* This post was updated with clearer instructions and new photos 🙂
This falafel is packed with flavor and can be enjoyed as an appetizer, side, or a meal. These chickpea fritters have a golden and crispy crust with a soft and light interior. They're also both vegetarian and vegan friendly!
Falafel is one of those foods that I can eat any day of the week and any time in the day.
Is it a bit overboard? Yes.
But I just love how filling and flavorful falafel is. On top of that, it's also vegetarian and vegan! So it's great for a wide range of different diets!
What is falafel?
Falafel can be best described as a chickpea fritter. Dried chickpeas are soaked overnight to hydrate them, then ground up with a few flavorings. The ground falafel mix is then portioned up into balls or disks and fried up until golden and crispy on the outside.
The basic falafel ingredients are chickpeas, parsley, garlic, yellow onion, flour, and salt. These ingredients make up the base flavor and body of the falafel.
In addition to these ingredients, I like to add a few more to help out with both flavor and texture:
• Water to help loosen the falafel mix. Some recipes use an egg to add extra liquid to the falafel and to help bind the mix together. I find a combination of water and flour does the same trick, and it helps keep this 100% vegan!
• Baking powder gives the falafel some lift on the inside and extra crunch on the outside.
• Lemon juice combined with the baking powder gives the falafel a lighter center. This ingredient isn't found in a conventional falafel recipe, but it really does make the texture outstanding!
• Cumin and coriander are optional spices, but they pack some nice seasoning. I'm not the biggest fan of cumin in my falafel, so I prefer to keep it to a minimum just for a subtle flavor. But I absolutely love coriander, so that's a must for me! Feel free to play around and try out your own preferred spices and ratios.
Quick Look: how to make falafel
1. Soak dry chickpeas overnight to hydrate.
2. Add garlic, onion, and parsley to a food processor. Pulse on and off until roughly chopped.
3. Add chickpeas and pulse. Again, pulse on and off to break up the chickpeas into a fine paste and incorporate everything.
4. Add in remaining ingredients. Pulse to combine everything.
5. Divide falafel mix and roll into golf ball sized rounds.
6. Heat a large skillet filled with oil over medium heat. Gently drop balls of falafel into heated oil.
7. Cook falafel for a total of 3 to 4 minutes. They're done cooking when they turn a light golden brown color on both sides.
8. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet or plate to drain.
Serve and enjoy!
Falafel is most commonly served with a tahini sauce. Tahini is a paste made out of toasted sesame seeds ground until they liquefy and turn a light pale yellow color. You can usually find tahini in the International food section at most large grocery stores.
To make tahini falafel sauce, all you need is equal parts freshly squeezed lemon juice and tahini, and a splash of water to thin the sauce to your liking. My family loves tahini sauce, so we usually make larger batches.
To make around one cup of tahini sauce, use ½ a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons) and ½ a cup of tahini sauce. Mix these two ingredients together in a medium bowl until you get a very thick paste. Whisk cold water into the paste, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get the sauce to your preferred consistency.
Although I'm a firm believer that everything's better deep fried, this falafel recipe also bakes up beautifully.
To bake falafel, divide falafel and shape into equal sized balls or disks. Arrange shaped falafel on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a bit of room between each falafel to allow air to circulate around each one. Bake in the center of a preheated 400°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
How to freeze falafel
Falafel freezes really well, so it's also great for meal prep! To prep make ahead falafel, I like to shape the falafel and freeze it in balls so it's extra easy to fry up when I'm ready.
To freeze shaped falafel, divide and roll your falafel rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and freeze for about one hour, or until solid. Transfer the frozen shaped falafel to a freezer bag. Push out the air from the bag and seal. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you liked this falafel recipe, you may also like some of these other recipes:
- 2 cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly minced
- ½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, loosely packed (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 4 to 8 tablespoons cool water
- neutral flavor oil for frying
- Prep the chickpeas the night before: Add dried chickpeas to a very large bowl. Cover the chickpeas with fresh cool water by 2 inches. Soak (uncovered) overnight to hydrate chickpeas. (They'll about double in size so make sure the bowl is large enough to accommodate!)
- In the bowl of a large food processor, add the garlic, onion, and fresh parsley. Place the lid on the food processor, and pulse on and off to roughly chop the vegetables. Pause to scrape down the sides of the processor if needed. Continue pulsing until the vegetables are broken up (they should resemble a rough crumb).
- Drain the soaked chickpeas and add them to the food processor. Pulse on and off until your chickpeas are finely ground (again pausing to scrape down the sides of the food processor if needed). The mixture should be very fine and crumbly at this stage.
- Add in the lemon juice, all purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cumin and coriander (if using), and 4 tablespoons of water. Briefly pulse on and off to mix everything together. The mixture may look dry, but it should stick together when you squeeze it with your fingers. If it's too dry, add more water (1 tablespoon at a time) pulsing well to incorporate until the falafel mix comes together.
- Divide the falafel mix and roll into golf ball sized rounds. Place your shaped falafel on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside to preheat the oil.
- Fill a high sided, large skillet with about 2 inches of neutral flavored oil like vegetable, canola, or peanut oil. Preheat the oil to 350°F. Carefully lower the balls of falafel into the heated oil. Take care not to overcrowd the skillet!
- Deep fry falafel for about 3 to 4 minutes at 350°F, or until it turns a light golden brown color on all sides. Transfer the fried falafel to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat the frying process until all of the falafel are fried. Serve immediately as a falafel sandwich, falafel salad, plain, or however else you like!
I would love to hear any tips you’d like to add to this post and how your falafel turned out in the comments below!
Have any questions? Any ideas to improve this recipe? Feel free to comment for that as well.
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