What Does Falafel Taste Like? The Ultimate Guide

Confession time – I just can’t get enough falafel. 

Seriously, stick these on the table and I’m going to gorge myself until there’s nothing less but a few crumbs… which I’ll probably also eat.

I was a latecomer to this traditional Middle Eastern dish, tasting it for the first time a few years ago. But oh my, if I haven’t made up for that by having it at every opportunity since! 

Never tried falafel before? 

You’re in the right place.

I’m going to be giving you the rundown of everything you need to know about their taste, texture, and how you should serve them.

By the end of this article, you’ll know whether or not you should give them a try.

(Spoiler alert, you definitely should!)

Ready? Let’s get started!

What is Falafel?

What Does Falafel Taste Like?

Falafel is made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, sometimes a mixture of both. 

Whatever base is chosen, it’s seasoned with a mix of herbs and spices such as parsley, coriander, cumin, and garlic, giving it an irresistible flavor profile.

The falafel mixture is formed into balls or patties, resembling meatballs.

Once they’ve been shaped, they’re deep-fried.

This creates a golden brown, crispy exterior whilst leaving a soft, fluffy texture on the inside. 

After they’ve finished frying they can be enjoyed hot or cold, though in my opinion, a fresh, warm falafel takes some beating!

So, let’s get to the million-dollar question: how does it taste?

What Does Falafel Taste Like?

The short answer? Delicious!

But you probably want a bit more detail than that…

Falafel has a savory, herby, and slightly nutty flavor profile.

The combination of chickpeas and/or fava beans, herbs, spices, onion, and garlic creates a rich taste that just leaves you wanting more.

Although they taste great in their own right, they’re quite mild which means they can be paired with a variety of other foods.

What Does Falafel Smell Like?

Yes, I’m a falafel fanboy.

But I’m not exaggerating when I say that they smell great too!

The tempting smell comes from the unique blend of herbs and spices that go into the recipe.

Some common ingredients used in falafel include:

  • Cumin: This spice lends falafel its warm, earthy aroma.
  • Coriander: Another key spice in falafel, coriander adds a gently fragrant, slightly citrusy scent.
  • Garlic: Who can resist the smell of sizzling garlic? It provides a pungent, savory note to the mix.
  • Parsley and mint: These herbs give falafel a fresh aroma, balancing out the more robust spices.

What is the Texture of Falafel Like?

Outer texture: When you sink your teeth into a falafel, you’ll first notice its slightly crunchy and crispy exterior. This outer layer forms when it fries, giving the falafel a satisfying crunch.

Inner texture: As you bite into the falafel, you’ll be greeted by its soft, dense, and slightly grainy interior. 

What Ingredients are In Falafel?

Falafel, olives and wraps

The base ingredients of falafel are pretty simple. 

It’s a combination of chickpeas and/or fava beans. These are soaked and then ground into a paste.

Yes, that means falafel is entirely vegan, making it a perfect addition to a plant-based diet!

I’ve already mentioned the blend of herbs and spices that go into falafel, including cumin, coriander, parsley, mint, cilantro, and black pepper.

For a well-rounded flavor, additional elements like onion, garlic, and lemon juice are added to the mixture. Onion and garlic enhance the savoriness, while lemon juice imparts a tangy zing.

Lastly, the frying oil plays an important role in achieving that perfect crispy exterior. High-smoke point oils, like canola, avocado, or sunflower oil, are recommended when cooking falafel. 

These oils can withstand the high temperatures required for frying without breaking down and affecting the taste.

To summarize, here’s a quick list of the ingredients that make falafels pop:

  • Base ingredients: Chickpeas and/or fava beans
  • Herbs and spices: Cumin, coriander, parsley, mint, cilantro, black pepper
  • Additional elements: Onion, garlic, lemon juice
  • Frying oil: Canola, avocado, or sunflower oil

What are the Different Varieties of Falafel?

Each region takes the basic recipe and adds its spin.

Different ingredients lead to variations in taste, color, and texture. 

You’ll find green-tinged falafels packed with parsley, coriander, and scallions, while others have a golden hue due to turmeric or saffron. 

Additionally, the types and proportions of spices like cumin, paprika, and garlic will affect each falafel’s taste profile.

But truthfully, I’ve never found there to be too much difference in the taste of falafel based on the ingredients inside.

Instead, it’s the accompaniments that make a big difference to the dish.

Here are some common topping choices:

  • Hummus: a creamy chickpea spread, perfect for dipping
  • Tahini sauce: a sesame paste-based sauce that adds a nutty depth
  • Tzatziki: a cool and tangy Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce
  • Hot sauce: to introduce an extra kick for spice lovers

What are the Health Benefits of Falafel?

Falafel and Tahini

Ok, ok, you get that you should probably try falafel for its taste.

But what about its health benefits? 

With a high protein and fiber content, this vegan and vegetarian-friendly dish has plenty of reasons to find a place in your diet.

Falafel is primarily made from legumes, i.e. chickpeas or fava beans, which are rich sources of plant-based protein. 

This helps to support muscle growth and repair, making it an excellent choice for those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

Another perk of falafel is its fiber content. With both soluble and insoluble fiber, it can aid digestion and keep you feeling full for longer. 

Soluble fiber, in particular, helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, so it’s good for heart health too!

In addition to protein and fiber, falafel is packed with vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, copper, iron, and magnesium. These nutrients work together to support overall health and bodily functions.

However, it’s important to consider the frying method and oil used when preparing falafel, as they can affect its health value. 

Frying can add extra calories and unhealthy fats, so you may want to explore alternative cooking methods, like baking or air-frying, to preserve the nutritional benefits of falafel.

How Do You Make Falafel?

Making homemade falafel is easy, and with just a few ingredients and steps, you’ll be able to enjoy this delicious and flavorful dish. 

First, you’ll need your ingredients.

Traditional falafel consists of chickpeas or fava beans, fresh herbs (such as parsley, cilantro, and mint), and aromatic spices like coriander, cumin, and garlic. 

You might also want some salt, pepper, and onion to enhance the flavor.

Once you’ve got everything you need, combine it all in a food processor, pulsing until the mixture reaches a fine, crumbly consistency. 

With your mixture ready, it’s time to decide on your cooking method. You have a few options: frying, baking, or using an air fryer. Each method can produce different results in terms of texture and taste.

  1. Frying is the traditional way to cook falafel. Form the mixture into small patties or balls and fry them in hot oil until they develop a golden brown and crispy exterior. This technique results in a crispy and crunchy outside with a moist and tender inside.
  2. Baking is a less authentic but healthier option. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C), place the formed falafel on a lined baking sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and crisp, flipping halfway through. Although not as crispy as the fried version, baking does produce a delicious, slightly crunchy falafel with a tender interior.
  3. Air frying is another healthy choice and a great way to achieve a crispy finish without using too much oil. Set your air fryer to 375°F (190°C) and cook the falafel for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time. You’ll get a delicious and crispy falafel while using only a small amount of oil.

How Should You Serve Falafel?

Falafel served in wrap

Falafel is super versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

One popular serving suggestion is as a standalone dish accompanied by dipping sauces. 

Tahinihummus, and hot sauce all complement its earthy taste and crunchy texture.

For a more substantial meal, you can pop falafel into pita bread.

Stuff the bread with falafel balls and any combination of veggies, pickles, or rice that you prefer. Drizzle with your preferred sauce—be it tahini, hummus, or hot sauce.

Speaking of accompaniments, falafel pairs wonderfully with an assortment of sides. You can plate your falafel with:

  • Fresh vegetables (e.g., cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce)
  • Rice or grain-based salads
  • Pickled onions and other pickled garnishes

Can You Eat Falafel Cold?

Falafel on chopping board

Whilst I think it tastes better warm, falafel can certainly be enjoyed cold, making it a great option for snacking or a quick meal on the go.

When it comes to the texture and taste of cold falafel, there are some differences compared to enjoying it fresh and warm. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Texture: While warm falafel tends to have a crispy exterior and soft interior, cold falafel may lose some of its crispiness. However, don’t worry! The grainy, hearty inside remains consistent at any temperature.
  • Taste: Cold falafel still retains its savory and earthy flavors, with hints of various herbs and spices like coriander, cumin, parsley, and mint. It’s worth mentioning that the flavors may not be as pronounced as when the falafel is warm, but they’ll still be delicious.

What Should You Serve with Falafel?

Hummus. This creamy chickpea dip pairs wonderfully with falafel and is also commonly served with pita bread. It comes in numerous flavors and is great for spreading on your pita, adding a few veggies, and then stuffing it with hot falafels.

Tahini. A versatile sesame seed paste that is often served as a sauce or drizzle over falafels. Tahini complements the nutty and earthy flavor of falafel, making it a must-try.

Pita bread. This soft and fluffy bread is perfect for creating delicious falafel sandwiches by stuffing it with falafels, freshly chopped vegetables, and sauces.

Vegetables. Don’t forget to add some fresh and crunchy veggies! Cucumber, tomato, onion, bell peppers, and lettuce all work well and add a burst of flavor and texture to your dish.

A fresh and tasty salad also goes great with falafel. A simple green salad, tabbouleh, or even a Mediterranean-inspired salad with olives and feta cheese will help balance out the flavors and make your meal more satisfying and nutritious.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does falafel compare to other foods?

Falafel can be compared to other foods like veggie burgers or fritters, but it has a distinct flavor profile mainly influenced by chickpeas or fava beans and spices like cumin, coriander, and garlic.

What ingredients influence falafel’s flavor?

The main ingredients that contribute to falafel’s flavor are chickpeas or fava beans, which give it a nutty and earthy taste.

The spices – cumin, coriander, and garlic – add warmth and depth to the flavor.

Fresh herbs like parsley and mint are also used in some recipes, giving them a fresh, herbaceous touch.

Is there a difference in taste between baked and fried falafel?

While both baked and fried falafel have similar flavors due to the ingredients used, the main difference between them is the texture. 

Fried falafel has a crispier and slightly more golden exterior, while baked falafel tends to be softer.

Although the taste may be somewhat similar, the choice of preparation method can affect the overall mouthfeel and experience of eating falafel.

What are common falafel accompaniments?

Falafel is often served with various accompaniments, such as tahini sauce or hummus, which add a creamy, nutty flavor to the dish. 

Other popular pairings include pita bread to make a falafel sandwich or a salad for a lighter, fresher side.

Toppings like pickled vegetables or yogurt sauce can further enhance the taste and add an extra layer of flavor.

Are there different falafel variations with unique flavors?

Yes, the flavor of falafel can vary depending on regional differences and the specific blend of spices or herbs used in the recipe. 

Some variations might include additional spices, like paprika or chili powder, to give it a spicy kick.

Others may use different legumes or grains to create unique textures and flavors.

Don’t be afraid to explore different recipes and try new variations to find your favorite falafel experience!

How does the choice of sauce affect the taste of falafel?

The choice of sauce can significantly impact the overall taste of falafel. 

A creamy tahini or hummus sauce adds a nutty, rich flavor, while a yogurt-based sauce provides a tangy, cooling contrast. 

Some recipes might even use spicy or tomato-based sauces, giving the falafel a completely different flavor profile.

Experimenting with various sauces helps you customize your falafel experience to your taste preferences.