Apr 13, 2008

Falafels from scratch

Falafels sprinkled with sumac

As one side of my family is Egyptian, falafels are something I've seen frying many times in my kitchen. Held between two fingers and dipped in hummus or eaten wrapped in pita bread, falafels are probably one of the most popular Middle Eastern specialities. The origin of falafel however remains a big question mark for me- every country in the Middle East will claim that it is them who "invented" falafel. Today it seems most people associate falafels as Egyptian or Isreali dishes, and although both recipes are delicious (the ingredients vary slightly) the one I'll be posting below is a traditional Egyptian one.

Falafel tools, the gold coloured one below is really old but we'll never get rid of it. The one above is a more modern version. Both were brought over from Egypt.

The core ingredient to falafels are either chickpeas or fava beans (or a mixture of both). Egyptians tend to prefer the latter, which is also the main ingredient to the popular dish "fool mudammes". Another variation is whether you choose to add parsley or not- in Egypt most love parsley in their falafels (which also adds a greenish colour aspect to the insides). Oh, also another detail- falafel is actually called "ta'amiya" in Egyptian, as dialects in the Middle East vary.

Using the tool to shape the falafels as they fall into hot frying oil

So although it is easier to just buy some falafels from food shops or restaurants, and today there even exist ready-to-mix falafel boxes (which would be criminal to bring into our kitchen!) it is worth just once making falafels from scratch!

One key ingredient is flour for a good texture and consistency. If there isn't enough of it... then the falafels loose their shape and explode...(below)

How to make falafels from scratch (recipe makes about 50 pieces):
You will need:
  • 1/2kg of fava beans
  • 2 big onions, peeled and chopped into chunky pieces
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 bundle parsley, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons flour + 20gr baking powder
  • Sesame seeds (optional) + sumac (optional but highly recommended!)

Ready to start?

First, soak the fava beans in water for 48 hours. Then peel them and place in a bowl. Add to the bowl the onions, garlic heads, coriander, cumin, salt and parsley. Mash everything in a food processor by adding the ingredients bit by bit. Repeat this process twice to obtain a thick paste. Then, add the flour and baking powder for good consistency and so that the falafels keep a "ball" shape while they fry. If you don't have the falafel tool, use a tablespoon and keep a cup of warm water near you. Each time, dip the spoon in the water, fill the spoon with the falafel paste, sprinkle generously with sesame seeds, and place it above the frying oil and let the paste "slip off" the spoon. Fry for a few minutes until golden-darkish brown (make sure the insides aren't raw, so make sure you let them fry long enough!) Enjoy and eat them quickly before they get cold! If you have sumac, sprinkle some over the ready falafels- they really add a great "special something"!

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Marc @ norecipes said...

I've always wondered how these were made. Thanks for the recipe!

Lauren said...

To make sure I understand - you use 1/2 kg dried fava beans, yes?

Marianna said...

Thanks Marc & Lauren for your comments!

Lauren- yes 1/2kg of dried fava beans (before soaking & peeling them) :-) If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said...

Love it! I love love love felafels but I have something to confess - I use a box mix! I shall have to try making them from scratch myself as the recipe sounds quite easy!

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Julie said...

This looks awesome! I've only tried the chick pea version, but now I want to try this. Yum. Your blog is beautiful.

Christine said...

Homemade falafel is so much better sometimes. Your recipe is different than ones I've seen in the past, which call for chickpeas instead of fava beans. I think the green color from them is really nice...Sorry for the stupid question but I'm assuming you use dried fava beans for the recipes, right?

Marianna said...

Thank you Julie & Christine for your comments!

Christine- yes this recipe is different bc the base is fava beans and not chickpeas. Fava beans is typical of Egypt falafel recipes, and the green comes from the parsley. And yes I used dried fava beans. Thanks for passing by!

diva said...

i adore falafels! especially when they're stuffed between burger buns. mmm.never realized you didn't need too many ingredients to make them. thanks for sharing!

jana said...


i found your blog from a posting on the sartoralist..

this recipe looks absolutely delightful. i've always wanted to try homemade falafels and i think this actually sounds plausible. thank you!! yum!


Anonymous said...

i think the chickpea version is better than fava bean. If anyone here hasn't tried it, you should, its really good.

sally said...


i need desperate help here!!! i've searched the internet for falafel recipes,and from my research they all are very similiar... my problem is my falafel is never cooked onn the inside,its very stiff.. basically a disaster..
my family loves falafel,but all the 5 times i've tried it,it was the same. i make it just like your recipe posted here,but i substitute chickpeas for the fava beans..
can you please tell me what would cause the insides to remain raw,( fry them a good 5 min,they quite dark on the outside),why would it have a bitter taste,and what would make it so stiff? i add very littlt flour,somtimes i ddnt even need to as they held their shape...

any help on this would b graetly appreciated..

thanks inn advance

sally said...

i need some help wit the falafel recipe plz.
mine alwyas come out stiff on the inside. i've tried numerous recipes,but to no avail.
wat do i need to do to make it fluffy on the inside and crispy outside.
i have tried the recipe posted here as well,but it was soggy and stiff.not at all like the picture here,or like the ones i've bought at labanese restaurants.

please offer any advice..
thanks soo much!

Marianna said...

hi sally- it's very much trial and error and experimenting until you get a perfect texture. sometimes adding a bit of baking powder helps to get a good texture. try keeping the falafel dough in the fridge a couple of hours before frying too. good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love falafel and have been making home made for the past few months now. Can you tell if the mixture can be stored (or frozen) for any length of time?