Top Pick Of The Week

August 16, 2011


Falafel: It’s not just for pita pockets or a mezze plate (shown above with hummus and tabbouleh). Photo by J. Java | Fotolia.

WHAT IT IS: Falafel from Trader Joe’s and falafel you can make at home.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Trader Joe’s is frozen, microwaved falafel that manages to be crisp on the outside and moist on the inside—and filled with the green herbs most store-bought falafel lacks.
WHY WE LOVE IT: One of our favorite foods is now a reach away in the freezer.
WHERE TO BUY IT: At Trader Joe’s stores nationwide.




What Is Falafel? A Protein- Rich, Fiber-Rich, Allergen-Free Delight!

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If You Know What Falafel Is...

This Top Pick will share things you don’t know, including many more ways to enjoy falafel than in a pita pocket or on a mezze plate. And, you’ll learn about the excellent frozen falafel at Trader Joe’s.

If You Don’t Know What Falafel Is...

You’re about to discover a Middle Eastern treat that dates back to the ancient Egyptians, and has captivated food lovers the world over.

Plus, it’s protein-rich, fiber-rich, iron-rich, dairy-free, gluten-free,* egg-free, cholesterol-free, vegan and inexpensive. It’s so meaty and chewy that newbies often don’t realize it’s meatless.

*Traditional falafel is gluten-free, but read the label. Some manufacturers add wheat flour or wheat germ to the balls don’t fall apart. Potato flour, soy flour and soy protein can also be added.

What Falafel Is

Falafel is a deep fried ball (sometimes a patty) made from mashed chickpeas, fava beans or a combination. In better recipes, lots of chopped cilantro and/or parsley and spices are highlights. The inside of a good falafel ball should have lots of green herb flecks. At our favorite falafel place (Soom Soom in New York City), the inside is half green.

Today falafel is often served as a sandwich in a pita pocket or wrapped in a flatbread, topped with salad, pickled vegetables, tahini sauce and optional hot sauce. When we make it at home, we add hummus instead of the drippier tahini sauce, which can soak through the bottom of the pita. TIP: Go for a whole wheat pita. It’s more flavorful and contributes toward your 48g of whole grains (see why you need them).

This Top Pick focuses on Trader Joe’s falafel, a frozen product that conveniently microwaves into balls that are crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. See more about it on the next page.

Any falafel makes a filling lunch or snack. But there are a dozen more ways to enjoy falafel. See them on the next page.

Falafel History

Some food historians believe that falafel originated in Egypt, as a food for early Christians who observed meatless holidays like Lent. It was made from the plentiful fava bean harvest, and today is one of Egypt’s national dishes. Falafel then migrated northward to the Levant,* where local chickpeas replaced the fava beans.

Just think: If Saint Mark hadn’t established the Church of Alexandria in 43 C.E., (today the Coptic Orthodox Church), we might not have falafel!

In Arabic, the word falafil means both “hot peppers” and “fluffy.” Today’s falafel doesn’t have to be either. On the next page, we’ll tell you how to get falafel the way you like it.

*The Levant included modern Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and Syria.

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Falafel Mixes For Frying Or Baking At Home

If you can’t find ready-made falafel or if you prefer your food baked instead of fried, try a mix. After you’ve made the first batch, you can adjust the mix with your favorite seasonings—garlic, dry mustard, more onion—or go fusion with curry. Be sure to add lots of chopped parsley. Or put your own spin on the mix with cilantro or dill. These mixes are all natural: no preservatives, artificial flavors or colors. And they couldn’t be easier: Just add water and shape the balls or patties. Look for them in supermarkets, natural foods stores and health food stores, as well as online.

Near East Falafel Mix

Casbah Falafel Mix. Tasty but not gluten-free, this mix is made from garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour as well as wheat flour, spices, canola oil, granulated onion, sea salt and baking soda (to make it fluffy). Add parsley! Certified kosher by KOF-K. More information.

OrgraN Falafel Mix. This mix from Australia is made with yellow split peas instead of chickpeas, giving it a nuttier flavor. Other ingredients include garlic, mustard, onion, parsley, salt, turmeric, traditional herbs and spices and baking soda. More information.

Near East Falafel Mix. This mix is based on both garbanzo beans and fava beans, plus defatted wheat germ, soy protein, potato flour, soy flour, salt, spices, garlic, onion and garlic parsley. It may have the best supermarket distribution. Certified kosher by OU. More information.


This is Page 1 of a four-page article. Click on the black links to visit other pages:


Continue To Page 2: Trader Joe’s Falafel & How To Serve Falafel

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