Homemade Falafels with a Little Help from Alton Brown

The huz loves falafel.  Really, really loves falafel.  So much so, that our daughter learned the word at 15 months. I don’t get as easily excited about falafel, but can appreciate one that is made well (ie. not dry and hanging around from 24 hours earlier).  I have tried to make falafels many times before, but in an attempt to make a healthy meal, have always opted for baking instead of frying.  Who am I kidding? This time, I decided to go big or go home.  (As a side note, Mark Bittman has a pretty decent baked falafel recipe – just don’t expect it to taste like your favourite takeout place).

I’ve always loved Alton Brown’s recipes, especially when he provides nerdy, scientific explanations.  That being said, his recipes don’t easily convert to vegetarian or vegan, since each ingredient in his recipes serve such a specific, scientific purpose.  However, if you find one of his recipes that are by default vegetarian, you’ve struck gold.  That was the case with his falafel recipe.  In my opinion, one of the most important steps was toasting the coriander and cumin seeds – it made the falafels so much more fragrant, and gave them a lovely earthiness.

As a vegetarian, a meat grinder isn’t something that is available in my kitchen, but I was able to use my food processor and get a great consistency.  Basically, I needed to make sure that I didn’t overprocess it, but at the same time, make sure the mixture would hold together when forming a ball. Once I had formed all the balls, I stored them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in my refrigerator. I kept them uncovered, but if you’re planning on preparing them in advance, I’d cover them with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out too much.
Vegan Falafels Before Frying

I also thought this would be a good time to try making my own pita at home – I wasn’t thrilled with the results, but this recipe has a lot of potential.  I think the problem was that I mixed in whole wheat flour into the recipe as well, and as a result, the pitas were not as soft as they could have been.  But you can’t beat the fresh taste of homemade pita, no matter how bad the recipe is.

I found a tip online that recommended rolling out your dough into a long log and cutting it into small rounds before rolling out the pita – this was a great shortcut and something to keep in mind!

Homemade Pita

I cooked the pita in our oven on a pizza stone – not sure if this made things any better than using a pan other than allowing the oven to stay extremely hot.Pita in the oven on a pizza stone

Last, but not least, I roasted potatoes with a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary and garlic – these potatoes tasted great with tzatziki. I poured the marinade over the potatoes and roasted at 400F for an hour.

Greek Roasted Potatoes


  • 1 pound dried chickpeas, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 4 small scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 quarts peanut oil (or your favourite oil for deep frying)
  1. Place the chickpeas in a medium bowl and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Soak overnight.
  2. Place the cumin and coriander seeds in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet and set over medium high heat. Cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the seeds give off an aroma and just begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the toasted spices to a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Set aside.
  3. Drain the chickpeas. Combine the soaked chickpeas, ground cumin and coriander, garlic and scallions, salt, black pepper, baking powder, cayenne pepper, and parsley leaves in your food processor.  Pulse until the mixture is fine enough to form falafels that will stick together.
  4. Scoop the mixture into 1 1/2 to 2-ounce portions using a 2-inch diameter disher. Place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment. Can be held hold at room temperature for up to 2 hours before frying, or covered in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven (or whatever you use for deep frying) over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F. Adjust the heat to maintain temperature. Gently place the falafel, 1 at a time, into the hot oil. Fry 4 at a time until deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a half sheet pan lined with a cooling rack and topped with a paper towel to drain. Repeat until all falafel have been cooked.

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