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Follow this easy falafel recipe for crispy, golden falafel patties full of vegan protein goodness from chickpeas. Pair these with some pita, hummus and veggies, or include in a mezze platter for a fun, wholesome snack or meal.
What is falafel
Falafel are golden chickpea and herb-filled delicacies, usually shaped as patties or balls. Vegan, protein-rich and packed with nutrition, falafel pairs amazingly with pita bread, wraps, sandwiches or just as an accompaniment in the Lebanese mezze platter. Of course, one of my favorite ways to savor falafel is with generous portion of hummus and a dollop of spicy tahini sauce.
Making falafel at home is considered a tricky ordeal, but I’m here to show you how easy it is to prepare this delicious and healthful middle eastern specialty.
Ingredients in my falafel recipe
My falafel recipe is simple, straightforward and delivers excellent results in the form of golden falafel which are crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside.
Dried chickpeas as the main star of the dish.
Fresh herbs like coriander or cilantro, some parsley. Sometimes I even add 2-3 stalks of mint leaves or a teeny bit of dried mint powder, specifically to add a fresh kick to the classic nutty flavor profile.
Onions for flavor and crunch. Feel free to experiment with spring onions or leeks!
Garlic because, is anything ever complete and flavorful without garlic?
Green Chilies for spice kick. I sometimes skip these and use red chili powder or paprika instead. Feel free to choose as per personal preference.
Spices like cumin, 1-2 crushed cloves for added flavor, just a tad bit of cinnamon powder, freshly-ground pepper for the zing, to make a winner falafel mixture.
Sesame seeds for crunch, nutty flavor and the nutritional goodness!
Baking powder for helping quicker and more consistent soaking of chickpeas, as well as to make the falafels crispy and crunchy, a quality we call khasta in Hindi. I sometimes forget to add this and trust me, the resulting falafels are still fantastic.
Oil for frying. I use rice bran or sunflower oil for this, but I have seen olive oil being used for this as well.
What makes falafel a nutritional powerhouse?
Falafels are truly packed with nutrition, thanks to its wholesome, healthy ingredients. Indeed, the hero of the dish, i.e., chickpeas are rich in protein, with 1 cup of soaked chickpeas offering 14.5 grams of protein, thus making it an excellent option for vegans and vegetarians. Additionally, chickpeas can offer a variety of health benefits owing to their high fiber content, like easier weight management, lower risk of heart disease and improved digestion.
In addition to chickpeas, falafel is packed with herbs like parsley and cilantro which overall makes it rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Lastly, the pairing choices like hummus, tahini and a salad make it a wholesome and nutritional meal that can keep us sated for a longer time, preventing the urge to reach out for a processed snack food or that bag of potato chips.
Easy falafel recipe: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Can I use canned chickpeas instead of soaked chickpeas?
In short, NO, you’d rather not!
I’m in India where dried chickpeas are available aplenty so I’ve never had to use canned chickpeas. However, after trying to make falafels with canned chickpeas for the sake of convenience and to test the recipe, I’ve concluded that its best to avoid canned chickpea for falafel recipe. On the one hand, falafels using canned chickpeas fail to hold their shape and disintegrate in the oil whilst frying. Furthermore, canned chickpeas lack the authentic nutty flavor and grainy texture that soaked chickpeas offer.
Can I bake falafel instead of frying?
Yes of course! And truth be told, I’ve grown to appreciate the baked falafels a lot more than the deep-fried or even pan-fried falafels. As a matter of fact, baking renders them a luscious golden hue, a crispy exterior and a well-cooked yet soft interior, plus consumes way less oil, so it hardly comes as a surprise that I prefer baked falafel patties more than their fried counterparts.
Is it okay to make the falafel mixture ahead?
In short, its even recommended and advised to make falafel mixture ahead, so it can absorb the flavors better. You will need to soak the dried chickpeas for 4-6 hours (I just soak them before I go to bed and drain the water in the morning). Consequently, I place the falafel mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before I proceed to bake/fry falafel patties with it. I find that this short resting period in the refrigerator helps improve the flavors as well as the binding capability of the mixture.
Can I freeze falafel?
Yes, falafel mixture freezes well, and can be frozen for up to 2 months. You can thaw it and proceed to shape and cook it as per usual. As a matter of fact, I find it easier to shape the mixture into balls and then freeze them, so that it can be thawed and cooked with greater ease. Shape the falafels and place them on a tray lined with baking sheet. Transfer the patties or the entire tray into a Ziploc bag and store in freezer. Thaw when needed and proceed to cook them.
It is also possible to freeze the cooked falafel patties. Allow the cooked falafels to cool, stack with a piece of baking sheet to separate these, and pack them in a dry ziplock bag before you move it to the freezer. When you want to use these, simply remove from the Ziploc, thaw naturally and bake/ shallow fry again to regain the crispiness.
Help! My falafel patties keep falling apart
Sometimes, falafel balls fall apart, thus spoiling the oil they’re being fried in, and subsequently also affecting the flavor and visual appeal. Here are some tips to prevent this from happening:
- Avoid canned chickpeas and rely on dried chickpeas for this recipe to improve the binding ability as well as the flavor.
- Remove the excess liquid after soaking the dried chickpeas, before you proceed to prepare the falafel mixture.
- Indeed, the method makes a difference too. In fact, baked falafels have a reduced chance of breaking apart than deep-fried or pan-fried falafel.
- Alternately, adding 2-3 tablespoons of chickpea flour or a (gluten-free flour if you prefer) to the falafel mixture can prevent breakage during frying.
- If you choose the deep-fry or shallow-fry method, its best to maintain a temperature of around 180°C or 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lastly, it’s best to avoid the temptation to squeeze too many falafel balls in the pan while frying. This will also allow the falafel to cook thoroughly and to perfection.
Serving and Pairing tips for Falafel
Indeed, falafel is very versatile and the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to pairing. Here are some of the ways I love to eat these protein-rich patties:
- Pair with hummus, baba ghanoush and/ or Labneh, i.e. Lebanese yogurt sauce. I add some pickled and fresh chopped veggie salad with this. Makes for a nutritional and absolutely tasty meal.
- Include in a mezze platter with hummus, mouttabel, labneh, tabbouleh (a broken wheat and parsley salad), fresh pita bread, fresh and pickled vegetables. While it may seem intimidating and does take some effort on your behalf, I’ve found that the rewards are undoubtedly worth the indulgence. My family members and guests have always loved a good mezze.
- Whip up a falafel sandwich/ wrap using freshly baked pita or even a baguette. Layer lettuce, tomato slices, onions and pickles with falafel patties. Drizzle hummus/ yogurt sauce/ tahini and devour!
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Easy Falafel Recipe | How to Make Perfect Crispy Falafel
- 1 cup dried chickpeas rinsed and soaked preferably overnight, or at least for 6 hours (use ½ tsp of baking powder (optional) to improve the soaking consistency)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1-2 green chilies
- 10 g (or ¾ cup) fresh coriander (or cilantro)
- 10 g (or ¾ cup) fresh parsley (avoid woody stems)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves crushed
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ¼ tsp red chili powder or cayenne pepper (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying or brushing the falafel balls
- Firstly, drain the soaked chickpeas and discard the liquid.
- Next, add soaked chickpeas, garlic cloves, green chili, parsley, coriander or cilantro leaves, crushed cloves, cinnamon powder, cumin powder, chili powder and salt in a food processor.
- Blend to an al dante texture and mix with a spatula in between blending for an even consistency. We’re looking for a grainy texture here, as this gives an interesting bite to the falafel balls, instead of smooth and mushy texture.
- Add finely chopped onion and sesame seeds to the mixture and mix well.
- Meanwhile, let the falafel mix rest in the fridge for at least an hour, and up to 3-4 hours. This allows the flavors to come together and create a beautiful harmony.
- Consequently, take the falafel mixture out of the refrigerator. Scooping out a small amount of the mixture, shape it into small balls of about 1.5-inch diameter, or flatten into patties of approximately 2.5-inch width and ½-inch thickness. Indeed, the shape depends on your preference and the cooking method you opt for. You could also use a falafel-maker mould for shaping these.
- First, add oil in a deep pot and allow it to heat to about 180-190°C or 356-374°F. The oil level should cover the falafel balls entirely. In case you don’t have a food thermometer, dip a wooden chopstick into the heating oil. When you see bubbles forming around the chopstick, it indicates that the oil is ready for some frying action.
- Now, fry the falafel balls, about 5-6 at a time, depending on the width of your frying pot, until they’re golden and crispy. Most importantly, take care to not crowd the pot, and avoid the falafel balls from bumping into each other.
- Lastly, remove the fried falafels from oil and arrange on a platter lined with paper towels to soak additional oil.
- (While this method utilizes lesser amount of oil than the deep-fried method, the results are somewhat inconsistent in terms of crunch and uniform golden color. However, you could still try this if you prefer the frying method for falafels and wish to avoid deep-frying. In fact, the results will be better if you shape the falafel mixture into patties.)
- Start by heating 3 tbsp of oil in a shallow, wide nonstick pan. Use the chopstick method mentioned above to gauge the right temperature.
- Place the falafel patties in the pan, and use a spoon to flip the patties halfway through the cook.
- Remove the fried falafel from the pan and place on a tray lined with paper towels to soak excess oil.
- Pre-heat the oven at 185°C or 365°F. Meanwhile, line a tray with parchment paper and brush 1 tsp oil on it. Place the patties in a way that they don’t touch each other.
- Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Flip gently with a spatula halfway through the baking time. Devour!
- I could not possibly gauge the amount of oil soaked by falafel balls using the frying method. Hence, the nutritional information is provided for the uncooked falafel balls/ patties.
- The prep time is same for all methods, but the cooking time varies as per the method you choose.
- For easy conversion, please note that 1 cup dried chickpeas = 2.5-3 cups of soaked chickpeas.
- For frying method, avoid overheating the oil as this may leave the falafel balls charred and with an unpleasant flavor.
- While I’m not in favor of storing leftover oil after frying for re-frying purposes, if you wish to do so, sieve the oil into a clean, dry bottle for using later.
- See FAQs in the recipe post above for more helpful tips.