Monday, May 23, 2011

Making Falafel from Scratch

Greetings again, friends and fellow foodies! It seems like forever since I've written a blog post. As they say, "Life happens," and sometimes we get called away. My time in the kitchen has been drastically reduced as of late, due to all of my attention being focused on other things. Now, upon their completion, I find myself a bit peckish and in the mood for something new.

My wife Kat recently purchased a large sack of dried chick peas to make hummus with (for Kat's recipe, click here) and that seemed like a good place to start. One of the earliest cultivated vegetables, these large roundish legumes are also known as garbanzo beans. They are used in a variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, and one of the most popular is falafel. 

I have eaten falafel on a few occasions and thought it was okay. Most of the time that I'd tried it, if not every time, it was made from a mix. Now I'm sure that there may be some mixes out there that are good but those that I tried were not that impressive. How hard could it be to make them from scratch? The answer - not hard at if you have a food processor!

Making falafel takes a little time. The end result is worth it, though, so it's best to be patient and not to rush the process. I started by soaking the beans. They must be soaked for at least 8 hours. I used:
2 c dried garbanzo beans
enough water to cover the beans by a couple inches
After 8-10 hours of soaking, I drained the beans real good. Taking out the food processor, I placed in the bowl with the chopper blade the following ingredients:
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
5 - 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 c flat leaf parsley
1 c cilantro leaves
1/2 t red pepper flakes
a squeeze of lemon juice
I processed everything real well, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure the onions and garlic were chopped well. This didn't take anymore than 30 seconds or so. Scraping out the food processor bowl into a large mixing bowl, I returned the bowl to the machine.and added in the garbanzo beans. I processed them until the beans were finely ground, not too fine but fine enough to where there were no large chunks of bean visible when I sifted through it. I added the ground beans to the mixing bowl with the onion/parsley mixture.
I've found that to get the best flavored falafel (or anything else, for that matter), it is best to use whole coriander and cumin seeds. I take a tablespoon of each and toast them in a small cast iron skillet I have. Toasting them only takes a couple minutes - you can hear the seeds crackle when they're done. Using a mortar and pestle, I grind the seeds into powder. Doing this takes a little extra time but the flavor difference is out of this world! It is very definitely worth the effort to do this if you can.
(Note: coriander seeds tend to grind down a bit more than cumin seeds. If you are grinding whole seeds, use a tablespoon of each. If you are using pre-ground spices, use the measurements below.)
In a separate small bowl, I sifted together:
3/4 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 T kosher salt
1 T ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
1 t fresh ground black pepper
I whisked together the flour and spices and added them to the large mixing bowl. I mixed everything in the bowl real well, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl real well to incorporate all the ingredients. Once combined, I covered the bowl and refrigerated it for a few hours. It actually gets better after about 6 hours but it must rest for at least 2 hours! Impatience here is highly imprudent! I find that the falafel mix is best after sitting for at least 12 hours, and have kept it in the fridge for a couple of days.
To cook the falafel, take a large pan and heat a good amount to vegetable oil 350°. It is not recommended to use a deep fryer, as that may cause the falafel to fall apart. Roll the falafel into balls about 1-1/2" in diameter. If the dough is too wet, squeeze out any excess moisture. Flatten each ball slightly and cook in hot oil until dark brown on each side. Drain them on paper towels and NOM!

Falafel is best with a good sauce so in the downtime can be used to make one. Here is Kat's recipe for Tzatziki Sauce. Place in a food processor bowl:
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 c fresh mint leaves (or 2 T dried)
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 t salt
Process until the ingredients are fine. Place in a bowl and stir in:
1-1/2 c plain yogurt
1-1/2 t lemon juice
Mix well and refrigerate until you're ready to eat.

There you have it! Fresh, made from scratch, falafel. One hint to remember, make sure you dry your parsley and cilantro real well after washing it, before you put it in the food processor. You want to be sure to eliminate any excess moisture so your falafel doesn't turn out too watery. Don't forget, this recipe turns out the best if you take your time and let it rest before cooking. I've also discovered that letting it rest reduces and even eliminates any gassy side effects from the chick peas. A reward for your patience!



  1. I did NOT seed the cucumber. That would be silly extra work and I am lazy. Just peel and blend; it works fine.

  2. I stand corrected.