What Is Dish?: A Spice-Y, Plant-Based Middle Eastern Recipe

January 21, 2020

If falafels were any indication, then the Middle East has street food in the bag. These deep-fried balls, made from chickpeas or fava beans, are hearty and flavorful. Plus, they’re vegetarian; thus making them a favorite healthy snack (or meal) around the globe. Keeping with our healthy January theme, we challenged our chef Kimmie to make falafels on this episode of What is Dish?.

The origins of falafel are controversial. But it most likely came from Egypt; then, it was exported to other Middle Eastern countries who riffed on the original recipe, which used fava beans. It can be eaten by itself, with a salad, or in a pita pocket; and it usually comes with an accompanying tahini sauce.

Was this a fala-fail?

Our version, adapted from NYT Cooking, was meant to come with homemade pita, as a way to make it more challenging/confusing for Kimmie. But (spoiler alert!) she gets it right anyway. GUYS—we’re getting really sick of Kimmie winning. Please send over your recipe suggestions, and help us break her victory streak.

Falafel with Pita Bread

Recipe from NYT Cooking

  • Serves: 4-8 people
  • Active time: 1 hr
  • Total time: 1 hr + 24 hrs soaking
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Special tools: Food processor


  • 1 ¾ cups dried chickpeas or 1 cup dried chickpeas plus ¾ cup dried split fava beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • ½ onion, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste; or mild chile powder to taste
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola, for deep-frying


  1. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 to 4 inches — they will triple in volume as they soak. Soak for 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add water to keep the beans covered.
  2. Drain beans well and transfer to a food processor with all the remaining ingredients except the oil; pulse until minced but not puréed; add water tablespoon by tablespoon if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but keep the mixture as dry as possible. (Too much water and your falafel will fall apart. If that happens, add more ground beans.) Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, cayenne or a little more lemon juice as needed.
  3. Put at least 2 to 3 inches of oil (more is better) in a large deep saucepan (the narrower the pan, the less oil you need; but the more oil you use, the more you can cook at one time). Turn heat to medium high and heat oil to about 350 (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately; a piece of falafel will sink halfway to the bottom, then rise).
  4. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the mixture and shape it into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time per batch will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.​
Jica Simpas Jica Simpas

Jica hopes that by writing about food she'll actually learn how to cook. But for now, she'll happily just eat everything—especially cookies.

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