This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
Falafel is the signature dish of the Middle East. In the past decade, the fascination and craze for falafel has spread globally.
Authentic falafel are made of just a few simple ingredients. The truth is that it’s much easier to make than you’d probably think! Once you know the secret behind the best falafel, you’ll surely never stop making them.
Learn how to make authentic Middle Eastern falafel with this step-by-step falafel recipe. In addition to traditional deep-fried falafel, I’ll also share with you how to air-fry and oven-bake falafel.
What is Falafel?
Falafel is a hugely popular snack originating in the Middle East. They are made of chickpeas, lots of fresh herbs and a few seasonings. They are most commonly shaped as balls and deep-fried.
In the Middle East, falafel is a popular breakfast, along with hummus, pita bread and other mezze. If you aren’t into hearty foods in the morning, you can very well enjoy it for lunch or dinner too. Additionally, they make a great snack on-the-go, be it in a delicious falafel sandwich or as part of a salad.
Authentic falafel only need a few simple ingredients. They are naturally vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. There are some recipes out there that suggest adding flour but I assure you that the best falafel recipe doesn’t need any flour to become so crispy and delicious!
You’ll need the following ingredients for this falafel recipe.
- Dried Chickpeas: I cannot repeat this enough: for the best falafel recipe you have to use dried chickpeas! These need to be soaked overnight (at least for 12 hours, ideally for 20-24 hours). After soaking the chickpeas, you can directly use them (no need to cook them). Please don’t use canned chickpeas. The latest are precooked and too soft. The falafel balls won’t hold together (unless you use flour, which spoils the taste) and won’t be crispy.
- Fresh Cilantro and Parsley: Ideally, you’ll use a combination of fresh cilantro and fresh parsley. Although they look similar, they taste differently and will give your falafel a great flavour. However, if you don’t like cilantro, just double the amount of parsley instead.
- Onion: Most recipes suggest that you add a small amount of (yellow) onion. The onion is blended together with the chickpeas and herbs. It doesn’t really affect the taste of the Falafel. However, I do feel it adds a little bit to the texture. If you dislike onions, you can omit it and still get great Falafel.
- Garlic: Use garlic cloves instead of powdered garlic. Simply peel, cut off the ends and add to the food processor. If you follow the quantities mentioned in this recipe, your falafel will have a subtle garlic taste. You can add more or less garlic according to your likings.
- Ground Cumin and Coriander: Ground cumin and ground coriander are hugely popular spices in Middle Eastern cuisine. Make sure to use ground cumin instead of cumin seeds to get the full flavour. You can find both spices online as well as in most Middle Eastern grocery stores.
- Baking Soda: The baking soda will give the falafel mixture a final touch to their irresistible tender and slightly fluffy texture. Baking soda is added to the mixture (mixture of crumbled chickpeas and herbs), together with the ground coriander and cumin.
- Salt: Most falafel recipes contain a pinch of salt. Don’t worry, the amount of salt in this recipe is quite low. However, if you’ve cut salt from your diet, you can omit the salt.
- Oil for Frying: Falafel are traditionally fried in vegetable oil. The most popular oil is sunflower oil. If you’re looking for a low-calorie recipe, you can also airfry or bake them instead. Carry on reading to learn more about how to make falafel.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Falafel?
There are multiple methods to make falafel. Firstly, the traditional method suggests deep-frying in oil (in a pan, pot or fryer). Additionally, you can also airfry them or bake them in the oven.
1. Deep-Fried Falafel
Deep frying will undoubtedly make the best falafel, ultra crispy on the outside and irresistibly tender on the inside. You can shape the falafel into balls when following this method as they will easily cook all the way through. To reduce the calories from the oil, transfer onto a double layer of kitchen paper after frying (the kitchen paper will absorb any excess oil).
2. Air-Fried Falafel
Air fryers are a (relatively) new method of making falafel (our grandma’s didn’t have one). When air frying, it’s best to shape them into flat patties, not balls. Spray the bottom of the airfryer with olive oil (to avoid sticking). Afterwards, place the patties into the airfryer, and spray with a thin layer of olive oil as well. Air fryer falafel will be lower in calories compared to frying in oil. Actually, air fried falafel is my second preferred option (sorry, nothing beats the authentic falafel). Air fried falafel have a better texture than oven-baked falafel.
3. Oven-Baked Falafel
If you’d like a low-calorie recipe and don’t have an airfryer, you can also bake them in the oven. Oven-baked falafel are best when shaped into flat patties (not balls). Place on a tray covered with baking paper and spray with a thin layer of olive oil. Bake at 190 °C (375 °F) for 15 minutes, flip around and bake for another 15 minutes. The falafel will be golden brown on both sides and slightly crispy when baking in the oven.
Falafel Recipe (Step-by-Step)
Step 1: Soak the chickpeas
While hummus and some other Arabic chickpea dishes work well with canned chickpeas, authentic falafel require dried chickpeas. Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and add at least triple the quantity in cold water. Soak overnight (at least 12 hours, better 20-24 hours).
Step 2: Drain and rinse
The chickpeas will double in size by the next day. Drain them in a colander and rinse well. Add to the blender. Don’t boil the chickpeas! Just add them to the blender after soaking and draining.
Step 3: Peel a garlic clove
Peel a garlic clove, cut off the ends, chop and add to the blender.
Step 4: Prepare onion, cilantro and parsley
It’s important when using fresh parsley and cilantro to not use the thick stems. Use a kitchen knife to trim off the large stems at the bottom of the bunch. It’s okay to use the small stems between the leaves. Add the leaves to the blender along with the chickpeas and garlic you’ve prepared. Peel an onion, roughly chop and add to the blender too.
Step 5: Blend
Blend all ingredients for about 4-5 minutes. Since the chickpeas weren’t boiled, blending them won’t result in a uniform, creamy purée but rather a blended mix with small bits of chickpeas throughout. If you have a small blender, it’s best to blend in multiple batches (always include chickpeas with some cilantro/parsley). Make sure that all the ingredients are finely blended (without large chunks of chickpeas or cilantro/parsley left).
Step 6: Add spices
Transfer the chickpeas mixture into a mixing bowl. Add ground cumin, ground coriander, salt and baking soda and stir well (using your hands or a spoon). Cover the mixture and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Pro tip: you can optionally add a few sesame seeds to your falafel mixture. I’ve seen that in Egypt and it was pretty good! It’s less common in Jordan, but it definitely adds a slightly nutty note to your dish.
Step 7: Shape the falafel
Now starts the fun part, making the falafels! The most common method is to shape them into round patties or circular balls. If you are making them in a pan, the best shape is round patties as this requires less oil compared to balls. For each patty, use about 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Use a falafel scoop or your hands to form balls.
Step 8: Fry
Heat oil in a deep fryer or a frying pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
Step 9: Serve
Remove the falafels from the oil and transfer onto a serving plate. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley leaves (optionally).
When to Eat Falafel
You might be surprised to hear that falafel is actually a breakfast. In the Middle East, breakfast is usually hearty. It used to be the most important meal of the day, followed by lunch. With a busy office life, people usually enjoy a heavy breakfast or lunch on weekends. However, you’ll find falafel shops and market stands selling falafel from the morning hours.
If you’re not into hearty food in the morning, you can perfectly have falafel for lunch or dinner instead.
How to Eat Falafel
Falafel is traditionally a Middle Eastern street food. That said, it’s often eaten as a sandwich on the go. In restaurants, they’ll serve falafel on a small plate or bowl alongside other mezze. You can eat them by hand. Grab with Arabic bread, dip in hummus and enjoy!
What to Serve with Falafel
Falafel is a very versatile dish and there are countless ways to serve it.
Traditionally, falafel is part of a mezze platter. Mezze is a Middle Eastern concept similar to the Spanish tapas. It basically means a platter with an array of food. On a mezze platter, it’s most commonly served with hummus, pita bread, olives and fresh vegetables.
When eating falafel as a main dish, serve them as part of a sandwich (wrapped in pita bread) or on top of a green salad.
A few ideas on how what to eat with falafel:
- Pita bread (Pocket bread, great to make Falafel wrap)
- Hummus (Middle Eastern chickpea dip)
- Labneh (strained yoghurt)
- Salad (Add falafel to a simple green salad. You can pair with a delicious falafel sauce)
Make Ahead & Storage
Falafel mixture can be stored for 1-2 days in the refrigerator. However, the baking soda should be added only prior to frying. If you’re preparing a large batch of falafel mixture to make over several days, omit the baking soda and add it about an hour before you fry them.
Falafel is best enjoyed warm, immediately after frying. It’s not a dish that you’d typically prepare ahead of time. However, you don’t need to throw away any leftovers. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 1-2 days. You can reheat falafel in the microwave or in oil. You can also eat falafel cold. Be sure that they are at least at room temperature.
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
Falafel (Middle Eastern)
- 200 g (1 cup) dried chickpeas
- 0.5 bunch cilantro
- 0.5 bunch parsley flat
- 1 onion yellow, small
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 0.5 tsp salt
- Oil for frying
- Soak the chickpeas in water (1:3) for at least 12 hours, better for 20-24 hours.
- Drain the soaked chickpeas in a colander and rinse with cold water.
- Peel a garlic clove. Roughly chop. Add to the blender.
- Roughly chop an onion, fresh cilantro and parsley and add to the blender. Dispose of the stems.
- Blend for about 4-5 minutes until all the ingredients are finely blended.
- Transfer into a mixing bowl. Add cumin, coriander powder, salt and baking soda. Mix well with your hands. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Take about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and shape into a round ball.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add the falafel and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oil. Serve with fresh pita bread, hummus or as part of a colorful salad.
- Middle Eastern falafel are traditionally fried in oil. That’s what makes them so crunchy and tasty. Nevertheless, you can also bake falafel in the oven or prepare them in the airfryer. Be sure to read my tips on oven-baked and air fried falafel.
- The key to authentic Middle Eastern falafel are dried chickpeas. They simply need to be soaked overnight and are ready to use the next day. No cooking and no dehulling required.
- Troubles with falafel falling apart? There can be many reasons for that. Check out my article on the seven most common reasons for falafel falling apart and how to fix it.
- To shape falafel, it’s best to use a falafel scoop. They are smaller in size than ice cream scoops (which are often too big). You can also shape falafel by hand (but it’s more time consuming).
- Vegan falafel? They are naturally vegan! No meat and dairy products in there.
- Gluten free falafel? Falafel are naturally gluten free, at least if you follow my authentic falafel recipe. Flour doesn’t belong here.
- Falafel calories: The calories are per serving. One serving is about 192 kcal and consists of 4-5 falafel balls.
- The nutritional values are rough indications. They can vary according to the exact weight, type and brand of your ingredients.
Below you’ll find the answers to the most commonly asked questions on falafel, from fun facts to preparation tips and tricks.
Where do falafel originate from?
Falafel originated in the Middle East, most likely in Egypt. It’s said that the history of falafel dates back to Pharaonic Egypt. Today, falafel is a hugely popular food across the world.
Why is falafel green inside?
Authentic falafel are made of a blend of chickpeas and fresh herbs (coriander and parsley) which are blended together. For this reason, good falafel are slightly green inside.
Why do falafel balls fall apart when frying?
Falafel falling apart is one of the most frequent problems when making falafel. This is very likely to happen when using canned chickpeas, and not dried ones (you’ll find more information on dried chickpeas in this recipe). Another reason is that you didn’t allow the mixture enough time prior to use. After blending the ingredients, cool the falafel mixture in the fridge for about 1 hour.
I’ve compiled an article with the 7 most common reasons for falafel falling apart and how to fix the mixture.
Is falafel healthy?
Thanks to the main ingredient, chickpeas, falafel are very healthy. They are naturally high in protein and low in carbs. You’ll get extra healthy falafel (low fat) when airfrying or oven-baking them.
Which oil for falafel?
Falafel can be fried in vegetable oil. The most common oil is sunflower oil. It’s also possible to use olive oil, canola oil or corn oil, for instance.
How to make falafel?
There are multiple ways of making falafel. They are traditionally deep-fried in oil (in a pan, pot or fryer). Additionally, you can also airfry them or bake them in the oven.
When is falafel day?
Did you know that there is an international falafel day to celebrate the world’s best chickpea dish? Falafel day is celebrated on June 12th each year.
What is falafel made of?
Falafel is made of a few simple ingredients: chickpeas, herbs (cilantro, parsley) and seasonings (cumin, coriander poweder, salt and pepper). The ingredients are blended into a coarse mixture, shaped into balls and fried in oil.
How to make spicy falafel?
To make your falafel spicy, add some cayenne pepper into the mixture.
Is there meat in falafel?
No! Falafel doesn’t contain any meat. They are chickpea based and naturally vegetarian.
Is falafel vegan?
Yes. Falafel is fully vegan, naturally made without any animal products.
Any questions on my falafel recipe? Let me know in the comments below. I’m more than happy to help you create the perfect Middle Eastern falafel.