An easy falafel recipe featuring blackeyed peas; Middle Eastern soul food, why not!
They're so good they made our list of best blackeyed pea recipes.
What is a falafel?
Falafel is a traditional 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 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 absorptive qualities make it a good pairing with spices and mix of herbs hence some damn good black eyed pea falafel cakes!
Blackeyed Pea Falafel Ingredients
- Smoked Sweet Paprika
- Black Pepper
- Kosher Salt
- Baking Powder
- Peanut/Canola Oil
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Puree the Blackeyed Peas
Combine peas, onions, garlic and herbs in a food processor and puree. Transfer to a bowl and mix in flour and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare the falafel
Scoop out balls of the falafel mix, roll into oblong balls, then flatten to desired shape.
Step 3: Fry the Falafel
Fry falafel in a large skillet or fryer (@ 350 degrees F) for about 3 minutes per side. Remove from oil and let cool and drain on a cooling rack or paper towel lined pan
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.
Zhoug sauce is also a great condiment for these falafels.
Easy Falafel Recipe 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
- I serve these in place of fried meat proteins like fried jerk chicken, pork steak, or catfish.
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.
For similar recipes you might like, try these:
Instant Pot Blackeyed Peas w/ Cacia e Pepe
Blackeyed Peas and Rice aka Hoppin John
Blackeyed Peas and Collard Greens Curry
Classic Southern Blackeyed Peas
make the recipe
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- 2 cups dried black-eyed peas soaked overnight
- ½ white onions minced
- 1 tablespoon garlic chopped
- 1 cup fresh herb mix chives, basil, parsley, thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoon flour
- peanut or canola oil for frying
For Tahini Sauce
- 2 tablespoon tahini paste
- 2 tablespoon almond milk
- 1 tablespoon chili paste or hot sauce of choice
- Juice from ½ 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.
Sunday 1st of January 2023
Made exactly as listed! Cooked in the air fryer at 400 , 15 minutes. Crispy and golden on the outside, perfect inside. Made this for my new year’s “good luck” meal!!
Sunday 1st of January 2023
Love it! Air Fryer is great!
Saturday 12th of September 2020
I have fresh peas grown in my garden. I would like to use these. So I would not cook them first. Just use as they are?
Saturday 12th of September 2020
That's golden! Yes I think you should be fine just blending the fresh peas. I wish I had them in my garden lol.
Friday 31st of January 2020
Has anyone ever made the mixture and then frooze it for future use?
Saturday 1st of February 2020
Great question.I've never tried freezing the mixture ahead of time, but have left it in the fridge overnight as part of make-ahead meal prep.
Monday 3rd of June 2019
Made these last night and loved them. As we ate, we thought of two vegan friends we MUST make them for ASAP. I did have a mishap: when I put in the smoked paprika, it didn't seem like enough, so I put in 2 teaspoons. As the dough/batter chilled I put things away and saw that the "paprika" container was actually "cayenne pepper." YIKES!
I tasted the dough. YIKES. I divided the dough in two. Half I left alone. To the other half, I added some canned white kidneys pureed with canned pumpkin, and a teaspoon of sugar. This amended dough needed additional flour to hold together, and some baking powder to make up for that loss.
I made a few cakes with the original 2 tsp cayenne dough to get a sense for what the texture would be like next time. We found the texture nearly identical in both versions. Both versions were fantastic, and the spiciness of the cake wasn't outrageous after the frying.
I think half an hour in the fridge is a bare minimum. I returned the dough to the fridge as I fried each batch of cakes, and it got noticeably firmer as we went through the cooking.
Monday 3rd of June 2019
Hey Jim thanks for the feedback! Some of my best work has come by mistake lol. The pumpkin sounds interesting and is worthy of food fidelity experimentation. I love the tips...
Monday 4th of December 2017
Jessica thanks for the compliments. They are actually pretty easy to make and it's also easy to add your own personal spin to them.