Explore the ingredients of this popular "fast food" dish.

Falafel, also sometimes spelled felafel, is a popular Middle Eastern dish. A common street food, these small deep-fried patties are found in the likes of Syria, Egypt, and Israel, the latter of which has the falafel as their national dish. It's a beloved staple for vegetarians and is considered one of the most widely recognized and enjoyed dishes from that region of the world.

What is Falafel Made From?

The main ingredients of falafel are garbanzo beans (chickpeas), or a combination of garbanzo beans and skinned fava beans. The cooked beans are ground into a coarse paste and then mixed with other ingredients before deep frying. Binders like flour, breadcrumbs, or eggs are commonly used to help the patties keep their shape. The seasonings of choice vary from household to household, but common falafel additions include cumin, garlic, parsley, onion, or cilantro.

Close-up of Traditional falafel balls with salad and hummus on a plate
Credit: Fotoatelie / Getty Images

How to Serve Falafel

The most common way of serving falafel is as a falafel sandwich with pita bread. The pita is cut open and the pocket is stuffed with two or three warm falafel patties, tomato, cucumber, onion, romaine lettuce or shredded cabbage, parsley, sometimes also sandwich pickles, and topped with tahini sauce. Falafel can also be served as an appetizer with hummus for dipping.

What Are Some Variations of Falafel?

While your basic falafel is already packed with flavor, it can sometimes be fun to change things up. Try a falafel burger, featuring an oversized patty served on a bun with all your favorite toppings. Or break out the waffle iron, making savory falafel waffles that can be served with thinly sliced veggies and tahini sauce. If you're worried about your waistline, skip the deep frying and instead try baked falafel as a low-fat alternative to the traditional method.

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