If you’ve made falafel at home and been disappointed, you’re not alone. You might think you need special equipment, or some secret ingredient, or years of experience. The truth is far simpler.
I’ve tried many falafel recipes, and the results were so unsuccessful that my go-to “recipe” was dried commercial mix rehydrated with pureed soft tofu. The from-scratch problem was always moisture: cooked chickpeas, whether prepped at home or poured from a can, always made the falafel mixture too moist. I’d add binders, like flour or breadcrumbs, but these made the falafel too dense and doughy. Then I stumbled upon a falafel recipe that calls for rehydrated but uncooked beans. On my first attempt, the texture and density issues were gone. Practice led me to develop a flavorful, crisp, vegan falafel perfect for stuffing in Sourdough Pita Bread with a range of condiments and easily frozen for quick meals.
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Home-Smoked Chili Paste or 1/2 red chili, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion or 12 scallions, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
oil for brushing
Quickly rinse the chickpeas and pour into in a large bowl; cover to a depth of 3 inches with water. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours, until the chickpeas triple in size; as they absorb the water, add more as needed to plump them. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
Place the drained chickpeas back in the bowl or in a food processor, along with all remaining ingredients except the oil. Blend using an immersion blender or the food processor until the beans break down and the mixture holds together. Cover with a tea towel and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Brush two baking sheets by lightly with oil. Roll a small amount of the chilled falafel mixture into a walnut-sized ball, and then flatten it slightly into a patty; place it on a baking sheet. Continue shaping the rest of the mixture. When the baking sheets are full, brush the tops of the patties with oil.
Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, flip the patties, and then continue baking for 5–10 minutes, until golden. Serve immediately, letting any leftovers cool before refrigerating them for 4–5 days or freezing them in zip-close freezer bags for a couple of months. To reheat, bring to room temperature and bake at 350°F for 10–15 minutes, until thoroughly hot. Makes about 40 patties.
Tips & Tricks
- Raw beans are essential for this falafel recipe. Commercially canned or Seasoned Pot Beans won’t bind effectively, and even the quick-soak technique gives mixed results. Instead, just use a long, cold-water soak for rehydration, letting the chickpeas soften enough to bind into patties. Once they hit the oven, the patties will cook quickly without crumbling.
- A couple of other tricks help patties keep their shape. The fewer large chunks in the falafel, the easier it will cling together. The short resting time in the fridge also lets starch in the beans work into the mixture and help with shaping.
- I get the best results when I bake falafel, particularly if I plan to freeze patties. To cook them traditionally in hot oil, a deep fryer is easiest, but pan-frying in a deep skillet works if you use a lot of oil and a thermometer to ensure it’s at a full 375°F before adding the falafel.
- The patty shape works best for falafel that will be stuffed in Sourdough Pita Bread, but balls are fine for serving over greens; just keep them small so that they cook through while holding together. A simple tahini sauce can be used as a dressing in either version (see below).
Twice as Tasty
One of the best things about falafel is that it practically begs for condiments. Fresh accompaniments are easily found when the garden’s in full swing, but what about in winter? Falafel’s a great reason to plan ahead. If you grilled eggplant and grated cucumbers at the height of summer and then froze them in ice cube trays, you have the key fixings to make Tzatziki and Baba Ghanouj in minutes. By making other Twice as Tasty techniques part of your routine, you can also have on hand Sourdough Pita Bread, homegrown sprouts or microgreens, and homemade Lemon Cheese or Dry-Salted Feta.
But you don’t have to eat your falafel plain while you practice thinking ahead. There are plenty of simple dips, sauces, and dressings on the blog—now including one rich in tahini flavor.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tahini
1 teaspoon tamari, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and minced garlic; let sit for a few minutes to mellow the flavors. Open the tahini container and whip as needed with a fork to work the oil back into the paste. Add the tahini, tamari, and spices to the lemon–garlic mixture and stir. Mix in the water; add a bit more water if the sauce seems too thick or up to 1/2 cup to make a salad dressing. Serve with Raw-Chickpea Falafel or other meals. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze in ice cube trays. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Tips & Tricks
- I believe it’s nearly impossible to use too much garlic in any dish, but sometimes raw garlic can be a bit harsh when minced and immediately served. A brief acid soak mellows its flavor. If you have Roasted Garlic on hand, throw that in instead—I usually double the amount.
- Like a good raw peanut butter, tahini tends to separate during storage. You’ll get the best consistency and flavor if you mix the oil back into the paste before measuring. Don’t be tempted to substitute straight sesame oil; the flavor and texture won’t be the same.
- You can make tahini from scratch: Use a food processor to puree 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and then blend in 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and up to 2 tablespoons of tepid water. This makes about 1/4 cup of paste.
- I prefer a fairly thick tahini paste when I’m filling Sourdough Pita Bread with falafel patties. For a gluten-free meal, serve the falafel over mixed greens and thin the Lemon–Tahini Sauce with water until it pours like a dressing.
- Since this sauce is so simple and all of its ingredients are staples in my kitchen, I prefer to make small portions for immediate use. But it freezes quite well if you want to whip up a double or larger batch.
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