Falafel: All About This Middle Eastern Snack

Falafel is a type of street food of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean origin. It can be found for sale via vendors or either fast-food spots in countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and Egypt. Falafel is, in essence, deep-fried patties that are created from either ground fava beans or chickpeas, or sometimes a combination of both.

History of the Falafel

The history of falafel or the answer to where falafel comes from is not 100% certain. There are a few theories. One maintains that its origins date back to the Egyptian Copts, others feel it first appeared in the 6th century in India. Other theories believe it didn’t come about until the 19th century when it first made an appearance in Egyptian literature. It is safe to say that there is great debate about its origin with many countries claiming they discovered the tasty dish. Israel is perhaps the most convinced that they created Falafel, even going as far as putting it in songs and making it one of their national dishes.

How to Make Falafel

As mentioned above, falafel is created using fava beans or chickpeas or a combination of the two. These ingredients are then combined with cilantro and dill, parsley, garlic, coriander, crushed red pepper flakes, and other fresh herbs or ingredients like onions, shallots or garlic. While this is the basis of falafel, there is room for interpretation as the dish lends itself well to experimentation. Nuts, herbs, and different legumes are often added or subbed in for the main ingredients. To make falafel, the ingredients are added to a food processor to create a mixture that can then be formed into either balls or patties. This is then either baked or fried according to taste preference. Frying will offer a crisper texture when compared to baking.

Health Benefits of Falafel

Falafel is known as a popular vegan and vegetarian food. Since chickpeas are a main ingredient, this dish is considered a good source of plant-based protein. Chickpeas also contain minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, and B vitamins. To get the most health benefits, use an air fryer or bake the falafel instead of frying it which can add fat and calories to the dish.

Recipes to Try With Falafel

Try any of the following to incorporate this delicious option into your meals/snacks:

→ Stuffed Falafel Balls

Combine two cups of falafel mix, ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese, finely crumbled, ¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves, ⅓ cup roasted red peppers finely chopped, two tablespoons grated Parmesan, two teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, one teaspoon dried mint, two teaspoons red wine vinegar, ½ cup tahini. You will also add juice from half a lemon, vegetable oil when frying, and serve with lemon wedges and/or cucumber slices. 

→ Baked Chickpea Patties with Tahini and Cucumber

This dish combines a large amount of cilantro (around three cups) and onion, three cloves of garlic, one teaspoon of ground cumin, freshly ground pepper and Kosher salt, one can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), ½ cup plus another two tablespoons of tahini, ¼ cup of panko breadcrumbs, juice from two lemons, two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, two to three pieces of pita bread and five Persian cucumbers (thinly sliced).

Falafel Options at Pita Jungle

There are many easy ways to prepare falafel for either a snack or to add to a meal as you can see from the recipe synopsis above. There are several ways to enjoy this dish including the following, which are available at Pita Jungle:

  • Pitas & Wraps: Pitas, wraps or bowls are a great way to enjoy the delicious falafel taste. At Pita Jungle, one great option in this category is the Falafel Pita. This option features either original or baked chickpea croquettes, tahini, seasonal mixed greens, pickles, red onions, and tomatoes. It is served either on a pita or as a bowl with turmeric brown rice which also comes with cabbage-kale super greens, lemon juice, garlic, and sumac. This is the Mediterranean version of a sandwich or an option to substitute for a veggie burger.
  • Salad: Of course, one way to enjoy the falafel dish is by adding it to a delicious, healthy salad. The Falafel Salad at Pita Jungle is a vegetarian option that features baked or original chickpea croquettes, cucumbers, tahini, red onions, pickles, tomatoes, seasonal mixed greens, and lemon vinaigrette.  If you choose to have your falafel baked, this makes a great vegan option!

The falafel is a great addition to a meal or a good snack with plenty of health benefits. Thankfully, you can try it for yourself at Pita Jungle.