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The Collapse of the Falafel

orangewasabi Sep 10, 2007 08:37 AM

Any tips on frying falafels without having them burst apart into a fluffy mass of crunch? We were able to achieve structural integrity but the tennis ball size was a bit off putting.

At L'as (in Paris) they serve lovely little 1" round falafels that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

We used 2-3" of oil (so they could float) but maybe that's too much? What texture should the mix be? Ours might have been too wet?

  1. f
    foodslut Sep 10, 2007 08:41 AM

    The oil has to be hot enough before the falafel's are put in.

    1. JungMann Sep 10, 2007 08:48 AM

      2-3" is not too much. I prefer to let them chill in the freezer a bit so they hold up more firmly. Make sure the oil is hot enough to sizzle when you quickly immerse a parsley sprig in the pan. Once at the proper temperature, you can deep fry to better results.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JungMann
        orangewasabi Sep 10, 2007 10:00 AM

        freezing is genius, I can see that helping a lot!

      2. hotoynoodle Sep 10, 2007 09:28 AM

        most restaurants use a deep fryer for stuff like this. at home, i think the depth of oil was sufficient, however, if your balls exploded, i suspect your oil was too hot. a smaller size will be easier to cook as well. i make them into little patties, rather than balls.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hotoynoodle
          orangewasabi Sep 10, 2007 10:00 AM

          Patties might be a better idea.

          We tested all kinds of different sizes and the only size that didn't explode was tennis ball size The smaller ones just turned into a crisp lattice structure.

          I kept turning up the heat thinking that the hotter the faster it would sear but perhaps it was too hot.

          1. re: orangewasabi
            k
            Kelli2006 Sep 10, 2007 02:44 PM

            I like to use a number 10-12 disher and slight flatten them before I slip them in peanut oil. My preferred pan for frying falafel is a 2qt all clad sauce pan. 350F is plenty hot.

            I would not want to make enough for the Waltons in this pan, but for 3 people, it's sufficient.

        2. scubadoo97 Sep 10, 2007 09:48 AM

          How did you make your falafels? Did you use canned or did you use dried and soaked chickpeas? Give us your recipe and it may shed some light on why this happens.

          3 Replies
          1. re: scubadoo97
            orangewasabi Sep 10, 2007 09:56 AM

            ::hanging head in shame::

            I used a Cedar Phoenicia packet - 14oz of dry goods to 2 cups of water.

            1. re: orangewasabi
              scubadoo97 Sep 10, 2007 12:32 PM

              You really should try to make your own. It's very easy. Just soak dried chickpeas in water for 18+ hours. They will be eatable but crunchy. Grind them up with garlic, green onion, parsley, cilantro, a touch of baking powder and cumin in your food processor or a meat grinder. That's it. You can add a little flour but not needed. You can vary the above ingredients as well. It's really just ground up chickpeas and or a mixure of chickpeas and fava beans that are seasoned and fried.

              1. re: scubadoo97
                DiveFan Sep 10, 2007 06:04 PM

                What he said!!
                I can get by with canned chick peas as long as the percentage of the above fresh veggies and herbs is good. Egg and chick pea flour as binders work for me. Make 1.5 inch diameter, 0.5 inch thick patties and let them set for a while to hydrate any flour. A wok uses less oil for us who don't deep fry often.

          2. b
            bear Sep 10, 2007 10:57 AM

            I've found that if I use a recipe that calls for baking soda, forget it. They fall apart. You might try adding more bread, or an egg to bind.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bear
              orangewasabi Sep 10, 2007 11:24 AM

              that could be it, the packet does have socium bicarbonate in it. the egg is a great idea though, I will try that too.

            2. l
              laurendlewis Sep 10, 2007 11:56 AM

              THank you so much for posting this Q! I had a very similar experience 2 wks ago.... It was really my first home frying-of-any-kind experiment and failed miserably.
              I have decided that our favorite Israeli restaurant up the street makes much better felafel than I ever will.... We'll stick with them!

              1. Craterellus Sep 10, 2007 03:08 PM

                I have had mine disintegrate on occasion. Very sad. Here's an excerpt from Mark Bittman's The Minimalist column that addresses this. I have not made them since I spotted this last April:

                >There are two keys to making good falafel. First, keep the amount of water you use when grinding the beans to an absolute minimum. More water makes grinding easier, but it also virtually guarantees that the batter will fall apart when it hits the hot oil. If this happens, bind the remaining mixture by stirring in a little flour.

                For this reason, a food processor or very powerful blender is essential; you don't want a blender that isn't strong enough to grind the beans without adding too much water.

                The second essential step is to get the oil hot enough: 350 degrees or a little higher. If you don't have a thermometer, just wait until the oil shimmers and then add a pinch of the batter. When it sizzles immediately, sinks about halfway to the bottom, then rises to the top, the oil is ready. If it sinks and stays down, the oil is too cold; if it doesn't sink at all, the oil is too hot. <

                2 Replies
                1. re: Craterellus
                  r
                  Rory Sep 10, 2007 03:41 PM

                  using raw beans makes a huuuge difference, it tastes so much fresher when you grind it with the herbs!
                  But can you fry them, but not deep fry on a stove-top?. I'm not worried about calories, I just am afraid of deep-frying & it is too rich for me. So is there another way? Maybe flatter?

                  1. re: Rory
                    scubadoo97 Sep 10, 2007 04:57 PM

                    you will need a good inch of oil. You could try them in a shallow amount like half and inch or less. As long as you brown them on both sides and heat them through it should work. Deep frying is more effecient and will assure you get good browning and the heat will cook them through.

                2. luckyfatima Sep 11, 2007 12:38 AM

                  Did you allow the batter to "rest" ? You have to set it aside for like 30 minutes, that helps it bind or something.

                  also, I always use the baking soda because it makes them puff up and be slightly fluffy or spongy on the inside rather than heavy. mine have never fallen apart. I agree w/ the first commenters about the oil issue. that was more likely it.

                  oh one last thing, in addition to using minimum water, one mustn't over blitz them in the blender or they will come out heavy and hard rather than light and fluffy. if you feel you've over blended them, try whipping some air into them gently---don't over do it or you will inadvertantly overhandle the batter and whip all the air OUT!

                  good falafel is tricky but really easy and delicious once u get the hang of it.

                  1. a
                    apryl Apr 9, 2010 05:07 PM

                    This is so fantastic.....I have a box of Cedar Phoenicia Falafel mix in front of me and I was wondering what to do with it....
                    The directions are pretty vague, simple, but vague...
                    I was looking for a way to cook them with out deep frying...
                    I was hoping they would have the integrity for baking,
                    I am getting the feeling that it might not be a good idea?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: apryl
                      b
                      bear Apr 9, 2010 06:10 PM

                      Not sure about baking, but I've made the falafel patties from Sara Moulton's Weeknight Meals, which call for pan-frying, with good results.

                      If you do bake them, you might want to brush the outside with oil to help them crisp up and brown nicely.

                      1. re: apryl
                        i
                        iloveyou Apr 14, 2010 05:09 PM

                        I've never heard of baked falafel's, you never know it might work!
                        I just made some last night, and they were Delcicious!

                        1. re: apryl
                          d
                          Daisy.G Apr 15, 2010 06:04 AM

                          I often bake felafel if I'm doing a big batch (50 or more). Roll smallish balls, flatten slightly, brush or spray quite generously with oil, put them on a tray lined with baking paper, and stick them in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning once halfway through (I cook them for longer if I need to transport them somewhere where they're likely to get knocked around a bit). Cool them on a wire rack if they're not for immediate eating.

                          They're not exactly the same as a fried felafel, but they're just as good, in a slightly different way. Experiment!

                          1. re: Daisy.G
                            scubadoo97 Apr 15, 2010 09:40 AM

                            I've done baked before and also baked chicken fingers and such but when I measure the oil before frying and after recovery, take into account some loss to atomization and some staying in the pan and compare it to how much oil I brush on when baking, I'm not sure that baking is any more healthy than frying. It may be easier than standing over a fryer but the results aren't as good imho. It makes my wife feel good when we bake things like this but it's a false sense of "feel good"

                            1. re: scubadoo97
                              d
                              Daisy.G Apr 15, 2010 06:13 PM

                              Absolutely, there is just as much oil in the finished product. Like I said, they need a generous coat of oil before going in the oven, and they're thirsty little things. I don't know that Apryl was necessarily asking about baking as a healthier option, just a different one.

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