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Falafel in Middle Eastern Cuisine

Updated on August 11, 2012


Cuisine from the Middle East covers a wide range, and falafel is definitely something that will be found in cooking there.  There is a theory about how this dish originated that is interesting.  Some say that possibly Copts (Egyptian Christians) ate falafel as a replacement for meat when it was time for Lent.  Later on, the dish moved north toward the Levant, and it was then that chickpeas or garbanzo beans, replaced fava. 

Another theory is that falafel may have origins in Indiia. It is a place where chick pea based dishes have been used a lot.  It is not as strong of a theory as the first though. 

When speaking of Egyptian falafel, it is usually referring to fava beans.  It is also true though, that this kind of falafel is made of garbanzo beans, and that it is rather spicy. Usually, you will find ingredients like leeks, onions, garlic and lots of cayenne pepper, which I won't complain about!  Pitas are the general way these are served, and the pita is usually whole wheat.  With a salad to round it out, it begins to sound better and a bit refreshing even.  Often there is a sauce, like a tahini sauce, tahini with added parsley.  This is called a bakdooniseya.

Sometimes you will see falafel cooked into a fried ball, or a patty even.

Other than pitas, there is another bread called lafa that falafel may be served with. It is wrapped around the filafel, as opposed to slipping into a pocket of a pita. Some top their falafel with salad, or hot sauce and vegetables (may be pickled). Drizzling with a tahini based sauce is a nice touch. You can eat falafel any of these ways, or even just by themselves. They make a great snack on their own.

Tahini is simply sesames, or a sesame paste that is made of the same.  It is kind of like peanut butter, yet no peanuts.  Like a "sesame paste butter" almost.

"Fast food" in the Middle East

It didn't take long, for falafel to quickly become a "take away" kind of food.  Some have called it fast food in the Middle East.  I think of french fries and cheeseburgers as fast food, so they have some countries beat in the health department there. 

Many Arab dishes, as well as falafel were readily adopted by Jewish immigrants that came to Palestine.  In fact, Israel appears to be the first place where both falafel and pita bread filled with "salads".  Falafel has become somewhat important to Israeli cuisine.  Its even often considered a national dish there.  This has caused some negative feelings with the Palestinians in regards to copyrights. 

We know some use fava beans or garbanzo beans for falafel, or a combination of those. In Egypt they use fava beans, but in the major Middle Easter countries they lean towards the garbanzo beans, or chickpeas.

Yemen Jews in Jerusalem usually prepare it with chickpeas, as do the Palestinians. Beans are not cooked before hand, and instead soaked in baking soda. Ground up with onions, parsley, spices and sesame seeds, coriander and cumin adds a lot of flavor.

Whether by hand, or by using a little tool you can do this with called aleb falafel. After this, its time for deep frying.

Falafel can be high in protein as you can imagine with all the chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It is high in protein and fiber. Also, great for getting complex carbohydrates, if that is something you are going for.

Naturally low in salt, cholesterol, and fat, always looking for good things to eat that have those attributes. The main nutrients are folate, calcium, iron,  nd Vitamin B. There are phyto chemicals involved as well.

Really, it wouldn't take much to replace burgers from fast food joints with falafel. It can be baked to reduce the fat

Falafel is hearty enough to replace hamburger patties and meatballs in vegetarian dishes.Falafel can be baked to reduce the fat content associated with frying, but doing so will alter the texture and flavor.[

Have you ever eaten Falafel?

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    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Zoe, I think its a great thing you are trying to do trying out different recipes for falafel! I am not sure why yours are falling apart for sure, but keep on working on it. I hope you find a recipe you can be happy with long term. Have fun!

    • ZoeSophia profile image


      6 years ago

      I've been experimenting with making falafels from scratch (trial & error) and I've had them fall apart. So I've been adding 1 egg to the mix to help bind them. But I'm wondering if they were falling apart because I was rolling them by hand? I really want to get a falafel maker now and try your recipe! :-)

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thastar, haha, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. It is much appreciated! :)

    • thastar profile image


      7 years ago

      this is interesting can i have some now?

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      You need to have some Falafel some time, and thanks for stopping by.

    • PhoenixV profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Never had Falafel :(

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you Boraxo.

      Dolores, Yes I know what you mean, sometimes you just know these things!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Oh phooey, ocean! I was hoping for a recipe. I have never had Falafel and was not quite sure what it even was, but I know that I would love it. Sometimes, you just know these things!

    • Boraxo profile image


      8 years ago from Yakima

      never had this dish but would like to try it for sure ..............good job

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Nifty, Sounds like you are well rounded when it comes to your experiences in eating different cuisines. I need to try some of your recipes from Puerto Rico. Thank you for your comment.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Judy, thank you for your comment. I did find the history interesting too.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Corin, thank you so much!

    • nifty@50 profile image


      8 years ago

      I've eaten a lot of different Indian food at my wife's office parties, I most likely have eaten some! I like the spices in Indian food! Great hub voted up!

    • judydianne profile image


      8 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

      The history is very interesting. A good hub!

    • Corin profile image


      8 years ago

      A very interesting and informative hub.


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