Home Articles What is Falafel? (+ How to Make It)

What is Falafel? (+ How to Make It)

If you’re new to Middle Eastern cuisine, then you may be asking yourself, “What is falafel?”

Is it a type of sandwich or salad? Is it a snack or a meal?

Crispy falafel balls laid on lettuce leaves served with white sauce on a wooden table.

Falafels may seem perplexing at first. But you’re about to become a pro!

The truth is, falafel is very versatile. From plates to salads to snacks, you can enjoy it in a variety of ways. 

It’s fried, savory, and incredibly scrumptious

Whether you’re looking for a plant-based protein or want to explore Middle Eastern cuisine, falafel is a must-try. 

So grab a napkin and get ready to dive into the delicious world of falafel.

What Is Falafel?

Falafel is a staple in many Middle Eastern countries. It’s a very popular street food and an affordable alternative to meat.

It’s also been around for centuries. 

However, the origins are a little fuzzy. Some sources claim it originated in Egypt, while others believe Arabs invented it.

One thing is for sure, it’s delicious!

Fried or baked, it’s essentially balls of chickpeas or fava beans, sometimes both, with seasoning. So it’s basically a bean fritter.

In more recent years, falafel has become a high-protein option for vegans and vegetarians.

Traditionally, it’s vegan. But like other foods, the ingredients can vary. 

If you have dietary restrictions, be sure to check the labels. Or when in doubt make it yourself!

Savory and flavorsome, falafel is also nutritious. 

It’s high in fiber and protein. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.  

Just keep in mind that fried falafels aren’t as healthy as baked. Although, fried falafels sure do taste great.

Falafel balls on a parchment paper served with white sauce on a wooden bowl.

What Does Falafel Taste Like?

Falafel has a unique flavor. It’s both earthy and savory with a flavorful punch of spices and herbs. 

The overall flavor profile depends on which spices and herbs you use, not to mention how much.

It also depends on whether you use chickpeas, fava beans, or both. 

It can be nutty, herby, and spicy. Mostly, it’s savory.

Along with the flavor, the texture is swoon-worthy. 

Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, falafels have a dense and satisfying mouthfeel.

In particular, fried falafels have an extra crispy bite. The oil also contributes to the flavor. So choose your oil wisely. 

If you want a fresher take, go with baked falafels.

Any way you make them, I can tell you that they will taste great!

What is Falafel Made From?

Falafel is traditionally a vegan food. It’s made from ground chickpeas, herbs, and spices. 

You’ll find some versions with fava beans instead. Sometimes, you’ll find both!

The beans get turned into a paste, then you mix in the flavorings. Form them into balls or patties, then fry or bake.

As for the seasonings, these vary by personal taste and region.

Cilantro, dill, and parsley are a few common herbs. Cayenne, coriander, and cumin are popular spices too. 

To make them even more savory, you’ll find garlic and onions in there, too.  

Depending on the recipe, ingredients like flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs are common for binding.

It helps to keep the patties intact when baking or frying. 

Some cooks also use baking soda for rising. It makes the falafels fluffy and less dense. 

The ingredients don’t end there, though. Like many traditional foods, new takes on old classics are always popping up. 

Falafel Balls on Wooden Board With White Sauce Dip

How to Make Falafel

Looking to make falafel at home? Excellent!

I’m all for making it from scratch. 

To start, you need to gather all your ingredients. So grab canned chickpeas, herbs, spices, oil, and a food processor, and follow these steps:

1. Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor.

2. Add fresh herbs, spices, garlic, onions, salt, and pepper. Continue to pulse until you achieve a mealy texture.

3. Place the falafel mixture in the refrigerator for an hour to set. 

4. Form the falafel mixture into balls or patties. 

5. In a Dutch oven, heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully fry the falafels in batches for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. 

6. Place the cooked falafels on a paper towel-lined plate. Let them cool and enjoy!

If you prefer baked falafels, cook them in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes or so. The air fryer works great too.

You can also get creative and sandwich them in a waffle iron. I sometimes make a big patty and fry it in a skillet like a burger. 

If you’re wondering about seasonings, you can’t go wrong with cumin and coriander. 

For a spicy kick, and a pinch of cayenne. And don’t forget salt and pepper! 

As for herbs, I’m all about fresh parsley. Sometimes cilantro finds its way in there too.

But by all means, use what you’re in the mood for. 

How to Serve Falafel 

Need ideas about what to serve with falafel? I’ve got options!

Turn it into a Mediterranean mezze platter perfect for entertaining.

Dolma, olives, baba ganoush, veggies, and flatbread go great. 

Sometimes I like to pair it with a big bowl of tabbouleh. Lemon rice is also foolproof.

Either of these works as lunch or dinner. 

For a quick snack, drizzle tahini on top. I also like dunking it in tzatziki or homemade hummus.

For a hearty meal, add falafel on top of lentil soup. For a lighter version, eat it with a simple salad. 

It’s fantastic as a meal with Lebanese rice, cucumber and tomato salad, hummus, and pita bread.

This is a personal favorite in my household. 

Oh, and speaking of pita, I love stuffing it into this bread for a filling lunch or dinner.

I use pickled onions, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, and tahini. 

The nutty tahini complements the earthy falafel while the pickled onions add a refreshing crunch.

You can also swap pita out for warm flatbread. 

Told you I had options for you! 

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a big fan of falafels. After one of these pairings, you will be too.

What is Falafel?

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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