My secret recipe for the Best Authentic Chickpea Falafels, made with chickpeas, fresh herbs, onion, garlic and the right spices! You can fry them, bake them or pop in them in the freezer for another time.
History of chickpea falafels
Falafel is a Middle Eastern food with a long history in Arab countries, as well as ancient Israel. The word falafel may descend from the Arabic word falāfil, meaning “pepper.” These fried vegetarian falafels are often served along with hummus, tahini sauce and pitta bread. They’re also great served with Zhoug, a spicy Syrian herb sauce.
Legume fritters have existed in the Middle East for thousands of years. According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, “The first known appearance of legume fritters (aka falafel) in the Middle East appears to be in Egypt, where they were made from dried white fava beans (ful nabed) and called tamiya/ta-amia (from the Arabic for ‘nourishment’); these fritters were a light green color inside. Many attribute tamiya to the Copts of Egypt, who practiced one of the earliest forms of Christianity. They believed that the original state of humankind was vegetarian and, therefore, mandated numerous days of eating only vegan food, including tamiya.”
What are the ingredients for chickpea falafels
Dried chickpeas: AVOID using canned chickpeas! Dried chickpeas (that have been soaked in water for 24 hours) are an important ingredient that will give your falafel the right consistency and taste. (Chef's Tip: I usually add about ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water to help soften the dried chickpeas.)
Fresh herbs: fresh parsley, coriander and dill are key to this authentic recipe.
Onion: I typically use yellow onions, but white or red onions would work well also.
Garlic: for best flavor, use fresh garlic cloves.
Sea salt and pepper: to taste.
Spices: cumin, coriander, and a little cayenne pepper. Along with the fresh herbs, this trio of spices is what gives falafel it's bold authentic taste.
Baking powder: this is what gives falafel an airy, fluffy texture (many recipes skip this, causing the falafel to come out too dense.)
Sesame seeds: these are optional here, but I do like the added nuttiness and extra nutrition.
Health benefits of chickpea falafels
Chickpeas have been a staple protein crop for the Roman, Greek and Egyptian empires. To this day chickpeas are the foundation of many cuisines from India to parts of North Africa and the Mediterranean.
Chickpeas provide a good source of protein, along with complex carbohydrates, fats and minerals.
Read more about the nutritional content and health benefits of chickpeas on my ingredient blog.
How to Make Chickpea Falafels: Step-by-Step
1. Soak chickpeas for 24 hours. Cover them in plenty of water and add baking soda to help soften them as they soak. The chickpeas will at least double in size as they soak. Rinse and drain very well.
2. Make mixture. Add chickpeas, fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, and dill), garlic, onion, and spices to food processor and pulse a little bit at a time until the mixture is finely ground. You’ll know it’s ready when the texture is more like coarse meal and the mix comes together.
& Refrigerate (important.) Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. The chilled mixture will hold together better, making it easier to form the falafel patties.
3. Form patties or balls. Once the falafel mixture has been plenty chilled, stir in baking powder and toasted sesame seeds, then scoop golf ball-sized balls and form into balls or patties (if you go the patties route, do not flatten them too much, you want them to still be nice and fluffy when they're cooked.)
4. Fry. Frying is the traditional way to cook falafel and yields the most authentic and best result. Heat the oil on medium-high until it bubbles softly (your oil should be hot enough around 375 F / 190 C)
Carefully drop the falafel in the oil, using a slotted spoon, and fry for 3 minutes until medium brown on the outside. Avoid over-crowding the falafel; fry them in batches if necessary.
Tip: it's always a good idea to fry one falafel first to make sure the oil temperature does not need to be adjusted.
For baked chickpea falafels
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F / 190 degrees C and lightly oil a baking sheet. Give each patty a quick brush of extra virgin olive oil before baking; bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning the falafel patties over halfway through baking.
Make ahead and freezing
Prepared falafel mixture will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days ahead of time. Form it into patties when ready to fry. You can use your hands to roll into balls or if feeling adventurous you can try to do it like they do in the Middle East.
To freeze: Place uncooked falafel patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 1 hour. Once hardened, transfer the patties into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Falafel can be cooked from frozen by frying or baking.
Special Equipment you will need
- Magi mix style blender
- Deep fryer - or use a saucepan on the stove with a thermometer
Chef's Top Tips
1. Always use dry chickpeas. Dry chickpeas, that have been soaked in water for 24 hours, will give you the best texture and flavor. Dry chickpeas are naturally starchy and will help your falafels to stay well formed. If you use canned chickpeas, your falafel will disintegrate in the frying oil. Dried chickpeas are far healthier to use and cost ¼ the price of canned.
2. Chill the falafel mixture. Chilling for at least 1 hour helps with the shaping. You can make the falafel mixture one night in advance and chill overnight.
3. Add baking sida to the falafel mixture before forming into balls/patties. As a raising agent, baking soda here helps make the falafel fluffy on the inside.
4. Fry in hot oil, and do not crowd the saucepan. For perfectly crispy falafel, sadly, the best option is deep frying. The cooking oil should be hot, but not too hot that the falafel disintegrates. If you need to, use a deep fry-safe thermometer or temperature controlled deep-fat fryer; it should read around 375 degrees F / 190 C.
5. Use a good quality clean oil. I use either a rice bran or rapeseed oil for frying. It's a very quick fry so the falafel is not soaking and absorbing the oil for a long time. Drain on paper towel before serving
5- Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden and crispy. (Set a timer so you do not forget about them!) Once cooked, the falafel should be crispy and medium brown on the outside, fluffy and light green on the inside.
Why do my falafels fall apart?
There are a number of reasons why this may happen.
- Falafel mix is to dry - add a splash of liquid to get a nice consistency.
- Falafel mix is to wet - add a spoon of chickpea flour to bring it all together.
- Fryer oil is not hot enough - check temperature with thermometer.
What to serve with falafels?
Middle Eastern Style: On the streets of the Middle East, falafel are typically served hot with a generous amount of tahini sauce.
As a Sandwich: To make a delicious falafel sandwich, garb some warm pitta pockets, load them up with crispy falafels, drizzle with tahini and add fresh greens, fresh diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickles.
On a brunch board: Serve your falafels with an array of fresh veggies, salads and dips as part of a lunch time sharing platter.
Dip it: If you’re looking to dip your falafel, definitely try serving with Hummus or Baba Ganoush!
Let's get cooking
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Authentic Chickpea Falafel
- Weighing scales
- Mixing bowl
- Falafel press
- Deep fat fryer
To soak the chickpeas
- 250 g Chickpeas (500g after soaking)
- 1 teaspoon Baking soda
To make the falafels
- 20 g Parsley
- 20 g Coriander
- 20 g Dill
- 60 g Red onion
- 3 each Garlic cloves
- 1 each Green chili optional
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon Coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon Black pepper - ground
- 1 pinch Cayenne pepper to taste - be careful!
To finish - stir into the mix last thing
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- .5 each Lemon zest
- 2 teaspoon Pink salt to taste
- 20 g Sesame seeds
- Assemble all ingredients.
- Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water with the baking soda overnight in the fridge, or ideally 24 hours.
- Strain and rinse the chickpeas very well.
- Lightly toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns until fragrant. Blitz in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. (Otherwise you can use pre-ground coriander, cumin and black pepper)
- Add the chickpeas, washed herbs, onion, chili, garlic to blender and blend until smooth.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the spices and salt.
- Allow this mix to rest at least an hour or ideally - overnight.
- Before cooking: Add the lemon zest to freshen up the the mix, add baking powder for fluffiness and mix everything very well.
To shape falafels
- Form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop. I usually use about 2 tablespoon of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference.
- The falafel balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry.
- Heat the oil in a pan or deep fat fryer to 190 C / 375 F
- Deep fry the falafels in batches and cook until golden brown on the outside - approx 3 minutes.
- Drain on paper towel and serve straight away!
Chickpea Falafel Recipe Variations
- Beetroot falafel - add some grated beetroot to the blender prior to blending.
- Sweetcorn falafel - add some raw sweetcorn kernels to the blender prior to blending.
- Carrot falafel - add some grated carrot to the blender prior to blending.
- Turmeric falafel - add a spoon of turmeric powder to the blender prior to blending.
- Green curry falafel - add a spoon of green curry paste, lime leaf and Thai basil to the blender prior to blending.