Falafel with Yogurt Sauce

Dish two of my Mediterranean adventure is Falafel with Yogurt Sauce.  This is a Guy Fieri recipe and a darn good one.  Falafel is a mixture of mashed chickpeas, onions, garlic, red bell pepper, parsley and spices formed into balls or patties and fried in vegetable oil.  Most often it’s served with lettuce and tomatoes in pita with a yogurt-based sauce.  I decided to forego the pita and just serve my falafel on a lovely salad of butter lettuce.  My only other alteration is that I omitted the cilantro.  I didn’t have any in the house.  I served this along with the Barefoot Contessa’s tabbouleh.

This recipe calls for making the falafel into quenelle shapes.  If you can chill the mixture long enough you can form it into patties instead if you like.  Just be sure they aren’t too thin.  I recommend making a ball and then flattening it slightly.  I like the quenelle idea because it helps me keep all the falafels a uniform size.  When I shape dough or meat into balls I find that the first several are small and uniform, but the last few tend to get bigger.  If you want to make quenelle shapes you’ll need two spoons.  Hold one spoon in each hand with the spoons parallel to your body.  Use one spoon to scoop out some falafel dough.  Use the second spoon to scoop the dough out of the first spoon.  Repeat this a few times.  As you scoop the dough from one spoon to the other the dough will turn and form a nice oblong shape with smooth sides.

Now, a note about the frying.  I know that fried foods freak people out.  While I don’t encourage a diet with a lot of fried food I would like to assert that fried and greasy are not the same thing.  The key to making fried food that isn’t greasy is making sure the oil is hot enough.  Which means using the right oil.  When you’re frying you need an oil with a high smoke point.  Use something like canola or peanut oil.  Do not substitute olive oil here.  You’ll waste a lot of oil, a lot of money and your food will burn.  Also, make sure the oil is the right temperature.  If the oil is not hot enough it will soak into the food before a crisp crust is formed.  That’s what makes for greasy food.  Use a candy thermometer if need be for checking the oil temperature.  Be aware that every time you add something to the oil the temperature drops a little.  That’s why you don’t add too many pieces at once.  Frying your food a few pieces at a time gives you a chance to let the oil return to the right temperature between batches.

If you really want to avoid the frying there are recipes out there with instructions for baking the falafel, but give the frying a shot.  It’s really better this way.

The sauce is a pretty straight forward yogurt sauce. I used plain Greek yogurt because I like a thick texture and straining regular yogurt is kind of a pain. Feel free to use regular yogurt if you want a sauce that pours instead of spoons. The lemon zest is the key to this sauce. If lemon juice says a polite hello in a dish, lemon zest shouts HEY! from across the room. It’s a nice bright element in this sauce and balances the cumin beautifully.

Good? Yes, light and flavorful.
Easy? Mostly, just be careful with the oil.
Good for company? Sure, and would make a terrific appetizer.
Special shopping? Nope, the dish may be a little exotic, but the elements aren’t.

Falafel with Yogurt Sauce


1 tablespoons canola oil, plus extra for frying
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (14-ounce) cans chick peas, drained
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1 cups freshly chopped parsley leaves
Toppings: shredded lettuce and chopped tomato
Yogurt Dipping Sauce, recipe follows


In medium skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and sweat onion and peppers 2 to 3 minutes then garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse together chick peas, red chili flakes, ground cumin, the egg, salt and black pepper to form a coarse consistency. Then add flour and parsley. Pulse until mixture starts pulling from the sides of the food processor.

Remove mixture to a large bowl and mix in the onion mixture. Chill falafel until ready to cook. Then form rounds into an oblong quenelle shape, like a football.

In a thick-bottomed skillet heat 1/2 inch of canola oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F. Cook falafel balls a few at a time, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Be sure to turn them so they do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot.

Open the pita bread to make pockets. Place 3 to 4 falafels inside. Stuff with lettuce tomato and cucumbers and drizzle sauce generously on the inside. Serve immediately.

Yogurt Dipping Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl and chill until ready to use.


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