Today is all about how to make falafel–hearty, healthy patties made of ground chickpeas, garlic, and lots of herbs! An authentic falafel recipe as prepared on the streets of the Middle East!
Ask anyone who grew up in the Middle East to explain what is falafel, and you might get a blank stare. Not out of lack of knowledge, but rather out of shock. This question to a Middle Eastern person would sound much like “what are hamburgers?” to a North American.
Falafel is a ubiquitous Middle Eastern “fast food.” In Egypt, it’s the people’s daily grub. In fact, there is a falafel shop or street vendor in almost every Egyptian neighborhood. Why? Because, to Egyptians, a day that does not include a little freshly fried falafel is simply not a productive day.
The sight of men carrying paper bags of falafel patties in one hand and a dozen fresh pitas in another, rushing to get home for breakfast, is fairly common in the streets of Egypt. And, it is just as likely to see a herd of young Egyptians gathered around a small falafel joint enjoying a little nighttime falafel sandwich.
This falafel recipe makes 24 patties, so it feeds a group of people on a budget! But for our little family, I decided to only deep-fry half of the falafel mixture and freeze the rest for another time (see recipe notes). You can eat falafel patties plain or dip them in your favorite tahini sauce. But, my favorite way to serve falafel is in a pita pocket with hummus, arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles.
ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: Falafel requires dried chickpeas. If you decide to use canned chickpeas, the falafel will completely disintegrate when fried.
Step-by-step tutorial for how to make falafel
Place the dried chickpeas and baking soda in a large bowl filled with water (water should cover the chickpeas by at least 2 inches). Let the chickpeas soak overnight for 16-18 hours (longer if the chickpeas are still too hard). When ready, drain the chickpeas completely and pat them dry.
Place the fresh leaves of parsley, cilantro and dill in a large food processor. Pulse to finely chop the herbs.
Now add the chickpeas, garlic and spices.
Run the food processor, 40 seconds at a time, until all is well combined forming a smooth falafel mixture.
Transfer the falafel mixture into a container and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until ready to fry (up to one night).
Just before frying, add the baking powder and sesame seeds to the falafel mixture and stir with a spoon.
Scoop tablespoonfuls of the falafel mixture and form into patties (1/2 inch in thickness each). It helps to have wet hands as you form the patties. Arrange the patties on a large platter.
Fill a medium saucepan 3 inches up with oil. Heat the oil on medium-high until it bubbles softly. Carefully drop the falafel patties in the oil, let them fry for about 3-4 minutes or until medium brown. Avoid crowding the falafel in the saucepan, fry them in batches if necessary.
Line a colander or plate with paper towels, and place the falafel patties on it to drain.
Serve falafel hot next to other small plates; or assemble the falafel patties in a pita pocket or wrap with hummus, arugula, tomato and cucumbers. Enjoy!
To bake instead: You can also bake these falafel patties. Simply place them on a large greased baking sheet and bake them in a 350 degree F heated oven for about 15-20 minutes turning them midway. I will say, I like my falafe better deep fried.
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