This Middle Eastern Falafel recipe is made deliciously crispy by frying balls of beans, further spruced up with healthy servings of veggies and drenched with sour cream sauce to make an already-tasty meal more complex in flavor.
But before going into details, how about getting to know some of the dish’s background?
What is Falafel?
Originated from Israel and being an Egyptian dish, Falafel, or “ فلافل”, is a dish of deep-fried balls made of a flavorful mixture of chickpea and herbs. So yes, it’s vegan, healthy and is a great substitute for fried chicken.
Falafel balls are usually served inside soft, puffy pitas (flatbreads), which explains the Arabic name “falafel” – wrapped sandwiches. However, we prefer the dish as it is with a bit of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes for freshness.
What makes Falafel and Hummus different?
Despite having no common alphabet character, the two dishes still confuse people with their non-native English names. They both contain chickpea and are served with pitas, but have one key difference:
- Falafel: As said, it’s an Egyptian-originated dish of deep-fried chickpea balls.
- Hummus: It’s nothing similar to balls or deep-fried dishes. It’s an Arabic dip with a zingy tinge of lime juice and is also made up of chickpea. Restaurants or moms usually serve them with breads or chips, like a grainy guacamole dip.
Things that go well with Falafel
In terms of veggies, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes are what’s mainly used in our everyday meals. Any kind of vegetables crunchy in texture can be used as a substitute.
For the dipping sauce, we prefer good old sour and creamy mayonnaise. However, there are a few other fancier options in case your relatives are coming over:
- Tzatziki Sauce: Greek yogurt, dill, peeled and seeded cucumber, blended.
- Yogurt Dipping Sauce: plain yogurt, lemon zest & juice, chopped cilantro & parsley, ground cumin and salt to taste
- Tahini Sauce: Tahini seed paste, lukewarm water, garlic, lemon juice, chopped parsley and salt to taste
Kinds of chickpea used in Falafel recipes
It’s not simple to use dried chickpea. You need to soak the peas overnight before grinding them and making the dish. It’s time-consuming, but it makes the dish what it is: airy, tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
For canned chickpea, it was quite a challenge for me as I’ve never seen anyone using canned chickpea before. Its pre-cooked properties make the starch less clingy, which results in the Falafel balls breaking apart while you are frying them.
It turned out that adding in some flour to strengthen the balls does help. However, don’t add in too much flour as it could make your Falafel balls a bit stiffer than the texture of the heart-warming food you originally aimed for.
I’ve also seen people trying to soften the balls by adding some baking powder! Guess how that helps? Turning your balls into muffins instead of biscuits. In case you have no idea how baking powder works, here’s the brief explanation:
When baking powder meets water, the components inside react and form lots of airy bubbles. Sounds helpful, isn’t it? However, too much air bubbles in a grainy mixture of not-so-finely-mashed chickpea can make the balls collapse after frying. The texture and the look of it won’t be the same.
Some people asked if chickpea flour works. My answer is no. Chickpea flour doesn’t make light, airy balls but instead, muffins, which totally isn’t what this dish is about.
In short, go for dried chickpea and pre-soak them overnight. If no dried chickpea is available, go for canned chickpeas instead and do as instructed below.
How to Make Falafel
- 15 oz chickpeas 1 can, drained
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 tsp coriander
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 2 cup canola oil or enough for frying
- Drain the chickpeas in a strainer. Allow them to dry while the garlic cloves and onions are chopped. This is important as you can’t make balls from a watery mixture.
- Finely chop the garlic cloves and the onion. Put them in a bowl along with the drained, dried chickpea and other ingredients.
- Mash the mixture with a spoon or a potato masher. You could use a food processor, but make sure not to blend it too finely.
- Use an ice-cream scoop to scoop them out. Carefully form them into balls and slightly flatten them.
- Put them in the freezer for 1 hour before frying.
- Heat the oil to 350°F. Take the balls out of the fridge.
- Fry the balls for 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Served with some lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
- If the balls break apart, mix them with some all-purpose flour. Re-form them into balls and start over from Step 4.
- Don’t crowd the pan, or they’ll bump into each other and have higher chance of falling apart.
- The dish is best served with some crunchy vegetables, dipping sauce and pitas.