Every chickpea dreams of being transformed into a falafel! Ultra crispy on the outside, moist and fluffy on the inside, everybody loves them but few know how easy they are to make. The best part is breaking open the golden brown balls to reveal the dazzling green insides!
THE HIGHEST AND BEST USE OF CHICKPEAS
There are many things I do not know, but I do know this: Falafels are the highest and best use of chickpeas.
Perhaps not the most common use – hard to beat a batch of creamy hummus whipped up in mere minutes using a can of chickpeas. But if you’re after the best use of chickpeas, falafels win every time.
And if you’re a falafel fiend like me, you’re going to be blown away how easy it is to make falafels at home!
CANNED CHICKPEAS DON’T WORK!!!
In the falafel world, canned chickpeas are not only illegal, they flat out don’t work. Reason: falafels are made with dried chickpeas that are soaked but not cooked before forming the falafel balls.
Other than the dried chickpeas rule, there’s nothing unusual that goes into falafels. Baking powder is the only point of contention – you won’t see it in all recipes and it’s not endorsed by Kenji over at Serious Eats, one of our references for this recipe.
But it’s a trade secret we managed to extract from Hijazi’s Falafel in Earlwood, one the best falafel joints in Sydney. So we tried it with and without, side by side, and the baking powder version was noticeably more fluffy – and moist.
So it’s in. Fluffy insides to the max!!!
FRYING IS NOT OPTIONAL!!!
It’s rare that I say frying is mandatory, but for falafels, it is. It’s the only way to get the signature super crispy dark crust and keep the inside moist.
I deep-deep fry them in the video, using enough oil so they’re mostly submerged. But you don’t need to – you can use far less oil than I did and they can be shaped like discs rather than balls which will mean even less oil required for frying.
Speaking of discs – you can unleash your wild side when it comes to shaping falafels. I chose balls because for me, that’s the shape that first comes to mind. But other common shapes include: disc shape (slightly flattened ball), dome (ball with underside flattened) and torpedoes (evil looking shape, like a football).
HOW TO SERVE FALAFELS
The thought of having a whole bowl of freshly cooked falafels to dunk into sauce and pop straight into my mouth is certainly appealing – though not the most nutritious meal option!!
So to serve Falafels as a meal, I like to either make falafel plates or wraps using pita bread, or falafel rolls using Lebanese or other large flatbreads (like the Falafel rolls sold at Kebab shops in Australia).
In all 3 of these options, I use: tabbouleh and/or shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion slices and drizzle the Falafels with Tahini Sauce. Hummus also makes an appearance 99% of the time – a very big dollop of it!
Falafels also make a terrific gluten free meal by making falafel plates using a flavoured rice instead of bread – such as Mejadra (Middle Eastern Lentil Rice).
FALAFEL SAUCE OPTIONS
A sauce is a must for falafels – you need the wetness. Tahini Sauce is the standard, but it’s also terrific with a simple yoghurt-lemon sauce or even a thinned down hummus. Recipes for all these options are in the recipe below.
Falafels are one of those foods that are truly at their best fresh out of the fryer, when they’re super crispy on the outside and the inside is piping hot and moist.
Once refrigerated, the crust softens and the inside loses moisture. But! The good news is that they can be resurrected to a near freshly-cooked state using a combination of a microwave (gets the insides moist again) and a hot oven to recrisp the surface.
They’re good for 5 days in the fridge – probably longer.
Imagine that! Getting your falafel fix day after day after day….. – Nagi x
PS Couple more things homemade falafels has going for them: they’re super economical compared to store bought (dried chickpeas are the main ingredient and they’re super cheap!) and you can control the saltiness – I find that even the best falafel stores are often too salty.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
- 225 g / 8 oz dried chick peas (Note 1)
- 1 cup parsley leaves , roughly chopped
- 1 cup coriander/cilantro leaves , roughly chopped
- 6 scallions/shallots , white and light green part only finely chopped (Note 2)
- 2 cloves of garlic , minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (Note 3)
- 4 tsp flour (plain/all purpose) OR chickpea flour
- 5 tbsp water
- 500 ml / 2 cups+ vegetable oil (Note 4)
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 tbsp water
- 1/4 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
- Pita bread or other flatbreads
- Tabbouleh (recipe below)
- Hummus (optional extra)
- Shredded lettuce, tomato slices, sliced red or white onion
Place chickpeas in a large bowl and pour over plenty of cold water. Leave to soak 12 + hours (even 2 days is fine).
Drain chickpeas well. Place in food processor, add remaining Falafel ingredients.
Blitz for 2 to 3 minutes on high, scraping down sides as necessary, until the chickpeas are very small grains. Mixture should look like smooth guacamole from the outside (see video).
Scoop up heaped tablespoons and shape into balls (or dome, disc or torpedo), place on a tray. Should make around 20, about 2.5cm / 1" wide.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Pour oil in a skillet or large pot - at least 1.7 cm / 2/3" depth (Note 4). Heat on medium high to 180 - 190C / 355F (or drop a bit in, should sizzle energetically).
Place a ball in a large spoon (or tongs) and slide ball in. Cook in batches for around 4 minutes, using 2 forks to roll, until deep golden and super crusty on the outside.
Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining falafel.
Serve fresh out of the fryer with Sauce of choice! Make falafel wraps or plates with tabbouleh, tomato, onion, and Sauces of choice. See Notes 5 and 6.
Combine tahini and lemon juice, and mix well. The mixture will stiffen.
Stir in the water 1 tbsp at a time and it will loosen again. The final consistency should be like a thick drizzle sauce (see video). Season to taste with salt.
1. Dried chickpeas cannot be substituted with canned! Won't work - read in post. Weight equates to just shy of 1 1/4 cups.
2. Shallots (green onions / scallions) - use only the white and light green part (oniony flavour), not the dark green part. You need about 3/4 cup - don't need to be exact here.
3. Baking powder - not all recipes use this. We did a side by side taste test of a batch with and without. Hands down, baking powder is better - fluffier and more moist inside, without baking powder it's more dense and a bit dough-like. Trade secret we picked up from a great falafel store in Sydney (Hijazi’s Falafel in Earlwood).
4. Oil quantity - You don't need to fully deep fry, as I do in the video. You can just use 2 cups / 500 ml oil, just turn them a few times. Also, if you shape the falafel in disc form (as some shops do) then you can use even less, maybe even 1 cup / 250ml oil.
5. Sauce: Some form of sauce is a must with falafel. Traditionally served with Tahini Sauce, but other options include: plain yogurt, Yoghurt Lemon Sauce (yogurt + lemon + garlic + salt + olive oil), a thin hummus (thin it using water), chili / hot sauce. The sauce should be thin enough so it adds wetness when you eat it - eg you don't want a thick hummus.
6. How to Serve:
* Falafel wraps / rolls - Use large or small flatbreads. Smear a good dollop of hummus or yoghurt (or Yoghurt Lemon Sauce, below) down the middle. Top with tabbouleh and/or lettuce, tomato, onion and falafels broken in half. Drizzle with Tahini Sauce or other sauce of choice (I love adding hot sauce). Either roll or fold and devour!
* Falafel plates - with tabbouleh and/or shredded iceberg lettuce with tomato slices, onion (red or white), Tahini Sauce with optional hummus with pita breads on the side. I love hot sauce too! A spiced pilaf like Mejadra (Middle Eastern Lentil Rice) is a terrific addition as well (and GF option).
Tabbouleh: 2 tbsp Bulgur soaked in 3 tbsp boiling water then fluffed. 2 cups roughly chopped parsley, 1/2 cup roughly chopped mint, 1/2 red onion finely chopped, 2 large red tomatoes, deseeded & chopped. Dress with lemon juice and sprinkle of salt - adjust to taste depending on what you're serving it with. For falafel, I use very little salt and lots of lemon juice.
Serving size: 2 - 3 halved falafels in pita pockets, 3 - 4 halved for a large roll, 4 to 5 for a plate.
7. Reheating: Falafel is one of those foods that's truly best served fresh out of the fryer. But the best way to store / reheat cooked falafel is in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days (really!). Microwave to reheat (really!) THEN spray with plenty of oil and bake at 200C/390F for 5 minutes just until the surface is crispy again.
Make Ahead: Balls can be rolled then kept uncooked in the fridge for 24 hours OR frozen. If frozen, fry from frozen - just add another 1 or 2 minutes to the frying time.
8. Nutrition per falafel:
LIFE OF DOZER
He really thought there was something tasty buried in that prickly bush – he was snuffling around in there for ages!!