It was in New York while I was interning at a magazine and living with my brother that I first started getting intense cravings for falafel from a street vendor. This was weird for two reasons: because I was craving street vendor food specifically as if it were superior to the many Mediterranean restaurants in the most diverse city in the world, but mostly because I’d never had falafel before in my life.
I never had falafel on that trip though, so I guess I’m not really in a position to judge how the street vendors rank among the falafel makers in the Big Apple. I blamed my lack of falafel consumption that trip on running out of time (there were too many other restaurants I wanted to try (like the Indian place with the chili pepper lights and the crazy birthday song!), but I think it also had a lot to do with the fact that I was a wimp and also broke. I was hesitant to spend $7 on a dinner that I might end up hating.
The falafel cravings died after that — there’s not a lot of falafel joints in the small town of Rochester, Illinois, and then I just forgot. But then, 2 years later, I moved to Chicago, I got a job centrally located between 3 falafel places, and then I remembered. I went to Roti one day for lunch and they accidentally gave me a free side of falafel (sorry to the person who actually ordered and paid for that) and I was hooked. It instantly became my new favorite food! The fact that I went 20 years with out this little chickpea patty actually angered me!
Then — like most foods I try and love — I thought to myself, “I can totally make that.” So, on a Tuesday, after a long day at work, I ambitiously thought it was a good day to try homemade falafel. I looked up a recipe and stopped at the grocery story on my way home. The only things I needed and didn’t already have were chickpeas and onions, plus a couple things for the sauce, pita and toppings. I bought everything I needed for a full-on Mediterranean meal for $11 — and that’s downtown Chicago, so I’m positive it would be even cheaper anywhere else in the country.
Yes, I promise that making falafel from scratch is not only possible, but also simple, cheap and delicious!
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1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon coriander
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
oil for frying (canola or vegetable)
*NOTE: If making the cucumber sauce, I recommend making that before starting your falafel so that it will be ready to go when your falafel are cooked.
Combine chickpeas, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Add flour and parsley and combine well.
Mash chickpeas, making sure to mix ingredients together. (I tried a potato masher for this, but found that just a spoon worked best for me.) You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste.
Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten.
Since my onions were a little too big, it was hard to get my chickpea mixture to hold together. I discovered a trick that I thought worked perfectly! I used a cookie scoop and firmly packed in the mixture. I plopped the ball on my hand and pressed it out just a little bit. The results were something like this:
Fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (about 3 minutes on each side). I just estimated on this and had my stove set to medium high.
When you take the falafel out of the oil, place them on a paper towel to cool a bit/soak up a bit of the grease.
Serve the falafel in a pita pocket with tomato and cucumber sauce (recipe below) and a side of curry rice (the instant box mix kind).
1 container plain yogurt (use Greek Yogurt if you like your sauce thick)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dill
dash of pepper
Dice your cucumber as fine as you can.
Mix everything together. Before serving, refrigerate 30 minutes – 1 hour.