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Cumin (Recipe: chickpea falafel) {vegan}


A fun thing to know about cumin:

Since the Middle Ages, people have believed that cumin -- one of the "warm" spices, along with cinnamon, allspice and coriander -- is a food of love. They carried cumin in their pockets when attending wedding ceremonies, and married soldiers were sent off to war with a loaf of cumin bread baked by their wives. Cumin was thought to keep lovers -- and chickens -- from wandering, and to ensure a happy life for a bride and groom who carried cumin seed in their wedding ceremony. And, I guess, to ensure that the couple always would have their chickens. And eggs.

Cooking or baking?
Both, but primarily cooking. Most often cumin adds a smoky tone to savory dishes, especially in Latino and Indian cuisines.

Keep a small supply of cumin seed on your spice rack, in a tightly sealed jar or tin. Buy in bulk (more economical), and store the rest in the freezer. It's always best to grind as you need it, but I usually keep a jar of ground cumin on my spice rack, too. I use it a lot and it doesn't have time to lose its potency. If you buy ground cumin in bulk, you can store it in the freezer for up to one year.

Pantry ingredients used in this recipe:
Cumin (more facts and ingredient photo)
Baking soda
Cayenne pepper
Peanut oil


Chickpea falafel

The first time I tasted falafel, I was a teenager traveling in Israel, and falafel stands were everywhere. It was cheap, delicious, and vegetarian. The falafel patties came in pita bread stuffed with lettuce and tomato, and a slathering of hummus, and that's still the way I like to serve it, though it's also served with tahini or yogurt. Falafel can be made with chickpeas, or fava beans, or a combination of the two. Adapted from Eating Around the World in Your Neighborhood, by Francine Halvorsen, this recipe serves 4.


1 cup dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic
3 Tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne or ground chile pepper
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
Pita breads, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, hummus (for serving)


Soak the chickpeas in 6 cups of water for 24 hours. Drain and place in a food processor with all of the ingredients except the oil, and process until well ground.

Heat the oil in a wok. Form the chickpea mixture into 12 balls, and when the oil is hot, fry a few at a time. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.

Serve warm or at room temperature on a pita bread, with lettuce, tomato, and hummus.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Mushroom bhaji (mushrooms in tomato-onion sauce)
Roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika
Pinto bean ravioli
Cocoa-cumin-allspice rub
Moroccan carrot salad

Other recipes that use cumin:
Cumin-spiked tofu, from 101 Cookbooks
Apple and cumin lentil salad, from Chocolate & Zucchini
Roasted cauliflower with lemon, curry, and cumin, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Spiced bulgur pilaf with pine nuts and currants, from Cookin' Canuck
Cumin scented stir-fry beef with celery, from Jane Spice Recipes

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.


Yum, how I love falafel! Israeli falafel stands are great.

Found a hilarious packet of cumin yesterday in a Chinese grocery store: http://www.flickr.com/photos/msdeena/4972168149/ (the package marked "ways for flavoring").

Will have to try your recipe out, for sure. Out of curiosity, why peanut/ canola oil instead of, say, olive? Is it because of the smoke point?


I love falafel and these sound great. This recipe has a few more spices than the one I've tried, will have to try it.

Ground cumin with ground coriander are the 2 spices I use the most in savoury cooking. They provide wonderful flavour and warmth without spicy heat - two essential spices in my wee kitchen!

Could you use a canned chick peas? I have an overabundance due to my mother cleaning out her pantry!

Those falafel are absolutely perfect! Great history lesson cumin - I love tidbits of info like those.

Cumin is one of those spices I love to cook with but I can't stand to smell on its own. Ick! But for some reason I do love the flavor.

I could have used some cumin in college. Lots of wandering lovers ...

Cumin = dirty socks = delicious

Falafels I think are all my all time favourite food Lydia. Throw in some yogurt sauce and I am there.

Cumin is absolutely for sure one of my favorite spices. I use it all the time. I like the idea of it being a spice of love. It smells warm and homey to me. Interesting because I definitely never had it growing up as my father detests it.

I love falafel and they sound so delicious with all of the spices you've added!

Deena, yes, absolutely it's because of the higher smoke point of other oils. Also, either peanut (or, if you're allergic, canola) ave a clean flavor that won't overwhelm the falafel.

Kalyn, the spice combination in this recipe is great and really has a little bit of a kick. I think you'll like it.

Michelle, they do seem to go together perfectly, don't they?

Carol, no, canned chickpeas won't work, because they'll add too much moisture to the mix. Sorry, you'll have to find something else wonderful to do with them (hint: use the search box up above!).

Cookin' Canuck, these look as good as they taste (which I can't always say about my food photos!).

Kathy, I don't think that's all that unusual. When you toast, or cook, spices, their aroma changes. Cumin (see the comment below) does smell a bit like dirty socks, but after it's cooked, it doesn't smell like that at all.

TW, sounds like a few stories there....

Susan, I used to think so, too, but now I love it!

Val, I adore falafel, too. Sometimes I serve it with yogurt sauce, sometimes with hummus. A double dose of chickpea!

Joanne, cumin gets a real workout in my kitchen, for Mexican food as well as Asian curries. I can't imagine cooking without it.

Israeli falafel, cumin.... yum! The best falafel I had was just inside Jaffa gate in Jerusalem. They added chunks of fried eggplant which was SO Good! My one attempt at home wasn't so good :(

I also add a hefty tsp. of cumin seeds to braises like beef stew or osso buco.

Does the baking soda go in the soaking water or in the final recipe?

Your falafel recipe is amazing; I've got to
try it!

Julia, the eggplant addition sounds delicious. We should cook together and try it some time.

Pauline, it goes into the final recipe. Often when you soak chickpeas, you add the baking soda, but not in this recipe. The baking soda here adds a bit of lightness to what's otherwise a very heavy type of fritter.

Angela, we like this a lot. I hope you do, too.

I have tried making falafel with canned chickpeas before and they fell apart - was discouraged - will try this recipe with the dried peas as I do love them so!

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