Classic Falafel

Here’s how to make falafel: the authentic way! It tastes just like a restaurant, herby and fried to crispy perfection—with a baked variation, too.

Falafel

Once you’ve had really good falafel, you crave it. This fried chickpea fritter is stuff dreams are made of, stuffed into a flatbread with cool cucumber or tangy tahini sauce. You get the crunch of the fried outside, the soft herby interior, and the sauces that run down your chin and stick to your fingers. Homemade falafel is not quick and easy; it’s a masterpiece that tastes just like your favorite restaurant. Here’s what you need to know about how to make falafel at home!

How to make falafel: an overview!

This recipe is years in the making, like our margherita pizza and sourdough bread. Alex and I have done extensive research and learned from the masters to create this best classic falafel recipe. This recipe is a process, designed to honor the falafel you get at your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant (not replace it!).

This is your chance to back out if you’re looking for an easy dinner recipe! Go to our Falafel Salad, Raw Falafel Bowls, or Falafel Burger: they’re easier and have similar flavors. Consider yourself warned! Now: here’s the basic outline of what you’re getting yourself into with homemade falafel:

Soak the chickpeasOvernight (or at least 6 hours)
Make dough and rest it5 minutes active, 20 to 30 minutes hands off
Form the falafel5 to 10 minutes active
Fry the falafel10 minutes active
Falafel sandwich

Equipment you need

You’ll need just a few things to make authentic falafel at home! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large food processor: This is essential because it’s what breaks down the dried soaked chickpeas. A blender or small processor just won’t do. (Definitely not a knife!)
  • Food thermometer (optional): It’s nice to have a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil you’re frying in.

Authentic falafel uses dried chickpeas

Authentic falafel uses dried chickpeas. Do not even consider using canned chickpeas or cooked chickpeas in this recipe! Say it with me: I will use DRIED chickpeas! The classic texture that’s fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside comes from using dried chickpeas.

Soak these dried chickpeas overnight, or at least 6 hours. This means you’ll have to think ahead. Soaking the chickpeas softens them to a texture where they can be blended into balls. You’ll notice they double in size after soaking. Soaking overnight: that’s inconvenient! you might think. But authentic falafel is not about convenience at all. It’s about pure, delicious flavor. And that’s worth waiting for.

Authentic falafel

Here’s the texture that the dough should be!

The key to perfect falafel is the consistency of the dough. Blend it too much and the balls will be too dense. Blend it too little and the’ll fall apart when frying.

When you process the chickpeas with the herbs and spices, you’ll want a blended and uniform dough. The best way to explain this is by looking at it. Below is what your dough should look like when you’re done blending:

Falafel dough consistency

Forming the falafel: it’s not like cookie dough!

Another place where you might trip up: falafel dough feels crumbly and wet. It’s not at all like cookie dough! There’s no gluten or binder, so it doesn’t stick together in the way you’d expect. That’s exactly what you want here.

Chill the dough for 20 to 30 minutes to help it become easier to form. Then form it into balls the size of a ping pong. Pat it firmly so it comes together, but don’t squeeze it so hard that it crumbles. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it once you do a few!

How to form falafel

How to fry falafel (most authentic method)

Phew, you’ve made it to the frying step! When fried correctly, the falafel only pick up a bit of the oil. Because falafel are plant-based and healthier than a meat alternative, we still count it as a healthy (ish) recipe! Here are some tips on how to fry falafel:

  • Use a food thermometer if you have one. This can help you get to the perfect oil temperature (350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • This method uses 3/4″ of oil in a pan. It’s not deep frying, but it’s legit frying. If that scares you, go to the alternate methods below.
  • Take precautions around hot oil. The pan we used for frying was non-stick, so the oil didn’t bubble at all. Don’t be surprised: it might not look hot, but it is! Take necessary precautions (that is, don’t let your kiddos near it, etc)
  • Drop in balls carefully, then fry until brown and crispy. With the correct oil temperature, the falafel come out crispy, not oily.
How to fry falafel

Alternate method 1: Skillet fried falafel

If frying scares you, try skillet frying instead! The main difference here is that it uses 6 tablespoons of oil instead of 3/4 inch. It’s more like sauteing each surface than frying. This method is nice if you don’t have a food thermometer. Here’s what to know about this method:

  • It makes disc shapes, not balls. Because you’ll only be cooking two sides, you’ll have to flatten the balls into discs. If you want the authentic ball shape, you’ll need to use the main frying method.
  • Continue to cover the bottom of the pan with oil for each new batch.

Alternate method 2: Baked falafel

Baked falafel is not a traditional way to make it. The flavor and texture are not quite the same. But if you prefer not frying, this is your method! Here’s what to know about baked falafel:

  • It doesn’t get nearly as crispy as the fried method, as you might guess. But it’s still tasty!
  • It makes disc shapes, not balls. You can only get two sides browned in the oven method, so you’ll have to flatten the balls into discs just like skillet frying. They look a little less authentic but they still taste good!
Falafel in pita

Ways to serve falafel

Got those beautiful, crispy balls? Good! Here’s the best part: serving it! You can serve falafel as an appetizer with a dip. Or, we think the best way is in a falafel sandwich. (One of Alex and my top food experiences of all time is the falafel at L’As du Falafel in Paris. Transcendental!) Here are our best falafel sauces and accompaniments:

  • Cucumber Sauce or Tzatziki: This Quick Cucumber Sauce is easy to whip up while you’re waiting for the dough to chill. Or try the even more authentic tzatziki, made ahead.
  • Dill Sauce: Try this Dill Sauce or Lemon Dill Sauce for an herby option.
  • Tahini Sauce: Lemon Tahini Sauce is creamy and tangy, another traditional sauce.
  • Cilantro Sauce: Falafel can also be served with a green cilantro sauce like Creamy Cilantro Sauce (vegan) or Creamy Cilantro Dressing.
  • Flatbread: Often it’s served in a pita pocket, but we think best way is wrapped in a soft flatbread. Try our Easy Flatbread Recipe if you’re really looking to impress! Also add crunchy veggies like lettuce, tomato and red onion.
  • Other ideas: Hummus makes a nice contrast. Harissa is good too; our best restaurant falafel featured this as part of the messy sandwich.
Best falafel in pita bread

This recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Falafel

Classic Falafel (Restaurant-Style!)


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (10 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 24 falafel 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Here’s how to make falafel: the authentic way! It tastes just like a restaurant, herby and crisp fried to perfection—with a baked variation, too.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (not cooked or canned)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1/2 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves and tender stems (or substitute more cilantro)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Neutral oil (like canola or vegetable), for frying
  • To serve as a sandwich: quick cucumber sauce, dill sauce, or tahini sauceflatbread (try ours!) or pita bread, tomato, romaine lettuce, and red onion

Instructions

  1. Soak the chickpeas (overnight, or 6 hours): Add the chickpeas in a covered container and cover with several inches of water and soak overnight or at least 6 hours at room temperature. Drain them in a strainer and shake dry before using.
  2. Make the dough and refrigerate (30 minutes): Peel the garlic. Peel and roughly chop the red onion.  Add the garlic, red onion, cilantro and parsley to a food processor and process 10 to 15 seconds until minced, scraping the sides as necessary. Add the chickpeas, cumin, coriander, baking powder, kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Process for 10 seconds, stop to scrape the sides, then process more until a dough forms. It should be the texture in the photos above (check to make sure before proceeding!). Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil*: Add 3/4” of oil to a frying pan and heat over medium high heat until oil is 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. This takes about 8-10 minutes over medium high heat. (Make sure to take safety precautions when using hot oil.)
  4. Form the falafel (5 to 10 minutes): Meanwhile, press the dough into 24 to 28 balls about the size of a ping pong ball, around 1 1/2 tablespoons each, and place them on a baking sheet. Falafel dough is very crumbly, so it doesn’t stick together like a normal dough and it takes a little pressing to stay together. Don’t worry: this is just what you want for good falafel! (If the dough is really having problems sticking together, throw it back in the food processor and pulse a few more times.)
  5. Fry the falafel (8 minutes): When the oil is hot, fry one batch (about 12) of the falafel by dropping the balls gently into the oil with your fingers, keeping them as far apart as possible. Cook 1 minute, then flip with chopsticks and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until browned on all sides. Transfer to a towel lined baking sheet or plate. Repeat with the second batch.
  6. Serve: Serve with quick cucumber sauce, dill sauce or tahini sauce, or as part of a falafel sandwich.

Notes

*Alternate option 1: Skillet fry the falafel: Shape the dough into balls then flatten them into discs, about 2 inches in diameter and just under 1/2-inch thick. Heat 6 tablespoons neutral oil in a skillet or frying pan. Place a crumb from a falafel disk in the oil, and once it starts to sizzle, the oil is ready. Fry about 8 falafel at a time, for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are lightly browned all over, flipping with chopsticks. Transfer the cooked falafel to a plate. Add a bit more oil to keep the bottom of the skillet covered for the next batch.

*Alternate option 2: Bake the falafel: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Shape the falafel into discs as noted above. Place the discs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.

  • Category: Main Dish or Appetizer
  • Method: Fried
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean

Keywords: Falafel, Authentic Falafel, Best Falafel, How to Make Falafel, Falafel Sandwich

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

7 Comments

  • Reply
    Lauralli
    April 30, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    I will definitely be trying these! I’ve made them before but I’ve never fried them due to the mess & smell. I like to shape into discs and cook in my waffle maker…a falafel waffle! 😃 They get really crispy but tend to be somewhat dry. I bought a small electric fryer recently that I can use outdoors to help with both of these issues. They would be deep-fried. Think that would work?

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      April 30, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      Yes, that would work great!

  • Reply
    Chantale
    May 2, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Indefinitely want to try them… One quick question first. Do we cook the chick peas?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 2, 2020 at 8:41 pm

      No! Just soak them and then go straight to food processor.

  • Reply
    Tara
    May 18, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    Made these tonight – my first attempt at falafel. They were … kinda ugly and malformed (I need to work on my technique) but they tasted great! Thanks for the recipe and detailed instructions.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    May 27, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    We’ve had these twice already and they will become a family staple! Last night I tried them in the air fryer and they were phenomenal! 375 degrees for 14 minutes, turning halfway (shaped as a ball). Thank you!!!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 28, 2020 at 8:28 am

      Oh good to know! Thanks for making :)

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