Falafel sandwiches are one of our favorite homemade “splurges”. We justify our indulgence by focusing on the nutritional content: protein-packed chickpeas with fresh veggies piled on a whole wheat flatbread.
Many home chefs shy away from preparing fried foods at home. There’s good reason behind the hesitation, hot oil requires proper care and supervision. However, I’m hear to tell you, beyond taking care with hot oil (something any adult is capable of), dragging out the food processor and soaking chickpeas overnight, there’s not much involved in making falafel at home. The key to the characteristic crunch of really great falafel is using presoaked dried chickpeas. DO NOT substitute canned. Made with canned chickpeas, the balls inevitably turn out mushy, lacking in texture and just plain disappointing.
Make sure your oil is hot before you fry the falafel balls – that way they’ll cook quickly and absorb less oil. Fried food often tastes overly oily simply because it’s been fried too long. Quick cooking results in a lighter falafel ball that’s better for us. To test the oil place a small ball into the pan – if the oil bubbles up quickly and fiercely the oil is hot enough. If you see just a few meager bubbles, wait a few more minutes before frying the batch. You can also lightly pan fry the balls then finish cooking in the oven. For truly authentic falafel though, deep frying is a must.
You’ll find dried chickpeas at Indian or Middle Eastern groceries or specialty markets like Whole Foods.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- ½ large onion, chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp toasted cumin
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 5 Tbsp flour
- Canola oil for frying
- Place chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with cold water by several inches, soak overnight. Drain.
- Place drained chickpeas, onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, red pepper and cumin in bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until blended into a meal, but not paste. Sprinkle with baking powder and flour and pulse several times to mix. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Form mixture into small balls (dust your hands with flour as needed so balls don’t stick to your hands).
- Heat about 1½ inches of oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Allow oil to heat for about 5 minutes.
- Test for readiness as in notes above. Carefully slide balls into the hot oil, one at a time, in a single layer in the pan. The trickiest point in frying comes when the balls are introduced to the oil. This is when the oil may splatter – so do take care. Fry until golden brown on one side, then carefully turn over with a slotted spoon and fry on the other side. Carefully remove from hot oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
- Serve on lavash (a middle eastern flat bread) or pita with tahini and harissa (middle eastern hot sauce) or hummus. Garnish with cucumber, onion and tomato cubes.
Note: Cool hot oil fully before removing from the pan. Carefully remove food particles and pour into a clean jar. Cover and place in cool, dark cupboard. Oil may be reused within a week or so, for similar frying needs.