Falafel is made of chickpeas or fava beans and it has always been an important part of Levantine cuisine and the reason for disputes. All Middle Eastern countries have tried to claim falafel as their national dish, so if you ask someone where falafel originates from, you may not always get the same answer. The truth is, falafel originates from Egypt, Alexandria and it was initially made of fava beans. Later on falafel spread throughout Israel, Lebanon, and other neighboring countries.
Israeli falafel is made of dried chickpeas and that is the falafel version that has become widely popular around the world. Initially, the Jewish people didn’t want to accept falafel because it was an Arab dish. It was actually Jewish people from Yemen, North Africa and Turkey who brought falafel popularity in Israel. Also, the lack of meat and staple foods was another reason why they accepted falafel in Israel.
Today, you can eat falafel in any restaurant that serves Levantine cuisine, but also a fast food corner. As falafel is made in the shape of a ball or a flat burger, and often served in pita bread, no wonder why it has become a popular fast food. You can eat falafel on the go and still have a healthy meal full of fiber and protein.
Wartime falafel recipe
Before I share my falafel recipe with you, I wanted to share this piece of treasure I found here. They have a list of recipes from the historian cookbook and among them, I found this falafel recipe that people used during the Second World War.
Cook the legumes (dried peas, lubia [fava beans], or another type), grind, mix with oil (preferably sesame) until thickened, add plenty of crushed red pepper and salt (you can also add fresh green pepper while grinding and add other minced vegetables at the end). Make small balls from the mixture and deep fry in boiling oil until yellow-brown. You could also make an easier version with pea-flour (if available), mixed with water until thick or cooked in water with a pinch of baking soda and finished as above
Falafel – Healthy fast food
Unlike other fast food meals, falafel is very healthy because it is made of chickpeas that are a great source of plant protein and fiber. Although it is vegetarian and vegan food, many people who eat meat also enjoy eating falafel.
Falafel is always served with tahini sauce and hummus which is an additional dose of chickpeas and sesame seeds. Plus, you can add some veggies such as tomatoes, beetroot, onions etc and have a completely nutritious meal.
How to Make Falafel at Home
When I first thought of making falafel at home, I assumed it was hard and complicated to make it on your own. Instead, I wanted to buy a falafel mix and to try that first. However, I don’t like instant food and those mixes you can buy at the store and I discovered that making falafel is actually very easy. All you need is a good food processor or blender.
This falafel recipe I am going to share with you is equally good for baked or fried version. Here’s what you need to do:
Soak dried chickpeas overnight. Don’t use canned chickpeas. You can use them for hummus but not for falafel. The chickpeas should be soaked at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. It should be completely covered in water.
Drain chickpeas the next day and put them in a food processor. Do not cook chickpeas.
Add red onions, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and cumin to the food processor. Coriander is optional. Turn on the food processor and blend it until all the ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. If your blender or food processor is not strong enough you can first blend the chickpeas, then other ingredients separately and in the end put them all together and blend more.
Make falafel balls or burgers. If you see that the mixture is not smooth enough and the balls are falling apart, that means you need to blend the mixture more.
Fry or bake falafel. Fry it for 3 minutes on each side, at medium temperature. The more oil you use, the less will falafel absorb. In other words, if you fry falafel in less oil it will be more oily than when you deep fry it. If you bake falafel, put falafel balls on the baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil on them. Bake falafel at 230 degrees Celsius for 25 to 30 minutes. They have to look golden and crispy.
Falafel recipe baked or fried?
Baked falafel is definitely healthier than fried one, because you use less oil. But fried falafel is a traditional one, and I must admit, a bit juicer.
However, you will see the difference only when you taste just falafel, without sides. If you eat falafel with tahini sauce, hummus and some veggies, in a pita bread or a salad, the difference will be insignificant.
Fried falafel requires less cooking time, but you need to be there by the stove and near the sizzling oil. When you fry something, there will probably be a bigger mess in the kitchen and the smell.
On the other hand, baked falafel doesn’t require much hands-on time, you can leave it in the oven and do something else. You bake falafel on a baking sheet so the pan will stay clean and there will be no mess in the kitchen.
Can I make the falafel mixture ahead?
You can make falafel mixture in advance, and freeze it for a month or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Make sure you keep falafel mixture in an airtight, non plastic container.
How long do they keep once they’re fried?
Both fried and baked falafel can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you reheat them in a microwave they will still be tasty. If you don’t have a microwave, you can reheat them in the oven.
What to serve with falafel
Falafel is served with pita bread, but that is not the same pita bread you eat with gyros. This is a pita bread typical for Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries. While Greek pita bread is wrapped like a cone and filled with chicken gyros and tzatziki, pita bread for falafel is flat and more fluffy so you can cut it and put falafel balls in it.
When you eat at home, you can serve falafel on the plate, and eat with that pita bread or any other bread you have. Instead of pita bread, you can serve falafel with rice, quinoa or in a salad.
As for the sauces and dips, hummus and tahini sauce are traditional sauces served with falafel. You can also eat tzatziki with falafel, why not? Veggies such as fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, beetroot, lettuce go perfect with falafel.
If you need a side dish for falafel, french fries, sweet potato fries, baked or mashed potatoes would also go well.
Falafel nutrition facts
100 g of falafel has 333 calories, 13.3g protein, 31.8g carbs, 17.8g fat and 4.9.g fiber. Falafel is rich in vitamin B6, but also manganese, copper, magnesium and folate. Baked falafel has less fat than a fried one.
Is falafel gluten free
This falafel recipe is gluten free because you don’t add flour, only chickpeas, spices and veggies. Chickpeas don’t contain gluten. However, store bought falafel mix or falafel you order in a restaurant can contain gluten if it is mixed with flour.
Crispy Homemade Falafel Recipe – Baked or Fried
- 350 g dried chickpeas
- 1 red onion
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- olive oil (optional for baked falafel, but you will need oil for fried falafel)
- 2 tsp fresh coriander (optional)
- Soak dried chickpeas overnight for at least 12 hours. They should be completely covered in water.
- The next day, drain the chickpeas and add them to the food processor along with other ingredients. If your food processor is not strong enough, blend other ingredients separately and than add them to the blended chickpeas mixture and blend more.
- Make falafel balls or burgers. If you see that the mixture is not smooth enough and the balls are falling apart, that means you need to blend the mixture more.
- Put falafel balls on the baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil on them. Bake falafel at 230 degrees Celsius for 25 to 30 minutes. They have to look golden and crispy.