Falafel

In Israel, falafel stands are as numerous and plentiful as McDonalds here in the U.S. Falafel is the unofficial “national snack of Israel.” If only we had half as many falafel stands in the U.S. as we do McDonalds, I’d be a very happy girl. It’s a delicious form of fast food that is much lighter and better for your heart than burgers and fries.

Falafel is a traditionally Arab food that has been adopted by Israeli Jews. The word falafel may descend from the Arabic word falāfil, a plural of the word filfil, meaning “pepper.” These fried vegetarian fritters are served in most Israeli restaurants along with hummus and tahini sauce (known as a “falafel plate.”) The idea of stuffing falafel into pita pockets is actually an invention of Yemenite Jewish immigrants to Israel. The introduction of falafel pita sandwiches made falafel portable, which expanded its popularity and made it into the number one “fast food” in Israel.

So just what is the history of this tasty little fritter? According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, “The first known appearance of legume fritters (aka falafel) in the Middle East appears to be in Egypt, where they were made from dried white fava beans (ful nabed) and called tamiya/ta-amia (from the Arabic for ‘nourishment’); these fritters were a light green color inside. Many attribute tamiya to the Copts of Egypt, who practiced one of the earliest forms of Christianity. They believed that the original state of humankind was vegetarian and, therefore, mandated numerous days of eating only vegan food, including tamiya.”

When falafel is made the traditional way, is indeed a vegan food; it’s a great source of protein for people who have cut meat out of their diet. It’s relatively low in fat and has no cholesterol if you fry it in heart-healthy grapeseed oil. And if you top it with veggies in a pita, it becomes a filling and nourishing meal! Sure beats a Big Mac, if you ask me.

On my trip to Israel this past summer, one of the last food stops we made was for a falafel pita. I asked our friend Hagai to take us to his favorite falafel restaurant; he took us to Mana Mana on Yehuda Hamaccabi street in Tel Aviv. At that time, it was run by a three-generation family—grandfather, father, and son. The young son ran the cash register with the confidence and authority of a 40 year-old. Apparently the restaurant has changed management since then, so I can’t vouch for the food now, but at the time they made a truly delicious falafel—crispy on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside, with fresh toppings grown on local kibbutzim.

Here’s my favorite way to make a falafel pita: start with a layer of hummus deep inside the pocket, then add the falafel, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Top with a thin layer of tahini sauce. Oy, I’m making myself hungry! :)

Here is my recipe for falafel, along with a few variations you can try. Falafel was originally made with fava beans and continues to be made that way in Egypt and other Arab countries, but Israeli falafel is made from chickpeas. This is because many Jews have a medical deficiency called G6PD, which is a hereditary enzymatic deficiency that can be triggered by fava beans. I have included an Egyptian falafel recipe variation at the end of the blog if you’d like to try making it that way. It’s greener and spicier than the Classic Falafel.

You will need to soak dried chickpeas overnight for your falafel to turn out right; canned beans are too tender and contain too much moisture to achieve the right consistency. Don’t cook the beans, because this will result in a mushier and denser falafel, which is not the proper texture. I’ve also included instructions for constructing your own falafel pita. As they say in Israel, Bete’avon!

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)

You will also need

  • Food processor, skillet
Servings: 30-34 falafels
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak – you will have between 4 and 5 cups of beans after soaking.
  • Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom.
  • Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that... but don't overprocess, you don't want it turning into hummus!
  • Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Note: Some people like to add baking soda to the mix to lighten up the texture inside of the falafel balls. I don’t usually add it, since the falafel is generally pretty fluffy on its own. If you would like to add it, dissolve 2 tsp of baking soda in 1 tbsp of water and mix it into the falafel mixture after it has been refrigerated.
  • Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. I prefer to use cooking oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop. I usually use about 2 tbsp of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference. The balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry.
  • Note: if the balls won't hold together, place the mixture back in the processor again and continue processing to make it more paste-like. Keep in mind that the balls will be delicate at first; if you can get them into the hot oil, they will bind together and stick. If they still won't hold together, you can try adding 2-3 tbsp of flour to the mixture. If they still won't hold, add 1-2 eggs to the mix. This should fix any issues you are having.
  • Before frying my first batch of falafel, I like to fry a test one in the center of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown (5-6 minutes total). If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Cool the oil down slightly and try again. When the oil is at the right temperature, fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides.
  • Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon.
  • Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot; they go best with a plate of hummus and topped with creamy tahini sauce. You can also stuff them into a pita.
  • Troubleshooting: If your falafel is too hard/too crunchy on the outside, there are two possible reasons-- 1) you didn't process the mixture enough-- return the chickpea mixture to the processor to make it more paste-like. 2) the chickpeas you used were old. Try buying a fresher batch of dried chickpeas next time.
  • SESAME FALAFEL VARIATION: After forming the balls or patties, dip them in sesame seeds prior to frying. This will make the falafel coating crunchier and give it a slightly nutty flavor.
  • HERB FALAFEL VARIATION (GREEN FALAFEL): Add ½ cup additional chopped green parsley, or cilantro, or a mixture of the two prior to blending.
  • TURMERIC FALAFEL (YELLOW FALAFEL): Add ¾ tsp turmeric to the food processor prior to blending.
  • EGYPTIAN FALAFEL: Use 1 lb. dried peeled fava beans instead of chickpeas; cover them with cold water, soak them for at least 24 hours, then drain and rinse. You can also use a mixture of fava beans and chickpeas if you wish; just make sure the weight of the dried beans adds up to 1 lb.
  • After the beans are soaked and rinsed, add the Classic Falafel ingredients to the processor along with the following ingredients – 1 leek, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered; ¼ cup chopped dill; ¼ cup chopped cilantro; and an additional ¾ tsp cayenne pepper. When mixture is processed to a coarse meal, pour into a bowl. Stir 2 ½ tbsp sesame seeds into the mixture with a fork until it’s evenly dispersed throughout the mixture. Refrigerate and proceed with frying. If mixture seems too “wet” when making the falafel balls, add additional flour by the teaspoonful until the mixture sticks together better. Continue with frying.
  • HOW TO MAKE A FALAFEL PITA: Making a falafel pita is actually really simple. The two main ingredients are pita bread and falafel.
  • Cut the pita bread in half to form two “pockets.” Each pocket is a serving size. Stuff the pocket with falafel, as well as any add-ons you fancy.
  • Here are some traditional add-ons that can be added to your pita; these are the ingredients most widely available at falafel stands throughout Israel:
  • Tahini sauce
    Shredded lettuce
    Diced or sliced tomatoes
    Israeli salad
    Onions
    Dill pickles
    Hummus
    Tabouli
    French fries
  • Here are some less traditional add-ons that are also tasty:
  • Sprouts
    Cucumber slices
    Roasted peppers
    Roasted eggplant slices
    Sunflower seeds
    Feta cheese
    Yogurt
    Tzatziki

 

Comments (436)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    These were absolutely the best falafels I’ve ever had. Really. Thank you so much for an excellent recipe. I added the turmeric – super tasty! I had to puree them a little more than I thought I’d have to for them to stay together. Other than that, super easy and yummy.

    1. Great to hear that Amira! Yes, processing the chickpeas is key, and I think it’s where a lot of people have trouble getting the mixture to hold together… if they would only process the mixture a bit longer, it would hold together better.

  2. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Dear Tori,

    Yesterday I tried this recipe, unfortunately not to great succes.
    The mixture I got was quite dry, but with some care and effort I could still make balls that stuck together. I must say I did cook the chickpeas since they were very tough after soaking them for overnight.
    When frying them in my deep fry set at 180 degree celsius, the balls dissolved into the fat.

    Can you advice me of what to do better next time?
    I still have quite some of the mixture left, is there still a way to rescue it? Maybe adding some egg?

    Many thanks for your reply!

    1. Hi Christian, your mistake was cooking the chickpeas. Toss the cooked chickpea mixture. Next time make the recipe exactly as written. Trust the recipe. Read the comments from others if you don’t believe me. :)

  3. HI, thanks for this recipe and the awesome blog. Just curious – can you soak the beans too long? Is overnight and all the next day ok? I mean, I put them in overnight and then want to use them that next night for dinner, so not sure if they should continue all that day or I should remove them to the fridge or something.

    1. Hi Dave, you can soak them longer– just make sure you change the water with fresh cold water twice a day after the initial overnight soak. Some of the beans may “sprout” and some would argue that they’ll have better nutritional value this way. :)

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thanks Tori! I made these last night and they turned out really great. I’m going to make them again this weekend – going to do the herb variation with cilantro. And going to go so far as to make homemade pita with a recipe I found on Feasting at Home.

  5. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Coming over from “In Jennie’s kitchen”… I made her Tahini sauce, your falafel and my own pita this morning – all came together beautifully. It has been 20 years since I lived in Los Angeles and had falafel from a Los Angeles falafel stand so can’t really trust my memory completely except to say that both the sauce and the falafel were outstanding! Fortunately, since it is just me, I made 1/4 of the recipes.

    One thing you pointed out that I think I’ve done wrong with frying things…is making sure the oil is hot enough to cook whatever through but not so hot that the outside burns before the inside cooks. I did your prescribed tests and got perfectly cooked and browned falafel.

    For the record, I started soaking the beans yesterday morning thinking I’d make the falafel last night…but ran out of steam so put them in the frig for this morning. All came together wonderfully – I followed the recipe (1/4 measures) exactly.

    Thank you for the recipe and excellent instructions!

  6. Hi, can you freeze these? Would it be best to freeze uncooked or fried? And how would you suggest reheating these? Thanks :)

    1. Hi Mel, please read through the comments, the freezing question has been addressed multiple times. I always think falafel tastes best freshly fried, but others have frozen them with varying results.

  7. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I made these as written and they are fabulous! I fried some and froze the rest. I froze them uncooked, on a cookie sheet until frozen then stored in a zip lock bag. Re-heated them on a pan sprayed with cooking spray. Baked at 350 for 10 min. flipped and cooked 10 min. more. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  8. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Just want to say “Thank You!!!” This was certainly the best falafel recipe I’ve tried – including the many variations I’ve tasted from restaurants. The texture was perfect, the flavors spot on! My family loved these with homemade pitas, tzatziki, hummus, lettuce and tomatoes. My father, who got sick the first time he tried falafels in Israel and thus always called them “Feel-awfuls”, loved these and said the only bad thing about them was that he was too full to eat more! :) Great job!

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Oh my goodness, these were delicious!!!! I have never tried falafel before and if this is was they are supposed to taste like, I’m in love!! I made these for the hubby and I for dinner and we could’ve eaten the whole batch. I had no idea what to expect from falafel but so glad I tried your recipe. I also used your tahini sauce recipe and it was fantastic!!

  10. Hi, Tori. I came across your delightful blog after going on a search for gyros, which became undesireable, so we began to search for falafel, requested by my 13 year old son who was given a new food culture challenge for us to try. Can’t wait to try your recipe. You have left every question answered and given us ample courage to try our new food experience. Thank you! Kira and Nolan Lewiston, Maine

  11. Thanks a lot for posting this.Falafel is one of my favourite snack
    in UAE.I was worried how I could have it once I am back to India.Thanks to your recepie now I could have it whereever I am

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I am a 67 year old Hispanic lady who loves falafel. I followed your recipe to the tee and they were a huge success!!

  13. I am cooking this recipe right now and very exited to eat them! Ty for recipe :)
    Just a quick tidbit about chic peas. I buy a 3 pound bag of dry beans, add 2 tsp baking soda and water to fill crock pot. I turn it on low for 6-8 hours then let cool. I use quart freezer bags and fill them with the beans and add the juice to bags. I then freeze the bags and pop a bag on the counter in the morning and they are ready at cooking time. One note though, they are a little stinky so I either do them in the garage or on back porch :) If using chic peas for hummus, use them when they are still slightly frozen for a creamier texture :)

  14. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious. Your directions were so helpful (the couscous reference to consistency was spot-on). I will be making these again, and I will be recommending your recipe to my friends.

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Holy wow. I just made these, and I can’t stop eating them. They were surprisingly easy to make, and SO much cheaper (and tastier!) than buying them at a restaurant. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you so much for putting up such a great recipe with specific instructions including fixing any hiccups. After using canned beans and having a disastrous kitchen oil spill from the falafels disintegrating I found your page used dry beans and had delicious perfect falafels! I’m so happy this was my 3rd attempt and your page with the recipe details along with the history of the falafel was awesome!

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Just wanted to say, I love this. Every batch has come out perfectly even though I have only a blender which I pulsed until just right. No falling apart at all. I refrigerated what was left and ate it for a couple weeks.

  18. Do you think these would freeze well? Or even the mixture before cooking. It makes a large batch and we can’t eat it all. I love to have things ready in the freezer.

    1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
      Ok sorry. There are so many comments on here that I didn’t read through them all. I’m eating some freshly cooked falafel right now for breakfast. Delicious. I will freeze the others uncooked I think. thanks.

  19. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made these for dinner tonight for Yom Ha’atzmaut- Israeli Independence Day and they were perfect!!
    Thank you!!

  20. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This falafel and the tahini sauce were sooo gooood. It was my first try at making either and I was very proud (and my husband very happy) but I have to give you credit for the great recipes and instructions. THANKS!

  21. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    This is the very BEST falafel recipe I have ever made!! I did change one thing, I used garbonzo bean flour instead of regular flour, for the GF factor. Otherwise great job on this recipe.

  22. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thanks for this. My previous attempts at falafel have been disasters. The detailed instructions and trouble shooting tips were so valuable. They are turned out perfect!

  23. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Just made your falafel recipe and it was fabulous!!! Also, loved all the info on preparing and storing chickpeas once they are cooked. Thank you so much fit the great step by step instructions.

  24. This may be a ridiculous question… I started soaking the chickpeas this morning, its been about 7 hours and im looking at them now they still seem a little hard…. How soft should they be in order to start processing them??

    1. Hi Jessica, the beans will still be firm after soaking. They shouldn’t be “hard” but they won’t be as soft as canned chickpeas.

  25. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for the recipe it worked the first time I even tried a few without chilling them first and they didn’t fall apart which from other sites I’ve looked at seems to be a problem for some people. I have never even tried Falafel from a vendor before now I will have to go try it elsewhere to see if I made it right. But I am happy with the result.
    Perhaps it’s due to my French grandfather we have a strong cooking tradition and I usually can adapt well to new foods. Thank you again I will be looking at more of your recipes.

  26. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Wow! Thank you so much for this recipe. I was surprised to see that you don’t cook the chickpeas, but I went ahead and followed the recipe exactly and I have to say, this is the first time my falafels were successful. Usually they fall apart when they hit the oil. These came out perfect and my husband LOVES them; he has never had falafels before.

  27. Many, many, many years ago I cooked for an Israeli restaurant in New York and when I made falafel I used a meat grinder and a falafel press. I’ve just acquired a meat grinder and would like to use it for falafels but don’t know which attachment to use, medium or fine. Would you know which I should use? I have long wished I could find a falafel press which packed 5 or 6 falafels into the falafel shaped holes and then I would press a release to drop them in the hot oil.

    1. Sylvia, I would use the fine setting. I find the finer the soaked chickpeas are ground the better they hold together in the oil.

  28. Hey! Just made your falafel recipe… I’ve all but fry them. Can the mixture be frozen if uncooked?

    Thanks for some prize recipes!

    1. You’re welcome Seth! In my experience freezing it can make the mixture crumbly, which makes it harder to hold together when it fries. If you do end up trying it let me know how the freezing works for you.

  29. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I have not frozen it but I have kept it in the fridge for 4 days, frying up a bit each of the days and had no problem. I also found that a temp of 300 degrees was what worked best for me as a frying temp. Although I felt that the recipe was basically quite good and I had no problem with the falafels holding together I did decide that next time I will add more cumin and more coriander as well as more garlic. As it was the falafels were a bit bland. I used 3 fair sized fresh garlic cloves but will use 4-5 next time.Thank you Tori Avey for doing this service.

  30. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thanks Tori – you might wonder why I want to freeze it after bothering to soak the beans and prepare them… I got too hungry! So I ended up eating the Tahini dressing and hummous while waiting to fry the falafel. I’ll let you know how the freezing works out! Thanks for this site and your passion for great food!

    1. Hi Gail, chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same thing, but some people refer to them with one name and some the other– so only 2 cups.

    2. Thanks very much Tori. Looking forward to making these. As a new vegetarian I’m always looking for different wholesome meals to cook.

  31. Just spent a lot of time making what was looking and smelling like a nice meal, put the balls into a deep fryer and all ten of them disintegrated. Any ideas why this would happen?

    1. Tom, please read through the comments to troubleshoot, I have addressed this issue repeatedly. If you follow the exact instructions in the post, paying close attention to each step, this wouldn’t happen.

  32. Gluten free, without flour, grind 10% beans to fine paste, bean glue….I do same for meat grind in burgers. Or maybe try Heston Blumenthal salting meat overnight to make glue, wonder if it works for beans too…for me just grinding 10% works. Enjoy!

  33. Forgot about tahini sauce, I just toast sesame seeds & blend it with water, fresher tahini paste, add garlic, lemon, salt….all in one blender, quick, clean & easy chickpeazy…

  34. I’m English, living in rural, non-cosmopolitan France was stunned to find pitta bread in the local shop! Can’t wait to make your recipe – tomorrow – as I’ve only tinned chickpeas tonight. I shall spend the entire envening haunted by the memories of falafel eaten in Israel and England!

  35. Thank you for posting this. I only have one problem. I don’t own a food processor. Is there anyway i could use something else instead? I want to do this recipe so badly.. have been missing falafels!

    1. Hi Victoria, some have recommended using the meat grinder attachment on a stand mixer. I’m not sure if the consistency would be fine enough though, you might have to run the chickpeas through a few times. I’ve never done this myself, so I can’t tell you if the method works or not… I’m just passing on a tip that I heard, “untested.” If you end up trying it please let us know how it goes!

  36. Re food processor. Think. They’ve been eating falafel for hundreds of years in the Middle East, perhaps grinding the chickpeas between stones. How about a pêstel and mortar?

  37. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thanks so much for posting this fabulous recipe! I followed exactly and they turned our great! There’s nothing like a fresh, sizzling hot falafel atop hummus. My family is still raving!

  38. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is a great falafel recipe! I do use the canned chickpeas, but I compensate for the extra moisture by adding an extra tablespoon or so of flour.

  39. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe. So easy and so delicious!!!!

    (For anyone who has them falling apart I noticed if I packed the balls to tight they didn’t hold together as well)

  40. Hello to all!
    I am Lebanese, I love to cook. I soaked chick peas and will mix them tonight! Just a thought, do you think Joe can use corn starch to substitute flour for gluten free!? I use corn starch so much instead of flour for less calorie and it is easy to bind food together or to thicken broth to create gravy! I am excited about the recipe, will let you know how it goes! Say a prayer ! LOL. Thank you Tori for this recipe and I will support the store you mentioned to buy my groceries!

  41. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hello Tori , I fried couple for testing, it was delicious! Wow! And very easy to get the texture correct, I love it! Thank you!!!

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