When was the last time you literally jumped with joy in the kitchen? You know, when you make a dish so good you find yourself hopping up and down in between bites.
For me, it was the day I made this falafel.
I was on batch three of this recipe we first ran from chef and restaurateur Einat Admony a few years ago. All my previous batches were good, but this one was superb. There’s no better time to nail a recipe than right before you photograph it, right?
When we were done taking these photos, I finally got to dig in. And then the jumping commenced.
I’d baked falafel using mixes before, but fine-tuning a fried recipe took patience. I learned a few things along the way, and here are some of my keys to success:
Get the mixture right. Initially I was so worried about processing the chickpea mixture too much that I ended up not processing it enough. But you really do want to break it down enough so the mixture holds together. As long as you don’t take it to a puree, you’re fine. Check it along the way, squeezing it together with your fingers. The addition of the herbs to the chickpea mixture will add a little moisture to make it more cohesive. Also, make sure you’re giving yourself enough room to process the dried chickpeas. Our 8-cup food processor in the Food Lab was not big enough to hold everything and efficiently mix it. Dividing it into two batches helped, but even then I used a spatula every so often to push the mixture around and confirm it was all coming in contact with the blade.
Master the shape. After you’ve got your mixture to the ideal consistency, you need to shape it so that it cooks properly. My first batch was somewhere on the golf ball/ping-pong ball size spectrum, and the insides were still raw by the time the outsides were dark golden brown. I decided balls were not the best shape, and a peek at the Instagram feed of Taim, Admony’s falafel shop, showed more flattened discs, which confirmed my suspicion. Admony uses a falafel shaper, but I reached for an ice cream disher. In my last batch, I packed the mixture into the disher, popped out the domes and then gently flattened them with my hand after they were on the baking sheet. The result? A crispy exterior with a moist but thoroughly cooked interior.
Fry carefully. The great thing about frying falafel is it is less prone to splattering, because the fritters are relatively small and low in surface moisture (water can make oil sputter vigorously). Do your frying in a deep pot. My biggest disaster came when I followed instructions to use a saute pan to fry the falafel in 2 inches of oil. It looked like sufficient head space, but once a half dozen falafel went into the oil, it bubbled out . . . and all over our stove top. (Thank goodness for induction burners.) A Dutch oven was perfect for subsequent efforts.
An instant-read thermometer will help you monitor the temperature of the oil, which you can strain and reuse several times. Use a metal slotted spoon or spider to transfer the falafel in and out of the oil, taking care to drop them into the oil as close to the surface as you can. Big drops cause big splashes. A splatter screen can provide extra insurance if you’re worried about oil on the cook top. If you can’t bring yourself to fry, see the recipe notes below for oven-baking instructions.
Part of the fun of falafel is how you eat it. In a pita or on a pile of greens? With spicy harissa or creamy tahini? You really can’t go wrong. The falafel that prompted my happy dance had been sitting out for a few hours while we photographed them and several other dishes. Even at cool room temp, they were special. Now that’s a good recipe.
Recipe notes: The dried chickpeas need to be soaked overnight. The falafel mixture can be shaped and refrigerated for a few days or frozen individually, then gathered in a zip-top freezer bag for up to 1 month. The falafel are best eaten fresh, but extras can be reheated in a 350-degree oven on a baking sheet, for 10 to 15 minutes.
To bake the falafel, place them on a rimmed baking sheet generously slicked with olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until browned and crisped, flipping them over halfway through.
For a spicy red falafel, skip the herbs and add between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of harissa, depending on how spicy you like it, stirring it into the processed chickpeas by hand.
Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seed, lightly crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups packed cilantro leaves
2 cups packed parsley (no long stems)
Canola oil, for frying
Place the chickpeas in a mixing bowl and cover with cool water by a few inches. Let them sit overnight. Drain the chickpeas into a colander, discarding the soaking liquid.
Combine the onion and garlic in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add the crushed coriander seed and drained chickpeas; pulse just until the chickpeas are reduced to smaller chunks. Stop to shove the mixture around with a spatula.
Add the salt, cumin and pepper; process until the mixture is finely chopped but not pureed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed. The mixture should resemble coarse meal, not a smooth hummus. It should mostly hold together when you press a clump in your hands. (If your food processor isn’t big enough to hold all the ingredients, especially after you add the herbs in the next step, process the mixture in two batches.)
Add the cilantro and parsley to the falafel mixture in the food processor; pulse until the herbs are finely chopped and evenly distributed. Test the mixture again by trying to shape it into a mound. Continue to process until it keeps its shape.
When you’re ready to fry, heat 2 inches of oil in a deep, heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat, to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels, then seat a wire cooling rack on top.
Use a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or disher or your hands to form a total of 30 to 40 slightly mounded disks that are about 1 1/2 inches wide. (If you’ve shaped the disks with a scoop or disher, gently flatten them a bit with your hands so they are not so dramatically domed.) Using this shape, rather than a ball, helps to promote even cooking.
Carefully add 6 to 8 falafel at a time to the hot oil; cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until they are browned and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the rack to drain. Repeat to cook all the falafel, making sure the oil returns to the proper temperature before adding the next batch.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from a recipe by Einat Admony, chef-restaurateur of Balaboosta, Taim and Kish-Kash in New York.
Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.
The ingredients are too variable for a meaningful nutritional analysis.
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