Mint Falafel Pitas with Smoky Sweet Tahini
I love falafel. My whole family does. Falafel is one of those dishes I could eat multiple times a week and never tire of, whether made with chickpeas, fava beans, or a combination of the two.
Back when I first discovered how amazing falafel is, I immediately tried to recreate it at home. How hard could it be? Open a can of chickpeas, add some herbs and a few seasonings, grind it up in the food processor, and fry it.
I was correct in assuming falafel isn’t difficult to make. I was wrong in assuming the chickpea component entailed nothing more than opening a can…
I think falafel made with cooked, canned chickpeas is OK. But it’s always a little mushy, lacking in that wonderful, textured, crisp bite of restaurant and food truck falafel.
Do you want to know the secret to getting that to-die-for texture?
Start with dry chickpeas.
Yes, it is an extra step to parboil the chickpeas before you make your falafel batter, but trust me, it is SOOOOO WORTH it. If you haven’t tried making falafel this way before, just do it. Please do it. I promise you will never go back to soggy-canned-chickpea-falafel again!
This recipe is a variation of my classic falafel recipe. (Which I promise I will share with you soon!) The falafel recipe below is unique because I use mint as the main herb. Ever since Andrew and I went to Open Sesame last month, I have been so inspired by Lebanese flavors, and the frequent use of mint in Lebanese cuisine. I seriously can’t get enough of it! The mint pairs beautifully with the sweet and smoky paprika in the falafel batter.
And speaking of beautiful pairings, this falafel is even better when served with my Smoky Sweet Tahini sauce. This falafel and tahini sauce would be great over a bed of greens, but I love them even more sandwiched in a pita.
A quick note: This is one of my food-processor heavy recipes! Remember how I told you I use my food processor like there’s no tomorrow? If you don’t have a food processor, or are considering purchasing a new one, here is the one I have been using for the last 7 years, multiple times a week, without a day of trouble. This food processor has delivered so much amazingly textured falafel over the years, I can’t even count! (:
Make these delicious mint falafel pitas, and tell me if you enjoy them as much as I do!
Mint Falafel Pitas with Smoky Sweet Tahini
For the falafel:
- 1 ½ cups chickpeas, dry
- ½ cup scallion, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ cup dry breadcrumbs
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 (48oz) bottle Canola oil, (for deep frying, but you can pan fry in a few Tbsp of oil if you prefer)
For the Smoky Sweet Tahini:
- ¼ cup tahini
- 6 Tbsp water
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 dash pepper
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp lemon, or more to taste
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- Pita bread
- Tomato, sliced
- Fresh Feta, (omit to keep this meal vegan)
Parboil the chickpeas
- At least 4 hours before you plan to make the falafel batter, parboil the chickpeas. Do this by placing the chickpeas in a small pot of water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. (Make sure the water covers the chickpeas by at least 1½ inches.)
- Once boiling, lower the heat to medium low, and let the chickpeas simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the chickpeas at a simmer.
Let the chickpeas sit
- After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the chickpeas sit in the water for at least 4 hours. You can do this step in the morning before you leave for work, or even the night before you plan to make the falafel.
Make the falafel batter
- After the parboiled chickpeas have sat for at least 4 hours, make the falafel batter. Drain the chickpeas, and add them to the bowl of a food processor, followed by the scallion, mint, sea salt, paprika, and smoked paprika.
- Pulse a few times to get things going, then process for about a minute. Open the lid, scrape the sides, close, and process again. Process until the chickpeas and the herbs have become small bits and flecks. Don’t process too much! We definitely want texture here.
Finish and refrigerate the batter
- Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, water, and baking soda. Mix until everything comes together.
- You don’t want a dry batter, but it also can’t be overly moist. You should be able to take a chunk of the batter and easily roll a ball, like cookie dough. If the batter is too wet to do this, add a little more of the breadcrumbs. If it is too dry to roll a ball, add a little bit more water.
- Once you’ve got the right texture, refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes before you plan to fry the falafel. (You can also refrigerate the falafel batter overnight.)
Make the Smoky Sweet Tahini Sauce
- While the falafel batter refrigerates, make the tahini sauce. Just throw the tahini, water, garlic, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, lemon juice, and maple syrup in the food processor. Process until smooth. Taste, and add more lemon juice to preference. Done!
Make the falafel balls
- Form the falafel into balls or patties. I prefer to mold the falafel into 1 ½ inch balls, but you can truly do whatever size or shape your prefer. (I get 16-18 one and one half inch falafel balls with this recipe.)
- You can pan fry the falafel in a few Tbsp of oil over medium heat, for about 3 minutes on each side until brown. Or you can deep fry the falafel. I prepare this recipe both ways, and each way is delicious.
Deep fry the falafel
- To deep fry, heat 48 oz Canola oil over high heat in a large pot for 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, lower 3-4 falafel into the hot oil. Fry the falafel in the oil until they turn a deep, golden brown color. Move the falafel around once or twice while they fry to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. This should take about 3 minutes.
- Remove the falafel from the oil with a slotted spoon, and set them on a plate covered with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Repeat this process until all of the falafel is fried.
Compile the pitas and serve!
- Open the pita pocket. Spread some of the tahini sauce inside. Layer some spinach on top of the sauce, followed by the falafel. I like to kind of smash the falafel balls a bit so that the pita lays a little flatter.
- Now put in the tomato slices, sprinkle in some feta (if using), drizzle a little more sauce, and serve! These falafel pita sandwiches are great alone, or with a nice salad. Enjoy!
This Week's Recommended Kitchen Utensil
Check out one of my favorite Fryer Skimmers on Amazon! With its long handle and generous size, this skimmer is great for frying everything from french fries to falafel. It’s even handy for straining a small batch of pasta. And it’s less than the price of lunch! -Shannon
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