Falafel with Lima Bean Salad

falafel, just fried

When you live in a land where your best options for ethnic food reside in the hot-food buffet line at Wegmans, you have to take matters into your own hands. Several days ago, after finding myself pedalling to Christos’ falafel cart in a daydream, I hopped off my bike, pulled out my “bean” file, and thumbed to a Bittman recipe I’ve been meaning to make for five years now:
For the Best Falafel, Do it All Yourself.

And so I did. And now I’m kicking myself for having waited so long. Especially when, as it turns out, there is nothing tricky about making falafel.

A few notes: 1. Plan ahead — dried chickpeas or fava beans have to soak for 24 hours. 2. A food processor (or a good blender) is essential. 3. Deep frying is required, but don’t be scared — falafel, as Bittman says, “is perfect for novice deep-fryers.” If you’re at all wary, watch Bittman’s falafel-making video — it gave me just the boost of confidence I needed before game-time.

Falafel is delicious. Also, filling. You won’t miss the meat. With some pita or naan (store-bought naan is quite delicious these days), a few chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, and some sort of spicy sauce (recipe below), you have a meal. I made a lima bean salad but any green or chopped vegetable salad would complement the falafel nicely.

A note on this lima bean salad: Last fall, I received an incredible package in the mail. It was filled with Rancho Gordo beans. I ate those beans for months and then ordered some more, including some large white limas, the foundation for one of my favorite dishes at Amada, a fava and lima bean salad, served warm swimming in olive oil aside toasted bread. It is delicious. Elements from the Amada salad — roasted red peppers, sliced red onion, fresh fava beans (or frozen edamame in a pinch) — have inspired the lima bean salad featured here.

A note on Rancho Gordo beans: I’ve made this salad several times now and must say that while Rancho Gordo beans (or any heirloom beans) are not essential, they do make a mighty tasty salad. My dear friend’s mother, Ruth, a bean connoisseur, said it best: “I like beans when they’ve cooked enough to start creating their own sauce rather than clinking around together in the water.” We had been discussing beans over email and analyzing the differences between heirloom beans and standard super market beans. For Ruth, the biggest difference comes down to texture: the RG beans are able to maintain their integrity — their skin provides just a bit of resistance before giving into the tooth — while still creating a creamy sauce. I couldn’t agree more.

One final note: Sike. So many notes here! No more notes. I promise.

bite of falafel

lima bean and roasted red pepper salad

falafel mix

Apparently in Egypt, falafel is more often made with fava beans than with chickpeas.
fava beans

falafel ingredients

falafel ingredients in cuisinart

falafel ingredients in cuisinart

falafel, with lima bean salad

roasted red peppers, red onions, scallions

lima bean and roasted red pepper salad

lima bean and roasted red pepper salad

Homemade Falafel
Source: Mark Bittman and the New York Times
Watch Bittman prepare the recipe here.

1¾ cup dried chickpeas or fava beans (I used favas)
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 teaspoon ground coriander*
1 tablespoon ground cumin*
Scant teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used espelette, so crushed chili flakes will work, too)
1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro (I used a mix of both and probably triple the amount)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for frying

*I was feeling ambitious and toasted the cumin and coriander seeds before grinding them. Just a thought if you feel like taking the extra step.

For serving:
pita bread or naan bread (I used Wegman’s brand naan — delicious)
chopped tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce (optional, especially if you’re serving a salad on the side)
spicy dipping sauce (recipe below) or Sriracha

1. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep the beans submerged.

2. Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not puréed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work, but no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. (Note: I did add the 2 tablespoons of soaking water, but I might not have needed to had I been more patient. Try to be patient and scrape down the sides of the machine several times before adding the liquid. You might not need it.) Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste. (Note: I didn’t adjust the seasoning at all.)

3. Put oil in a large, deep saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches; more is better. The narrower the saucepan the less oil you need, but the more oil you use the more patties you can cook at a time. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350ºF (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately). Note: My deep-fry thermometer (mind you, probably the least reliable kitchen gadget I own) read 300ºF when the falafel sizzled immediately signaling the oil was ready for action.

4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. (Note: As Bittman notes in the video, the whole process will take less than 10 minutes — that means frying all of the falafel takes less than 10 minutes. I found that each individual ball cooked in about 1 minute total, and I felt comfortable cooking no more than five at a time.)

Lima Bean Salad
Serves 4

1 cup dried lima beans or any dried bean you like — you need about 2 cups cooked beans
kosher salt
roasted red peppers, cut into strips (about a cup)
red onion, thinly sliced (about a 1/2 cup)
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts
1 cup cooked shelled edamame or cooked fresh fava beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1. Cook lima beans: I did not soak my beans. I followed the “quick-soak” method on the bag, which called for boiling the beans for two minutes, then letting them sit for an hour. Then I simmered the beans until they were tender, about 40 minutes, and then let them cool completely in their cooking liquid. Once I turned the burner off, I added a big pinch of kosher salt.

2. When the beans are cooled, make the salad: Drain the beans and place in a large bowl. Season with a large pinch of kosher salt. Add the roasted red peppers, red onion, scallions and edamame to the bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and toss. Taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary with more salt, oil, vinegar, or pepper if desired.

Roasted Red Pepper – Yogurt – Sriracha Sauce

This is just a super simple sauce you can whip up to your liking. Finely chop 2 (or more) roasted red peppers (to yield about 1/4 cup) and place in a bowl. Add in a few heaping spoonfuls of Greek yogurt (about 1/4 cup as well). Season with kosher salt. Splash with Sriracha or the hot sauce of your liking. Stir to combine. A food processor or blender will produce a smooth sauce, but then you have to clean them. Your call.

roasted red pepper, Sriracha & Greek yogurt sauce


  1. says

    It’s so disappointing when you go to a restaurant and get bad falafel. It seems hard to mess up, yet it happens. Sometimes you just want to make it at home, especially when you see how easy it can be!

  2. Katykat says

    Man oh man, I bet even Damien (who claims to dislike beans) will love this falafel, and that salad looks AMAZING, maybe I’ll whip some up for myself for a weeknight dinner.

    And my vegetarian work friends will love this :)

  3. says

    You must have been reading my mind….. I just picked up a bag of Rancho Gordo giant white limas a few days ago and have been scheming up ways to use them. I can’t wait!! Thanks for the inspiration. The beans are soaking and my mouth is watering!!

  4. Emily says

    I really wanted this to work because I love falafel! I was so happy with my little falafel balls from this recipe, but when I tried to fry them they melted! What happened and how can I keep it from happening next time?

    • says

      EmilY! Wait, is this my Emily? Hi! Bummer about the falafel balls. Two things probably happened: 1. The mixture was too wet. Did you add more than the 2 tablespoons of soaking liquid to the mixture when you ground it all up? 2. The oil wasn’t hot enough. Next time, test the oil by dropping in a spoonful of the mixture into the oil. Bittman gives a few tips in the article. When the batter sizzles immediately, sinks about halfway to the bottom, then rises to the top, the oil is ready. Also, if the batter melted when it hit the oil, it probably is too wet, so bind the remaining batter with a little bit of flour. I’m sorry these didn’t turn out for you! They are so delicious.

  5. says

    i dream of ethnic food ALL THE TIME. mexican – thai – chinese sushi – nypizza (is that considered ethnic if I live in Switzerland?) – indian – middle eastern. The only ethnic food we have here is Swiss (ethnic for us at least) and it can be so creamy and boring and bland, blech. Remember Mamouns in New Haven, on Howe Street? I use to go there all the time my first year of architecture school, but then I OD’d and haven’t been since. I am definitely going to make these. I was just gifted a food processor and I’m going to put it to work….day dreaming about falafels in the park….

    • says

      Talley — Ben and I were just thinking about Mamouns. I remember loving it, but didn’t we love all greasy non-dining hall food in college? especially late at night? Wish I could have falafel with you in one of your beautiful parks.

  6. Emily says

    OMG it worked!! I got up the nerve to try this recipe again today and, thanks to Ali’s helpful hints and a little thought on my part, it worked like a charm! Here’s what I did wrong the first time, in case anyone might be helped to avoid my mistakes:

    #1 wrong thing to do: I followed the directions on the dried chickpeas and soaked them for 24 hours then boiled then for 1 hour. If you pay attention to Ali’s recipe, there is no boiling involved. The chickpeas I made before were like a paste once blended. The chickpeas I made today were still a little crunchy and were much coarser once blended (a mince, for sure). So–too much liquid was probably my first problem.

    #2 wrong thing to do: I just guessed at the oil temperature and I guessed wrong. I went out and bought a deep fry thermometer ($9 at Target) and this time paid attention to the actual oil temperature. It took a lot longer than I thought for the oil to reach 300 degrees, which is when I did my first test. Everything worked out just fine from there, so probably the oil temperature was too low the first time.

    Thanks, Ali, for helping me figure out what went wrong! Now that I know how to do this I’ll use this recipe a lot!! hugs!

  7. Katykat says

    Made the bean salad, I loved, Damien loved, all want awesome. Maybe next weekend I’ll try out the falafel!

  8. Desiree Fourie says

    I just love falafel but have to use chickpea as it is so difficult to get lima beans. lovely served in warm pita bread with some home made hummus, finally grated cabbage, squeeze lemon juice and fresh garlic and drizzle with olive oil and some pitted calamata olives oh and some grilled peppers – oohlala now my mouth is watering for this – love this type of eating..

  9. says

    I love this bean salad from the Amada too!!! Excited to find your version. Their version has herbs and other flavors, what would you recommend adding?

    • says

      Denise, hi, and so sorry for this delayed reply! Honestly, I don’t know. I have tried googling the recipe and nothing comes up, and it has been so long since I’ve eaten it, I can’t really remember all of the flavors.mi know there is mustard and sherry vinegar and probably some thyme, but otherwise, I don’t really know. Do you live in Philly? Is Amada still serving this salad?

  10. Andrea says

    I’ve made these several times and always had the issue of the batter being much much too wet. I usually ended up having to add a 1/2 cup to a full 1 cup of flour (I have been using garbanzo bean flour to keep it gluten free for my GF family and friends – works great!!). I finally re-read the recipe and comments and realized I too had been cooking my dried beans (or using canned beans) which of course made the batter too wet. Today I will try to make it with uncooked (but soaked) dried beans. I was in the process of cooking them (only about 5 minutes) when I realized my mistake! I’m excited to see how they turn out tonight for dinner. :)

    • says

      Hope they turned out well! And I know, it’s not intuitive to NOT cook the beans. I should really make that step more pronounced in the recipe. I love homemade falafel, and it really isn’t too labor intensive if you remember to soak the beans.

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