We don’t eat a whole lot of packaged, processed foods around here. I mean, we’re not puritanical about it, but for the most part, I tend to feel that homemade food is tastier, more economical and healthier. Plus, I just like to cook.
At least, most of the time.
But the other night I really, really did not feel like cooking at all, so I rooted around in the pantry until I found a box of falafel mix hiding behind all the jars of dried beans and grains. I have no idea when (or why) I acquired this just-add-water boxed meal, but it saved dinner that night.
It also got me thinking about how much better a homemade version would be.
This recipe comes from Joan Nathan’s “The Foods of Israel Today” and I followed it more or less verbatim, except that I didn’t have any parsley and doubled the amount of cilantro instead. I also cut back on the hot pepper, in the interest of 2-year-old tastebuds.
The biggest change I made was to bake the falafel instead of frying it, partly for health reasons but mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to heat up (and clean up from) a spattering vat of oil. I’ve included instructions for both baking and frying below.
The recipe does call for starting with dried chickpeas and giving them a long soak, so make sure to plan ahead for that.
Otherwise, making falafel from scratch turns out to be only marginally more difficult — and lots more tasty — than making it from a boxed mix. Even though I only have a mini food processor and had to make the falafel mixture in batches, it was still a breeze to put together.
We wrapped ours in pitas stuffed with a yogurt-tahini sauce and a salad of romaine, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and red bell peppers. Healthy, filling and toddler-friendly, this baked falafel checked all the boxes for a good weeknight meal.
I actually doubled the recipe and froze the extra, so next time I don’t feel like cooking we won’t even have to resort to dinner from a box.
Adapted from Joan Nathan's "The Foods of Israel Today."
Nathan calls for frying the falafel but I baked mine and still found them to be plenty crisp and flavorful. Leftovers store well in the freezer.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon salt
- scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4-6 tablespoons flour
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Vegetable oil
Place the chickpeas in a bowl with enough water to cover by 2 or 3 inches and leave to soak for about 24 hours.
Drain the chickpeas and add them to the bowl of a food processor, along with the onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, cayenne, garlic and cumin. Process until finely chopped but not pureed.
Sprinkle the baking powder and flour over the chickpea mixture and pulse until the mixture begins to pull away from the bowl and no longer sticks to your fingers when lightly pressed. You may need to add a little extra flour and pulse again if the dough is still sticky.
Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.
When ready to cook the falafel, use your hands to roll the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of large walnuts.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and drizzle on 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the falafel balls in a single layer on the baking sheet and flatten slightly. (I just pressed lightly on each ball with the bottom of a juice glass.) Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until nicely browned, flipping the falafel balls halfway through the cooking time.
Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add more flour. Then fry the falafel for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown, being careful not to crowd the pan. Drain on paper towels.