I have a major falafel thing. We have a middle eastern takeout restaurant that we frequent and I always get the falafel sandwich. A chatty, heavily accented guy dips into the batter with a special scoop and drops the spiced chickpea mixture into sizzling oil. When they are deeply golden brown, he lifts them out and smashes them on the counter before stuffing them into a soft pita.
It’s not something I frequently make at home, but last week I was shopping my pantry – something I’ve been trying to do more of in aspects of my life (you know, read the books you already own, wear the clothes in your closet, use the food in your pantry) – and I came across a near-empty bag of dried chickpeas.
I remembered when my sister-in-law was here and we had soaked more chickpeas than we needed for a chickpea curry, she said she’d use the extras to make falafels. That never ended up happening, but that’s what inspired me.
They’re way easier than you think. You just soak chickpeas – no need to precook – and throw them in the food processor with garlic, onion and a handful of herbs. Baking powder helps them to gain loft in the oil and become fluffy. Then a quick chill in the fridge while your oil preheats.
I didn’t bust out my deep fryer for this, I just used a deep saucepan and worked in batches. I used a thermometer to check the oil temperature to provide accuracy in the recipe, but you don’t really need to use one. Just flick a small piece of bread in the oil – if it floats and sizzles, the oil is hot enough.
Serve your falafel with whatever you fancy – I like tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, pickled beets, hot sauce, garlic sauce and tahini sauce. Leftovers are great cold in sandwiches or to top salads, but you can reheat them in the oven or more quickly in the microwave (but oven definitely preferred for crispiness).
Crispy Falafel with Lemon-Tahini Sauce
- 8 oz dried chickpeas soaked overnight
- 1/2 medium onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
- 1 thai green chile
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Canola or peanut oil for frying
- Pita bread for serving
- Accompaniments as desired: chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, tabbouleh, mint, parsley, cilantro, hot sauce, garlic sauce (Toum - recipe linked above), pickled beets, shredded lettuce, toum, pickled banana peppers, etc.
- Combine chickpeas, onion, garlic, herbs, salt and baking powder in a food processor; process until mixture resembles a fine meal (but stop before it reaches a puree). Refrigerate mixture 15 minutes.
- Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a deep saucepan or wok while falafel mixture chills. When oil reaches 375ºF (or a small piece of bread dropped in floats and sizzles), scoop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls and form into balls. Use a slotted metal spoon to gently slide falafel into the hot oil in batches of 5-6 at a time. Fry for about 4 minutes, until deep golden brown, turning a couple of times during cooking. Remove with the same slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Serve falafel in pita bread with sauce and desired accompaniments.