Falafel and Tahini Sauce

Worth the 24-hour soak.

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February 02, 2021

Prep: 25h 0min

Cook: 20min

Serves: 5-6

The gist.

Keep that can of chickpeas in the pantry. After soaking dried chickpeas for a day, you’ll combine them with fresh herbs, an array of spices, onion, and garlic. It all goes into the food processor and is then formed into patties ready for deep-frying. The crispy falafel paired with a creamy tahini sauce makes a meal worth the 24-hour soak.

Some of my recipes I develop from scratch. I stand in my kitchen, open the pantry, stare into the fridge, sniff spices, and am often quite inspired by what I have on hand. Some of these improv dishes end up tasting so good that I take the plunge and work on developing them into replicable recipes.

Other times, my recipe development is based around a well-established dish. Having lived in France and Belgium, a handful or two of my recipes on this site are of European origin. When I develop these recipes, I like to immerse myself in the history and lore surrounding the dish. Sometimes, it can be hard to find much regarding the story of the recipe, especially in a language I can read (thank Google for Google Translate).

Today’s dish, on the other hand, has a plethora of very informative articles and stories all over the web. Falafel, I’ve learned, has deep connections to one of the world’s longest, ongoing conflicts: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’m not going to attempt to explain the conflict in this blog post, but I’ve gone down a very interesting rabbit hole reading about the history of the falafel within the context of the controversial conflict. If you’re interested, start with the New York Times article titled, “A History of the Mideast in the Humble Chickpea.”

From what I’ve discovered, it appears the general consensus is that the falafel originated in Egypt. Coptic Christians weren’t allowed to eat meat during the Lent holiday, still wanted to eat something akin to meat, and ended up creating the original falafel with fava beans. With a little movement and a little time, the recipe eventually made its way north across the border and into the Israel/Palestine region. Again, for more info on the matter, check out the above-mentioned article.

I made my first attempt at making falafel in college. Other than canned chickpeas, I really can’t remember what other ingredients I used. I do remember that the end result was a crumbly pile of fried something sitting on a paper towel. I passed the whole process off as being too difficult and returned to my daily peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

Years passed and I eventually decided to give the whole thing another go. Today I present to you what I make when I’m in the mood for falafel. If you’re used to making falafel with canned or other cooked chickpeas, you’re in for a new experience! Exciting or what. In this recipe, the general idea is that you soak the dried chickpeas for an entire day, and then process them raw in a food processor with the other supplementary ingredients. From there, everything chills a bit longer, and then is formed into patties that take a deep dive into hot oil.

In addition to chickpeas, these falafel contain ingredients you might find in your everyday falafel: onion, garlic, fresh herbs, and a healthy dose of spices. If you don’t have red pepper flakes on hand, feel free to use cayenne pepper as a substitute. You’re not trying to make the falafel spicy, the heat just gives the overall flavor a bit more body.

Part two of this recipe is the tahini sauce. There is nothing complicated or difficult about this sauce, but it tastes so good with the falafel. You’ll combine the tahini, lemon juice, salt, and garlic, and then gradually add some water to thin the sauce to a consistency you are happy with.

When it comes time to serve, accompanied by the tahini sauce and maybe a bowl of tzatziki, these falafel do pretty well on their own. These are independent falafel, you could say.

Ingredients

  • Falafel
  • Tahini Sauce

Steps

(click each step as you go to keep track of your progress)

  • Falafel
  • Tahini Sauce

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Falafel and Tahini Sauce

  • Prep time: 25h 0min
  • Cook time: 20min
  • Serving size: 5-6
Keep that can of chickpeas in the pantry. After soaking dried chickpeas for a day, you’ll combine them with fresh herbs, an array of spices, onion, and garlic. It all goes into the food processor and is then formed into patties ready for deep-frying. The crispy falafel paired with a creamy tahini sauce makes a meal worth the 24-hour soak.

INGREDIENTS

  • *Falafel
  • 400 g (2 cups) dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 50 g (1 cup) parsley, chopped
  • 25 g (1/2 cup) cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • neutral oil for frying
  • *Tahini Sauce
  • 130 g (1/2 cup) tahini
  • 40 mL (2.5 Tbsp) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 75 mL (5 Tbsp) water

STEPS

  1. *Falafel

  2. The day before, place the chickpeas and baking soda in a large bowl. Fill bowl with cool tap water until water covers the chickpeas at least 2 inches. Let the bowl sit uncovered for 24 hours. If short on time, you can reduce the soak to 18 hours.

  3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast briefly, about 20 seconds. Be sure to stir constantly as sesame seeds are quite easy to burn. Immediately transfer from the skillet to a small bowl.

  4. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. The next step may need to be divided into two batches, depending on the size of your food processor. In the food processor, add the chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, onion, garlic, sesame seeds, and spices (salt, black pepper, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes). Process the ingredients until you obtain a semi-fine, grainy like mixture. You may need to occasionally scrape down the sides of the food processor.

  5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, you can jump ahead and prepare the tahini sauce.

  6. In a stockpot or dutch oven, add enough oil so that the oil is a few inches deep. Heat the pot over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches about 175° C (350° F). Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and stir in the baking powder. Use your hands to gather about 2 Tbsp of the mixture. Roll into a ball and then gently smash into a disc about 4 cm (1.5 in) in diameter. The size and shape are really up to you.

  7. Working in batches, add the discs to the hot oil using a slotted spoon. Allow them to fry for 4-5 minutes, or until the falafels are dark brown in color. Remove from oil and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

  8. Serve with tahini sauce and tzatziki sauce (recipe not included).

  9. *Tahini Sauce

  10. In a small bowl, combine tahini, lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Stir until combined.

  11. Gradually stir in water until you've reached a desired consistency. For me, this was 5 Tbsp. Adjust to your liking.

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