Perhaps the most iconic food of Israel, falafel is a street food classic: balls of chickpeas, and herbs deep-fried until crispy, then stuffed into a pita with salad and tahini. Here's how to make perfect Israeli-style falafel at home.Yum
The kids' book/movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was translated into Hebrew as geshem shel falafel, "It's Raining Falafel"—that's exactly how central and iconic falafel is to Israeli cuisine. Probably because it's available at any street stand or hole-in-the-wall eatery, not to mention ready made at the supermarket, falafel is not often made from scratch at home. It actually never occurred to me to make homemade falafel until I started writing, you know, an Israeli-centric food blog, which obviously could not exist without a stellar recipe for falafel. Well, after trial and tribulation, I am ready to welcome this outstanding falafel recipe to the family.
Ingredients for falafel
The main ingredient for Israeli falafel is chickpeas. (Arguably the original falafel was made with fava beans, and although Israel has love for favas, they don't have any place in Israeli falafel.) Other than that, the balls are made with onion, garlic, usually fresh green herbs (we're using both parsley and cilantro; the cilantro is optional), often carrot (as we're doing here), baking powder, salt, and two critical spices: cumin and turmeric. Just the cumin and turmeric along with the herbs and aromatics are what gives falafel its falafel-y flavor.
The Big Secret: Start with whole chickpeas and soak them well.
Well. Let me begin by telling you how not to make falafel. No matter how much it might seem like a good idea, you can't use canned chickpeas. Your innocent looking balls of falafel will fall apart into a million pieces in the hot oil and make you sad. Falafel must be made from raw, well-soaked chickpeas. And you know what else? That's the whole secret. You start with whole chickpeas, you soak 'em, you're golden. Golden brown and crispy and delicious.
How far in advance should you soak your chickpeas? If you want to make falafel for lunch, soak them overnight. If you want your falafel for dinner, soak them first thing in the morning. You want a soak of 8 hours or so, up to about 12. (And if you want falafel for breakfast, you're hardcore enough to sort that out.)
Layer and process the mixture
To get a good, even mixture going in your food processor, you want to layer the ingredients in two sets: first, chickpeas, carrots, herbs, onion, spices—then repeat. Once everything's in, turn on the machine and process to a medium-fine consistency. Your mixture will have texture in it from the raw chickpeas and veg, but a fine one. It should adhere easily when pressed. You can add up to 2 tablespoons of water if you need it to grind the mixture. I usually don't have to add any as the residual moisture left on the drained chickpeas is enough for my machine.
Fry your falafel
Falafel needs deep frying, so you'll need enough oil for the balls to float. You want to bring your oil up to 350F / 175C to fry them. (In the photos I'm using my compact deep fryer, which I adore. It's non-messy, non-smelly, doesn't use a lot of oil (about a liter / quart), and fries perfectly on my countertop. Highly recommend.)
When the oil is hot, form the falafel mixture into round balls about 1 ¼" / 3 cm in diameter, about the size of golf balls. Drop them in and cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden all over. You can take them out when they're medium-gold or darker golden, depending on your preference. The insides will be soft and the exteriors seriously crispy. I like to drain mine on a rack set over paper towels. The falafels will be completely dry to the touch this way and remain crisp.
Israeli Falafel (parve)
- Food processor fitted with metal blade
- 1 lb dried chickpeas - 500 g
- 1 small onion - coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves - peeled
- 1 medium carrot - peeled and coarsely chopped
- ½ cup parsley - packed
- ½ cup cilantro - packed, optional
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
Soak the chickpeas:
- Soak the chickpeas covered in water for 8-12 hours.
Prep the vegetables and spices:
- Peel and chop the onion and carrot. Peel the garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt, cumin, and turmeric.
Layer in the food processor and process:
- Layer in half the drained chickpeas, then the carrot, spices, garlic, and onion; repeat for the other half in the same order.
- Pulse to create a medium-fine-textured mixture, adding up to 2 tablespoons of water as needed to mix. The mixture should adhere easily when pressed together.
Shape and fry:
- Heat oil deep enough for the falafels to float to 350F/175C. When hot, shape the mixture into balls 1 ¼“ / 3 cm (the approximate size of golf balls). Drop into the oil and fry 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.