I have a confession: I have an absolute obsession with falafel. I am always dreaming up new ways to make it for my family on those special nights when we indulge ourselves and this sweet potato and millet version is my newest flavor combination. If you have ever ordered authentic falafel at a Mediterranean restaurant then you know that it’s crisp and golden on the outside while the inside stays nice and tender. The secret to achieving this texture at home is by using dried, not canned, chickpeas.
A batch of falafel like this one is simple to pull together and cook, but there is some advance preparation that has to happen. First, the chickpeas have to soak for 24 hours to get all nice and tender. You won’t actually be cooking them, so the soaking process is really important.
This recipe also calls for mashed sweet potato and cooked millet. If you aren’t familiar with millet, it’s a tiny grain that is mildly sweet and nutty. It is incredibly versatile and has pretty much replaced couscous for us since we went gluten-free. Millet cooks up a lot like rice; I toast mine first and then add broth or water (2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of millet), salt, and a little butter or Earth Balance. Then you bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer covered for 15-18 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Since it triples in volume after cooking, for this falafel recipe, you’ll start with about 1/3 cup dry millet.
It may seem like a lot of effort, but trust me it is so worth it when you bite down into that beautiful golden falafel! I serve ours with hummus, guacamole, and tzatziki for dipping, homemade gluten-free naan for wrapping, and grilled veggies. It really is a family favorite around here!
- 1 cup dried chickpeas soaked for 24 hours (see note)
- 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato about 1 medium
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 2 cloves garlic quartered
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup cooked millet at room temperature
- Grapeseed oil for frying
- 1-2 tablespoons chickpea flour and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda if needed
- Place the chickpeas, sweet potato, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, coriander, salt, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper into the bowl of a food processor and alternate between pulsing and blending, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until all of the ingredients in the the falafel mixture are uniform in size, but still slightly grainy in texture. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and fold in the cooked millet.
- Roll a small amount of the falafel mixture into a walnut sized ball or a small patty with your hands. It should hold together nicely and not fall apart. (If it seems too wet, sprinkle the mixture with a small amount of the chickpea flour, no more than a tablespoon at a time, and fold it in. Once texture is correct, sprinkle the baking soda over the falafel and stir the mixture until combined.) Repeat the shaping process with the rest of the falafel mixture and place the uncooked falafel on a large plate or baking sheet until ready to cook.
To Deep-Fry (For Crispiest Falafel)
- Pour the grapeseed oil into a high-sided skillet or saucepan to a depth of 3 inches or high enough to cover the falafel. Place a thermometer into the oil and heat on medium-high until the temperature reaches 360°-375°F.
- While the oil is heating, place a flattened paper grocery bag onto a baking sheet and cover it with a few clean paper towels. This will help to collect the oil as it drains off of your falafel.
- When the oil is ready, fry a test falafel. The oil should bubble up and sizzle all around it. The falafel itself should stay together in one piece and not break apart at all. It should take 2-3 minutes to fry to a beautiful golden brown. If your falafel is not completely submerged flip and cook the other side until it’s nice and browned all over. Remove the cooked falafel from the oil and drain on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt while the falafel is still hot, if desired. Fry the remaining falafel in batches, being careful not to over-crowd the pan and drop the temperature of the oil.
To Pan-Fry (For Crispy Falafel)
- Shape your falafel into patties, not balls. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of grape seed oil in the skillet and swirl to coat. Place the falafel patties in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crispy and browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil and sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired.
To Bake (For Not-So-Crispy Falafel)
- Shape your falafel into patties, not balls. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and spray a baking sheet with an oil mister filled with grapeseed oil. Place the falafel onto the baking sheet and spray the tops with additional oil; bake for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time, or until golden brown on the outside.