An easy falafel recipe featuring blackeyed peas; Middle Eastern soul food, why not!
What is a falafel?
Falafel is a traditionally Arab food I’d describe as a vegetable fritter made from a legume. Choice of legume varies by region/country but chickpeas are most common. In countries like Egypt fava beans are preferred. Here, I used blackeyed peas to give it a soul food twist.
I’ve probably eaten more falafel wraps this year than I have any other period in my life and subconsciously it’s probably tied to this year’s election somehow. Follow me here; inauguration day I had an eye appointment. My Doctor’s office is located near a Middle Eastern restaurant, one in which I parked in front of the day of my appointment. I thought nothing of the proximity of the restaurant before that day. After a quick Doctor’s visit I walked back to my car and noticed a note on my windshield. My initial thought was that someone had bumped my car door, only to learn after reading the note some racist person felt compelled to write me a nasty note. My complexion allowed me to be mistaken for a person of Arab descent, but the note read “Enjoy your falafel you f*^&ing terrorist!That’s why I voted for Trump.”
It’s not the first time my complexion created some confusion regarding my ethnicity, but outside of the days and months post 9/11, this was one of the few times it worked against me. My Arab brothers in Morocco and Turkey greeted me with love in their native tongue. After reading the note, I initially drove around the neighborhood wishfully thinking I’d find the jerk and confront them. But eventually, my immediate anger dissipated into recognition and acceptance that this would be the new normal. Not that racism was a new experience for me or others, but now it would be in our face, overtly demonstrated by those emboldened by a president who plays to the fears of racists.
However, I guess in some way, my increased falafel consumption was me flicking my middle finger at the proverbial racists and keeping it moving in terms of progressing onward and upward in this crazy world despite the environment. Even better, I learned this year that my vegan daughter loved falafel wraps which gave me more incentive to make my own version. Research showed that making falafel was actually easy. I decided to go back to the Motherland to get some Zulu love in the form of her native beans, the blackeyed pea in place of the traditional chickpeas. Blackeyed peas grow wild in Africa, are great at absorbing flavors of other ingredients, and generally make a good twist on traditional falafel recipes. Both chickpeas and blackeyed peas have a nutty flavor, but blackeyed peas have a more earthy and savory flavor profile. The absorbitive qualities make it a good pairing with spices and mix of herbs hence some damn good black eyed pea falafel cakes!
Falafel is typically served with a tahini sauce. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds, similar in texture to a thin peanut butter and usually made thinner with the addition of water and/or lemon juice. I wanted a bit of smokiness so added some adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles plus some lime juice to get the desired consistency. I wanted more of a mayonnaise type consistency for what is essentially my falafel dip.
Black eyed Pea Falafel Cooking Tips
Falafel should have a crisp exterior with light, fluffy and moist but not pasty interior. And oh yeah you want the natural flavor of the legume to come through. To obtain these texture and flavor qualities there are a few things that need to happen:
- Ball size matters. Smaller is better for achieving a more crispy falafel. Think of it like this, the larger the ball then the more surface area there is to cook which impacts the ratio of inner moisture vs. crispy exterior
- Go heavy with the herbs, it’s a Middle Eastern dish after all! Ditto for spices as falafel can otherwise be pretty bland if not seasoned properly
- Use dried vs. canned blackeyed peas. Flavor wise dried nets more intense, clean black-eyed pea flavor whereas you get that tin canned taste from the canned version. Even worse, it’s a bitch trying to get canned peas to bind.
- Use the overnight method of soaking the blackeyed peas. The quick-soak method doesn’t work because the peas need to be totally raw for optimal flavor and texture.
- Deep frying works better than shallow frying
- Chill the falafel mixture before frying to help with shaping
Are black eyed peas good for you?
Blackeyed peas have a lot of nutritional benefits. In addition to being low in fat and calories as well as high in iron, they are a good source potassium which helps to lower risk of heart disease. Also for non-meat eaters they are a good alternative source of protein.
Wouldn’t it be easier to use canned Black eyed peas to make falafel?
Yes, but I don’t recommend it. Clearly, canned is more convenient as it eliminates a step or two, but the trade-off is not worth in my humble opinion. Pre-cooked blackeyed peas means the starches have been released and thus washed out with the liquid leaving very little in the form of a binding agent. At the end of the day they are more apt to disintegrate when fried in hot oil. If you go the way of canned, then be sure to up the amount of flour and baking soda used.
Blackeyed pea falafel
If you add this easy falafel recipe to your reportoire of black eyed peas recipes, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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- 2 cups dried black-eyed peas soaked overnight
- 1/2 white onions minced
- 1 tbsp garlic chopped
- 1 cup fresh herb mix chives, basil, parsley, thyme
- 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp flour
- peanut or canola oil for frying
For Tahini Sauce
- 2 tbsp tahini paste
- 2 tbsp almond milk
- 1 tbsp chili paste or hot sauce of choice
- Juice from 1/2 small lime
- Combine the blackeyed peas, onion, garlic, and herbs in a food processor and puree. Don't worry if mixture never reaches fully smooth consistency.
- Transfer to a bowl and mix in baking powder and flour. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll black-eyed pea into medium sized oblong balls and then flatten to desired shape.
- Heat oil in large skilet and fry the falafals for about 3 minutes per side.
- Remove from oil and let cool and drain on cooling rack or paper towel lined pan.
Make Tahini Sauce
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust consistency with water as needed.