How to Make Perfectly Crispy Falafel
How to make delicious and crispy falafel at home rivaling your favorite restaurants. After lots of kitchen testing, this falafel recipe has become our favorite way to make falafel. The recipe is straightforward, 100% plant-based (vegan), and they taste incredible. Jump to the Easy Falafel Recipe
What is Falafel?
Falafel is a popular Middle Eastern food made with legumes (most often with chickpeas or fava beans) that’s mixed with herbs, spices, and then deep fried until crisp golden brown on the outside and tender in the middle.
We first tried great falafel in Paris (the Marais district). We noticed an outrageous line of people waiting to order a falafel sandwich. Wanting in on the action, we followed suit and ordered falafel. Not realizing we were standing next to what’s been called one of the world’s best falafel sandwiches, we took our first bite and wow! The falafel was freshly made and so tender on the inside. The outside was perfectly golden brown and crisp. They were nestled in a pita with vegetables, pickles, and a silky tahini sauce drizzle on top. We were hooked! In fact, we loved it so much that we went back to order falafel everyday during our stay ?
For those interested, we ordered from L’As du Fallafel (with the green store front), but there are quite a few popular places selling falafel in the district so I recommend you explore and try them all! That’s what we plan to do the next time we visit.
During our testing, we tried a variety of recipes for falafel and this recipe is what stood out to us. When made using our “as close to authentic as we could get it” falafel recipe, the falafel is vegan and gluten-free. No flour is used in our recipe. The centers are light, tender, and extra flavorful thanks to green herbs and garlic, while the exterior is perfectly crisp and golden brown.
Dried chickpeas — I’ve addressed this further below, but canned or cooked chickpeas are not an option when making falafel. I know there are other recipes that say you can use them, but soaked dried chickpeas will make the best falafel. The taste is so much better and the texture is completely different. For the best authentic falafel, dried chickpeas are your friend (note: this does not mean the recipe is difficult, I promise ?).
Onion and garlic — We like falafel to pack a punch in the flavor department so we use a generous amount of onion and garlic. We’ve used scallions, yellow onion, and shallots to make falafel. I personally prefer scallions or sweet onion (like Walla Walla or Vidalia), but even I have to admit they aren’t a game-changer compared to other onion varieties. Use what you have, just keep in mind if you have an especially strong flavored onion, you might want to cut back slightly or deflame them (I share how in the notes section in the recipe).
Fresh herbs — You can see from our photos that we use a lot of fresh herbs in our recipe. If you’ve followed some of our other recipes, you already know we love using fresh herbs. Falafel is no different, we use 2 packed cups of herbs! We adore the combination of parsley, cilantro, and mint for this. You can, however, use just one or two herbs if that’s all you have access to. I love the bright green color inside each falafel, which is all thanks to the herbs.
Dried spices — Just like the fresh herbs, we don’t hold back when adding dried spices. We add ground cumin (a little smoky), ground coriander (a little nutty with a hint of citrus), ground cardamom (a hint of citrus and herbal), as well as cayenne pepper (hot and spicy). In addition to the spices, we add a generous amount of salt and some ground black pepper.
Baking powder — We include baking powder as an optional ingredient because you can absolutely make amazing falafel without it. That said, if you have it in the kitchen, adding a little baking powder makes the center of the falafel just a little bit more tender, airy, and light.
How to Make our Favorite Homemade Falafel Recipe
Before we started experimenting with homemade falafel, I thought it would be on the difficult side of things, but let me tell you, falafel is so easy to make! The full recipe, which has been inspired by some seriously amazing chefs including, Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimiwith, Sharon Salloum, and J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, but here are the basic steps we follow for making amazing falafel at home:
Step 1, Soak dried chickpeas: This step is simple. Add dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to a large bowl and cover by quite a few inches of water. Set the bowl aside and let the beans rehydrate until they triple in size. This takes a while, so I do this the night before I plan to make falafel. I’ve also done this two days in advance, drained the beans, and then kept them covered in the fridge. [While we do not cook these beans until they are in the falafel mix, we do have a full tutorial for soaking and cooking dried chickpeas if you are interested.]
Step 2, Process all falafel ingredients in a food processor: Roughly chop the onion/scallions, and then add them to the food processor with the chickpeas, garlic, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. Then pulse until the mixture is chopped small, but before it is smooth — see our video and photos for reference.
Step 3: Cover the falafel mix and refrigerate for 15 minutes: Other recipes call for chilling the falafel mix for 2 hours, since we aren’t using canned chickpeas or flour in our recipe, we only need 15 minutes of chill time (although, you can leave it in the fridge for much longer if that works better with your schedule).
Step 4, Form balls from the falafel mix: This recipe makes about 18 falafel, so since it’s just the two of us, I usually form half of the mix into balls and then refrigerate the rest for the next day. The mixture might seem like it wants to fall apart, but trust us, it won’t. Just scoop 1 1/2 tablespoons or so of the mix and press it into a ball or oblong shape with the palms of your hands (it’s a little messy, but easy).
Step 5, Cook the falafel: For the most authentic and crispy falafel, we fry the falafel in about 3/4 inch of oil. I’m not usually one to fry foods in my kitchen, but when it comes to falafel, it’s 100% worth it! It’s also not as difficult or messy as many make it seem. I have provided tips for baking and pan-frying falafel below, but remember, for the best falafel, frying is the answer.
When the falafel are cooked, we immediately sprinkle a little extra salt over them and serve. You want to eat falafel right away since it’s at it’s best right out of the oil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use canned chickpeas or previously cooked chickpeas to make falafel?
When we started our recipe testing, we both really wanted previously cooked or canned chickpeas to work in this recipe. I mean, who doesn’t love the ease of opening a can of beans and making a meal. Unfortunately, after a few tests, we determined that canned chickpeas do not work as a direct substitute for soaked dried beans.
Soaked dried beans are much firmer and have starch in them so they add texture to the falafel, don’t turn mushy, and hold together without extra binders (like flour or egg). When I substituted canned chickpeas in this recipe, the falafel literally vanished in the oil, it just disintegrated. To get around this, I needed to add flour, which did help the falafel stay together in the oil, and I achieved a nice brown exterior, but the middle was mushy and all one texture. Not anything like the falafel in our photos with bits of chickpea, onion, and herbs.
Now I know that we don’t always have the time to soak beans overnight and maybe canned chickpeas is all you have in the kitchen so here’s what we recommend. If you need to make falafel with canned chickpeas, you will need to make the following adjustments to our recipe and remember the texture will be very different.
For falafel made with canned chickpeas, substitute three cups of canned chickpeas (patted dry) for the soaked chickpeas and add 4 to 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the mix.
Can falafel be baked instead of fried?
Falafel is best when fried, but you can successfully bake the falafel mix for slightly healthier, baked falafel. To bake falafel, heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and add a couple tablespoons of high heat cooking oil to a baking sheet. Form the falafel mix into 1/2-inch patties (instead of balls) so that they sit flat on the baking sheet. Bake the falafel patties, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, 20 to 25 minutes. (Scroll down to see a photo showing the different between fried and baked falafel.)
Can falafel be pan fried instead of fried?
You already know that we prefer to fry our falafel, but you can pan fry falafel instead (which uses much less oil). To pan fry falafel, heat a couple tablespoons of high heat cooking oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Form the falafel mix into 1/2-inch patties (instead of balls) so that they sit flat. Pan fry the falafel patties, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. (Scroll down to see a photo showing the different between fried and pan fried falafel.)
What’s the difference between fried, pan fried, and baked falafel?
We wanted to make sure that we covered all the bases for this recipe, so we tried all three cooking methods and took a photo for you. In the photo below, fried falafel are on the left, pan-fried falafel is in the middle, and baked falafel is on the right.
The most tender, fluffy result was fried (left). The interior texture of the pan fried falafel was close to fried, but the outside was not nearly as crunchy. Compared to the other options, the baked falafel was much drier and more dense in the middle and the exterior was the least crunchy.
One note, while we have not tried it, we are both interested in what would happen if we used an air fryer to cook falafel. We don’t own one yet, but if we invest in one, we will be sure to update this recipe with our results.
Can I make the falafel mixture ahead? Can they be frozen?
Yes, this falafel mixture can be made in advance. The falafel mix should keep covered in the fridge for a few days. In fact, we rely on this a lot since it is just the two of us. I’ll make a batch and only cook half, then cook the second batch the next day. I’ve also kept the soaked chickpeas in the fridge for a day or two before making the falafel mix.
You can also freeze pre-made falafel balls up to six months. Thaw the balls in the refrigerator and then cook them in oil as directed in the recipe below. Cooked falafel can also be frozen, thawed, and then reheated.
How long do falafel keep once they’re cooked?
Falafel is best when eaten straight away. That’s when the exterior is the most crisp and the interior the most fluffy. There are lots of recipes that suggest making falafel in advance and then reheating them, but since we have fallen so hard for that super crispy outside, we personally don’t do it. Technically, cooked falafel will last, covered in the fridge for a day or two. You can even try freezing it. The falafel will still taste great, you will just lose quite a bit of the texture.
Our tips for preventing falafel from falling apart
- Using soaked dried chickpeas is best. Canned chickpeas are at more risk of falling apart when they hit the oil.
- Before making the falafel mixture, pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess moisture from the soaked chickpeas.
- Rest the prepared falafel balls in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- For the best results, keep the oil between 350 and 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do not crowd the pan — cooking too many falafel balls at one time will drop the temperature of the oil. It also prevents the balls from bumping into each other while they cook.
What to Serve With and How to Serve Falafel
There are so many ways to serve falafel. Here are some of our favorite ways:
As an appetizer with your favorite dipping sauce. We cannot recommend our dreamy (vegan) tahini sauce enough for dipping your falafel into. This creamy tzatziki (a cucumber yogurt dip) would also be amazing.
Add falafel to or alongside salads. I love lots of crunch in my salads and especially love shredded purple cabbage, cucumbers, and tomato as a base for falafel. This chopped tomato, cucumber, and onion salad is also a favorite (I just spoon it on top of everything).
Make a falafel sandwich. You can add just about anything, but our favorite falafel sandwiches start with pita bread, a spoonful of hummus, lettuce or cabbage, tomato, cucumber, and a drizzle of tahini or garlic tahini sauce.
Make a falafel platter. Grab the largest plate you own and pile on falafel, creamy hummus (here’s our homemade hummus and a roasted red pepper hummus), baba ganoush (a roasted eggplant dip), lots of veggies like carrots, cabbage, and cucumbers, olives, as well as some sauces like tahini or tzatziki.
How to Make Perfectly Crispy Falafel
How to make delicious and crispy falafel at home rivaling your favorite restaurants. After lots of kitchen tests, this falafel recipe has become our favorite way to make falafel. The recipe is straightforward, 100% plant-based (vegan), and the falafel tastes incredible.
In addition to the active prep and cook time, you will need to soak dried chickpeas overnight. This can be done a couple days in advance, simply drain and pat dry the soaked beans, and then store, covered in the fridge until ready to make the falafel mix.
Note on using canned chickpeas or cooked chickpeas: Canned chickpeas are cooked chickpeas. After testing, we have determined that canned or cooked chickpeas do not work as a direct substitute for soaked dried beans in this recipe. The falafel will fall apart in the oil. Recipe adaptations for using canned chickpeas or cooked chickpeas are shared in the article above.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
8 ounces (225 grams) dried chickpeas (1 heaping cup) *not canned chickpeas
1 bunch scallions (85 grams) scallions, trimmed (5 to 6), see notes
2 to 4 medium garlic cloves, depending on how much you like garlic
2 cups packed fresh cilantro, parsley, or mint leaves, we prefer to use a mixture of all three
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking powder, optional, see notes
2 to 3 cups (480 to 720ml) vegetable oil, for frying
Rinse the dried chickpeas then place into a large bowl and cover with cool water by about 4 inches. Cover and soak overnight or until the beans triple in size. Drain the soaked chickpeas, rinse, and then pat dry or add to a salad spinner to spin dry.
Add chickpeas, scallions, garlic, herbs, salt, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne, black pepper, and the baking powder to a bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until very finely minced, but not pureed, scraping the bowl down as necessary. You should be able to press a handful together and have it hold it’s shape (it will be loose and a little crumbly). See our video and photos above for reference.
Transfer the falafel mix to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to help the balls hold together when cooking. If making ahead, you can refrigerate the mixture for a few days.
Use a tablespoon or small cookie scoop to scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoons of the falafel mix then gently shape it into a ball and place onto a clean plate. Repeat with as many falafel as you plan to cook. The mix will not act like dough, but will hold its shape. Watch the video to see how we do this. Optional step: As an extra fail-safe for preventing the balls from falling apart when they hit the oil, rest the falafel balls in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking.
Add at least 3/4 inch of oil to a deep saucepan, cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. The smaller the pan, the less oil you will need. The wider the pan, the more falafel you can cook at one time).
Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the oil to between 350 degrees and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fry the falafel in batches, placing them gently into the oil and without crowding in the pan, until they are browned on the bottom sides. Using two forks, carefully flip the falafel to brown the other side, 3 1/2 minutes to 4 minutes total.
Transfer the cooked falafel to a plate lined with paper towel, sprinkle with a little salt, and then repeat with the remaining falafel balls. Serve immediately.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- 8 ounces of dried chickpeas equals about 3 cups (500 grams) soaked chickpeas
- Scallions: Substitute half a medium sweet white onion (like Walla Walla sweets and Vidalia) or 1 large shallot for the scallions. If your onion is especially strong, rinsing it with cool water for 10 seconds or so will tone down the raw onion flavor.
- Baking powder is optional and helps to make the most tender, fluffy falafel. You can leave it out and still make incredibly delicious falafel.
- Baked or pan-fried falafel instructions are shared in the article above.
- Using Canned Chickpeas: After testing, we have determined that canned chickpeas do not work as a direct substitute for soaked dried beans in this recipe. The falafel will fall apart in the oil. Recipe adaptations for using canned chickpeas are shared in the article above.
- Falafel recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimiwith, Sharon Salloum, and J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats.
- Nutritional Facts: The nutrition data for this recipe was very difficult to accuratley calculate. We use the USDA database to calculate nutrition facts, but without proper equipment and a lab, we are unable to calculate how much oil will be absorbed by each falafel when fried. The data provided below is for the falafel mix only (before cooking).