Like a lot of young professionals, when quarantine started I missed the routine of leaving the office at lunch to pick up something delicious for lunch. I had a good habit of bringing lunch in a couple times a week, but with so many different local restaurants near my office to choose from I loved trying new things when I could. The one I miss the most often is Pita Thyme, a local Lebanese lunch spot that makes fresh fattoush salad, delicious spicy potatoes and the best falafel. I also missed spontaneous dinners out and was dreaming about the crispy falafel burger at the South End Buttery.
Falafel is the type of recipe that inspired this blog. I have ordered it at restaurants for years but I had no idea how to make it. It seemed intimidating – soaking, processing, shaping, deep frying – it is not a quick weeknight meal. But once Alex and I started making it we found ways to make it easier, faster, and healthier (if you want). My crispy falafel will never stand up to the more authentic version I could get at Pita Thyme, but it’s a great way to have a favorite food at home.
Mostly this is because crispy falafel freezes well, and the measurements actually work more easily if you’re making a big batch. Besides some extra time shaping, making more doesn’t add any additional work. Alex and I make a bunch of falafel but only fry or bake the ones we plan to eat right away. The rest get frozen and stored for later, and can be fried, air fried or baked from frozen for an easy lunch or dinner all week. We eat these falafel burgers with tzatziki, harissa sauce, feta cheese, and our mixed veggies from the thai chicken salad.
Preparing the Chickpeas
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are the base of our crispy falafel. We use dried chickpeas in our recipe because they are extremely inexpensive and we can infuse more flavor into them. Admittedly, it means you need to be planning ahead of time to make the falafel. There are other blogs that have tested recipes for falafel made with canned chickpeas, like this one from Gimme Some Oven. If you have canned chickpeas on hand or forgot to soak yours and need to speed the process us a bit, I’m sure our process would work with a little adjustment.
Soak the chickpeas starting 24 hours before you plan to use them. Measure out two cups of dried chickpeas and put them in either a large glass bowl with a cover or a saucepan. Cover them in water so that there is at least 3 inches of water above the beans. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (I learned this trick from the Mediterranean Dish!).
Making the Falafel Mix
In a large food processor, add a whole red onion peeled and quartered, 3-4 garlic cloves, 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, tahini, lemon juice, salt and cumin. Pulse until evenly mixed. Add chickpeas, one cup at a time, and continue to pulse until all chickpeas are incorporated. Add olive oil and pulse again.
The mix should not get so smooth that it resembles hummus, but it will be almost a paste.
Transfer falafel mix into a large mixing bowl and fold in panko and sesame seeds.
I recommend testing the falafel before you move on to make sure the flavors are balanced. I do this by heating a bit of olive oil in a small frying pan and frying a 1 tablespoon scoop of the mix. If the mix tastes a bit flat, try adding a bit more salt or lemon juice. If you want to add more onion, parsley, or garlic, just pulse it on its own in the food processor and fold it into the mix.
Form the mix into either small rounds to make more traditional falafel fritters or into crispy falafel burgers.
Three Cooking Methods
Traditionally, falafel is deep fried. That’s what gives it the crisp, dark outer shell that gives way to the vibrant and soft inside. I have to admit, we love frying our falafel. Since we eat it with tons of vegetables and light dressings like yogurt-based tzatziki, I don’t feel too guilty about it.
We fry the falafel in a cast iron or deep walled frying pan using olive oil. Heat the oil on medium-high heat until it is almost shimmering on top. You can test if it is hot enough by dropping a small bit of mix in. If it bubbles up around the mix, you’re good to go.
Using a slotted spoon, slowly lower the falafel into the oil making sure not to overcrowd the pan.
Cook the falafel for roughly 4 minutes on each side, until deep brown. Allow to drain on a paper towel before serving.
This process doesn’t change if you are cooking from frozen, but be careful putting the frozen falafel into the hot oil as it will likely splatter.
Pre-heat your oven to 325°. Oil a baking sheet using olive oil or olive oil spray, and bake falafel for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway. The falafel should be browned on both sides. If baking from frozen add a few minutes to the bake time.
We air fry these all the time from frozen, and it works great. Trying to air fry them fresh usually leads to broken falafels, but if you’re on a low calorie or low fat diet give it a try. Cook on high for 20 minutes, carefully flipping halfway through.
Our recipe was developed using dried chickpeas, which we prefer. They are inexpensive and when you cook them you can infuse them with more flavor than the canned variety. Canned chickpeas aren’t recommended for falafel, as they make the mix too wet and more likely to fall apart during cooking. However, if you’re in a pinch we think you could make it work by adjusting the other liquids, upping the amount of panko, and considering a binder like an egg.Print
This crispy falafel can be prepped in large batches and eaten in pitas or as burgers with veggies, feta, and tzatziki sauce.
- 2 c dried chickpeas, soaked
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, destemmed
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 T Olive oil, plus more for frying
- 75 g Tahini
- 2 T Sesame seeds
- 1.5 T Cumin
- 1 T Salt + to taste
- 1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
- Drain and rinse your chickpeas and set aside.
Add onion, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and parsley to the food processor and pulse until evenly incorporated. Add about a cup of chickpeas, then a drizzle of 2 T olive oil and 75 g tahini, followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Continue slowly adding the chickpeas while pulsing the mixture in order to evenly incorporate the beans. Avoid over-processing or you;ll end up with hummus!
Turn the mixture into a large mixing bowl and fold in salt, panko, and sesame seeds.
Chill the mixture for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in your cast iron or nonstick skillet until shimmery OR preheat your oven or air fryer to 425.
Shape falafel mix into small rounds or burger patties. If frying, the patties take about 3-4 minutes on each side until dark brown. In both the oven and the air fryer, the patties will cook for roughly 20 minutes, and benefit from a flip halfway through.
Batch: Cook up only the falafel you plan on eating right away. The rest can be stored in one of two ways:
Store raw mixture in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Form and cook individual servings on demand through the week.
Form all of the remaining mix into patties and lay out on a baking sheet covered in a silpat. Freeze flat, and when they are solid they can be tossed into a gallon ziploc and kept in the freezer for months! Cook individually following the same instructions as when fresh, but add a couple extra minutes to the cook time.
For serving: We love these in a pita or on a bun with tzatziki, feta, and the mixed veggies from our thai salad. Show us how you served these by tagging us on Instagram @seasaltcouple!