Falafel balls are a Middle Eastern dish that has become popular all over the world. These crispy, fried balls are made from chickpeas, herbs, and spices, and are often served in a pita with a variety of toppings. But what exactly are falafel balls? Where did they come from? And how do you make them? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and give you the lowdown on these crunchy classics.
The History of Falafel Balls
Falafel balls have a long and rich history that dates back to ancient Egypt. Chickpeas were a staple of the Egyptian diet and were often used to make the popular dish known as ta’amiya. Ta’amiya was made by mashing up soaked chickpeas and frying them, and it is believed that this dish was the precursor to falafel.
The dish spread to other parts of the Middle East and became a popular street food in countries like Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. In fact, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, many Palestinians were forced to flee their homes and became refugees in other parts of the Middle East. Falafel became a symbol of their culture and identity, and it is often referred to as the “national food” of Palestine.
How Falafel Balls Are Made
Falafel balls are made from chickpeas that have been soaked overnight, then ground up with herbs and spices like parsley, cilantro, and cumin. The mixture is then formed into small balls or patties and deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.
While chickpeas are the traditional base for falafel, some variations use fava beans instead. These are known as ful medames, and they are a popular breakfast dish in Egypt.
- 1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4-6 tablespoons flour
- Oil for frying
1. Soak chickpeas in water overnight.
2. Drain the chickpeas and add to a food processor along with the onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until you have a coarse mixture.
3. Add the baking powder and enough flour to hold the mixture together. You want it to be able to hold its shape, but not too dry.
4. Heat enough oil in a skillet to cover the falafel balls. Form the mixture into small balls or patties and fry until golden brown and crispy.
5. Serve with pita bread, hummus, tahini, and any other toppings you like!
Falafel Balls Around the World
While falafel is traditionally a Middle Eastern dish, it has gained popularity all over the world and there are now countless variations to be found.
In Europe, you’ll often find falafel balls being served as a vegetarian or vegan option in kebab shops and fast-food restaurants. In the UK, there are even falafel-themed street food festivals, where you can sample a variety of different falafel dishes.
In Asia, falafel balls are sometimes used as a filling for sushi or as a topping for rice bowls. They are also popular in India, where they are often served with a spicy coriander chutney.
In the US, falafel balls are a popular street food, and you’ll find them at food trucks, festivals, and markets. They are often served in a pita with hummus, tahini, and a variety of fresh veggies.
Health Benefits of Falafel Balls
Falafel balls are a healthy and nutritious food that is packed with protein, fiber, and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
Chickpeas are a great source of protein, with around 14 grams of protein per cup.
Falafel balls are also high in fiber, which can help promote digestive health and keep you feeling full and satisfied.
The fresh herbs in falafel balls, like parsley and cilantro, are a great source of vitamin C, which can help boost your immune system and fight off illness.
Chickpeas are also a great source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health and can help regulate blood clotting.
Common Questions About Falafel Balls
What’s the difference between falafel balls and falafel wraps?
Falafel balls are the same as the falafel you would find in a wrap, just served on their own. The wrap is simply a way to serve the falafel with other ingredients like lettuce, tomato, and sauce.
Can I make falafel balls with canned chickpeas?
While it is possible to make falafel balls with canned chickpeas, it is not recommended as the texture will not be the same. Canned chickpeas are softer than dried chickpeas, which can make the falafel balls mushy and difficult to fry.
Are falafel balls vegan?
Yes, falafel balls are typically vegan as they are made from plant-based ingredients like chickpeas and herbs.
Are falafel balls gluten-free?
Traditionally, falafel balls are made with wheat flour, which is not gluten-free. However, you can easily make gluten-free falafel balls by using a gluten-free flour like rice flour or chickpea flour instead.