Falafels

by Daisy

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Falafels are a Mid-east staple but less common in Mid-America, which is a shame, they’re so tasty.  We eat falafels around here in pitas, on salads, and on their own.  If you make them smaller they make a tasty appetizer. With tahini sauce.

Mmmm.  Tahini sauce is dangerous.  It is wisest to make tahini sauce only in the presence of judgmental others or the taste testing by the cook may get out of hand.

The recipe here makes a big batch.  Feel free to cut it in half.

Start with dried chickpeas.  I fill a quart jar halfway with the dried beans after rinsing them and fill the jar with water.  The next day they will have grown to fill the jar.  On the left is the dried chickpea.  On the right is its plumped up counterpart:

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Here are the ingredients (minus the chickpeas) laid out:

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2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (plumps up to 4 cups)

1 onion

1/4 cup each chopped parsley and cilantro

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

6 cloves garlic

2 (or more) tsp. cumin (I’m cumin-crazed)

1  tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup flour

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In a food processor, or by hand, chop the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro.  Coarse is fine, because they are going to get pureed when you pulverize the soaked chickpeas.

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If you are using a food processor, add them to the onion mixture and process, scraping down as needed, until the chickpeas are finely ground.  If you aren’t using a food processor, you can use a blender.  There will be more scraping and unkind thoughts with a blender, unfortunately.  I have heard people advise to smush the peas with a fork or masher, but I would hate to do this unless your chickpeas get much more tender than mine after a 12 hour soak.  This can be done with canned, cooked chickpeas (no need to soak for canned) or peas partially cooked to soften them a bit more.  If you are using cooked chickpeas, use 4 cups, or about 2 cans.

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Remove to a large bowl and add the flour, baking soda, cumin, pepper flakes, and salt and blend well.

At this point you can refrigerate for up to several hours or go ahead and fry them up.

When you are ready to cook, form little balls about the size of a walnut.  The shape doesn’t matter terribly.  Mine in the picture have a little divot in the top because I flattened them a little with a spoon as I put them in.  You don’t have to do this.  A common shape is a sort of oval, like they come out of a spoon.

Here’s where my technique differs from most.  I have a deep-seated avoidance of deep frying.  I can’t stand to glog enough oil out to deep fry anything.  It isn’t so much a health thing as it is a cheap thing.  Plus, I don’t like dealing with the leftover oil after I’m done.

That’s a long way to say I just put them in about a half inch of oil, usually canola or olive, and flip them when the bottom is brown and crispy.

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Drain on a towel and serve with chopped tomato, onion, green pepper, on a pita with lots of tahini sauce.

Here’s a basic tahini sauce.  Simple but awesome.

Tahini Sauce

1/2 cup tahini

2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed

1/4 cup lime juice (can substitute lemon)

2 T. olive oil

salt to taste

pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Blend well and serve immediately or keep sealed in the refrigerator. Do not eat it all by yourself with a mixing spoon standing furtively in the kitchen.



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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori April 2, 2010 at 6:24 am

Around here, we bake ’em at 375 for about 15 minutes a side, on an oiled cookie sheet. Much healthier, easier on the cook, and still super-tasty!

Emily April 2, 2010 at 7:12 am

Oh, oh, oh! So good! The baking idea sounds great too.

Why? Why on Good Friday?

diandra April 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm

YAHOO!! We’re HUGE falafel eaters and can’t even find the cheap authentic mix at the grocery store in our rural town, so we’ve just started making them. I don’t think it can be done without a food processor (that might be a nightmare) and I also fry them in 1/2 inch oil. They’re also good shaped into bigger patties and then used in sandwiches for the next few days. YUMMERS> xo

Je April 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe and advice about frying them. I too hate deep frying from the cheapness point of view and find shallow frying often works just as well. I will also try the oven bake method method mentioned by Lori.

LeMah April 2, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I LOVE YOUR SITE!!!!! THank YOu FOr all the excellent Ideas, recipes, to do’s, food, etc. etc. I will have to try this!!! Ladies your my idols, Please keep up the excellent work aka Ideas!

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pammeyepoo April 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

What is Tahini? Where do you get it; how do you grow it? What are the secrets of Tahini? It sounds exotic, anyway, and from your description of how not to eat it with the mixing spoon, it must also be addictive.

Tomato Lady April 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm

pammeyepoo–Tahini is ground sesame seeds. It comes in a jar like peanut butter. If your grocery store doesn’t have it, the health food store will. Tahini sauce is indeed addictive. Watch out.

jan April 3, 2010 at 7:26 pm

They sound good. I think I will give them a try. I used one of those boxed mixes that I got at a Middle Eastern market one time. The results were not very appealing to say the least, so I have shied away from other attempts. Your recipe, however, sounds tempting. You may have gotten me to try them again. Thanks!

Handful April 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Oh TL – a mixing spoon? You are quite entertaining to say the least!

I really must try this.

Handful April 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Oh, and I like the baking idea too! Thanks, Lori!

susanb April 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

These look great – will have to try them. So you only have to soak the beans…you don’t have to cook them too? I love felafel and so does my daughter so we’ll be trying this…

Tomato Lady April 5, 2010 at 1:42 pm

susanb–Right, cooking before frying or baking isn’t the traditional way to do it, although I have made this with canned chickpeas which are cooked and they are fine. The texture is somewhat different, though, mushier.

jebbe April 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Do not have a food processor. Cannot find dried chickpeas. Never had tahini. Love falafel. Looking for a new method. Help!

Tomato Lady April 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm

jebbe–You could use canned chickpeas. I’ve done it many times. With the canned, a blender will work, or, barring that, a fork or potato masher and plenty of elbow grease. If you put the onion in the blender and sort of puree it, it will sort of liquefy, helping you to have enough liquid to get the chickpeas going. You’ll still have to scrape the sides down a lot, but it can be done. Good luck! Hope you can find some tahini for tahini sauce.

brandi April 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

I just made these, and they are FANTASTIC!! I ate 4 of them before I finished cooking the second batch!! Thank you for such a wonderful recipe!!

Tomato Lady April 7, 2010 at 8:46 am

brandi–Oh goody! I’m so glad! Thanks for the report!

Kathy April 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I’m so glad I’m not the only person who eats tahini sauce like that. I think I’ll be making falafels tomorrow night for dinner, I haven’t made them in a while and my family loves them too.

Kimber April 15, 2010 at 11:55 am

TL-
I made these today for lunch. I had never had falafels before, so this was a totally new experience. We loved them! Just to clarify, “we” includes me and three of my four sons. The oldest missed out, being in school. However, my soon-to-be six year old, my four year old, and three year old boys loved them!

I started with a whole pound of dried garbanzos, so you know this made a LOT. Between the four of us, we ate over half of them. I think my 5 yo is personally responsible for polishing off at least 7, and I was in a hurry and made them ping-pong ball sized (before flattening). Yum!

When I put the boys down for their nap, my 4 yo asked me if we could have those for dinner today, too.

I do have one question, though. Is the tahini sauce supposed to thicken when you mix it? I put all the ingredients in a cereal-sized bowl and mixed them together with a small whisk. As soon as I started whisking, the sauce seemed to “set up”. I ended up adding about 1/2 c. of hot water to it, and a few extra tablespoons of oil, trying to loosen it up some.

I was the only one diving into the sauce. The boys gobbled their falafels (they loved the name, too!) plain, with some raw baby carrots on the side. I didn’t have any pitas or the other veggies you suggested. I figure once the garden produce starts rolling in, we’ll have lots of yummy fresh veggies to stuff into pitas with the falafels.

Thanks for sharing a great recipe! The boys told me to be sure and “write this one down”. Can you tell they’ve tried a lot of my concoction-style recipes? 😉

Tomato Lady April 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Kimber–What a lovely story! I’m so glad to hear about your falafel-making and so glad the boys liked them. (You are really outnumbered aren’t you?)
The tahini does freeze up like that sometimes. I think it’s the oils getting chilled. I have that with peanut sauce, too. You did the right thing to help it.
Thank you so much for the report. I love it!

Kimber April 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm

TL-
Yes, there is a LOT of testosterone in my house. Four boys, my husband, even the turtle. Not sure on the fish…

Thanks for the tahini info. I was wondering if it was something like that. I keep the tahini and limes in the fridge, but the olive oil in the cupboard. Mmmmmmm, peanut sauce. That recipe wouldn’t happen to be lurking somewhere in your lovely blog, would it? 🙂

Tomato Lady April 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Kimber–Not yet, I don’t think. But–I really need to post my gado-gado recipe. It’s got the peanut sauce.
Thanks for the idea!

Maybe the fish are girls?

Kimber April 16, 2010 at 6:42 am

TL,
I’ll look forward to the recipe! Now I have to find out what gado-gado is…
It’s only one fish that my son won as a prize in a drawing. A guppy, I think. Sadly, I don’t think one guppy’s worth of estrogen, even if it IS female, would do much to tip the scales (oooh, bad pun, totally not intended!) in my favor.

Phyllis April 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Oh heavens! I made the falafel tonight. I’ve made them many times before but only using canned beans. This recipe was SUCH an improvement. They taste and feel authentic. I did all of the steps in the processor. Beans first until almost ground fine. Then the chopped onion, garlic, herbs & spices. Got it ground nicely and then added about 3T olive oil with the processor running. That really helped. I stopped the processor a few times and scraped the sides. When the ingredients were nicely ground I added the baking powder and salt and whizzed it a few more times. The tahini was superb. Outstanding contribution. Thanks so much!

Phyllis April 19, 2010 at 9:03 pm

OOps — I meant to say baking powder and FLOUR and whizzed it a few more times.

Tomato Lady April 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Phyllis-Hooray! Thanks for letting me know!

olga May 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Delicious! This is the second time I’m making the recipe and we LOVE it! I do not have a food processor and the blender was a nightmare, so I bought a sturdy metal potato masher, and chopped the herbs and onion really fine by hand. You can also grate the onion on a fine grater, which could speed it up. It worked! I had to add a little olive oil to the mix to make it stick better. I bake these as per Lori’s suggestion and they are just divine! Thanks for the recipe!

Tomato Lady May 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

olga–You really earned those falafels, didn’t you? Good for you, I’m glad y’all are enjoying them.

Jennifer Kelley January 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Man, how I love these….and so does everyone else I’ve ever made them for. They are so yummy and delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe and the courage to fry something at home. I’m not a fan of frying stuff but this is worth it!

Love your blog, too…

Tomato Lady January 27, 2011 at 10:44 am

Jennifer Kelley–Thanks! So glad to hear! I think it’s time I made another batch myself . . .

Lori October 26, 2012 at 8:46 am

Hm. Thanks for the recipe. I’ve heard of the fabled falafel, but having lived landlocked in the center of the country all my life, I’ve never seen a falafel much less eaten one before. This will go on my ‘must try’ recipe list.

wendy October 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for a wonderful, so handy website, you are becoming famous in the far north west of Australia! Love the falafels

Daisy October 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

wendy–Thank you! The far northwest of Australia sounds like a great place to be anything!

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