The key to good falafel, whether baked or fried, is to ditch the canned peas.
This may be a stretch but I believe falafel is the chickpea's best form. It's also it's purest. I can speak to that now that I better understand falafel!
The very first time I made falafel, I wanted it to be as healthy as possible. So I used canned organic chickpeas (WRONG!) and baked them. What I ended up making were these weird green, flat pancakes that were hard on the outside and mushy on the inside. Even though the outside was hard, they did not hold together well when I took them out of the oven. Here's a picture:
The next time I made falafel, I used canned organic chickpeas (WRONG!). I formed the falafel into round shapes and fried them. They were better than the first attempt but they were way too large and slightly overcooked.
When I decided to make falafel this time, I made sure to look for an authentic recipe using dry chickpeas. At some point in the past I remember scanning an article about using dry chickpeas to make falafel and I thought that literally meant dry, as in the way they are when you buy them in bulk. You start with dry chickpeas and you soak them for 24 hours. Basically the way you prep any bean, pea or legume prior to cooking. The chickpeas soak up water and plump up and while they are no longer dry, they are uncooked, which is key. The uncooked chickpeas retain more starch and produce light and crunchy falafel.
I found a recipe that I liked from The Mediterranean Dish and I tweaked it just a bit. The biggest tweak is cooking the falafel in an air fryer instead of frying in oil. This recipe makes an out-of-this world, tongue tingling falafel that has the crunch and texture of oil frying, but is healthier like baked.
So without further delay, here's the modified recipe. I cut the recipe in half because I wasn't sure who else in my house would eat them besides me. I wish I had made the full recipe! There's always next time.
Makes about 12 golf-ball sized falafel balls
1 cup dried chickpeas (don't even think about substituting canned or cooked chickpeas!)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, stems removed
3/8 cup (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed
1/4 cup fresh dill, stems removed
1/2 small onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp black pepper (see Notes)
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, optional (I used just a couple dashes)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1. A day in advance, place the dried chickpeas and 1/4 tsp baking soda in a bowl or pot and cover with 4 cups of water. Soak overnight, at least 18 hours. Leave longer if they are still a bit hard (you should be able to bite into them and they should be very firm but not rock hard). When ready, drain and rinse the chickpeas then pat dry.
2. Add the chickpeas, herbs, onions, garlic and spices to the large bowl of a food processor fit with a blade. Run the food processor 40 seconds at a time until all is well combined to form the falafel mixture. Alternatively you can mix the chickpea mixture in a Vitamix or blender in 40 second increments (I used a large Ninja blender). The mixture should be coarse and somewhat loose but should hold together when pressed in your hand.
3. Transfer the falafel mixture into a container and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one whole night until ready to cook.
4. Just before frying in the air fryer, add the baking powder to the falafel mixture and stir it with a spoon.
5. Use a tablespoon full of the falafel mixture and form into round balls (about the size of a golf ball). Lightly grease your hands with olive oil or canola oil as you form the balls.
6. Lightly spray the basket of your air fryer with non-stick oil spray. Carefully place falafel balls in the basket making sure they do not touch. Air fry at 350°F for 15 minutes turning once about halfway through.
7. Cook in batches until all the falafel is done. Serve warm in pita pockets with cucumber, onion, arugula, vegan tzatziki sauce, tahini sauce or whatever you desire.
Notes: I cut the pepper in half from the original recipe and it was still pretty spicy. Although I like spicy foods, I did not want the falafel to be too hot. The spice did die down when I ate them the next day so you can adjust the amount of pepper to your preference.