Falafel – Street Food of the Levant

There are as many recipes for Falafel as there are ways to eat it. If you are unfamiliar with this Middle Eastern delicacy, think of it as hummus meets hush puppy. The base is usually fava beans or chickpeas (garbonzo beans) or a combination of both. Where I live fava beans are hard to come by, so I use a chickpea only version similar to Israeli traditional recipes. You may also want to check out Tita’s Hummus recipe and my Tabbouleh recipe– both go great with falafel.

I prefer to start with dried chickpeas. Like most dried beans these need to be soaked for several hours, preferably overnight. If you don’t have dried chickpeas or you decide last minute to make this you may substitute canned chickpeas but be careful as they turn to mush quickly in the food processor so don’t over do it. The other ingredient you might need pick up for this recipe is tahini. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It adds a unique flavor and is great as an ingredient in many sauces and recipes (hummus, salad dressing, stir fry, lots of good stuff). If you don’t have this in your cupboard it is worth getting a jar.

As you will see in the full recipe below this is not a complicated recipe, but it does require a food processor or blender. A deep fryer is helpful, but you can make this in a deep pan with about 2 inches of oil on Med-High heat if you don’t have a deep fryer.

One last tip before you delve into making this at home. When you are ready to form the falafel into balls for frying, make sure your hands are wet. It really helps to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. You can also cheat and use a cookie scoop if you don’t want to get messy.

Falafel – Street Food of the Levant

Falafel - Street Food of the Levant
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Category: Main Dish
Cuisine: Levantine

Falafel is chickpea based fritter with a texture similar to American hush puppies – crispy on the outside, soft in the middle. Serve in pita or rolled in flatbread garnished with lettuce, tomato or other fresh veggies. Add some tzatziki sauce and some hot sauce and you have a delicious meat free meal.

    For the Tatziki Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup plain low fat yogurt
  • 1/2 Cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cucumber – peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
    For the Falafel
  • 1 Cup dry chickpeas – soak in water 6-8 hours or overnight
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 2 Tbsp Tahini
  • 4 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cummin
  • 1/2 tsp ground corriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • oil for frying
  • 1 tomato, diced for garnish
  • 1 Cup shredded lettuce, for garnish
  • 4 pieces of pita bread, cut in halves

    For the Tzatziki Sauce
  1. Combine yogurt, mayo, diced cucumber, dill, salt and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  2. Stir well, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. I found this sauce gets better with more time in the fridge to let the flavor develop. I often make it the day or morning before we have falafel for dinner.
    For the Falafel
  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water
  2. In a blender or food processor combine chickpeas, onion, parsley, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, cummin, corriander, red pepper and baking powder. I Like to alternate layers as I fill the food processor – 1/2 of each ingredient then repeat. This helps to speed up the blending and insures a good even mix.
  3. Pulse the food processor in short bursts, scraping down the sides as needed until it starts to form a lose dough. It should still be a little grainy, but fine enough to stick together and form balls for frying.
  4. Transfer the dough from the food processor to a medium bowl. If the dough is to soft/wet to easily form a ball add a little flour and stir by hand to thicken. If it is too dry to hold together add a little more tahini and stir by hand.
  5. Preheat oil for frying to 375° F
  6. Form the dough into 1 inch balls by hand and gently place into hot oil in small batches (4-6 at a time). You can also use a cookie scoop.
  7. Fry until deep brown and crisp, about 5 minutes
  8. Remove from fryer and place on paper towel to drain
  9. Serve in pita bread or flat bread with lettuce, tomato and tzatziki sauce

If you are forming the falafel by hand it help to wet your hands with water first, it helps to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. You can substitute 3 cups of canned chickpeas if you don’t have dried chickpeas, or don’t have time to soak them.

Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Yield: 8 servings
Serving Size:2 falafel balls
Calories per serving:334.7 kcal
Fat per serving:28.43 g
Saturated fat per serving:3.27 g
Carbs per serving:17.87 g
Protein per serving:4.25 g
Fiber per serving:2.54 g
Sugar per serving:2.11 g
Sodium per serving:322.22 mg
Trans fat per serving:0.06 g
Cholesterol per serving:6.55 mg
Nutrition label for Falafel - Street Food of the Levant