How To Keep Falafel From Falling Apart

Falafel is one of my all-time favorite meals. It’s crisp and fresh, yet hearty. It’s great at home or on the go. You’ve likely grabbed this handheld vegetarian delight from a falafel shop or cart at some point, but you might struggle to make yours quite as well at home.

The number one issue people tend to have with their homemade falafel is that the balls crumble or fall apart. This is a common issue. The mostly likely reason your falafel falls apart is due to the use of canned chickpeas instead of dried ones. You can keep falafel from falling apart by using dried chickpeas.

There are a few other pitfalls to look out for as well, but luckily they all have easy fixes.

Let’s take a look at why your falafel might be falling apart and what you can do to get that perfect look, taste, and texture.

Why Your Falafel Falls Apart

Using the Wrong Chickpeas

Dried chickpeas purchased after chef learned how to keep falafel from falling apart

We all love finding kitchen shortcuts. Life moves at a dizzying clip these days, and making quick and satisfying meals has become an essential part of this frenzied way of life. A common mistake when making falafel is to use canned chickpeas instead of dried. Yes, soaking the dried chickpeas does take about 12 hours, but it’s really not that time-consuming if you just cover them with water the night before you need to use them.

It’s not impossible to use canned chickpeas, but you’ll need to add a binder such as flour (use chickpea flour to keep them gluten free), and you’ll likely end up with a mushier texture than what you’re used to from the falafel shop.

For a traditional homemade falafel recipe with the best chance of staying together and having a delightfully crispy exterior and wonderful texture, soak dried chickpeas in water treated with baking soda for 12-24 hours, then rinse and pat dry.

Not Resting Your Mixture

Much like making great pastry, it’s important to rest your falafel mixture in the fridge for at least 15-30 minutes. This allows the starch from the chickpeas to develop and the moisture to become evenly distributed, and will greatly contribute to the structural integrity of your falafel balls.

While your mixture is resting, blend up your hummus or labneh and prepare the rest of the elements for your meal. Once everything else is ready, pull your mixture out of the fridge and fry up your falafel, which is best enjoyed immediately.

Incorrect Oil Temperature

Falafel frying in pan after chef learned how to keep falafel from falling apart

Authentic falafel are best when fried, and keeping your pan of oil between 350 and 360 degrees Fahrenheit is very important. Too hot and you’ll burn the outside without cooking the inside. If your oil gets too cool you won’t get the crispy outer shell which is essential for keeping your falafel together.

It’s also important not to overcrowd your pan. Overcrowding will encourage your falafel to bump into each other and cause crumbling, and will lower the temperature of your oil.

Adding Too Many Greens

I love that falafel are customizable. You can really add whatever flavorings and seasonings suit your taste. But it’s important to ensure that your mixture stays well balanced and that you don’t overdo it on things like fresh herbs.

I’m sure it’s tempting to pump up that freshness, but adding an excessive amount of greens to your falafel mixture will almost certainly result in crumbling and make it nearly impossible to get the texture and hold you’re looking for.

Falafel balls prepared after chef learned how to keep falafel from falling apart

Making falafel at home is both easy and fun once you get the hang of it. The above are some of the most common reasons for home falafel fails, but it’s also important to take a bit of a hands-off approach. While it is necessary to ensure your mixture is ground up quite well, don’t overwork it with your hands. Instead, use a spoon or scoop to shape your balls. Once they’re in the pan, don’t fuss with them too much. Just place them in gently and leave them to crisp up nicely before you turn them over.

If you follow all these tips and tricks, starting with the most important step of using dried chickpeas, you should have delicious, perfect falafel in a jiffy.