There are different authentic falafel recipes that respect the tradition and below we give you our best falafel recipe —step by step— the one we prepare regularly for ourselves. It is a very good recipe for vegetarians, vegans and anyone who wants to benefit from the unpretentious wisdom of traditional Mediterranean cuisines.
This dish has performed a fantastic feat because it has made very popular a traditional dish with garbanzo beans, now that even in the Mediterranean at least in the Western part of the Mare Nostrum— families tend to consume less and less pulses, which you are supposed to eat once a week at a minimum.
In the Western Mediterranean some people associate beans with poverty and a long cooking time, but once you know how to prepare them, pulses are easy to cook and can be really delicious —think hummus too. It’s no big deal soaking them in water overnight and in this easy falafel recipe you don’t even have to cook the chickpeas or fava beans.
The origins of falafel
Falafel or tamiyah as it is called in Egypt, are balls or patties fried in oil that seem to have originated among the Egyptian Christian Copts as a meat replacement during the Lent fasting. They are a very popular dish in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, where it is considered a national dish, but also in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.
You can make your homemade falafel mix with fava beans like in Egypt, with chickpeas or with a combination of both. In the West the most popular form is the falafel balls made with ground chickpeas. We used to make falafel with only chickpeas, but since we discovered the falafel recipe with fava beans we always combine both pulses and we get the most delicious falafel balls. Fava beans give falafel an incomparable taste.
Serves 4, about 30 falafel balls
- 1/2 cup dried split yellow fava beans
- 1/2 cup dried chickpeas
- 1 medium-sized onion —peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic —peeled and chopped
- 3 sprigs parsley —leaves finely chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh mint —leaves finely chopped
- 3 sprigs coriander —leaves finely chopped
- 3 sprigs dill —leaves finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mint
- 1 egg
- Olive oil for frying
- Breadcrumbs, use them only if your falafel mix needs thickening
- Soak the fava beans and the chickpeas overnight with plenty of water. Use two separate bowls, one for each pulse and remember to add a handful salt to the chickpeas bowl.
- The next day drain the pulses and let them in a strainer for a while to eliminate all water as much as possible. If they are too wet, dry them with a towel or paper towel.
- Add the fava beans and the chickpeas to a food processor or blender and ground them. Do it in batches if necessary. Crush the pulses until the consistency resembles that of breadcrumbs. Some cooks like the consistency of a puree for their falafel mix but we don’t. We used to do it by hand with a fork and we try to imitate the manual texture, so we don’t oveprocess the paste and recommend you don’t either.
- Add the chopped onion, garlic and finely chopped herbs to the blender and ground them together with the pulses
- Add the dried coriander, mint and cumin and ground some more
- Separate the egg yolk from the egg white and set it aside. Beat the yolk lightly and add to the food processor with the homemade falafel mix and ground.
- The falafel mix shouldn’t be too wet, but if it’s too dry, then you need to add a little bit of the egg white. Take some mix with a spoon, put it in the palm of your hand and make a ball. If the ball doesn’t hold together, it is probably too wet and you need to add some breadcrumbs.
- Put the mix in a bowl and with your hands or with the help of a tablespoon, start forming small balls of about 1 1/2-inches in diameter and arrange them on a wooden tray if you have one.
- Heat olive oil in a deep fryer or use a skillet if you don’t have one. When the oil is hot, fry the falafel patties over medium heat, a few at a time, until they have a toasted-brown color, about 4 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon or spatula, and drain the excess oil on paper towels.
- Serve hot with pita bread, cucumber salad, lettuce, tomatos and taratour
How to serve falafel
Falafel balls are usually served inside the pocket of a pita bread or wrapped in a lafa, an Iraqi flatbread. Traditionally you can top the falafel rissoles with a cucumber salad and a tahini or tarator sauce. You can also eat them alone as a snack or serve them as part of a meze.
Falafel has become very popular in the West as a healthy vegetarian or vegan food, depending on the specific recipe. Apart from the traditional ways of eating falafel you can use your imagination and enjoy your own combinations with other Mediterranean foods or dishes.
How do you like to eat falafel? Care to share?