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?
Originating 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.
Things That Go Well with Falafel
In terms of veggies, what we mainly use in our everyday meals should do the job just fine— romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Any kind of vegetables crunchy in texture can be used as a substitute. We don’t have them in the picture because on that day, we served falafel with chicken shawarma (and hummus dip!)
For the dipping sauce, we prefer good old creamy mayonnaise. However, there are a few other fancier options:
- 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
Using Canned Chickpeas for Falafel
In this recipe, we bought dry chickpeas and spent some time soaking it on the day before. This is to us, a safe way to make falafel as we don’t have to worry about the sodium content.
If you want to use canned chickpeas, you should know that most canned chickpeas are submerged in salty water, which could be absorbed into the peas and make your falafel very salty. Plus, they are pre-cooked. Cooked peas don’t have a similar texture to soaked peas (more wilted), and this could compromise with the texture of your falafel.
So the bottom line is, we recommend you to use pre-soaked peas for this recipe. If you can find pre-soaked, uncooked, unsalted canned chickpeas, that’d be a great alternative.
Why does My Falafel Fall Apart When I Fry It?
As our recipe doesn’t contain egg, the balls may not hold its shape and as a result, it falls apart in the deep-fryer. Ideally, the flour and lemon juice can act as a glue that holds the balls altogether, but sometimes it simply isn’t enough.
You can try making smaller balls and gently drop them into the hot oil using a ladle. Smaller ball clumps up better (lesson learned at the beach, making sand balls) and gently placing them reduces impact force and possibly, doesn’t break your falafel balls.
If that fails too, we suggest you place the balls in the fridge for 30 minutes before frying. It hardens the inside of the balls and can prevent it from deformation. We’re using this method in this falafel recipe, as we make quite large balls.
- 4 oz dry chickpeas pre-soaked
- 1.4 oz onion
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1 tbsp garlic minced
- 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/16 tsp cayenne
- 5 cup canola oil (*)
- 3 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
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- Wash the soaked chickpeas.
- Put everything into a food processor and blend until everything is well-combined.
- Cover the mixture with cling film and refrigerate for about 30 min.
- Divide the mixture into 8 equal parts. Use your hands to form 8 balls.
- Chill the falafel balls in the freezer for about 30 min.
- Deep-fry the balls in low heat for about 5 min, or until they are golden brown.
- (*) Only part of the oil will end up in the final product and we have calculated nutritional values based on that amount. The whole amount is needed for frying the shrimp cakes, but what actually ends up being consumed is 2 tbsp canola oil for 4 servings.
- We use 5 cups of canola oil, but only 2 tbsp of it is steeped into the falafel balls.
- Don’t crowd the deep-fryer/ 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.
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