Cooking School: Falafel with a Tahini-Yogurt Sauce and a Minty Tabouleh

Falafel ( 02) by MeetaK 
There are many reasons why I love going to visit my parents in Dubai - the main one, of course, is seeing my parents and brother! But also on the top of my list is the food - the Arabic food to be exact. Regulars to my blog will know that I have lived a larger part of my younger years in the Persian Gulf countries and literally grew up on good Lebanese, Egyptian and Syrian cuisine. Thanks to the large expatriate community in these countries we had several friends from these countries who often spoilt us with their large mezzes and delicious dishes.

Usually when my mother announces "Meeta and Soeren are coming!" to her friends, she straight away gets invitations upon invitations for dinner parties or lunch get-togethers. I have a full calendar before I even have booked the tickets! It's fantastic really as I get to indulge in several delectable dishes, which often give me many ideas to try out in my own kitchen.

One of my all time favorites has got to be falafel, particularly made with a mixture of fava beans and chickpeas. Depending on where you are eating falafel you will find them made with either fava beans or chickpeas. The purists in Egypt will exclusively make falafel with fava beans, whereas in Lebanon they'll serve their falafel made with chickpeas. Having tried both I settled on making my own with a mixture of both legumes, basically as I love the flavor of fava beans and the chickpeas add a wonderful mellow, creamy highlight.

The traditional falafel originated from Egypt and were (and still are) made only with fava beans. As these wonderful fried balls of delight traveled throughout the Middle East the fava beans were replaced by chickpeas and it is indeed the chickpea falafel that has found immense popularity outside of Egypt.

Basically the legumes (whichever you choose) are soaked and if required, skinned, then they are ground or processed in a food processor with the addition of herbs and spice. Finally the individual patties are deep fried until brown and crispy. Often falafel is served as a type of sandwich in pita bread or other Arabic flat breads, topped with pickles and a tahini sauce.
Although I really like the sandwiched version, I prefer to enjoy falafel without the bread. With a side of wonderful minty tabouleh and a tangy yogurt tahini sauce, I personally find the meal more satisfying. I also like to add some sesame seeds to the falafel to give it a crunch and a lovely nutty aroma. Finally besides the cumin I also add a hint of sumac for that wonderful lemony flavor.

Sumac Spice

Sumac Spice by MeetaK
Sumac spice is that gorgeous delicate spice often used in Arabic cuisine. Sumac spice comes from berries harvested from a bush that can be found in the wild all across the Mediterranean. Not to be confused with poison sumac plant that flourishes in North America, even if it is a close relation! The fact that it has a more agreeable tart and tangy flavor sumac spice is very often substituted for lemon or vinegar.

Dried sumac spice is made by harvesting the small berries then dried and crushed, however, it can also be used fresh. By mashing the berries the resulting sumac juice can be used to flavor various dishes and sauces.

Arabic and Lebanese dishes rely heavily on sumac spice and use it as a spice rub on meats and kebabs. It can also be added to marinades, soups and stews, rice dishes, casseroles, salad dressings, dips, and many other dishes for additional components of flavor. Or simply use sumac spice as a condiment on the table to replace salt and pepper.

Sumac spice is often available outside of the Middle Eastern territories in a ground form, but sometimes the dried whole berries can be purchased in good sorted grocery stores or ethnic markets. One of the most popular herb/spice blend where sumac is used is in a blend called Za'atar, where sumac spice is mixed with thyme, salt, fennel, and other spices. Each Middle Eastern region does have it's own blend for Za'atar but these are usually the most common spices and herbs used.

I love using sumac in salads, on pizzas, with lamb or also in risottos and pilafs. It's a lovely versatile spice and the next time you are out shopping, see if you can pick up some sumac spice. I am sure you will love it.

Tabouleh (01) by MeetaK

I make the tabouleh with bulgur but if you don’t have it on hand use couscous instead. I prefer the course texture of bulgur, parsley and mint add a delicious herby flavor and sumac rounds it up perfectly.
Falafel Recipe Card

Falafel with a Tahini Yogurt Sauce and a Minty Tabouleh


[Prinatble version of recipe here]
250g dried fava beans, peeled and soaked overnight
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
handful of parsley, chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk 
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sumac spice
1 liter oil to fry
Yogurt Tahini Sauce
200g tahini paste (sesame paste)
1 garlic clove, mashed
150g Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
1 teaspoon sumac spice
Parsley & Mint Tabouleh
150g bulgur, cooked according to instructions on the packet
sea salt and pepper
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 ground cumin powder 
2 tablespoons good olive oil 

  1. Drain water from both, fava beans and chickpeas. Put both legumes in a food processor, along with the onions, garlic, parsley and mint and process until smooth.

  2. Add the egg yolk, breadcrumbs and chickpea flour and process further. You should have a thick paste-like consistency. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, cumin powder and sumac. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

  3. With the falafel mixture make walnut sized balls and lightly roll in some sesame seeds. If the mixture begins to stick to your hands, moist them in cold water.

  4. Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or a large pot to approx. 180 degrees C.
  5. Add a few of the falafel balls into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes, turning the balls so that they evenly brown on all sides. Allow to drain on kitchen paper towels.
Yogurt Tahini Sauce
  1. Add tahini paste, yogurt, garlic, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl and using a pureeing machine mix the mixture well.

  2. Season with salt, ground coriander powder and sumac.
Parsley & Mint Tabouleh
  1. In a small mixing bowl whisk together lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and cumin powder and oil into a thick dressing.

  2. Using a fork loosen the bulgur. Place in a large salad bowl and add tomatoes, mint and parsley.

  3. Pour the vinaigrette over the bulgur and toss well. Allow for the flavors to infuse – approx. 1 hour. Sprinkle with sumac before serving.
The Food Guide_1

Food Guide Tips:
- Ripe tomatoes – selecting and storing for perfect use
- More about cumin powder and coriander powder

  • Sticky Note 1 Meeta TipTo see if the oil has reached the right temperature place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil and if small bubbles form around the handle your oil is ready.
  • While frying the falafels only add a few balls to the pot at one time so that they do not stick to each other while frying.

Falafel ( 04) by MeetaK

A palatable meal to say the least. Soeren can pretty much dive into the yogurt tahini dip. I have to make double portions as he wants it spread on almost everything - sandwiches, wraps etc. The falafel are his favorite and usually, if we have leftovers, he wants it in a sandwich for his lunchbox. Tom and I love the mixture between the hot falafel, blanketed with the nutty flavors of the the tahini sauce and the cool refreshing tabouleh.

It's Soeren's birthday next week so my weekend is going to be busy with baking and preparations. Hope you all have a great scrumptious weekend!

You might like these Middle Eastern flavors from WFLH:
Chickpea Tajine 02 framed OrientalVegies01byMeetaAlbrecht LavashAjvar 01 framed
Chickpea Pumpkin Tajine With Coconut Couscous & Coconut Chutney Warm Vegetable Salad Lavash Crackers and Ajvar Dip

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2009 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First
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  1. Delcious, Meeta! I love Lebanese food and you're making me so hungry right now. I love tangy spices and sumac is right up my alley.

  2. This looks marvelous. I hate it when falafel has a leaden texture and imagine that combining the chickpeas and fava beans fixes this issue! Can't wait to try the tabouleh recipe too.

  3. Delicious! I love Falafel!
    A Happy Birthday to Soeren , in advance!
    Have Fun preparing for his special day!

  4. Like you, I also spent almost entire part of my life in middle east...And for sure falafel is one among the favorite arabic food....And tahini sauce is perfect with it...Have to try tahini sauce soon...thx for the recipe!...

  5. I love that Lebanese speciality! Yours look so good and flavorful!



  6. The falafel look and sound delicious! I prefer the more traditional lebanese tabbouleh (mostly parsley!), but that also looks great.

  7. I love falafel Meeta! My initial attempts were disastrous as the falafel broke when they were fried! I def want to try this recipe as I like the flavour variations you have provided...beautiful!

  8. I have a dream of making falafel in a waffle iron but have never managed to get it right. Now that I type this I guess is sounds stupid--but I just thought it would be a great way to make a sandwich. Anyway, they look delicious and I am glad to read more about sumac.

  9. This looks delicious. I should say that it's very common to mix fava beans and chickpeas to make falafel in Lebanon. My mum definitely uses a mixture!

  10. This set is one of the best photo set from yours, Meeta! The food looks so beautifully delicious, and the mood is just right. I am saving this recipe.

  11. my favorites, Sumac, taboulleh & falafel. I did not know that it originated in Egypt.

    Looks so beautiful with the tabouleh & the tahini sauce. is the egg to bind? for I have never used egg in the falafel.

    Beautiful pictures!! very warm & friendly.

    Happy Birthday to Soeren!

  12. mmmmm. thanks for the recipe. i love falafel in a burger bun or a wrap. tasty tasty!

  13. Wow that looks so yummy!!
    Thanks Meets for sharing this recipe, I was searching for it.

  14. Wow, fantastic post. I didn't know that falafel was made with fava beans or with a mixture of fava/garbanzo beans. I think I've only had the garbanzo version. Love all the ideas here!

    Lucky you to get to travel and have such great food waiting for you!

  15. oh my! its 8.10 in the morning here in India....and my mouth is watering meeta!!!!i just love falafel! As vegetarians we would only get to eat falafel with salad and french fries in pita bread as a proper dinner in denmark!!!!!!!oh i miss it.....but with ur recipe may b one of these days i can prepare the same!

  16. Meeta , I love the fava beans version too..I havent tried mixing both though . Happy birthday to soeren ! have a blast ! Hugs!

  17. Delicious! I love falafel and all the wonderful flavors and textures that go along with it. Such a pretty presentation.

  18. thank you so much for the comments. although it is available in many mid. eastern countries the fava bean/chickpea combination is still not as popular as the chickpea alone. i find adding both brings out a lovely flavor!

    the egg is really only to bind it so that, as @Peter G said, it does not break up while frying.

    glad you all are liking the flavors here!

  19. I love falafel, tahini and tabouleh. Even thought I have never tried the fava beans version but chickpeas only. I guess I need to try your recipe :)

  20. now see...that is why we browse sites like we do right? I never would have known to use fava beans in with the chick peas and now I am itching to try it! Love it!

  21. I find it almost impossible to resist fresh hot falafels, but have never mustered up the courage to try and make my own......I think you have just inspired me!!!!

  22. Hey Meeta... I will google to find out what fava beans are... but do you think I can substitute broken wheat for the bulgur?

    Lovely pictures as always... and a yummy "must-try-out" set of recipes

  23. YUM YUM Meeta. Am in love with this post...sumac here I come!! Soeren must be waiting for his birthday impatiently...Hugs to him. ♥

  24. Gorgeous click meeta, falafel looks grt with tahini yogurt sauce

  25. That's a lovely post. I have never tried making this and I have seen Sumac in one of the stores, so I am hooked to this. All the bestwishes for Soeren's birthday.

  26. Meeta,pass me a plate please! I love falafel and yours looks so good.

    Soeren must be excited about his b'day. Wishes and hugs to him. It's Agastya's tomorrow and Rengoni's next week.B'day season is truly here :-)

  27. HI Meeta. I am glad I found your blog. I am looking forward to reading through the archives. You have a picture of ALMOND NOUGAT next to your "Reviews and Advertising" section. Could you please provide recipe or a link to that. Thank you. Farzana

  28. once again thanks to all for all your comments and feedback! and of course all the well wished for soeren.

    Farzana - i did not make the nougat myself. you can read more about it here.

  29. Meeta, I have been craving felafel lately and yours are gorgeous! I love the tachini dip as well. What a perfect meal! And happy birthday to Soeren!

  30. I've never tried falafel but I think I'm going to love it. great photos!

  31. Your falafel look lovely. I've only tried making them once and they fell apart. Maybe next time I need an egg to bind them like you've used. Tonight I cheated and used a frozen mix.

  32. If you ever host a dinner party, dear Meeta, and I have the pleasure of attending, would you mind making that falafel dish?? Thanks :-D

  33. That looks Yummy. I love Falafel too and never made them from scratch (I buy the mix). I will definitively try it.

  34. its great to have a recipe for falafel! we had some a few nights ago, because we LOVE falafel in my house, but we always make it from the mixes. i am sure home made tastes 100x better! cant wait to try it out

  35. Those falafels look perfectly golden brown and good. I like the sound of using the fava beans in them.

  36. Your falafel photo looks simply divine! I need to definitely try your recipe with the fava beans. :D

  37. How can you make this ahead of time and fry later? Can the dough be frozen?

  38. Excellent, love flafel and flafel sandwhich, being a veggie lover, i absolutely love it alone and in pita bread, living here in ME, i often get a chance to munch it, and its so cheap ;) but i wannto try it at home also ,thanks

  39. My Aunts recently gone to Dubai and they love it. I wish i could ....
    I have a falafel box in my pantry and I have no idea how or when I use it. Thanks for inspiring my mind with such delicious recipe

  40. I love falafel all smooshed up with tahini-yogurt sauce, stuffed into a pita with some tomato and cucumber. It is the ultimate lunch!

  41. I have been looking for an authentic falafel recipe for ages! Thanks for posting one..I cant wait to try it out!

  42. Hi Meeta,

    Thsi blog is one of the best. and photoes are excellently shot and presented.

    Just one thing I noticed, header is broken like I can not see the blog name fully. You may be look int this.

  43. Thank you all so much for the feedback on this. Much appreciated.

    Ben - I hope you give this a try. Arabic food especially falafel with a thick tahini sauce is a scrumptious pleasure for sure.

    Liz - you're on girl!

    ANON 1 - you can store the mixture in the fridge for a few hours. I have never frozen the mix myself as I make this as fresh as possible. I am not sure if freezing the mixture would be such a great idea due the the extra moisture that the mix would soak up. Of course you can fry the falafel and keep them in the fridge for a day. Then bake them in the oven to re-heat them. They won't be as fresh though.

    Sylvia - hope you try the fresh version. I know you'll love it!

    ANON 2 - thank you for the compliment. Can you tell me more on my broken header? I am viewing it fine on both Firefox (3.0.1) and Explorer 8. Which browser are you using?

  44. I'm so glad you posted this. I have always wanted to make it at home.
    Looks wonderful.

  45. i love falafel, and the presentation os lovely, loved your photos and your blog, i will be coming back!



  46. I'm wondering why does some falafel have baking soda.

  47. I've only had falafel once, but I'd love to have it again! Now I just need to start looking for sumac!

  48. Mmmm I adore falafel and yours looks perfect. I really must try and make some myself

  49. Approximately, how many falafel do you get in one recipe?

  50. Yum - I adore Middle Eastern food (esp. Lebanese!) This looks delicious.

  51. Love the photo!!! These look delicious!!

  52. ooh they look so good! the spice info is new to me. i recently discovered the magic of goda masala used in north indian food and have been experimenting since then!

  53. After spending 6 weeks in Israel as a teenager, I fell in love with falafel - can't seem to find the same thing here in Cape Town, guess I am going to have to make my own!
    Your's look wonderful :)

  54. This looks SOOOOOO good.It's dinner time here and I wished I coukld have this instead of my chicken sweet potatoes and green beans....I will try it soon.Thanks so much so sharing. I have been on your site for 45 minutes getting real hungry. Can't wait to try all the yummy food here!

  55. Meeta!

    You've been a constant source of inspiration to me :-) Not only are your recipes wonderful, but the photographs breathtaking as well. I just tried out your Falafel recipe and they ended up tasting fantastic. My husband is over the moon. I'm also planning on making your orange cake for Halloween this year. Thanks for being a wonderful role model :-)

  56. Thanks to all for leaving all these great comments. Hugs!

    Life of a Domestic Diva - Glad you and your husband liked these. they really are easy to make aren't they? Also thank you for your motivational words! Much appreciated!

  57. Meeta, absolutely gorgeous falafel. The strange and very coincidental thing is that I recently made some popcorn chicken and I styled my pictures almost exactly like yours!!! Wrapped with newspapers with a wood background!!! I haven't posted it yet though, will do so in a few days. This is like deja vu but your photos are so much better than mine, as always! :)


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