Tender and crispy beer falafel made from scratch, starting with dried chickpeas.
What is Falafel?
Falafel is a small fried patty (or ball) made of a mixture of ground chickpeas, spices and onion. It is an extremely popular street food in Middle-Eastern cuisine and is also considered the National dish of Israel. Falafel is thought to have originated in Egypt.
The authentic ingredients in falafel are chickpeas (dried, need to be re-hyrated in water), onion, garlic, flour, parsley, cumin, salt & pepper. Sometimes cilantro or ground coriander are added.
Preparing falafel from scratch is definitely the way to go. Avoid using chickpeas from a can.
If you have ever made falafel with chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) from a can you may very well have had a mini fiasco experience.
The kind where your entire chickpea mixture transforms into mush and falls apart as you try to fry little balls/patties.
Sadly, I speak from personal experience. I had almost given up making my own falafel a few years ago when Chris told me that I should soak dry chickpeas in water, which made all the difference. That and controlling the temperature of the frying oil.
To Make Falafel You Will Need a Food Processor
You are aiming for a coarse paste which is most easily achieved by blitzing the re-hydrated chickpeas and other ingredients in a food processor.
I love, love, love falafel and ate copious amounts of falafel stuffed pita pockets growing up. It was everywhere.
Without a doubt it is one of my most favorite middle Eastern ‘sandwiches’. Second favorites being soujouk and döner. I also like to add a few freshly fried falafel balls to a simple green salad or my beloved Bulgarian Shopska salad and call it a meal. Falafel is one of the foods I’d sorely miss if somehow I could not have it again.
Not long ago a friend and I were munching on some freshly fried falafel hugged by soft pita bread and drizzled with tahini. We were having beers and both made comments about how falafel pairs great with beer and goes well with so many flavorful fresh dips, olives and veggies. She asked if Chris and I had a recipe to make falafel with beer.
It seemed only logical to her that we would have one handy. We do now:).
After thinking about it for ten seconds I confidently concluded that
since there is no feasible way to flavor a falafel mixture with beer (its typical moisture content being already high, it could not possibly absorb more liquid) the only way to do it is to let the chickpeas soak in a suitable beer and become infused with its flavors as they absorb liquid.
I told my friend I’d give it a try. Said and done.
To the best of my knowledge, at the time I am writing this, you are looking at the world’s third ever batch of beer falafel made from scratch in the pictures of this post. (Batches one and two were practice towards perfection).
Perfectly crispy outside, soft, airy and delicious goodness inside. With just enough of a malty touch to excite the palate. Very subtle.
Beer Falafel from Scratch
Leveraging the toasty, malty flavors of dark beer to revive dried chickpeas is a fun and delicious approach to the process. (If you’d rather not use beer, simply use water.)
What Beer Style to Use in Beer Falafel?
I chose to use (among several suitable options) one of Chris’ favorite beer styles ever. A South German Dunkel lager, ie a dark amber lager (‘dunkel’ = ‘dark’ in German).
There are actually two main Dunkel styles – the more famous Munich Dunkel and the lucrative Franconian Dunkel. They are very similar, with the latter being less sweet, somewhat stronger and finishing drier.
Franconian dunkel has a dark bread(y) nose, smooth and medium bodied with confident toasty maltiness and a barely perceptible nuttiness and dark fruitiness. It has less caramel candy flavor than you’d find in a Munich Dunkel and is very crisp with a dry finish. Plus Munich style dunkels tend to be chocolaty which is not what I wanted in my falafel.
Suggested beer styles for making beer falafel
You do not need me to tell you to stay away from anything too bitter or fruit flavored or too chocolaty or coffee flavored for example. I wouldn’t even use wheat beer because of the banana and clove yeast esters. Chickpeas taste naturally nutty and you want a brew with grain bill participants contributing complementing flavors. Toasty and malty, with barely perceptible hoppiness. Not too boozy either. This naturally puts German lagers on top of the list, but I’ve taken the liberty to suggest more options even though as of right now I have not made the recipe with each and every one of them. Give me a year and I will get there, at the rate I tend to eat falafel.
- Frankonian Dunkel/Oktoberfest/Vienna lager/Pilsner/Munich Helles/Bock
- Amber ale (not too hoppy)
- Brown ale (not too hoppy)
- Farmhouse ale/Saison (basic recipe)
- English mild
The flavor infused by the beer is ever so mild and polite – it does not compete for the spotlight and acts in support of the chickpeas and as an ally to the other ingredients added.
Don’t forget that there is garlic, and pungent parsley, and cilantro, and onion and cumin for your taste buds to consider.
German lagers actually shine in recipes with cumin. My favorite dish of all times involving beer is pork with cumin and pilsner which I am yet to make for the blog. It is my mother’s recipe.
For now I hope you will soak some chickpeas in Dunkel lager and follow the rest of the recipe to reward yourself with delicious beer falafel. Cheers, friends!
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Beer Falafel with Dunkel Lager
Tender and crispy beer falafel made from scratch, starting with dried chickpeas. An infusion of subtle toasted bread and malty flavors courtesy of Dunkel lager complements the nuttiness of the chickpeas and the pungency of the other ingredients. Overnight soaking for at least 12 hours required.
- 2 cups dried chickpeas (rinsed)
- 12 oz Dunkel lager or an amber ale ((use water if you'd rather not use beer))
- 1 medium onion (rough chop)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- vegetable oil for frying
- your choice of accompanying vegetables/sides and pita bread
- yogurt dip or tahini sauce for dipping or drizzling over stuffed pita
- Place the rinsed dried chickpeas in a bowl and pour the Dunkel lager over them. It should cover all the chickpeas. If not, add a little bit of water.
- Soak overnight or at least for 12 hours, refrigerated.
- Drain the chickpeas and place inside a steel blade food processor.
- Add the onion, garlic cloves, parsley and cilantro and the cumin, salt, pepper.
- Process to blend, do not allow the mixture to turn into puree. Ideally, you want small chunks, about the size of rice grains to be visible throughout.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and dust with the flour and baking powder. Using a fork mix to incorporate them into the chickpea mixture.
- The mixture should have a consistency that allows you to form small balls using your hands, just over the size of a walnut. You might need to add a little more flour to achieve a manageable texture, but first test the mixture you have with one ball.
- Heat up the vegetable oil to 375ºF. You must be careful to maintain the temperature at that level.
- Test with one falafel ball to be sure both chickpeas mixture and oil temperature like each other. Fry for just under 2 minutes. If the ball begins to fall apart in the oil, add more flour to the mixture. If not, go ahead and make more.
- Do not fry more than 5 balls at a time. Drain on paper towels before serving. Best eaten while still warm and crispy.