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Falafel mix (Recipe: turkey-falafel meatballs with pasta, spinach and tahini dressing)

Updated February 2012.


A couple of years ago, I stopped into my favorite local market for all foods from the Mideast. For an upcoming cooking group session, I wanted to make falafel (chickpea fritters) from scratch.

I asked the shop owner -- a wonderful cook who prepares hundreds of hand pies, spreads, and stuffed grape leaves every week -- for her own falafel recipe.

She handed me a box of falafel mix.

"Nobody makes it from scratch," she told me. "The mix is so much better."

My jaw dropped. Could this be the same woman who welcomed me into her kitchen, who taught me to make mjedera and spinach pies and creamy baba ghanoush -- all from scratch?


I set out to prove her wrong. I purchased a box of falafel mix, which contains ground fava beans, ground chickpeas, corn meal, flour, dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, parsley, cracked wheat, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate, salt and spices. (Different brands have slightly different seasonings.)

To make falafel balls, we added water to the mix, allowed it to sit for an hour, formed the patties, and deep-fried.

To make the from-scratch falafel, I bought bags of dry chickpeas and fava beans, to combine with the remaining ingredients from my pantry. I researched recipes from many sources. I soaked the chickpeas overnight.

Then we mixed ingredients, refrigerated the balls to allow them to "set", and deep-fried.

The verdict? We all preferred the falafel from the box (golly...), which was more highly spiced and took one-tenth the time to make.

Ever since, I've kept a box of falafel mix in the pantry. The mix looks just like breadcrumbs, and I often substitute one for the other.


Turkey-falafel meatballs with pasta

Make the meatballs ahead and freeze them, and you can pull together an easy weeknight dinner. Serves 6.


1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/3 cup falafel mix
Scant 1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or romano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying
1 lb linguini or penne pasta, prepared according to package directions
3 cups baby spinach leaves

For the tahini dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (silicone mat) or parchment paper, and set aside.

Mix first six ingredients together by hand, season with salt and pepper, and shape into walnut-sized meatballs on the baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the pasta. Drain, and place in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the tahini dressing ingredients, and toss with the warm pasta. Add spinach leaves and stir to combine. Top with the meatballs, and serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Florida crab cakes
Turkey meatloaf with fig gravy
Cauliflower gratin
Traditional hummus
Chickpea falafel

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Crispy roasted chickpeas with Moroccan spices, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Chopped broccoli salad with tahini soy sauce dressing, from Family Fresh Cooking
Asparagus with maple tahini dressing, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Crunchy veg salad with lemon-tahini dressing, from Food Blogga
Ten minute tasty asparagus and brown rice, from 101 Cookbooks

Want more meatball recipes? Get Meatballs, my e-book packed with amazing, crowd-pleasing, family-friendly low-fat turkey meatball recipes with bold around-the-world flavors, plus full-color photos and a few fun videos. With the FREE Kindle Reading App, great meatballs will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I have had the opposite experience with Falafel mixes (The brand I used was called Sadaf, I think). They were pretty bad and had a very bitter taste with not enough seasoning. To make the ones from scratch I used canned chickpeas, lots of parsley, cilantro, garlic, and onion, along with seasoning. They were irresistible! I will look up the brand on the box of the picture you have posted. Perhaps one such box will also sit in my pantry.

it looks interesting ,
thanks for sharing it

I think I´m going to hold my trip to the Moroccan market for a few days, until your series is over, otherwise I´ll miss out on wonderful stuff. This is totally new to me too.

I've never tried to make falafel balls from scratch, but recently I tried a Mark Bittman recipe for veggie burgurs and used chickpeas. The results were pretty soft and hard to handle (and some ended up on the floor during the frying). I'll bet the makers of the mix have figured out exactly the right balance of taste and texture.

I love my from-scratch falafel (just made it last night for night...the baked version) but I am very impressed with the idea of using the boxed mix for all these other uses!

I like the idea of using the mix to fry chicken!
Actually I love falafel and the mixes I've tried have all been excellent. Now I guess I'm not very likely to try from scratch.

Again, I've had the opposite experience with falafel mixes

Maybe it's because I live in the UK and I bought my mix from a big supermarket instead of a specialist store

Anyway, I was pretty disappointed with the mix - I mean - you can't beat it for convenience

I followed the recipe from Claudia Roden's "The Book of Jewish Food" and they were incredible. So fresh and light and packed with flavor. Me and my friends took one look at the recipe which said 'serves 6' and, as we always do, said 'yeah right'. So we doubled the recipe - we ended up eating falafel for the next 3 days. Still - definitely worth it ... but only if you have a food processor.

I make falafel from scratch too. As it is often a lot of work I do not make it as often as I like to eat the stuff! But I think I am going to keep a look out for a falafel mix when I go to Dubai in a few days!

Lydia, I love falafel!! I'll eat it by the tons if possible.

And what a surprise to find out the mix can be used in cookies!

I'm now depressed. Too often do I read about/hear about cultural groups losing certain traditions and methods of cooking things. I don't want this happening anymore! I'd actually like to ask some other Middle Easterns if this is a common practice now in many homes. Maybe it is? Maybe I'm romanticising this? But hats off to you for trying to prove her wrong... but I'm more depressed tht you proved her right! Oh man...
Amy @ http://www.weareneverfull.com

I've definitely had the same experience with tabbouleh. The one I make from the pre-seasoned mix is vastly superior to the tabbouleh I made starting from scratch. I've never made falafel, but this is inspiring me to try it. Also I love the idea of substituting this for breadcrumbs, perfect for my way of eating!

Those are surprising results but very good to know! I've also occasionally been surprised by the quality of some (definitely not all--there's some real turds out there!) of the freezer-versions of some Indian flatbreads

I'm not immune to the pleasure of packaged products and when you think about what's in it, there is no reason for this mix not to be as good as falafel made from scratch, it is a bonus that they taste better, and with one tenth of the effort, that makes them a winner in my book. There is a falafel kitchen not far from me and they are in the habit of standing in the street handing out samples, my daughter doesn't like them, but I always make sure she gets one too!

Fascinating, Lydia! I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of falafel--kind of hits me as Middle Eastern hush puppies, another food wasted on me. But the idea of using the mix for other things is exciting!

Eralda, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for sharing your experience with falafel mix. I've had good success with this brand, and even more success using it in place of bread crumbs in other types of dishes. I hope you find a brand that works for you.

Garlic, thanks for stopping by. This is good stuff!

Lobstersquad, this is the last post of this week's series, but you might also add pomegranate molasses to your shopping list.

TW, our homemade falafel were also soft, too puffy, and lacked enough seasoning. I think you'll have fun finding all sorts of new ways to incorporate this mix into non-falafel recipes.

Nupur, I'll have to check out your recipe; mine was a dud!

MyKitchen, I've tried two or three brands, all with good success. I know I should try to make falafel from scratch again, but I'll always keep the mix in the pantry to use in other ways.

Matt, I'm laughing! When I wrote up our recipe for the cooking group, I also doubled it because we were 16 people -- but it made enough falafel for 60, and we were swimming in leftovers!

Meeta, if you think about all of the other things you can do with falafel mix, you won't feel guilty having it in your pantry.

Patricia, I thought the cookies sounded intriguing. I haven't tried them yet -- maybe you will?

Amy, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I agree completely about immigrant groups losing their culture here, but I also applaud this particular woman (and she is an amazing cook) for using whatever gives her the best results. Of course it is all a matter of personal taste, and as a working mother, she is willing to take a bit of help from the store when the quality is not compromised. I think that's the lesson I learned from her. And it surprised me because it was the only shortcut I've ever seen her take.

Kalyn, I think it's the abundant seasoning that makes some of the packaged products successful. Of course I always worry that the seasoning contains a lot of salt, but in the case of this particular product, it does not. I hope you'll have fun playing with it in other dishes.

Mike, I've tried some of the Trader Joe's Indian products, which seem to be pretty good.

Neil, the mix is really just the dry ingredients of falafel, pulverized in a food processor and packaged for convenience. I'm happy to let someone else gather the ingredients and do the prep work.

Terry, few things end up in my pantry that do not get used in more than one way. This is a great example of a product that has found life far beyond the obvious!

My fiance and I actually set out to make falafel from scratch one night in an attempt to broaden our culinary attempts. They turned out well and he really liked them. I wasn't a huge fan but since I had never had falafel before I can't really say if it was the recipe or not. Either way it was definitely a lot of work!



Lydia, isn't it something?! I have the same sentiment when I dug in some baked goods from scratch, still, the box was the winner! But not from preservative and/or addictives-free point of view... :)

hi Lydia, can you show the finished product.I can't imagine how it looks, like..spaghettie meatballs?in m'sia now, busy busy with the election tomorrow.falafel?...is it pakoras ?

That. Is. Friggin. GENIUS! I've never thought of using felafal mix to substitute for breadcrumbs. Maybe this is the way I get Isaac to let me make homemade Eggplant Parm!

N, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Falafel from scratch really is a lot of work, and worth it if you like the results. For me, the mix is great -- but it's even better as a bread crumb substitute.

Gattina, agreed. But in the case of this mix, there are no preservatives or additives, just a combination of dried ingredients that you reconstitute with egg and water. Pretty cool, isn't it?

Nasihah, falafel look just like they do on the box -- like meatballs (but no meat!). I usually don't photograph my cooking, because this blog focuses on the actual pantry ingredients -- and because I don't think my food photos are that great. Falafel isn't all that different from pakoras, really.

Ann, thanks -- the first time I tried using this as bread crumbs, it was a move of desperation because there were no bread crumbs (or bread) in the pantry. I was so pleasantly surprised at the outcome that I use the mix all the time now.

Brilliant, brilliant! I love falafel (good ones that is), but never thought to incorporate them into other things also like you because of phobia of pre-mixes. Thanks for the great recipe...

Oh that is such a funny story. Now I feel like doing my own falafel experiment with the pre-mix. Hmm...I wonder if the cafes also use pre-mixes...


Callipygia, thanks -- now that you have the idea, you'll find a million uses for this mix -- especially now that you know that it does not have additives.

Nora, I wonder, too. You can imagine how surprised I was! And the shop owner is someone I know well, someone who has taught me how to cook and welcomed me into her kitchen. So of course when she handed me the mix, I had to try it.

I tried making falafel from scratch once. Only once. I think I'll try the box next time. Until then, I visit the Lebanese place near me and buy my falafel sandwiches from there. ;-)


Paz, you're lucky to have a Lebanese restaurant near you -- I'll bet their falafel is terrific.

The Double Falafel Maker is a real hand held scoop that most Falafelias on the Streets of Israel use to fill the deep fryer within 1 minute. All you need to keep it working smoothly is a bowl of water to clean it every once in a while so that the Chickpea Mix slides off the scoop into the hot oil.


Very interesting comments. Would some of those who make falafel from scratch be willing to post their recipes?

I love Falafel, but have recently been forced to switch to Wheat and gluten free eating. The popular falafel mixes (bulk and boxed) in the US have wheat germ, cracked wheat and/or regular soy sauce (huh? which has wheat in it!!!) Can you help? Thank you!

And, how about garbanzo bean and other bean flours instead of cooked chickpeas? Gluten free cooks use these to replace wheat, oats, barley, rye, etc.

Camelliacity, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I hope some readers will be able to share their recipes. My own recipe for falafel from scratch uses dried ground fava beans as the base, though it can be made with chickpeas or a mix of the two.

I enjoyed reading about someone else that uses falafel for non-traditional purposes!

While I agree that making falafel from scratch is more work, I do it because 1) mine is better than the boxed, and 2) mine is much less expensive! $2.00 for a batch of falafel is robbery! LOL! The recipe below hints as to how often I make falafel....

First make your "Vickie's Quickie Falafel Spice Mix":

4 Cups flour
3/4 Cup minced onion
3/4 Cup Italian 7 Spice
1/4 Cup garlic powder
1/4 Cup cumin
1/4 Cup baking powder
1/4 Cup Vegeta(Baltic Seasoning Salt) or salt

Mix everything together well and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 7 cups of mix or enough for about 28 batches.

For the beans I use the #10 can of garbonzo beans ($2.09 at my local restaurant supply store. Enough for 7 batches of Falafel.) Measure out the beans into 1 quart ziptop bags--2 cups of drained beans per bag. Freeze these until you are ready to use them.

To make falafel: defrost 1 bag of beans and crush them right in the bag. I use the bottom of a mug to do this.If you are using dried beans-soak 1 cup of beans over night. Or, you can use 1 15 oz can. When the beans are all mashed up, add 1/2 of a medium onion(finely chopped)(about 1/2 cup) and 1/4 of a cup of the Falafel Spice Mix. Mix together well and form into balls the size of a golf ball. Flatten slightly and fry until golden brown on both sides.

Only fry what you want for a single meal. Mixture may be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

By doing Falafel this way I can make a batch from freezer to table in 10-15 mins for about 50 cents a batch.

VicinSea, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks so much for sharing your method and recipe for falafel mix. You are a true falafel lover to make 28 batches' worth of mix at a time! One question: for those who cannot eat wheat flour, what can you substitute for the flour in your recipe? Chickpea flour or something like that?

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