Thursday, May 03, 2007

falafel 101

a little while back, i received a request for a recipe and instructions on how to make falafel, or chickpea fritters, the most ubiquitous israeli and middle eastern snack food. i often think every israeli must eat his/her own weight in these per year! i know i did when i lived there and it is something which you cannot get enough of. all over the country of israel, and i'm sure other neighbouring countries, there are stands which sell these where the buyer can choose from a vast variety of ingredients and sauces to fill their falafel (pita) sandwiches. often people will have a favourite vendor who has certain ingredients and special sauces unique to that particular stand.

making these at home is not complicated at all. i have seen many, many different recipes and this is one of the better ones. i often see recipes with instructions to include eggs and flour. this is absolutely NOT necessary as demonstrated here. despite what you may think after reading through the ingredients, the mixture holds together beautifully without and "foreign" binders being added. they result in light, airy and delicious nuggets of deep shallow fried perfection.

this version uses only chickpeas and includes the use of sesame seeds. other countries such as egypt and saudi arabia will use ful [fava beans] or a combination of ful and chickpeas to make theirs.

these falafel can also be prepared in bigger batches by doubling the amounts. you will need to divide up the soaked chickpeas into 3 or 4 portions for grinding, however, if you decide to do this. once the falafel are all fried, place them in ziploc (resealable plastic) bags and freeze. just reheat them at 350F in your oven for 10 - 15 minutes and serve as if they were just made.

falafel פלאפל فلافل
fried chickpea fritters


1 c dry chickpeas
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 to 3/4 large onion
2 - 3 large cloves garlic

1 1/4 tsp (kosher) salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne) or chili flakes
1 1/2 - 2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric, opt.

3 - 4 tbsp sesame seeds
2 - 3 tbsp chopped parsley or coriander

1 tsp baking powder

3 to 4 cups oil, for shallow frying


place the 1 cup of dry chickpeas in a bowl and fill the bowl with water. swish the water around with your hands and discard all the husks and other debris which rises. rinse and repeat several times.

refill the bowl with water and add the baking soda. the baking soda will [supposedly] help dissipate some of the oligosaccharides from the chickpeas, aiding in digestion later on.

soak the chickpeas overnight. i like to soak them for a full 24 hours to allow them absorb their maximum water content. if you do this 24 hour soak, do it in the fridge as they may ferment if you have a hot kitchen. you will notice that they will have swelled considerably and that there may be little bubbles which have formed — that is fine. as long as it does not smell fermented and "off" which can occur in a very hot kitchen (80 F and over).

the next day discard all the water and rinse well. drain and set aside.

remove the skin from your onion and garlic and set aside.

place the garlic and onion in the blender or food processor and process it until you get a paste which is watery (from the onion juices). this will help with the grinding of the chickpeas.

add a portion of the chickpeas and grind them with the onion-garlic paste. if using a blender, i highly suggest processing them in two [or three] batches as the regular home blenders are not always that powerful. it will take up to 10 minutes to fully grind them to a nice paste — be patient, it does work :) but don't overheat your blender. turn it off every few minutes to give it a little rest. the final texutre should be slightly gritty with no chunks whatsoever. if the grinding is being done in batches, divide up the onion so you have a bit in each batch to aid in the processing and breakdown of the chickpeas.

it is very important to use a spatula to push down the sides every now and again and to redistribute it; it tends to compact itself around and underneath the blades. keep processing the mixture until it is pasty. do NOT add water if you can avoid it; it does not need it [even though you will feel tempted to do so]. if you do add some, i would not add much beyond 3 to 4 tablespoons (a little more is okay, too).

remove the paste to a bowl. it should have the consistency of mashed potatoes, more or less.

add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.

now place the bowl in the fridge and let it rest for minimum of an hour. you can keep it in the fridge for up to two days.

put the oil in your fry pan and heat it for about 10 minutes on medium heat. i only fry these with a bare 2 1/2 inches of oil. you do not need tons of oil.

add a very small ball (tiny one) to test if the oil is ready. it should float to the surface and sizzle quite happily. turn down the oil if it is too high. remember your oil temperature will drop when you add several of the falafel at once.

at this point, it may be a good idea to make and taste a test falafel to see if it needs more of anything in terms of seasoning. remember, these are usually added to a pita and filled with a variety of things such as shredded lettuce, pickles, hot peppers, torshi lift, or pink turnip pickle, fried eggplant, and tehina sauce {among many other possible items} but can be eaten on their own with a salad and tehina sauce.

in order to shape the falafel balls, you need to moisten your hands. your hands should not be "wet" but moist enough so that the mixture does not stick to your hands.

take a tablespoon full of the mixture and shape it into a 1 1/2 to 2 inch ball which is patty shaped, i.e rounded but flattened.

carefully place these in the oil and fry until they are golden on both sides. they should take about 4 minutes per side. that time may vary, however, with the temperature of your oil. it is important to use moist hands to shape these as wet ones will have water clinging to the fritters and the droplets will explode in the water and possibly burn you when they pop.

cooking tip: to achieve the perfect falafel ball, baste the top of the uncooked part with the hot oil as the underside cooks. this forms a temporary skin and prevents the batter sticking to the spoon or making indentations when you try to flip them over. you can also tell when they are ready to flip from the colour of the undersides.

remove the balls to absorbent paper towel to drain.

i suggest placing newspaper around your stove area to make clean up easier. be careful however as oil and heat aren't too friendly with newspaper.

now go fill up those pita breads and enjoy!


Jihan said...

these look so delicious...
i never knew u could use chickpeas for this.. can u use tin ones for this?

burekaboy — said...

hi PJ, thank you.

i have seen recipes using canned ones but it's not the same result. it makes the insides very pasty and it does not look or taste cooked, in my opinion. you really need to use the dry kind. on the other hand, you can buy the mixture which is like a flour in a box at the supermarket and all you have to do is add water, let it firm up and then make the falafel balls and fry them. some people even bake them but i don't like it that way.

Nafeesah said...

wow! I am so happy that i came across this recipe! I also prefer to use the dried and soaked chickpeas compared to the ones in the can. I will try these as soon as possible God willing.

burekaboy — said...

hi nafeesah - these are really very easy and quick to make once the chickpeas have been soaked. as i say in the recipe, just grind it until you get a paste. it may be difficult at first but it will be easier once you've done the onion and garlic first as it adds liquid. if you have a small processor or blender, do it in two smaller batches and keep redistributing and mixing it up with a spatula. hope you like them when you get the chance to experiment :D i usually double everything and freeze for later so i don't have to do it too often -- i hate the smell of the oil. let me know how they turn out, if u can :)

thanks for your visit and comment.

Richa said...

they look amazing, love the flecks of sesame seeds thru out the surface. I do not mind eating it without the pita bread :)
btw thanks for the shout out in the dosa post.

Anonymous said...

I second (or third) using dried and soaked peas. Never need to add anything else but the herbs and seasonings and it tastes so good, and crispy!
I use a combination of chickpeas and brown lentils (don't know if that's my mother's Syrian heritage or her personal preference for lentils). Sesame seeds look like an interesting addition.

Vcuisine said...

Your version is also so nice without fava beans. Nice pictures. Viji

TNL said...

Those falafels look Perfect BB....lovely color to them too... have you tried eating this with the Indian "Falafel" chutney??? it is so good...but I have to warn you, it is H.O.T.!
I love to crumble these along with my Pita bread in shreds, and the usual toppings and sauces to make it into a salad....and some Sriracha Hot sauce on top for an extra kick.....!

have a good weekend, we had some freaki'n snow flurries early morn.......told ya about NL weather. :(
Its the hot sauces that keep me warm...hahah.

burekaboy — said...

hey richa - thanks :) i also sometimes just eat them without pita or make a salad and throw them in. will let u know the results when i try the dosa u posted.

chennette - i don't understand why people stick in flour and eggs. i guess they don't think the mixture will bind without it. lol, must be some north american thing sort of like sticking gelatin in when making a cheesecake! ack!! :o begs the question, "but why?" hehe.

never thought of using lentils in the mixture. a neighbour of mine uses bulgur wheat in the mixture (lebanese thing). i think these variations may be the result people throwing in what was available to extend the recipe or just inventiveness.

hi viji - thank you :) i have never tried making them with fava beans. i'd like to see the difference -- another experiment for one of these days.

trupti - LOL -- what?!! i thought u were seriously joking when u said snow. umm, don't u guys know it's MAY??? it's going into the 20Cs here now. oh well, maybe just consider it as dust which will soon disappear (hopefully!).

are u talking about chana ki chutney? haven't had it but it would be the perfect compliment to the falafel, i bet. i use sriracha too; leaves that tingly feeling on your lips after. i don't know if i could do both!! i know people who squeeze it on like it's ketchup!

good weekend to u, too :D

Unknown said...

Looks yummmy, I think I can make this too! The golden color is just perfect.

burekaboy — said...

hey lannae - of course, you can make these! now go do it! LOL :D

Nafeesah said...

Hi ! i've come to update on my falafil :^) I think the first mistake that I made was in the grinding process, I should have divided the onion and grind it in batches, but I didn't, at first the onions made it really easy to grind, but as I added more chickpeas the blender started having hiccups lol and then after some stalling I just decided not to finish off the beans as it wouldn't grind properly. so it did have some 'lumps' but they tasted good so it didn't matter. I was really tempted to add water too but I couldn't help remember your warning to NOT add water.

* Oh, and I also doubled the recipe *

Second mistake was that I figured that since I had so much fresh coriander around, i would just bypass the ground one, which, now after its done, would have really added some good flavor to it *I think*

But besides that they were really really great, we didn't have them with pita bread as I refuse to buy those plastic imitations of bread from the store, and I couldn't find time to make my own, and besides my brothers gobbled them up so quick there wasn't a need for it anyway (^_^).

Thanks! I've added your blog to my favorites, so i'll be trying out your recipes from now.

Chanita Harel חני הראל said...

ואוו פלאפל! ועוד עם שומשום, זה מעניין, מאוד אוהבת אבל לא מכינה ואל תשאל למה
סתם עצלנית

burekaboy — said...

hi nafeesah - glad to hear that the falafel went over well and got all eaten up .... on the other hand, sorry to hear you had some trouble grinding up the chickpeas :o !

it does take a while to grind them up, and some persistence, as they are not cooked; soaked chickpeas are difficult to grind to a paste on their own but not impossible. the only thing, like i mentioned, is that they need to be processed in batches since no water is being used. doubling it would indeed have made it extremely difficult to handle all at once. as you said, the liquid from the onion and garlic made it easy (at first) but doing a double batch really does require dividing and grinding up the lot in a few goes (3 or 4, even). part of the problem is the blender -- home blenders are not too strong, for the most part. (we used a meat grinder with the fine blade to do this job originally). you probably could have gotten away with adding some water but i prefer not to. a food processor may be a bit easier, too, as the shape allows for more space and the blade is much wider. i'm not sure, however, if it would have ground it to the right consistency which is why i prefer the blender.

as for the coriander, i think you really do need to add the ground seeds to get the right flavour. i understand about the pita, often the manufactured ones aren't so good.

i hope, maybe in the future, you try it again, perhaps with only half this time, and have an easier time the second time around. just grind it in 2, or even 3, batches for the amounts of the original recipe (i.e. 1 c dried chickpeas). i'm sure you could add a few tablespoons of water to help if you have grinding problems still.

thanks for adding me to your faves :) and again, sorry for the difficulties you experienced :( on the bright side, they still tasted good :))

חנית שלי - שלום רב לך

הההה...בוודאי שאין צורך להכין פלאפל
כשגרים בארץ, נכון
לא הייתי מכין אותם גם כן -- יותר קל
לקנות את הכל מחנות פלאפל שיש בכל שכונה

יש פה אבל זה לא אותו הדבר בלי השמש החול, והים


Anonymous said...

i LOVE felafel! YUMYUM. my friends and i used to call them feelawfuls because we would eat so much when we made them, sooo yummy. this recipe looks awesome!!

burekaboy — said...

hey aria :)) - omg, that's the funniest ever -- feelawfuls!! dang right, after eating too many of these that is exactly how you feel!! thankfully, they can be frozen for later eating. hard not to eat too many once they're made though and like most things, best when fresh :)

Anonymous said...

Ok buddy, these also came out terrific! I haven't had falafel in over 10 years because I could not find anyplace that made them since living in Rochester, NY. I have a couple of questions for my next batch. I soaked extra beans, any advice on how to store them for future falafel making? Do you have a favorite oil? I used canola and really didn't like the "stank" in my house from it. And, I might have been making my falafel too big, but I was not sure as to the texture in the middle. Some of mine didn't seem to cook through (probably had heat too high) but I wasn't sure how dry they should be in the center or if they should be soft. They were nice and brown on the outside and they still tasted FANTASTIC. Thanks again for your time and incredible passion you are sharing with us all! Ooops! One more question...I didn't add any water but the texture of my batter was still very moist, is that how it should be...almost seemed too wet. Maybe I processed it too long?

burekaboy — said...

hey lorrie - glad you enjoyed them & can now make them yourself :)

now for your questions:

1. i like using peanut oil but not everyone can use that. it is the best for frying due to its tolerance for high heat and long use. failing that, you can use any cheapo veg oil; they are all going to stink, unfortunately. i also CANNOT STAND that "shtunk" in the air. turn on the fans, open the windows and wear old cloths (cover your hair too!). i fry stuff like this early in the morning. you can try boiling a cinnamon stick and lemon peel afterwards. i always keep an airsponge thingy in the kitchen; it helps a lot.

2. temp for the oil should be around 350 F; it's a good idea to buy a thermometer from a hardware store. the temp will go down and then rise when you add the falafel. it should take about 4 minutes or so per side per batch. you are probably going to have to keep adjusting the temperature. oil frying is a bit tricky.

3. storing chickpeas: good question as i have a post prepared for this! what i do is to soak them overnight with some fennel seeds or baking soda to help break down the nasty oligosachharides, then drain the next morning and put them in a labeled freezer ziploc. make sure to write the date and how much you soaked (dry measure). voila, they will always be ready for cooking with no soaking needed.

4. the uncooked texture should be fairly moist but not wet. they should sort of be like mashed potatoes with nothing added. i doubt overprocessing them did that. it could have been the day also, humidity in the air, type thing. if it is way too wet, add dry breadcrumbs. you should not need to, however.

5. the cooked texture for this particular recipe is a bit on the drier side and kind of "bready"; it should not be wet or moist inside once fully cooked. moisture for these kind usually come from the shredded lettuce, pickles, and sauces.

6. i always use a heaped tablespoon and form them in the size of a half dollar, say 1.5 - 2" wide x 3/4" thick. they should look like round discs.

hope that helps for the next time. let me know if you have any other questions :) ps. you can freeze the extras and reheat them in the oven. i'm also going to (try to) post another recipe in a little while which is a little different.

Anonymous said...

You are a sweetheart for answering my many questions.

1. I will definately try the peanut oil, I like the smell better (I think). Haven't used it in awhile. I love your recommendations for the "Shtunk". I agree in the morning would be better so I have all day to air out. Great suggestions.

2. I have a candy thermometer with a clip on it but I don't think it is the right kind. It doesn't clip onto my pot. So I have to stand there holding it so it won't rest on the bottom of the pot. I will look for a better version.

3. Uh Oh, I hope I didn't keep mine in the fridge too long. They have been in there uncooked for 3 days and I better get freezing them now! Doh!

4. It must have been too humid or maybe they soaked too long? I will definately be trying this again in a few days. I'll let you know how it works out.

5. I thought they should have been drier. It is probably my inexperience with the frying. I loved the tzadziki (sp?) and that added a great touch. Couldn't do without it.

6. OK, that description of 3/4 inches thick helps. It sounds like the size I made so it must be my frying technique and the fact that I had too much moisture in the mix.

Well, I appreciate the answers. I will certainly freeze them so I can always have them on hand for a quick meal. My four year old daughter loves these so much she kept shoving the whole things in her little mouth and tried to talk to me. It was a riot. We ate them 3 days in a row...she wanted them for lunch and dinner. She ate the pitas with some cucumber and tomato and she dipped her falafel in the cucumber dip. I made her version of both the falafel and dip with no spices and she loved it! Sorry for the blabbing. "See" you soon.

burekaboy — said...

lorrie - you can get a cheap metal thermometer at an ace hardware, i think. you need the clip, definitely. it's too precarious and inefficient, not to mention ridiculous, to stand there holding a thermometer.

i really doubt it was soaking the chickpeas for too long as sometimes i will soak them for two days in the fridge. who knows what happened; i'd not concern myself too much with it and try it again later. next time around, make little notes to yourself about your procedure and re-evaluate that way. for the next batch, just fry one or two as a test let them cool down and check the texture. if they're "wet", add breadcrumbs or some wholewheat flour. that should fix it. most likely it was your temperature regulation. your oil was probably too high and the outsides cooked faster than the insides.

don't worry about the chickpeas, just drain and freeze and you'll have them ready to go for the next time you want them. you can do that to all types of dried beans, btw.

i really laughed imagining your daughter with whole falafels shoved in her mouth and trying to talk to you! very cute :) i shall take that -- and 3 days of falafel eating -- as the ultimate compliment. also for yourself, you may want to try the falafel dressed with tehina sauce (see the recipe link) for the authentic flavour of it all .... not sure if you like that kind of taste. i personally love it.

okie dokie, that's about it, i think :) btw, all babbling and questions are appreciated here! LOL.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm gonna try it again tonight! I will make sure to have bread crumbs handy and keep a check on the temp. I don't have tahina for tonight but will give it a try. Wish me luck on my second try!! I am still making the pita's everyother day. Who needs to buy bread when you have pita's like this. I love them and they are so easy to make. But my fry pan results didn't work out so well. I need some practice on that. So for now I will be heating up my kitchen in this 90 degree weather and eat outside! See ya. Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for falafel recipe! My kids loved it and said it's just like the shops - they meant that as a compliment!!!

Can one freeze the mixture raw after making it in order to use it another time?

Thanks again

burekaboy — said...

hi AJ - thanks for trying out the recipe and letting me know how you (and your children) liked the falafel. i hope you didn't have any problems with grinding up the chickpeas (the hardest part).

i've never frozen the mixture raw -- so i don't know if i can say for sure that it works. you could try freezing one of them overnight in the raw state and then seeing how it fares the next day. i usually freeze them after cooking and then reheat them in the oven. you could probably cook them approximately half way and then freeze them, refrying them as needed. i could see that working better than just raw. maybe test one of each and see. if you do, i'd be interested in hearing how it turns out.

thanks for your visit :)

~M said...

Hi Bureka Boy,

Taking advantage of the snow day today, I made these falafel for lunch. They are amazing, wonderful, definitely better than any US falafel I've had (not to mention, safely gluten-free) and probably better than any Israeli falafel too. I had presoaked the chickpeas with baking soda for about 42 hours so they were nice and soft and I didn't need to add any water during the processing. I used my 7-cup Cuisinart food processor and it worked great - in way under 10 minutes. I also blended in the spices in the Cuisinart but added the sesame seeds by hand.

I did use a slightly different technique for frying. Instead of using a pan, I used a 2-quarts- sized pot. This preventing any splattering and I think let me use less oil (I used extra virgin olive, which worked great). I also used a medium cookie scooper to make balls and didn't flatten them (I'm not sure why you flattened yours). The balls basically turned themselves, and I removed them with a soup skimmer after 4-5 minutes and let drain on the paper towels.

My savta was so happy when I told her that I was making falafel from scratch with dried chickpeas that she shared with me her recipe for Israeli salad and I made a yogurt-techina sauce and hummus too. My fiancé and I definitely didn't miss the pita or lafa.

Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe...I've already passed the recipe onto friends.

Yashar koach and Shabbat Shalom!

burekaboy — said...

hi ~m - thanks for trying them out and the feedback. very happy to hear that you and your fiancé enjoyed them, gluten free! :)) people seem to think it is so difficult to make falafel from 'scratch' but they are not hard to do at all as i'm sure you see.

good to hear that the chickpeas were able to be ground in a food processor easily. don't know if you know, you can soak the chickpeas and then freeze them. just defrost them quickly by running them under running warm water and let them sit for a bit and voila, instant chickpeas ready for falafel! :)

i dunno, but we always made the falafel in that shape and not round. no specific reason.....

i'm sure they went very well with your savta's salad and the tehina sauce & hummus! funny, i'm all of a sudden hungry for this now! LOL.

thanks for passing along the recipe and the kudos.

shabbat shalom ;)

Anonymous said...

arrrgh! I've been planning to make your falafel, soaked my chick peas and all that, but - I cooked them! and then i see you didn't... oh well... back to beginning....

will let you know how it went.


burekaboy — said...

hi maninas - oh oh! :o

some people actually make falafel from cooked chickpeas however i find it does not give the proper texture and is really quite inferior (for my liking). it gives a pasty texture which is completely wrong.

btw, you can always soak chickpeas, drain them and then keep them in a ziploc in the freezer for when you need them for something. then, all you have to do is cook them or use them like here, for falafel. it saves time since they are presoaked.

do try the falafel made this way (soaked not cooked). looking forward to hearing about your results.

Anonymous said...

reporting back to base: mission falafel successful! more then successful! you've wowed me and my 4 friends with your lovely recipe!

the chickpeas were duly soaked as per instructions! i also had the paste resting in the fridge for a day, which meant that the flavours had a loooon time to develop! and develop they did! :D

burekaboy — said...

hey maninas - yay! yay! yay! :)) happy to hear the mission was successfully accomplished and all enjoyed YOUR homemade falafel :D thanks for letting me know how it turned out.

Anonymous said...

Hi,this is my 2nd time visiting your blog.The 1st time I visited was while I was Googling a search for an authentic falafel recipe. I think your blog rocks! You gave me confidence to make a double quantity last night & I just want to let you know the results were delicious & just as you described.This recipe is a keeper! Thanks for sharing it with strangers.

burekaboy — said...

hi anna - i'm happy to hear the falafel turned out really well and that the instructions helped you with the recipe (enough to make a double recipe at that!). it is reliable and easy to follow and the small amount of work involved pays off with great results.

thanks for the (re)visit and giving feedback. much appreciated. hope you find other things you may like in my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I tried 3 falafel recipes which were all unsuccessful. Some was too moist to form a dough, when I added flour, inside was too "doughy", I tried cooking in oven, it dried out

But I was using canned chick peas. Your recipe is God sent and I already soaked my chikpeas :)

You mentioned that you also have a recipe for using canned chick peas. Will you please share that one too please? Thank you :)

burekaboy — said...

hi yasmine - sorry to hear about the disasters with the other recipes. there are MANY out there and a lot of them just do not work, or the taste & texture isn't "right". this one works :))

i do have something for canned chickpeas but they are really not as good as these. because the chickpeas are cooked, the interiors will always be a bit pasty. the REAL way to make them is as i show here. if you still want the recipe for the canned kind, email me.

i don't know what kind of grinder you have, so remember, if you need to, grind the chickpeas in smaller batches so as not to overwork your grinder.

hope you enjoy them & all goes well. like i said in the post, cook one of them as a test and taste it and adjust the flavours to your liking. good luck ;)