Pearl's Ultimate Falafel Recipe


I think I had a few falafels when I was in college. They were ok. But strangely enough, it wasn't until 25 years later in a small campground tucked away in the northeast corner of Arizona, that I really got hooked. Our family was traveling with our good friends the Jordans and one night upon returning to our campsite after a long hike with all of the kids, Mary and Pete made an amazing falafel dinner. Out of the cooler came boxes of pre-made thawed falafels. They fired up the Coleman camp stove and within 15 minutes, mmmm, warm, crispy falafels and all the fixings - cucumber slices, olives, red onions, tahini sauce and of course pita bread.  I loved the contrasting textures and flavors. Falafels that were crispy on the outside and soft inside; crunchy cucumbers and red onions; smooth, tangy tahini sauce. The kids loved them too. Everything was scarfed down. I wanted more.

When we got home a couple of weeks later, I went to the store and bought one of those boxed falafel mixes where you just add water. Woohoo, I was excited that I actually made falafels, but pleeze, I was not feeling the love, not like our camping falafels. And, I don't know if this was worse, but the boxed mix hardly made enough to feed our family of five. I wanted more.

I don't know why I had such a major brain freeze, but at some point I realized just like with mac & cheese, you don't have to make it from a box. You can make it from scratch.

So, I found lots of recipes online and in cookbooks. And I made lots of falafels. I created a little spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets!) and compared my favorite recipes and tinkered and fiddled around and voila! own ultimate falafel recipe. The key for me was including fava beans. With fava beans, the falafels taste richer, meatier, plus they are a beautiful bright yellow-green.

Fresh fava beans are available in the spring at farmers' markets or specialty, ethnic markets. There's a bit of work involved as you will need to shell the beans, boil them for a minute or so and then after draining and cooling, peel the outer skin. An easier way is to buy them frozen. You can find fava beans, also called broad beans, in the freezer section of Asian markets. Buy the bags labelled "peeled" for super ease of use. If you can't find peeled fava beans, you can always buy them unpeeled and do the peeling yourself.
Finally, for me, a falafel sandwich isn't complete without my favorite tahini sauce. Recipe at the end of this post!

Pearl's Ultimate Falafel Recipe
Serves 8-10

Combine all ingredients below in food processor and process until it forms a paste. Do not over process into a smooth batter. Batter should be grainy, speckled w/herbs and a shade of pistachio green. Taste for salt
 1 cup dried chickpeas, covered & soaked in water 24 hrs, then drained
 2c fresh fava beans or frozen, thawed overnight in refrigerator
½ c chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2c  parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Refrigerate for about 1 hr, until firm.  

Pour canola oil into a heavy skillet to a depth of about 1/8" and heat over medium heat. Do the sizzle test: flick a drop or two of water into the skillet. If the water droplets sizzle, the skillet is ready. 
Using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, place small balls of falafel batter into the skillet. Flatten with the back of the spoon or a spatula. Fry until golden brown, then flip and fry other side.  

Adjust heat if necessary to prevent burning. Remove and place onto paper towel-lined plate. Continue frying in batches, adding additional oil as needed.

Serve with any of the following:

tahini sauce (see below)
pita bread 
cucumber slices
tomato slices
sliced red onion
pitted olives

You can also bake the falafels. Preheat oven to 400°F. Shape falafel batter into patties or balls, placing on lightly greased baking sheet. Brush falafels with oil. Bake for 10 minutes or so, then flip or roll and bake for five or so minutes more. 

Best Tahini Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

In a 3-cup capacity glass jar with lid, fill with: 
1c tahini paste, stirred well before using
1/4 – 1/2 c lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2c water
Cover with lid and shake until smooth; add extra water if needed to make a pourable sauce. 


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