AskDefine | Define falafel

Dictionary Definition

falafel n : small croquette of mashed chick peas or fava beans seasoned with sesame seeds [syn: felafel]

User Contributed Dictionary



sc=Arab, the plural of sc=Arab.


  1. A Middle Eastern food in the form of balls made from chickpeas and other ingredients. Often served in a pita.
  2. A pita with falafel balls inside.
  3. A falafel roll.


checktrans-top [[]]
  • Arabic: فلافل
  • Finnish: falafel
  • Hebrew: פלאפל
  • Persian: فلافل

External links

Extensive Definition

Falafel ( falaafil, ; also known in Egypt and Sudan as ta'meya, Arabic طعمية), is a fried ball or patty made from spiced fava beans and/or chickpeas. It is a popular form of fast food in the Middle East, where it is also served as a mezze (snack or tapas).
The word "falafel" is the plural of the Arabic word فلفل (filfil), meaning "pepper." Variant spellings in English include felafel and filafil. Falafel is generally served in pita bread, either inside the pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flat pita. In many countries, falafel is a popular street food or fast food. The falafel balls, whole or crushed, may be topped with salads, pickled vegetables and hot sauce, and drizzled with tehina (tahini). Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze. During Ramadan, they are sometimes eaten as part of an iftar, the meal which breaks the daily fast after sunset.
Falafel has been part of the diet of Arabs and Mizrahi Jews for centuries. It is also considered a national food in Israel where it has become a common part of the Israeli diet. Now a popular street food in many countries around the world, it is sometimes offered as a vegetarian alternative to Döner kebab.


Falafel originated in Egypt, where it was first made with fava beans as the base. As the dish migrated northwards to Syria and Palestine, chickpeas were introduced instead. Falafel was consumed by Arabs of all religious denominations, including Jews in Egypt and Syria.
After hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated to Israel from Arab countries in the 1950s, falafel became an Israeli emblem. The proliferation of falafel stands, operated in particular by Jews from Yemen, made "it possible to incorporate elements like falafel without referring to them as Palestinian."
Some Israelis and Jews have since recognized the controversy. For example, Ammiel Alcalay, a Jewish professor of Middle Eastern culture, has described the Israeli adoption of falafel as "total appropriation" and Dan Almagor notes that if he were composing his song on falafel today, he would now include a line mentioning the dish's Arab origins.


Falafel is made from fava beans or chickpeas or a combination of the two. The Egyptian variation uses exclusively fava beans, while other variations may only use chickpeas. Falafel made exclusively from chickpeas became popular in Israel because of favism, a potentially fatal genetic disease among some Mediterranean Jews causing a a hemolytic reaction to fava beans. Unlike many other bean patties, in falafel the beans are not cooked prior to use. Instead they are soaked, possibly skinned, then ground with the addition of a small quantity of onion, parsley, spices (including cumin), and bicarbonate of soda, and deep fried at a high temperature. Sesame seeds may be added to the balls before they are fried; this is particularly common when falafel is served as a dish on its own rather than as a sandwich filling.
Recent culinary trends have seen the triumph of the chickpea falafel over the fava bean falafel. Chickpea falafels are served across the Middle East, and have been popularized by expatriates of those countries living abroad.


Outside the Middle East a Greek-style pita bread is often used as a pocket and stuffed with the different ingredients; in Arab countries a round khubz bread, 'eish' in Egypt, is halved, and the two resulting round pieces are used to create a cigar-shaped wrap. In Arab countries, hummus (chickpeas pureed with tahini) is rarely an ingredient. The usual sauce is tahini (sesame seed paste) thinned with water and lemon. The most common salad ingredients are tomato and parsley. In Lebanon parsley is mixed with chopped mint leaves. It is also common in Syria and Lebanon to add pickles; the two canonical ones are pickled turnip, colored pink with beetroot, and pickled cucumber. Recently, there has been a new "filled" falafel, its center usually consisting of ground meat or minced onions or a boiled egg. These fillings are wrapped by the uncooked falafel mixture, and then deep fried.
The salads or the pita itself may be seasoned with sumac or salt; alternatively, these may be sprinkled on top. In Syria, sumac is widely used.

Related dishes

Cultural and literary references


See also


  • Yael Raviv, "Falafel: A National Icon", Gastronomica, Summer 2003, 3:3:20-25. Discusses how an Arab dish became "the national food of Israel".
falafel in Arabic: فلافل
falafel in Bosnian: Falafel
falafel in Catalan: Falàfel
falafel in Czech: Falafel
falafel in Danish: Falafel
falafel in German: Falafel
falafel in Spanish: Faláfel
falafel in Esperanto: Falafelo
falafel in Persian: فلافل
falafel in French: Falafel
falafel in Italian: Falafel
falafel in Hebrew: פלאפל
falafel in Dutch: Falafel
falafel in Japanese: ファラフェル
falafel in Norwegian: Falafel
falafel in Polish: Falafel
falafel in Portuguese: Falafel
falafel in Russian: Фалафель
falafel in Finnish: Falafel
falafel in Swedish: Falafel
falafel in Ukrainian: Фалафель
falafel in Yiddish: פאלאפעל
falafel in Chinese: 炸豆丸子
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