My mostly-vegetarian family likes to eat hummus (garbanzo bean and sesame seed dip) and falafels (garbanzo bean and pea fritters) but both of these foods take a while to make from scratch. Practically every grocery store sells ready-to-serve hummus these days, but it is pricey and gets moldy quickly. A few stores and restaurants sell pre-made falafels to heat up at home, but they’re expensive and not all that good.
Luckily, Fantastic Foods makes dry mixes for making both hummus and falafels. I can’t call the falafels instant because you still have to cook them, but there is a quick and easy way to do that, too. Neither the convenience nor the cooking method makes either food less healthy than if made from scratch! In fact, the falafels have a lot more fiber, protein, and iron than packaged ready-to-heat falafels I’ve seen. Both mixes are made almost entirely from “real” whole foods; the only “weird” ingredients are maltodextrin, citric acid, and tocopherol, all safe food additives. The canola oil in the falafel mix is not made from genetically modified organisms. The hummus mix is gluten-free.
We buy both hummus mix and falafel mix from the bulk section at our co-op, where we can scoop them into reused glass jars and not pay for packaging. If you don’t have this option, try the packaged version.
The instant hummus mixes easily with hot water (we usually bring the water to a near-boil in our electric kettle, and mix the hummus with a fork to break up lumps) into a creamy dip; adding olive oil helps to keep it from drying out once mixed. It has a very nice flavor. We have brought it to potluck dinners and parties, to rave reviews. Everyone is surprised to hear it is made from dehydrated garbanzo beans! The flavor can be adjusted by adding a little lemon juice (there is some lemon in it already), sesame oil, parsley, or cilantro.
The falafel mix is simple to convert into falafel dough: add water, mix, and if it still has dry spots add a little more water. You want to get it just thoroughly moist, not drippy. We used to have trouble cooking the falafels–frying in hot oil is annoying, and often they would fall apart so that we ended up eating heaps of greasy crumbs instead of neat little fritters. My mom told us the solutions to both problems.
First, if possible, mix the falafel dough at least an hour in advance, cover it, and let it stand. This makes them hold together better and have a more uniform texture.
Second, bake the falafels in a mini-muffin pan instead of frying them! Grease the pan with olive oil (or your preferred frying oil), fill the cups (falafels do not puff up like muffins), and maybe brush a little oil on top to keep them moist. When I did this for the first time, I couldn’t remember the temperature or baking time my mom had told me, so I set the oven to 350F and checked on them every few minutes. They were nicely browned after 11 minutes. It was much easier than frying. They popped out of the pan easily, held together, and tasted great! 2 cups of mix makes 24 little falafels. If you like them bigger, you could use a regular muffin tin or bake blobs on a cookie sheet.
UPDATE: After reading this article, my mom e-mailed me:
I appreciate getting credit for the idea of baking felafels, but the muffin cups must be original with you! We dislike underdone spots in thick felafels, preferring flat patties such as we had in Egypt–esp if coated with sesame seed before baking.I press a soupspoonful of the dough (yes, letting it stand for a while is essential!) firmly into shape between my palms, then press both flat sides into a saucerful of sesame seeds, and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet–maybe it’s the oil from the seeds that keeps them from sticking? The seeds get nice and toasty. Then, to further indulge in sesame flavor, we dip them in a sauce of tahini and yogurt (about half&half, with a squeeze of lemon)–that’s how they were served in Cairo. Or that sauce can be added to them in a pocket sandwich with lots of crispy vegetables. I usually make a “serves 4” batch because leftovers are a wonderful snack.
Hmm. Where did I get the mini-muffin idea?! Oh well–now you have another idea for how to make falafels!
Hummus and falafels are great sources of vegan protein and fiber that taste delicious! I’m glad we found this convenient way of making them. Both mixes are shelf-stable for months, and we can make the exact amount we want. Our son has been requesting hummus, with pita chips and carrot sticks, as his school lunch many days this year–but then sometimes he loses his taste for it and wants something different–so it’s great to avoid spending a lot of money on prepared hummus or spending a lot of time making it from scratch and then having to find another way to use it up!
When we do have time to make falafeloid objects from scratch, we like the Chickpea Wraps recipe from Kitchen Stewardship. The flavor is somewhat different from traditional falafels but is very tasty! They are easy to cook on a George Foreman grill.
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