The best falafel near you? It’s right in your own kitchen! This recipe is crispy on the outside, a moist emerald green on the inside, garlicky, with lots of warm spices like cumin and coriander, and has the perfect fluffy texture.
falafel is the original veggie burger!
Falafel, or Middle Eastern chickpea fritters, are deep dried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas or fava beans. They’re eaten wrapped in pita bread, on top of salads, or just as a snack. Drenched in the requisite thick, lemony tahini sauce, it’s simply divine.
Falafel is sold on streets all over the middle east, and in restaurants worldwide. McDonald’s Egypt even sells a McFalafel sandwich (I’m so jealous.) And over many years of enjoying falafel in different parts of the globe, I’m confident that this homemade version is the very best, outside of maybe that secret little shop in Beirut or Tel Aviv. You’re going to love the flavor and the fluffy texture, so let’s get going.
THE FOUR SECRETS TO GREAT FALAFEL
I adore falafel, but like many delicious foods, it can be tricky. It can be tough, or dry, under or over cooked, lacing in flavor…the list goes on. But once you know the ropes, you’ll never be without the best falafel in the world.
start with dried chickpeas that are soaked tender but not cooked
This is the number one secret to authentic falafel. Don’t be tempted by the convenience of canned chickpeas, they will make a mushy fritter. Cooked chickpeas make a falafel that can fall apart in the oil, and they will not have the correct texture. And luckily, actually, soaking chickpeas overnight is much easier than cooking them, so it’s a win win.
I personally feel that great falafel needs lots of fresh herbs
That means fresh parsley and cilantro. You’ll get the beautiful surprise of a bright emerald green when you cut through the mahogany brown crust, and the herbs add tons of moisture and flavor. Falafel must be green.
a bit of flour helps bind the mixture so the falafel don’t fall apart as they fry
This is controversial, some say there should be no flour in falafel, but I’ve found it necessary. You can use all purpose flour, or chickpea flour to keep it gluten free.
a little baking powder
You’ll blend it into the falafel mixture and when the falafel cooks, the baking powder will release carbon dioxide gas to create a lighter, fluffier, result.
ingredients for falafel
- dried chickpeas that have been soaked but not cooked.
- baking soda, for adding to the soaking liquid.
- parsley and cilantro ~ these must be fresh. Lop the tops of 2 bunches and add them right to the processor.
- garlic ~ fresh garlic adds a wonderful kick.
- red onion ~ you can also use green onions but I love red onion best.
- cumin and coriander ~ these dried spices are traditional.
- lemon zest and juice
- hot pepper, optional, but I love it. I use 1/2 a jalapeño pepper but you could also add some red pepper flakes.
- flour ~ helps bind the mixture. You can use garbanzo flour for a gluten free choice.
- baking powder ~ this will create a lighter, fluffier texture.
Whiz the whole lot in your food processor. If you don’t have a full sized machine you’ll need to do it in batches. Process until everything is finely ground but not so far that it becomes a paste. You want to see a little texture in the falafel mixture. It should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand, but will fall apart easily as well, like wet sand.
which is best, falafel balls or patties?
The shape of your falafel is up to you, and depends on how you like to eat them and how you want to fry them.
round balls, portioned with a small scoop and rolled gently in your palms are best for snacking, or as part of a salad or appetizer plate. They also are best when you are able to deep fry them, so they stay nice and round. They aren’t a good choice for shallow pan frying because of their round shape.
patties are great when you want to stuff pita pockets for sandwiches. They can be deep fried, but can also be shallow fried in a pan because of their flatter shape.
To shape the balls I use a small cookie scoop and for the patties I use a larger cookie scoop and then roll or shape with my hands.
how to serve falafel
Falafel can be served warm or at room temperature.
Serve them as is as a snack, an appetizer, or as part of a bigger mezze selection. Serve tahini sauce or yogurt based tzatziki sauce on the side for dipping; never serve without some sort of dip.
A classic way to enjoy falafel is stuffed inside a pita bread pocket. I like to fill the bottom of the pita with hummus, them some greens, topped with the falafel and some tahini sauce. You can also stuff the pita with chopped tomatoes and cucumber, or even some Israeli salad, chopped finely.
You can top a plate of freshly made hummus with falafel balls.
Probably my favorite way to use falafel is in salads, check out my Falafel Salad Bowl, it makes a main course out of these delicious fritters.
Once you’ve fried up your very own falafel, you’re going to need some of my Homemade Pita Bread to go with it!
can you make falafel ahead
Your falafel mix will keep beautifully in the fridge for a day or two so you can do the work one day, and then scoop it out and fry fresh falafel when you want it. This is my best meal prep secret!
is falafel healthy
Falafel is deep fried in oil, so to that extent it is not considered a particularly healthy food. But the ingredients that make it up are very nutritious and it is an excellent replacement for less healthy meat in the diet. Eaten in moderation, falafel is part of a prudent diet. And it’s delicious 🙂
is falafel vegan
Definitely. So is the pita bread, salad, and tahini sauce that it’s normally eaten with.
can you bake falafel
Baked falafel is frankly not nearly as good. If you really can’t stand deep frying, you can shape your falafel into patties and shallow fry them on the stove. If you want to bake, do it at 375F, and brush your patties generously on both sides with oil. Bake until crispy, flipping once. It should take about 25 minutes, but watch carefully for over browning.
can you make falafel in the air fryer
Yes, you can, although I haven’t tried it personally. Again, it won’t be nearly as good as frying the traditional way, but it can be done. Set the machine to 350F and spray both the basket and the falafel patties with oil. Cook in a single layer for 8 minutes. Then flip the patties and let them fry for another 5 or 6 minutes.
can you freeze falafel
Yes. You can freeze it raw or cooked. To freeze raw falafel, form it into balls or patties, arrange them on a lined baking sheet and put into the freezer until solid. Then transfer to a freezer safe container or a heavy duty zip lock freezer bag. Use within 6 months. Thaw the frozen falafel in the refrigerator overnight, then cook as usual.
To freeze cooked falafel freeze in a freezer safe container or heavy duty zip lock bags. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and reheat wrapped loosely in foil in a low oven until hot.
Reader Rave ~
“I am SO glad I found this recipe. These were by far the best falafel I have ever made, and quite possibly the best I have ever had. Thank you, Sue! I’m new to your site… this recipe has made a devoted follower out of me !!” ~Robin
*This recipe has been updated 4/21
The Best Falafel I’ve Ever Made!
- 3 cups (500 grams) soaked chickpeas Note: use dried chickpeas that have been soaked overnight, but do not cook them. See instructions for soaking chickpeas below.
- 1/2 medium red onion, peeled and cut in quarters
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 small hot chile pepper, sliced I used a Serrano
- a large handful of parsley, tender stems are ok, this will be about a packed cup.
- a large handful of cilantro, tender stems are ok. This will be about a packed cup.
- the zest of 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3 Tbsp all purpose flour, or chickpea flour
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- pinch salt
- water for thinning
- Measure out 3 cups (500 grams) of soaked and drained chickpeas. Note: you are starting with dried chickpeas that have been soaked, but not cooked.
- Put the soaked beans, onion, garlic cloves, hot pepper, lemon zest and juice, spices, salt, baking powder, and flour in the bowl of a full sized food processor. Your machine will be full. Note: if your machine is smaller, do this in batches.
- Pulse the machine repeatedly to break everything down.
- Stop the machine and scrape down the sides. Run again until the mixture is evenly blended but still has some texture, like coarse sand. It should hold together when you squeeze it between your fingers, but also fall apart easily. It should have a texture similar to wet sand. Note: you can refrigerate the mixture at this point for up to 2 days ahead of time.
- Using your hands or a small cookie scoop portion out the mixture and roll into balls or form patties. The mixture will be delicate, so use a gentle touch.
- If you are using a deep fryier or a deep pot for frying, heat your oil to about 340F. Use a thermometor to check the temperature. Your oil should be at least 3 inches deep. Note: You can also shallow fry patties in a pan on the stove.
- When the oil is hot, gently lower the balls or patties into the oil with a slotted spoon. Work in batches so you don't crowd your pan. Fry the falafel for about 2 to 3 minutes, until they are a nice deep brown on the outside and fluffy inside. If they are getting too dark, lower the temperature of your oil. If they are not turning golden within a minute, turn up the temperature a bit.
- Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with tahini sauce.
- Make the tahini sauce by mixing the tahini, lemon juice, salt, and enough cold water to make a sauce. Taste to adjust the lemon and salt. Note: be sure to stir your jar of tahini thoroughly before measuring, as it separates.