Home Made Falafel

Falafel takes me back to the tender age of 10, a unique time in my life.  We had just moved out of the city and into suburbia. Against my many pleas, I was transferred from one yeshiva (orthodox jewish private school) to another. New classmates, new teachers, new home. The one constant I my life of change was kosher food. Having attended a yeshiva for four years to this point, I was by now an expert on all things kosher. I knew that the OU was the gold-standard of kosher symbols, that trademarks like “parve” were not good enough and that the combination of milk and meat was strictly forbidden.

It was during this sheltered period that I first discovered the delicious meat-like sandwiches I came to know as falafels. They were often served at birthday parties and school events. I took an immediate liking to falafels. I was even more amazed when I learned that they were NOT made out of meat. I became obsessed and started calling local (kosher) restaurants asking if they carried falafels. It wasn’t long before I discovered Jerusalem Pizza in Livingston, which quickly became my  spot  for falafel cravings.

Over the past decade, falafel has risen through the ranks from obscure Middle Eastern delicatessen to mainstream notoriety. Here in Hoboken, it seems like a new falafel joint opens every few months (Mamoun’s, Ibby’s, Hummus Bar, Maoz all opened within the past three years).

Most vegetarians like falafel as a hearty meat alternative but I wonder how many appreciate their relative health benefits and ease of preparation. You may ask how that’s possible since they are deep-fried – a technique that sounds neither healthy nor easy. Not all deep-frying is bad. The bad comes from the type of oil used (often partially hydrogenated or trans-fat oil), number of times (too many) that oil is recycled and cooking temperature (lower temp lets oil absorb into the food).

In my opinion, the healthiest way to deep-fry is to use healthy oil (I like canola, which is neutral in flavor) only one time (discard oil after every use) and at a high temperature of 350 degrees. When done correctly, the deep-frying process simply sears the outside of the food without letting the falafel ball absorb the cooking oil.

This recipe was adopted from the NY Times version (I doubled the spices). Serve with tzatziki (a.k.a. white) sauce and israeli salad (alone or in a pita).

Recipe

Serving Size (~25 falafel balls)

Estimated time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz bag of dried chickpeas
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • canola oil for deep-frying (enough to for 1-2″ of depth in the pot)
*green highlight denotes ingredients you will likely need to buy fresh while black text includes ingredients you should either have stocked in your pantry or ingredients that have a lengthy shelf life.

What You’ll Need:

Directions:

  1. soak chickpeas overnight (at least 4 hours) in a bowl/pot, submerged by 2″ of cold water
  2. once hydrated, rinse chickpeas in fresh water and transfer to food processor
  3. pour oil into a deep pot and turn heat on high. make sure to use a thermometer to monitor the oil temperature. you want it to reach 350 F before frying. do not leave hot oil unattended
  4. pulse a few times to break them down. add onion, garlic, parsley spices, baking soda and pulse a few more times
  5. slowly add lemon juice (pulsing along the way) and water
  6. the chickpeas should be mashed. at this point, you can transfer into a mixing bowl and mix the rest with your hands
  7. feel the texture with your hands and try to make a falafel ball. add water (1 tablespoon at a time) as necessary to make the texture more sticky
  8. create falafel balls by hand (1-2″ diameter in size)
  9. prepare a drying station for cooked falafels by stacking a few paper towels on top of a plate. keep close to the stove for easy access
  10. once oil reaches 350 F, carefully drop a few falafels balls in. use a slotted spoon to insert them if you need to. try not to splash and do not crowd the pan
  11. cook the batch for 3-5 minutes until browned (don’t let them burn!)
  12. make sure to monitor the cooking temperature (adjust heat as necessary), making sure you’re still around the 350 range
  13. remove falafels from oil using a slotted spoon and place onto the drying station
  14. repeat steps 11-13 until all batches are complete

Tzatziki sauce

  • 1/2 cup low-fat greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, to taste

*combine all ingredients and serve with falafel

Israeli salad

  • 1 cup tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup cucumbers, diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt

*combine all ingredients and serve with falafel

Tips:

  • deep frying is less intimidating once you learn a few ground rules. first and foremost make sure to keep water away from hot oil. if ever in doubt, turn the heat off. make sure to use a thermometer, which will tell you when to begin placing food into the oil. if in doubt, read
  •  oil disposal is important – do not flush down your sink or bathtub!  here’s what I do — I usually buy a small container of oil (enough for deep-frying once). the deep-fried oil, once cool (use the thermometer…this will take a few hours) goes back into the container using a funnel and into the garbage. if you want, you can always pour the oil into a zip-lock bag and toss as well. again, make sure you’re using a thermometer to know that the oil is cool
  • 25 falafel balls is a lot and deep frying does get a little messy. i like to freeze my uneaten falafels for future use.
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12 Comments on “Home Made Falafel”

  1. beginsatsundown says:

    I am definately saving this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. CorkAndSpoon says:

    Wow, that looks soooo good! It reminds me of the falafels a local kabob place used to make before they went out of business (so sad!). I’ll need to carve some time out and try my hand at it. ~Ruth~

  3. Looking good! Falafel is always good, in my opinion. Love to serve it with some grilled zucchini and red pepper as well.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know how to make falafel from scratch- I rely on the ready-made mixes, but I know they cannot compare. My grandmother used to make amazing falafel from scratch. I’ll have to try your recipe out (once I invest in a food processor).

  5. Michael says:

    Wow. That looks absolutely amazing. I really wish I owned a food processor so I could try this. :(

  6. carla says:

    You say to uses dried chickpeas and soak in water. Using chickpeas/garbanzos in a can will be ok then too right?

  7. Dana says:

    You really don’t ever boil the garbanzos? They only soak and deep-fry a few minutes?

  8. Vickie says:

    I made this in a large batch. It was not large enough, my family eat all of the falafel in one day! I was in a hurry and baked them. I am sure that frying would enhance the taste, but they were very good anyway.
    Your tutorial was right on.

  9. Priya says:

    Would it hurt if I let the chickpeas soak in warm or hot water? (I figured it would do a better job of soaking due to heat)


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