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Recipe: falafel

It is absolutely lovely to be home again. The remaining few inches of snow on the ground melted away over the weekend. Sure, spring is late arriving, but the hummingbirds are here in force. I think it’s time for me to find some decals to slap on our windows for the next month or two. While I love hummingbirds, I really would prefer to not ever have to rescue another one again (that is to say, I hope they don’t crash into our windows). I’m staying put for a little while because we’re fast approaching Colorado’s season of mind-blowing splendor. And while we’re talking about Colorado summer, the Food and Light Photography Workshop is about 2/3 full now. So if you were planning to register, I suggest doing so soon. We have an amazing crew of attendees (some of whom were my fellow Daring Bakers) and everyone is VERY psyched for late June in Boulder – a truly glorious time of year to be here.

kaweah got a bath, a brushing, and then a walkie

moon and venus setting

I’ll be honest with you all. Before this trip, I thought I was losing it. You know it – my food blogging mojo. I couldn’t think of any new recipes I wanted to try. I felt completely uninspired. I always promised myself that when the blog became a burden, became something I didn’t enjoy, then I would stop (food) blogging. When I caught my flight to California, I wasn’t sure what the fate of use real butter would be. It did not occur to me that my shooting trip would jump start my enthusiasm for cooking – but that’s exactly what it did. Part of it was getting sick of dining out or eating cold camp food (we didn’t bring a stove) for two weeks. It makes one long for home-cooked meals if that’s what you are used to. The other part was seeing the beautiful fresh produce that California boasts and thinking of ways to serve them to friends on our deck this summer. Yes, I’m a winter girl, but I love all of the seasons and summer is definitely something to get excited about. I suppose sometimes it is good to just step back and take a moment to think.

oh deer

i get a kick out of these signs

bridalveil falls

When I made tzatziki last year, some of the comments asked if I had made the falafel in the final photograph and if I had a recipe. No, I didn’t have a recipe. I bought it at the store. That had been bothering me for the past several months. Why didn’t I make falafel at home? It’s so easy! Well, I really have to be a in mood to deep fry because it makes a mess and I just hate dealing with the oil afterward.

parsley, lemon, spices, chick peas, garlic, onion

chopped and ready for the grind

I looked up several recipes and settled on Mr. Bittman’s from the New York Times. This looked so straightforward. Easy ingredients, blend it all together, roll, and fry. Right?! Right!?

into the food processor

shaping balls of falafel

Not quite. I tried to make it without the flour because that seems to be the authentic way. I let the mixture dry in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, rolled a ball and gently lowered it into the hot oil. Sizzle, spatter, pop, fizz, bubble! I couldn’t actually see what was going on in the pot because of the vapor envelope around the falafel (i.e. the roiling oil). I placed the mesh skimmer in the pot to lift the falafel out and saw what looked like a very sad pea-sized remnant of what was originally a golf-ball sized falafel. The hell?! I read several recipes and determined that I should add a little flour which would reportedly keep the falafel balls from falling apart during the frying process.

fried to a deep golden brown

Bingo. That did the trick. After adding the flour, the falafel came out perfectly. If you make a lot, it’s easy enough to let them cool to room temperature after frying and then bag them up and pop them into the freezer. To serve, just defrost and reheat in an oven until the outsides are crisped.

Edit: My good friend, Tony Tahhan told me that I should use dried beans. Because you don’t actually have to cook them, just soak them, they work just fine and don’t boil apart when you fry them. Thanks Tony!!

love my falafel with some tzatziki

[print recipe]
after this recipe by Mark Bittman

3-4 cans garbanzo beans, drained (or 1 3/4 cups dried chick peas, soaked for 24 hours)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 green onions or 1 small onion
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cumin
cayenne to taste
1 cup parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsps flour (omit if using dried chick peas)
oil for frying (something neutral like canola oil)

Combine the beans, garlic, onions, spices, parsley, seasonings, and lemon juice in a food processor and grind it to hell. One cookbook recipe recommends letting the dough sit in the refrigerator to help dry it out. I tried this and had my falafel balls disintegrate upon frying. If this happens to you, you can cheat and stir in flour. Roll the dough into golf ball-size balls. Heat a few inches of oil to 350°F and gently drop a few falafel balls in. Let fry until brown, about 5 minutes. Serve hot. Makes about 4 dozen.

39 nibbles at “kaboing!”

  1. Astrid says:

    Beautiful! And what a fantastic photo of the deer with the mountains in the background. Your blog is filled with nuggets, both visual and edible.
    So exactly what do you do with the oil after frying is over? This is also the reason I don’t like to fry.

  2. Esther says:

    Oh, I know that feeling, feeling so utterly uninspired you actually start wondering what’s going to become of somthing that’s been an actually really important part of your life for so long. If it comes again, try fasting for a couple of days, you won’t be able to think of anything but food and cooking, and that at a highly creative level (sorry, weird phrasing), till you start eating again, but in a good way, I promise :)

    And falafel are great! You can get them everywhere here in Cologne, with a large part of the poulation being Turkish, so you normally wouldn’t make them yourself, but I think I just might try it.

  3. Wei-Wei says:

    Mmm! I’ve only tried falafel once, but they’re delicious! Sort of like vegetarian meatballs… Wait, that’s not really right, is it? :S

    Lovely photos. Kaweah is gorgeous… (And that sign cracked me up. :D)


  4. Mark @ Cafe Campana says:

    I had no idea how these are made. These look very good.

  5. Marisa says:

    Love that you can store and re-heat the falafels. Just like you, I try and minimise deepfrying just because of all the effort involved with the oil.

  6. Junabery says:

    your dog is stunning. =D and so is your falafel.

  7. Julie says:

    After making lentil burgers the other day, I was just getting up the courage to try making falafel. Thanks for taking the fear out of it! I will not proceed without flour.

  8. Kristin says:

    Gorgeous falafel. What DO you do with the oil? I hate to fry too because of the mess & the waste. Hate to toss the oil, but worry about it getting rancid if I’d strain & save it. Plus, wouldn’t you need a jar of doughnut oil, one for falafel, etc?

  9. Belinda @zomppa says:

    You still got it!!

  10. Brit says:

    Fantastic! I can’t wait to try these!

  11. Bethany says:

    Well I’m glad you’re still sticking around :-) The photos are great, and I love making falafel at home. I actually don’t deep fry… I just pan fry them in some olive oil. Much healthier and less messy… but of course, not authentic at all.

  12. Maria says:

    I can’t wait to make this! Love it!! Great recipe!

  13. Cheng says:

    Glad to hear that you has come back to this blog. I just did the same thing to twitter where it becomes more of a burden than fun. I deleted the account without second thought but I must admit I regretted it a bit. Oh and I’m a fan of your site! : )

  14. Tawnia says:

    They look wonderful–I made this recipe a few months ago using the dried beans and they had a somewhat raw? taste to them. I will absolutely make them again–using cooked beans this time! Oh and elevation is not an issue here in North Dakota……..haha.

  15. kathryn says:

    Jen, first of all, so glad you got re-inspired. I would hate for the butter blog (what I call it) to go away. It is truly my FAVORITE! Secondly, I LURVE falafal. Totally gonna make this and mayhap blog about it on my pretty much defunct blog.
    THIRDLY, how does Keawah have NO gray hair?? She is just gorgeous and still looks so young!! It’s amazing! Isn’t she almost 10??

  16. Haley J. says:

    Just a week ago, my husband and I went out and had falafel at a local restaurant. He wondered why I never made it, and I told him I always feared it would be hard. Well, today I am afraid no longer! Now, I just have to acquire a deep-fryer, because this is a good excuse for doing so. YUM!

  17. Sumner says:

    I LOVE falafel, but have never had the guts to try to make it. I’m a little leery of deep frying. But I think you might’ve given me the push to give it a try. I’ll report back if the experiment comes to fruition.

  18. Lori says:

    This happened to me many times- the fall apart thing. Until I found that cooked chickpeas are nto what you use. I dont know why so many recipes call for a can of chickpeas. You need dried peas that you soak with a little baking soda and you whip it in the processor and voila- no problem falling apart and no flour needed. Check out the recipe on my blog for falafel.

  19. Andrea says:

    Mmmm, falafel. I’m so glad to hear you got your cooking mojo back! You’re blog is the first place I check for recipes and carne adovada being the first one of yours I tried and has remained my favorite! Love the photos by the way. Sounds like it was a fabulous vacation.

  20. Elaine from Cookware Help says:

    You had me at Falafel. I have been searching high and low for a good recipe falafel recipe. I bookmarked and shared this. I will also try to bake this instead of fry. They look good in your photos.

  21. MJ says:

    I am so glad you didn’t scrap the blog. I have never commented but I so love the recipes and your somewhat irreverant but very loving style. Thanks!

  22. Manggy says:

    Why have I never made these before?? They look amazing (but then again, frying is my friend, just don’t tell my patients).
    I gotta ask, though, how big is a can of garbanzos where you are? Ours are pretty tiiiiny.

  23. Carrie says:

    I’m thankful you have found happiness in your food blogging again!

  24. Ali says:

    Just write a book of beautiful recipes and then we can handle your parting ways from the food blog, if it ever has to come to that.

  25. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    Glad you’ve got your mojo back! Although I have to say you were faking it pretty good — you always seem enthusiastic and fully-mojoed to me.

    I’m glad to see that the restorative power of felafel even works on Chinese girls.

  26. Helene says:

    They look freaking awesome. And tiny :) Love that!!
    I made them a few times before until me moved almost across the streets from a hole in the wall great Greek place and we’ve been spoiled ever since.

    It’s good to have you back Jen! Can’t wait for June!

  27. Ruth Ann says:

    I love falafel but never thought of making it myself. Looks Yummy!

  28. Arwen says:

    Thank you for the wonderful suggestion of making a large batch and freezing some! That makes the idea of getting everything set up for deep frying totally worthwhile.
    Beautiful photography – thank you for sharing!

  29. BNDQ8 says:

    We love Falafel…eat it almost all the time…perfect as snacks… :)

  30. Silvia says:

    I’ve tried a couple of times to make falafels but never succeeded. Yours look very good! Will try again :)
    I’ve noticed you don’t put baking soda, does it work without it?

  31. Nicola says:

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I will! I wonder, though, could you use chickpea (besan) flour instead of any other kind of flour? I’m trying to keep off white processed foods – flour, rice, pasta and so on – and so reckon besan might be a good substitute. Any thoughts? Any experience from anyone on this?

  32. Mrs Ergül says:

    I’ve got all the ingredients for this! yay!! Thanks for the recipe!

  33. pandapotamus says:

    This recipe is fabulous! I used 3 cans of garbanzo beans and made sure to drain them really well, and also let the mixture dry out in the fridge for a few hours.

  34. Kevin (Closet Cooking) says:

    Those falafels look perfect!

  35. jenyu says:

    Astrid – I let the oil cool and if I’m not planning on frying again with it, then I strain it into a huge jar (it’s an old pickle jar). When the jar is full, I recycle it down in Boulder (they have a cooking oil recycling program). It makes me feel better about the whole frying business…

    Kristin – see my response to Astrid :)

    Bethany – I was thinking of trying that next!

    Tawnia – I got some advice from my friend Tony, and he said to use the dried beans (but to soak them overnight – just don’t cook them) and they’ll be perfect.

    Kathryn – oh :) Kaweah has gray under her chin, just a little. She’s definitely getting older, but still looks so puppy-like ;) She’s almost 12.

    Lori – you are correct! Tony gave me the tip and I’ve since updated the recipe. Thanks!

    Manggy – our cans are 14 oz, but reread the recipe, I’ve updated it to mention that if you use dried beans that are soaked (but not cooked), you don’t need flour.

    Tamar – ;)

    Helene – oh, how I wish someone who made excellent falafel would move across the street from me!!!

    Silvia – I have seen baking soda in some recipes, but not all. Apparently it worked.

    Nicola – I’m sure you could use chickpea flour (my friends told me they don’t grind their own chickpeas, they just use chickpea flour).

  36. Rainy Daisy says:

    Sigh…I love the waterfalls. Looks just wonderful.


  37. Rachel says:

    Beautiful recipe!
    I’ve never made ‘proper’ falafel before and have always baked them as I’m terrified of the thought of heating oil but your recipe worked really well and was straightforward to follow. I used canned chickpeas with the added flour and an extra tsp of ground coriander but otherwise followed the recipe as it is written.
    Many thanks

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