Even if you’re not a falafel fan, you’ll love this Soft and Delicious Authentic Falafel – a great vegetarian staple even meat lovers will enjoy! Falafel the way it should be…
This soft and Delicious Authentic Falafel recipe is spot on. During the journey to refine this recipe, I’ve learned multiple things about how to make a desirable fluffy, tender, and moist falafel. Keep reading and you’ll learn everything that I have. And, if you’ve got more tips to make this even better, please reach out and let me know!
What is Falafel?
If you haven’t had it or don’t know anything about falafel, it’s Mediterranean/Middle Eastern street food, that’s naturally gluten free! In a nutshell, falafel is a combination of rehydrated chickpeas and/or broad beans, also known as fava beans, herbs, spices, and lemon juice ground together then deep fried. Good falafel hardly needs any extra sauce at all other than a little bit of tahini or hot sauce. Its origins generally are accredited to the Egyptian Copts approximately 1,000 years ago, but like with any good food, there are always naysayers.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had plenty of bad falafel and a few good ones. It’s funny how the memory of a great falafel will give you hope when you order it in a new place, but then it quite often ends up being a dry lump of chickpeas. Falafel was usually a menu item I often ignored. But after going to a local joint called Jaffa Restaurant in Roswell, GA , I found one of the greatest falafels I’ve ever had and embarked on a quest of my own…
Of course that new recipe idea went on the dry erase board with about 40 other potential candidates… That was until my wife brought home a falafel mix from Trader Joes! Normally I enjoy Trader Joe’s products, but after eating those, I realized I’d probably get more enjoyment eating the cardboard box they came in!
The Keys Are In The Chickpeas
Let’s start with the base of the recipe… No, not cardboard – but chickpeas!!! Dried chickpeas, not canned ones… please, do not use canned chickpeas or your falafel will turn to mush. Reason being, canned chickpeas are already cooked. Cooked chickpeas mean the starches within them have already bled out and now they’re too soft. Think about it, if you hold a canned chickpea between two fingers and press down, it turns to mush and mush is exactly what you’ll get. Those are great for making hummus, though!
Dried chickpeas are the one and only option (well, you can probably use fresh green chickpeas, but I have zero experience with that). First, start off with the oxymoron of fresh, dried chickpeas… The bag of dried ones accumulating dust in the back of your cupboard or the grocery store’s shelf can be used for a stew, but not for falafel. Over time, like anything, the chickpeas lose their ability to full absorb water – and the first step in this recipe is to soak the beans! After soaking for 12-16 hours, you want your chickpeas to double in size and be ready for the grind.
In regards to which chickpeas to buy, I generally use Goya or La Preferida brands. With that said, there are tons of brands such as Palouse proclaiming non-gmo, organic, heirloom, etc… I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re better, but I haven’t actually tried them. I’m a little falafeled out, but I’ll test these with my next batch.
I never thought I’d have this much to say on chickpeas.
Herbs Also Make Delicious Authentic Falafel
Next up on making a great falafel are the fresh herbs! You really can’t use too much of them. Avoid using dried herbs as they don’t have the same fresh vibrance. I used a mix of 50% parsley, 25% mint, and 25% cilantro in this recipe. Definitely keep mint lower in the ratio of herbs as it can be quite pungent and overpowering of the rest of the flavors. Also, considering that it’s all going to get liquified, feel free to leave the stems on.
To Deep Fry or Not To Deep Fry: That’s Not a Question
For this Soft and Delicious Authentic Falafel, I recommend frying the falafel in oil. Yes, you can definitely air fry or bake them, but in my trials they come out a bit dry and not as crunchy on the outside. Another option is to form your falafel into patty shapes and pan fry it. Considering the increased surface area and heat, they take less time to cook than air frying or baking. That decreased cooking time also allows for the falafel to retain its moisture. But realistically, for that perfectly crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, I recommend you fry them in about a half inch of high heat oil (such as grapeseed or avocado oil) until brown, then flip them. The whole process takes about 5 minutes of frying.
Your falafel dough should come out very light and fluffy. You want your dough to be homogenous. If you’re seeing chunks of chickpeas, herbs, or onions, then keep on processing or blending until there are no more. The first time I made it, I was quite sure the dough would hit the oil and break apart. Fear not, the starches from the chickpeas act as a binder keeping it intact.
Emulsifying Your Soft and Delicious Authentic Falafel
Let me tell you, blending or food processing the mix is a bit of a pain… Because you don’t mix in any liquids, you will have to take the cover off the processor and occasionally “unstick” the dough in the beginning. Once all the chickpea particles, herbs, and onion are small enough, the dough should almost blend through like a thick milkshake. One trick I found to somewhat alleviate the food processor traffic jams is to start by liquifying the herbs, garlic, onion, and lemon juice first, then adding the beans. It’ll help lubricate the chickpeas as they’re getting pulverized.
You Don’t Need Big Balls
Another important trick I’ve learned is regarding the falafel size. You don’t want your falafel balls to be too large or the insides won’t cook all the way through. Keep each falafel ball to around 1.5 Tablespoons. This allows for the inside to cook just enough while allowing the outside to get that crisp texture. If your falafel balls are too large, you’ll get the crispness on the outside, but the inside will dry out before the center is fully cooked. I used a cookie dough scoop to keep the size and shape uniform.
Tips and Tricks For Soft and Delicious Authentic Falafel
Falafel is best fresh… I hate to tell you this, but reheated falafel isn’t nearly as exciting… But, if you’re really, really… and I mean really in a pinch, either bake it at 400°F in the oven for 6-7 minutes or airfry it for 3-4 minutes, don’t forget to give the falafel a spritz of oil before reheating.
Good News: Your uncooked falafel dough will keep for 3 days in the fridge! It could be longer, but I’ve tested it in up to three days and the dough was still fantastic.
The oil matters… You want the oil temperature to be minimally 350°F, but preferably closer to 375°F. With that said, it’s getting close to the smoking point of many oils. For that, I use a neutral high heat oil like grapeseed or avocado oil to avoid all the smoking and getting the most flavor
Call your gluten-free vegan friends over, because you FINALLY have something to serve them! Just don’t give them the garlic sauce, unless you use vegan mayo and yogurt.
Many recipes call for leavening ingredients such as baking soda or baking powder… If you’re looking for a bit more of a “muffin” texture, then go for it… But realistically, the best falafels are made without, trust me I made the mistake over and over again. I went back to Jaffa Restaurant in Roswell, talked with the owner and she let me in on her not-so-secret secret.
The Garlic Yogurt (Shawarma) Sauce with Soft and Delicious Authentic Falafel
Yes, I know… I said that good falafel only needs a little tahini and hot sauce. That said, if you get a good falafel shawarma or wrap, it’s generally served with a yogurt garlic sauce. In my opinion, I like this as much, if not more than tahini and hot sauce! It’s fresh and garlicky with a bit of tang… What’s not to like?