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Spring Fava Falafel

April 18, 2012

Nothing says spring like fava beans. But given the time and labor it takes to extract them from their pods and shells, thank goodness they only come once a year. If you want a weekend project and a fabulous meal to enjoy with friends, make your own fava bean falafel. For falafel, you want to use dried fava beans and soak them overnight. The only cooking they require is when you fry or bake the actual falafel balls. Although the dried variety aren’t the same spring green color as fresh ones, the parsley and cilantro add an incredible vibrancy, both in color and flavor to this recipe (adapted from Mark Bittman’s, How To Cook Everything).

A note on deep-frying: I know it sounds daunting and dangerous, but when done right, it is one of the most rewarding cooking techniques. When you pull out the browned falafel balls and let them rest for a minute on a paper towel, they are essentially dry to the touch, leaving no oily reside on your fingers. If you are going to attempt deep-frying, invite some friends over. You need at least one bottle of oil (32 ounces) to fry and I pitch the used oil when I’m through. This size bottle of safflower oil runs around $10.00, but if you make a couple dozen, it’s worth it. Above all else, the delicate texture and flavor of the inside, the crispy crunch of the shell…these babies are delicious!

Fava Falafel Recipe

Makes 8 Servings, approximately 20 balls

At least 2 hours, largely unattended


4 cups peeled, split fava beans (soaked, covered in water for 12 to 24 hours)

16 to 20 cloves garlic

1 medium onion, quartered

2 teaspoons coriander

2 teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (some stems are okay)

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (some stems are okay)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Safflower oil, as needed


In a food processor, combine the drained beans plus all other ingredients (excluding oil) and puree until quite smooth. Scrape the sides with a spatula, taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Pulse a few more times to incorporate any additional seasoning.

Cover and let rest, refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and up to a full day. When you are ready to fry (or bake) use an ice cream scoop to shape the fava filling into uniform balls.

Pour oil in a deep saucepan or wok to the depth of at least 3” and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil reaches 350 to 365 degrees, carefully drop a few balls at a time into the oil, without overcrowding, and fry until they are quite brown. Remove from the oil and place on a plate, covered with a paper towel, to cool slightly and absorb any excess oil. Eat falafel stuffed into a whole grain pita with your favorite vegetables or on top of a salad with tahini or dressing of your choice. I ate mine with a fiercely spicy buttermilk and herb “ranch” dressing from the Sriracha Cookbook.


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