Falafel (Savory Chickpea Fritters)

This post is my entry for the second challenge in Project Food Blog: The interactive competitive series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year.  I want to send out a big “Thank you!” to all of you who cast your votes for me.

The category for this challenge is “The Classics”.  Foodbuzz says, “Any food blogger worth their salt can make a classic dish sing, but can they go outside their comfort zone and tackle a foreign cuisine?”  In other words, they want we-the-contestants to tackle a classic dish from a foreign cuisine.  They also asked that we render said dish faithfully.

…I made another rule for myself, though. I wanted my classic foreign dish to be made entirely of items that I already had on hand. Yes, the rules require me to render the foreign dish faithfully, but I have to render my blog faithfully, as well. We do real food here, folks.  The kind of food that makes your mouth, heart, mind and pocket-book happy.  It wouldn’t have fit the bill if I ran up to the city and bought fifty bajillion exotic ingredients that aren’t available out here in Amish country.  I wanted to prove that you can whip up a fabulous ethnic feast on items that can be grown in your own yard or found in any two-bit grocery store in the back-forty.

Did I succeed?  Oh yeah.  Big time.

A meatless meal can be a hard sell in this home.  My crew is a real meat-loving bunch. My eldest boy once described himself as ninety-eight percent carnivore and two percent omnivore.

Let that sink in for a moment.

While I do insist on the occasional meatless meal, let’s just say my guys don’t usually beg for them. Well, at least they didn’t until I rediscovered falafel. Real falafel.*

*I’ll quantify that in a moment…

Aside from being so good that you crave it even after immediately eating it, it seriously does a body good. Made from ground chickpeas, it is packed so full of nutrients that I feel like the fine print on a prescription drug commercial listing them all here; mega-protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, Vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B, and folate. Not only that, but it’s low in fat, cholesterol and sodium.  Moreover, you know I love a recipe that’s mouthwatering, nutritious and cheap, right?  Well, hello!  Falafel isn’t just inexpensive, it’s dirt cheap. Score!

I spent my long-ago vegetarian years eating a lot of falafel. Back in the (vegetarian) day, I ate the stuff that came in dry mix boxes (yes, me!) but once or twice I had excellent versions at Middle Eastern eateries.  The boxed stuff just isn’t my bag, so to speak, anymore. It’s expensive and doesn’t taste fresh.  Mainly because it isn’t. The contest provided just the push I needed to learn, after all this time, how to make my own falafel from scratch. A little fiddling around with soaked chickpeas resulted in a recipe that rivals the best falafels I ever ate in restaurants.  In fact, I’d say (in sotto voce) it’s the best falafel I’ve ever had.

While the history and origins of the dish are contested (not surprisingly) the general consensus is that falafel was originally created in Egypt. It has since spread throughout the Middle East as a staple food and is even considered the National Snack of Israel. One bite of a savory, steaming hot chickpea fritters, and it’s obvious why it’s so well loved.  The crispy outer crust yields to a spicy, garlicky interior that is impossibly light for being made from such hearty beans.

Unlike most dishes made with chickpeas (i.e. hummus), falafel is made with dried beans that simply have been soaked, not cooked.  That makes this dish easy-chickpeasy.  Soak, blitz in the food processor with other ingredients, rest, pan fry, done.  Such a small amount of work for such a massive pay-off at such a tiny price. This kind of discovery is thrilling, I tell you!

Whether you stuff it in pitas or simply serve as a finger food with a variety of dipping sauces (like Tahini Sauce or *gasp* ketchup), Falafel is sure to please even the pickiest eaters.

Allow me to set the stage.

Me: “Dinner time!”

Two Youngest Boys: “I don’t wanna eat vegetables!”

Me: “Boys.  Come try these fritters.”

Boys: “Hey!  Those are fried!  Can I have them?  Do I have to share?  Can I eat it with my hands? Can I stab it with a toothpick?”

Me: “Yes.”

Boys descend on plate like a swarm of locusts in the Holy land.  Silence and an empty plate.

For the record, my carnivorous crew didn’t like the falafel.  They loved it. They inhaled it. They fished for little crunchy bits left on the plate. My little man who keeps promising he will like vegetables when he turns eight ate nearly his weight in it then asked whether we could have the ‘Middle Eastern hushpuppies’ again tomorrow. I’d call that an enthusiastic endorsement.

For a printer-friendly, photo-free version of this recipe, click here!

Falafel

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 8 to 14 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Canola, vegetable, safflower or peanut oil for frying.

Optional for serving:

  • Pita bread
  • Tahini sauce (see recipe below)
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped onions

Rinse and pick over the dried chickpeas, removing any debris, discolored or misshapen beans in the process.  Place the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of cool water.  Place the bowl, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.

Drain the chickpeas and place in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade.  Add the onions, parsley, cilantro, garlic, cumin, salt and cayenne to the work bowl, fix the cover in place and pulse until everything is finely ground but not pasty.  Sprinkle the baking soda and 8 tablespoons of the flour flour over the ground chickpea mixture and pulse again until it is evenly combined.  Scrape the falafel mixture into a mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix in the remaining flour until the mixture does not stick to you as much.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cooking.

To cook:

Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.

Heat about 3/4 of an inch of oil to about 375°F in a high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan. While oil is heating, form the falafel mixture into ping pong size balls, using about 1-1/2 Tablespoons at a time.

When oil reaches the right temperature, drop about 6 balls in at a time.  Fry for about 1 minute, flip the balls and fry for an additional minute.  Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the falafel to the lined plate.

Serve hot with a side of tahini sauce or stuffed into pita halves with chopped tomatoes, onion and tahini sauce.

Get ‘em while they’re hot, boys!

Tahini Sauce

Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt if Greek yogurt is not available)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender, cover, and process on high speed until completely smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.  Serve over fried falafel or salad greens.

This is my second entry in Project Food Blog over at Foodbuzz.com.Did you like this recipe and the post?  I’d appreciate your vote of support!  You can cast it for me here! Or you can simply click on the yellow orange “Vote for Me” tab on the “Official Food Blog Contestant” badge up in the left sidebar.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Comments

  1. says

    Love the post and I love falafel. The first time I made it myself it was an epic fail because I used canned garbanzos. The falafel just fell apart when I went to fry them, but the second time I soaked my beans and they turned out perfect. Even my carnivore husband loved it. I hope to see you in the next round.

    -M, a fellow competitor

  2. says

    I LOVE Fafalel!! Love it! When I was pregnant I would make my husband go into Providence all the time to get some. I still have to go to Providence to get some when I crave it. I eat mine with baba ghanoush and lots of onions on flatbread. Seeing you photos has made me want to make some now. Yum. Thanks for the inspiration (and recipes!)

  3. says

    A friend of mine is always saying how much she loves Falafel and how we need to find a local place that has good falafel … I’ve sent her the link to this, and I’m picking up cilantro and tahini sometime by next week to try this since I have all the other ingredients! Yum!!

  4. says

    My family loves falafel but never done it from scratch. Thanks for the recipe, will sure to make this for my boys. (Not participating in PFB but having fun discovering blogs, you got my vote!)

  5. Janel says

    you just amaze me! now I have to make these too… but i need to get some tahini (and some more dried chickpeas since I already used mine up in the masala…)

  6. Elise says

    Oh man, I’ve never made or eaten falafel before but your description and photos have completely convinced me to make it for dinner sometime this week. Thanks a bunch and good luck in the contest – I voted for you!

  7. says

    Yum!! Falafel! I’ve never made this from scratch, thanks for the recipe! Good for you for sticking to your principles. You def have my vote. ;-)
    I can totally relate to the cooking with less meat more veggie fight. Sounds like my house. Oh,well, that’s what mom’s are for, keepin it healthy.

  8. Molly says

    I can’t wait to make these recipes. Falafel is one of my favorite things but I have never made it from scratch. Now I will! You’ve got my vote ;-)

  9. Nina says

    Waaah, I’m trying to vote you for this week’s challenge but I can’t seem to be able to find you on their page! I actually came to your site to check if you passed the first round… oh well, I guess I need to check that page more thoroughly…

  10. says

    Falafel is such a contradiction, a healthy ingredient list with an artery-clogging method of cooking. They basically cancel each other out, right? You’ve got our vote, best of luck this week!

    Also, I’ve discovered that kids will eat just about anything that’s deep-fried.

    Lick My Spoon

  11. Andrea says

    Made this the other night… turned out PERFECT!!! I was worried that the mixture was a little too ‘loose’ and was tempted to add alot more flour, glad I trusted you, and kept the recipe as is – they were great! Made them for the husband and parents, all round hit… will defs be making these again! And so cheap too!!

  12. Audrey says

    I made these last night–number one, they were fantastic and sooo cute. So last night I’m eating these and thinking they don’t seem very greasy or heavy or “fried,” I could see how she was saying that these were healthy. Well I got confirmation of that, because I am the world’s cheapest person, and so after frying the falafel I let the oil cool, strained it, and put it back in the bottle for next time. And there were only FOUR TABLESPOONS OF OIL MISSING! That would include all of the oil that drained out on to the paper towels and splashed around on my stovetop. And this recipe made enough for me to have lunches for a week. Not bad!

  13. says

    I made it tonight and it was delish! I made my own tahini too, as I couldn’t seem to find it in the stores and that made it even easier (and cheaper, how is tahini paste so expensive?). I toasted a couple Tbs of sesame seeds, blended them with sesame oil salt and water and presto! I also used my ice cream scoop to make the balls, which made them quick and cleanly! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  14. says

    I was just looking for a falafel recipe and came across your blog.
    First, why have I never made falafel?
    Second, I really like your blog! Keep up the great writing and recipes.
    I thank you for your inspiration.
    Falafel is on the menu for next week! Anticipation…

    • says

      I’ve made fritters with black beans and with black eyed peas using the same method and they’ve been delicious. I would say it takes it outside the moniker of falafel, but it is really tasty!

  15. Cheryl says

    My son is dating a veggie girl so came across this recipe. LOve loVE love it. Made for the second time tonite following recipe exactly. Thank you so much for sharing such a great recipe. You have turned a carnivore family to veggie nite once a week.

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