It’s got to be one of my favorite things to order at my local Lebanese restaurant! If you have never had it you are missing out! Falafels are a mixture of ground chickpeas (and with this homemade Lebanese falafel recipe it includes fava beans as well), onions and fresh herbs. The mixture is then made into balls and fried then served in a wrap with an amazing creamy tahini sauce.Jump to Recipe
Falafel really is a defining Middle Eastern food! Growing up in the Lebanese home, we had access to amazing Mediterranean food on a regular basis, especially on holidays. Every Sunday we would go to my Sittie (Arabic for grandmother) and Papa’s house after church and eat a Lebanese meal together. Food and family go hand in hand and cannot be separated.
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One food that I really don’t ever remember having on hand, or even at any of our family gatherings was falafel. Maybe because it has to be served hot and fresh or maybe it’s more of a popular street food? I don’t know! But one thing I know, is that I love ordering it whenever I am out. Authentic falafel is an amazing dish that is full of flavor!
Read this article here >>>> “The Ultimate Guide to Lebanese Food” to find out more about it.
What is falafel?
Falafel is basically soaked chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) that are ground up with onions, fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley and some other spices into a coarse paste. The falafel mixture is then rolled into balls or made into patties and deep fried. After it is fried, it is most definitely served with lemon garlic tahini sauce.
Falafel is very much like a vegan meatball (or vegetarian meatball depending on the recipe). It is full of herbs and spices. It is crunchy on the outside and fluffy in texture on the inside.
While most basic falafel recipes call for using just chickpeas, Lebanese authentic falafel also uses a mixture of chickpeas and fresh fava beans. Do you have to make falafel with fava beans? No! You can totally make falafel with chickpeas only and it will still be amazing. I do like making fava bean falafel though, and it doesn’t require any extra work, you just need to have fava beans on hand.
I was able to find frozen peeled fava beans at my local Mediterranean store, and I keep them on hand in my freezer. You CANNOT used canned fava beans at all! Don’t even attempt it. They must be fresh or frozen.
Tips for making the best homemade falafel
- Tip #1: NEVER USE CANNED BEANS TO MAKE FALAFEL!!! Did I emphasize that enough? If you get one thing from this recipe, please just take this bit of advice. MAKING FALAFEL WITH CANNED CHICKPEAS (or fava beans) DOES NOT WORK!!!!
Let me explain some more. I love Lebanese falafel, and I too, wanted to make it quick one time. So I thought, “maybe I can make it with canned beans,” and sure enough I found some blog post saying that you can make it with canned chickpeas. THEY WERE WRONG!!! If you ever find a recipe for falafel with canned chickpeas, just RUN AWAY and never go back to the blog again. They deceive you. The only way to make falafel with canned beans is to add a ton of flour, and that will compromise the flavor, texture and authenticity of your homemade falafel experience.
USE DRY CHICKPEAS!!!
- Tip #2: After processing the ingredients together, chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before making into balls and frying. Working with chilled falafel batter is so much easier, and it will hold together better.
- Tip #3: Add baking soda to the mixture right before frying it. This will give you the best fluffy falafel!
How to make traditional Lebanese falafel
If you are wanting to make this homemade falafel recipe, you need to plan ahead. As we established earlier, you cannot use canned beans, which means you need to start out with dried chickpeas and soak them.
Take your chickpeas (and fava beans if you are using them) and add them into a large bowl and fill it with water to almost the top. Let the beans soak in the water for up to 24 hours (preferably 18-24 hours of soak time). They should nearly double in size as they soak up the water, and they should soften up a bit.
After the beans are soaked in water, and they are larger and softer, drain them well. Quarter a large onion and add it to a large food processor along with the soaked beans. You really do need a food processor for this recipe. It will make your life so much easier! This is the one I use and it is quality, it has lasted for years and I use it for so many other things like Perfectly Smooth Hummus.
Process the beans and onions until coarse. Don’t over process, it should look something like this.
Once the onions and beans are coarsely ground together, add the cilantro, parsley, salt, cumin, coriander, flour, crushed red pepper, and ground black pepper and process again. This time it should be more of a grainy paste. You don’t want it to be a perfectly smooth paste.
After the ingredients are blended, cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for at lest 2 hours to let it chill. This will help it to stay together when you fry it and it will be much easier to work with. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days, before frying it.
Right before frying the falafel patties, add the Tsp baking soda to the batter and stir it until incorporated. To make the falafel balls, you can use 2 round spoons to shape 1 inch sized balls, or you can use your hands as well. There is also a handy dandy falafel scooper so your hands will stay clean and for making the mixture into balls, The batter will seem wet and slightly mushy, it will feel like it could fall apart easily, but it shouldn’t once it hits the hot oil.
Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat until it is hot (you don’t want it too hot or too cold). Test it by frying one falafel ball to see if it fries correctly. Continue frying falafel in batches about 3-4 at a time until you run out of batter.
How to eat falafel
Serve the falafels warm. There are several ways you can serve your falafel:
- You can eat them as a Lebanese falafel sandwich by wrapping them in pita bread with tomatoes, pickles, fresh onions, and of course this amazing falafel sauce. (This is my preferred method of consumption and IMO the best way to eat Lebanese falafel)
- You can eat them in a salad with the same tahini dressing (falafel sauce)
- You can eat them in a rice bowl with the same sauce
- Try mixing it up with a differe sauce called Toum, which is a Lebanese garlic sauce.
- Add them to your party platter as an appetizer, or on a charcuterie board! (don’t forget the tahini sauce of course)
However you prefer to eat them, just make sure to eat them with that amazing lemon tahini sauce, my recipe is linked there! You will notice that the sauce is the common denominator in all of the ways to serve falafel!
If you prefer not to eat tahini, then I also recommend this lovely Mint Yogurt Sauce!
Video of How to Make a Traditional Falafel Wrap with Creamy Tahini Sauce
FAQ’s for making Lebanese falafel
Do I need to cook the chickpeas before making falafel?
No. The chickpeas and fava beans SHOULD NOT be boiled or cooked before making falafel. They should only be soaked in water.
Should I deep fry or pan fry falafel?
Whenever I make falafel, I use a frying pan and add enough oil to cover it about an inch deep. I drop the falafel balls into the hot oil and turn them halfway through so they can cook evenly on both sides. I find when pan frying, the cleanup is easier, and I use less oil, but I get the same outcome: THE BEST FALAFEL recipe ever!
Deep frying will give you the same great outcome, but you will use more oil. It’s up to you!
Can I bake falafel?
Yes you can make baked falafel. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the falafel balls in a well oiled glass dish. Brush the top of the falafel with olive oil. Bake the falafels for about 15 minutes, turning them halfway through. Bake until golden brown.
*Note: If you decide to bake the falafel, it will not have that crunchy outside that it should. It may have a little crunch, but I do recommend to fry them in a pan.
Can I make falafel in an air fryer?
No, just don’t do it! At least, don’t do it with this recipe. You will not be able to fit all of the falafels in the air fryer, and you will risk them falling apart. I believe the best way to make this recipe is by actually frying them in oil.
Are falafels vegan?
If you are using my recipe, then yes! This authentic falafel recipe is vegan! Not all packaged falafel recipes are vegan however.
Can you freeze falafel?
There are 2 different ways for freezing falafels:
- Option #1: You can place the raw falafel batter in a freezer friendly bag and freeze it for up to 4 months in a deep freezer. Thaw in the fridge and proceed to fry the falafel balls according to the directions above
- Option #2: You can form the falafel balls and place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen. Transfer frozen falafel patties into a freezer friendly bag. You do not need to thaw the falafel in this case, just fry it from frozen.
You cannot freeze cooked falafel.
What do I do if the falafel is falling apart while frying it?
If you are having problems with the falafel falling apart, please see below.
- If you use canned chickpeas to make falafel, it will fall apart and become like goo as you try to fry it. Don’t used canned beans. I have never had a problem with homemade falafel falling apart, except for the one time I tried making it with canned chickpeas.
- It may fall apart if it is not chilled enough in the fridge.
- If you prepared it according to this recipe and it is falling apart in the pan, add 2 more tablespoons of flour to the uncooked falafel and try again.
- One other reason it may fall apart is if your oil is not hot enough.
But don’t worry!! Just follow my step by step recipe how to make falafel and you will be alright! I’ve done all of the testing a trial for you!
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Lebanese Falafel Recipe
- 1 cup dry chickpeas must be dried chickpeas, cannot be canned
- 1 cup peeled, dried fava beans (or frozen) cannot be canned
- 1 large onion
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- ¾ cup fresh parsley
- 2 teas salt
- 2 teas cumin
- 1 ½ teas ground coriander
- 1-2 Tbls flour all purpose
- 1 teas crushed red pepper
- ½ teas pepper
- 1 teas sesame seeds (optional, I don't use them)
- 1 teas baking soda
- 1 ½ cups oil for frying corn, peanut, or vegetable oil
- water for soaking the beans
For soaking the beans
- In a large mixing bowl, add the dried beans and fill with cold water nearly to the top of the bowl *see note #1 below on beans
- Soak the beans for 18-24 hours, until they double in size and become softer
- Drain the beans of all of the water
For making the falafel mixture
- Add the soaked and drained beans to a food processor along with the coarsely chopped onion
- Pulse the beans and onion together until it combines and creates a coarse mixture
- Add the cilantro, parsley and spices (but not the baking soda) and process together until it becomes a grainy paste. It should not be completely like a paste, but it should still have some substance to it
- Chill the falafel batter in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The falafel mixture can be chilled for up to 3 days before forming into balls and frying. *see Note #2 on freezing falafel mixture
- After the batter is chilled, gently stir in the baking soda. Heat the oil in a frying pan medium-high heat until hot enough to fry (test a little batter to make sure it is heated up enough, but not too much)
- Form the falafel mixture into 1 inch balls right before dropping into the hot oil
- As you form the falafel patties, gently drop them into the hot oil about 4 at a time. Let them fry for 2-3 minutes on each side and flip it to make it even.
- The falafels should brown up nicely on the outside and have a fluffy green center
- With a slotted spoon, remove the fried falafel balls from the oil and drain on paper towels until all of the falafel mixture is done
- Serve the falafels in pita bread with falafel sauce (link to recipe in post). Falafel wraps are traditionally served with sliced tomatoes, pickles and falafel sauce.
- *Note #1- You can use all chickpeas or a mixture of chickpeas and fava beans (which is traditionally Lebanese), but make sure that you use dried beans. If you use canned beans, this recipe will fail and the falafels will not fry correctly.
- *Note #2- The falafel mixture can be frozen with one of these 2 methods
- Method 1- freeze the batter in a freezer safe bag for up to 3 months. Thaw the batter in the fridge for several hours. When it is thawed, add the baking soda and proceed to fry the falafel according to the directions above
- Method 2- Add the baking soda and prepare the balls. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and into the freezer until frozen. After they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. No need to defrost them before frying. You can fry them in the oil, just make sure they get done through all the way