Falafel – a classic Middle Eastern fare, often served as part of sandwich in pita or on its own with a salad and dipping sauce. As much everyone likes enjoying a good falafel from restaurant or food stalls, there are mixed views on recreating them at home. They can either be a huge hit or a culinary disaster for the home cooks.
A perfect falafel is the one that has a crispy exterior and a chunky interior. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you achieve the best results and make falafels like a pro.
What beans to use ?
You can make falafel with chickpeas or fava beans, or from a mixture of both chickpeas and fava beans. Important is: The beans should be raw, dried and not pre-cooked.
Dried or canned?
If youve been making your falafels using canned chickpeas and wondering why they fall apart in the pan, the answer is : You have used over hydrated beans.
For a good falafel, you never boil the dried chickpeas rather soak them, allowing the water to slowly rehydrate them, and make them just soft enough to get to the stage where you can grind them. Its the deep frying in oil that should cook the beans.
The moisture in the pre cooked beans make the falafels soggy and fall apart whereas frying the uncooked chickpeas makes them crispier.
How to grind the beans ?
If you own a stand mixture, try looking for the grinder attachment in your cupboards that usually comes with it because meat grinder is ideal for the texture you need to make the perfect falafel.
But not everyone has a meat grinder, right?
Use the food processor that you generally use for chopping and grinding stuff. If its small, try in small batches and then combine everything in a separate bowl. An emulsifier for the final mix would be very helpful.
What texture are you looking for ?
When you grind or process the beans, the final result should be more like a fine and crumbly mixture rather than a paste. But not too coarse as the chickpea particles tend to swell during the frying as well.
What seasonings to use ?
It´s all up to you! I am sharing the basic recipe below, you can play with the flavours as per your liking but try not to exaggerate. Staying inside the Middle Eastern / Levantine spice spectrum will help you enjoy the real deal.
How to shape ?
Falafel maker is a great tool if you intend to including falafel more frequently to your meals. Its fairly cheap and easy to use.
Rolling by hands is a talent we all are gifted with, so don´t panic if you can´t get hold of a falafel maker. Keep dipping your hands in water after forming each ball to avoid stickiness and make sure the surface of the balls has no cracks.
Another method is the two spoon-method where you scoop out some mixture with one spoon and then lift it with the other spoon. Keep playing until you get a smooth surfaced oval. Then slide carefully into the hot oil.
How to cook falafel ?
You have tried baking falafel or shallow-fried them and they came out really nice. I believe you! But don´t argue with me that it gives the authentic flavour. The texture the uncooked bean mixture gets after swimming in a pool of hot oil is matchless! So yes, deep frying is highly recommended!
Please keep in mind that youre dealing with uncooked beans. Give them some time (5-6 min) to cook through to avoid tummy aches.
Falafel are best served immediately after cooking while they’re still warm and crispy. Obviously, you can´t serve the entire family in one go or expect yourself stand in the kitchen frying falafels for guests when throwing a party. In that case, allow them to drain on a wire rack after frying and not on paper towel. This will help them retain their crispiness. And keep warm in the oven.
Freeze or not ?
In my humble opinion, yes!
Falafel making is easy but tedious, so I personally like making a big batch at once. Fry them all, allow to cool on a wire rack and then freeze in freezer-friendly bags to use later. Then, pop them in the oven directly without defrosting and bake until crispy. The moisture from freezing actually helps them from getting dry after reheating.
Below is a family recipe handed down from my very dear mom-in-law who left us forever many years ago but her recipes and cooking tips have always proved to be a cut above the rest for me. Enjoy and leave me a comment !
- 1 ½ cups dried chickpeas washed and soaked overnight
- ½ cup chopped green coriander
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 2 small onions chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 chopped green chili
- 1 ½ tsp roasted cumin powder
- 2 Tbsp coriander powder
- 6 Tbsp breadcrumbs
- Oil for deep frying
- Wash and soak the chickpeas in water and leave aside for at least 8 hours. They will triple in size. Drain away the water and wash them once again. DO NOT use canned or boiled chickpeas!!!
- Transfer the beans to a food processor and chop until you get a fine crumbly texture.
- Take coriander, parsley, garlic cloves, onion and green chili and chop roughly.
- Combine these together in the food processor. Then add to the ground chickpeas.
- Mix all the ingredients together and add in salt, peppers, coriander and roasted cumin powder.
- Shape into round balls or ovals using two spoons / falafel maker or rolling between your hands.
- Heat the oil for deep frying and set the heat to medium.
- Fry the falafels in batches on medium heat until golden brown and crispy from outside. DO NOT crowd the pan !
- Take out and place on a wire rack to avoid getting from soggy.
- Serve warm with yoghurt tahini sauce !
- Do not use pre cooked or canned chickpeas! Rehydrating the dried ones is the key to making the authentic falafels.
- If your food processor is not big or powerful enough to mince all the ingredients at once, do it in small batches and combine in a separate bowl.
- You may use your meat grinder and mince the beans as well as other ingredients through it.
- The recipe can easily be doubled.
- You can also freeze the fried falafels. Pop in oven WITHOUT defrosting and reheat on 140 C until crispy.