefer the firmer consistency, but which is correct and traditional?
    Thanks.

    • Tori Avey says:

      Pdale– the perfect falafel is crispy/crunchy on the outside and fluffy/tender inside. In my opinion it shouldn’t anywhere close to gooey… but everybody has their own way of doing things. :)

    • jmk says:

      Gooey on inside is not right and means undercooked, usually from oil too hot or too much water in mix. The proper falafel is crunchy on outside and fluffy but cooked on inside. And THAT is why it’s so hard to master falafel. Anyone can process the ingredients and fry them–but they won’t be the way they need to be.

  17. Renee says:

    I LOVE falafel but I am the only one in my family that does like it. Can I make the recipe up as called for and then freeze some of them. I would probably eat as many as I could over the first couple of days but then might turn into a falafel ball. If I could freeze them that would be awesome!

  18. Deborah says:

    Hi Tori,
    I made your felafels for the first time a few months ago and used a deep fryer – they turned out brilliantly, thanks to your excellent instructions. But last night’s effort wasn’t the same at all, despite doing exactly (or so I thought) the same thing. They basically disintegrated in the deep fryer and it was clear there was a problem with too much moisture. I then tried to fry some the usual way and they turned out very soggy. Could it be that I overdid the cooking of the pre-soaked peas?
    Many thanks,
    Deborah

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Deborah– the chickpeas should not be cooked at all. Did you cook them? If so that may be the issue. They are only supposed to be soaked, not cooked.

    • Deborah says:

      That made me laugh!! Obviously I must have followed your instructions to the letter first time around, and then completely missed the ‘no cooking’ part this time. Thinking of hummus, maybe, or just reading too fast like always. Thanks so much for your reply and commitment to your readers – I’ll be making these again. Cheers from the South of France!

    • Tori Avey says:

      LOL, no problem Deborah. Better luck next time!

  19. Mist says:

    Oh my god, Shiksa! I tried out the hummus and falafel recipe both and they came out great! I grew up in the Middle East, and I was looking to recreate my childhood, so thank you very much for these great recipes, in fact I made some some falafel shavarma, with a hummus spread and the three of us finished the entire batch in one sitting! Next stop is to make some dill pickle at home!

  20. Jmk says:

    I’ve started making my own pickled radish and turnips to use for falafel topping. I use natural salt brine. It’s really easy.

  21. yogadoug says:

    Can I bake the falafel?

    • Tori Avey says:

      I do not recommend it. Please read through the comments above, as I have addressed this question many times and different readers have different opinions about it.

  22. Jen says:

    This recipie wored great. My kids gobbled them up as well. I have lots of parsley, cant wait to try the green version.

  23. Ruth says:

    This was my first falafel attempt. The texture was perfect, they didn’t fall apart, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside! I did make one mistake. My “test” falafel was fine so I added five more to the skillet and that cooled the oil down too much! I think my skillet was too small for five or six. I cooked the rest in batches of two or three and they browned nicely. Thank you so much for these recipes! You have made cooking exciting again!

  24. Kamiel Choi says:

    Thanks for a great recipe!
    I made falafel with canned chickpeas today, and had to add lots of flour for the consistency – didn’t turn out too well.
    I prefer make flat discs in order to save on cooking oil :)

    Greetings from Berlin Germany (where there is a lot of excellent Lebanese restaurants and Levante cuisine is HOT here)

  25. Joseph says:

    How long will the uncooked falafel mixture be good in the frig? Is it okay to keep in the frig for several days or does it need to be cooked that day?

    Thanks.

  26. DEE says:

    Oh wow, my first time ever tasting falafel. My husband is a vegetarian and said it taste exactly like the ones his grandma use to make.
    Thanks

  27. Natalie says:

    How long does the batch stay good for?

  28. Anna says:

    I have made these exactly as you suggest many times now that I purchased my food processor last winter. I made them again tonight and they were a hit as usual. My 13-yr-old son absolutely loves them! I am re-posting your recipe on my website so that I have a web-record of it and I am giving you the credit. Please let me know if this is not acceptable. I have a link back to your site. I’m posting my favorite chick pea recipes tonight and your falafels are amazing. I have never had trouble with the recipe at all. Thank you!

  29. christopher gillespie says:

    My wife has never enjoyed Falafel before, but the product of this recipe changed her mind. These were a delight, and your imagery of the entirety of the process was such a helpful addition that I tried several of the variants as well. Thanks for taking the time!

  30. Susan says:

    Thank you for the falafel recipe I have been looking for a good recipe years. My husband made these last night and they were so delicious. They were as good as The Falafel Drive-In restuaraunt in San Jose, CA where I first tried and fell in love with falafels 38 years ago.

  31. Tomas says:

    I’ve decided to go vegetarian for the rest of the year, and bought myself a food processor as motivation :)

    First time making falafels, and they turned out beautifully! Stuck together perfectly without eggs or extra flour, and tasted wonderfully! Going to buy some sesame seeds and try coating them with that for tomorrow… And make some hummus for the pita. Oh joy!

    Thanks for all the great recipes!

  32. Ramesh says:

    Just reading the recipe made me hungry :-)
    In India they may be called “Vadaas” but made with chickpea flour mixed with onions, chiles, mint, and a host of spices.
    Thanks, Shiksa.

  33. Nova says:

    Loveddd the Falafel recipe, specially the details! I am going to try it out tonight.. Do you also have a recipe for Hummus and Pita bread? Thanks

  34. Gavin says:

    Can you use fresh fava beans?
    or would they not hold together?

  35. Erin says:

    Just finished frying my first batch and – WOW. These are amazing!! Thanks for much for sharing your recipe and your blog. What a great find!

  36. jmk says:

    Great recipe! Tastes fine without any baking soda. The only change I made was dry roasting the cumin and coriander a bit before grinding. And I ran the beans through my old hand-cranked Atlas meat grinder instead of a food processor. (I was told once the best falafel makers do that.)

  37. Kat says:

    This recipe looks great. I’m going to try it this weekend. I made falafel before but it would fall apart. I had to add a lot of flour but then all I tasted was flour!!! Do you cook the garbanzo beans before processing them?

  38. S in Africa says:

    These were amazing! I used raw garlic and the flavour and texture were amazing. Living in Southern Africa its tough to find authentic middle eastern food spots so this blog has been my saviour as I’m a vege and Middle eastern food is so yummy and nutritious for veges!

  39. Kat says:

    I made them over the weekend and they came out great. It was the first time my falafel did not fall apart while frying and I didn’t even have to add a lot of flour. Great recipe!!!

  40. Adam Abdelnoor says:

    This is are ally excellent page and a clear recipe. The information is very balanced, and it’s nice to see it fairly stated that felafel is part of shared Jewish Arab culture.

    We share so much. There is no age old Jewish Arab enmity. Felafel stands for that in my mind – and they are delicious.
    Thanks
    Adam

  41. tesyaa says:

    Came out perfectly on the first try. (My kids suggest spicing more heavily.) I have been wanting to make falafel from raw chickpeas for a long time, and these were super easy and delicious!

  42. …hope you don’t falafel after eating it LOL

  43. I’ve always wanted to try this

  44. Mmmm, now I’m in the mood! LOL!

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