Falafels 2.jpg
Falafel balls
Alternative namesFelafel
Place of originEgypt
Region or stateMiddle East
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsBroad beans or chickpeas

Falafel (/fəˈlɑːfəl/; Arabic: فلافل, [fæˈlæːfɪl] (listen)) is a deep-fried ball or patty-shaped fritter in Middle Eastern cuisine (especially in Levantine and Egyptian cuisines) made from ground chickpeas, broad beans, or both. Nowadays, falafel is often served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, samoon, or wrapped in a flatbread known as taboon; "falafel" also frequently refers to a wrapped sandwich that is prepared in this way. The falafel balls may be topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a meze tray (assortment of appetizers).

Falafel is eaten throughout the Middle East and is a common street food. Falafel is usually made with fava beans in Egypt, where it most likely originated, and with chickpeas in the Levant, Iraq and Bahrain. It is popular with vegetarians worldwide.[1]


The word falāfil (Arabic: فلافل) is of Arabic origin and is the plural of filfil (فلفل) 'pepper',[2] borrowed from Persian pilpil (فلفل),[3] cognate with the Sanskrit word pippalī (पिप्पली) 'long pepper'; or an earlier *filfal, from Aramaic pilpāl 'small round thing, peppercorn', derived from palpēl 'to be round, roll'.[4]

The name falāfil is used world-wide. In English (where it has been written falafel, felafel, filafel and filafil), it is first attested in 1936.[5]

Falafel is known as taʿmiya (Egyptian Arabic: طعمية ṭaʿmiyya, IPA: [tˤɑʕˈmejjɑ]) in Egypt and Sudan. The word is derived from a diminutive form of the Arabic word ṭaʿām (طعام, "food"); the particular form indicates "a unit" of the given root in this case Ṭ-ʕ-M (ط ع م, having to do with taste and food), thus meaning "a little piece of food" or "small tasty thing".[6][7][8]

The word falafel can refer to the fritters themselves or to sandwiches filled with them.


Falafel sandwich in pita
Falafel sandwich in pita
Despite the frying process, the inside of a falafel remains soft.
Despite the frying process, the inside of a falafel remains soft.
A man in Ramallah using an aleb falafel while frying falafel
A man in Ramallah using an aleb falafel while frying falafel

The origin of falafel is controversial.[9] The dish most likely originated in Egypt.[10][11][12][13][14] There is a legend that a fava bean version was eaten by Coptic Christians in the Roman era as early as the 4th century during Lent, but there is no documented evidence for this. It has been speculated that its history may go back to Pharaonic Egypt.[15] However, the earliest written references to falafel from Egyptian sources date to the 19th century,[16][17][18] and oil was probably too expensive to use for deep frying in ancient Egypt.[18][19]

As Alexandria is a port city, it was possible to export the dish and its name to other areas in the Middle East.[20] The dish later migrated northwards to the Levant, Iraq and Bahrain, where chickpeas replaced the fava beans.[21][22]

Middle East

Falafel is a common form of street food or fast food in Egypt as well as the Levant, Iraq and Bahrain.[23] The croquettes are regularly eaten as part of meze. During Ramadan, falafel balls are sometimes eaten as part of the iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast after sunset.[7] Falafel became so popular that McDonald's for a time served a "McFalafel" in its breakfast menu in Egypt.[24] Falafel is still popular in the Coptic diet, and as such large volumes are cooked during religious holidays.[25] Falafel is consumed as part of Lent diet by Christians in Arab countries.[26][27]

Debates over the history of falafel have sometimes devolved into political discussions about the relationship between Arabs and Israeli Jews.[21] In modern times, falafel has been considered a national dish of Egypt,[28] Israel,[29][30] and the State of Palestine.[31][32]

Falafel plays an iconic role in Israeli cuisine and is widely considered to be a national dish of the country.[33] It has historically been consumed by Mizrahi Jews in the Middle East and North Africa.[9][21] Later, it was adopted in the diet of early Jewish immigrants to the Jewish communities of Ottoman Syria.[33] As it is plant-based, Jewish dietary laws classify it as pareve and thus allow it to be eaten with both meat and dairy meals.[34] Many Palestinians resent what they see as an appropriation of their dish by Israelis.[33] Additionally, the Lebanese Industrialists' Association has raised assertions of copyright infringement against Israel concerning falafel.[21][22][35]


Waves of migration – principally of Arabs and Turks – had taken it through Europe. In Germany in particular, where a large Turkish population put down roots, it enjoyed huge popularity. At first it was a dish consumed principally by migrants; but by the early 1970s, the appearance of Turkish food stalls and restaurants made it available to a growing number of hungry Germans, which led to yet another transformation of its recipe. [36]

North America

In North America, prior to the 1970s, falafel was found only in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Jewish neighborhoods and restaurants.[1][34][37][38] Today, the dish is a common and popular street food in many cities throughout North America.[39][40][41]

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy1,393 kJ (333 kcal)
31.84 g
17.80 g
13.31 g
Vitamin A13 IU
Thiamine (B1)
0.146 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.166 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.044 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.292 mg
Vitamin B6
0.125 mg
Folate (B9)
78 μg
Vitamin B12
0.00 μg
54 mg
3.42 mg
82 mg
0.691 mg
192 mg
585 mg
294 mg
1.50 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water34.62 g
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central


Falafel has become popular among vegetarians and vegans, as an alternative to meat-based street foods,[1] and is now sold in packaged mixes in health-food stores.[42] While traditionally thought of as being used to make veggie burgers,[43] its use has expanded as more and more people have adopted it as a source of protein.[44] In the United States, falafel's versatility has allowed for the reformulating of recipes for meatloaf, sloppy joes and spaghetti and meatballs into vegetarian dishes.[45][46]

Preparation and variations

Falafel is made from fava beans or chickpeas, or a combination. Chickpeas are common in most Middle Eastern countries.[47] The dish is usually made with chickpeas in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Turkey), Iraq, and Bahrain.[25][48][49] This version is the most popular in the West.[25] The Egyptian variety uses only fava beans.[50]

When chickpeas are used, they are not cooked prior to use (cooking the chickpeas will cause the falafel to fall apart, requiring adding some flour to use as a binder). Instead they are soaked (sometimes with baking soda) overnight, then ground together with various ingredients such as parsley, scallions, and garlic.[25] Spices such as cumin and coriander are often added to the beans for added flavor.[51] The dried fava beans are soaked in water and then stone ground with leek, parsley, green coriander, cumin and dry coriander.[52][53] The mixture is shaped into balls or patties. This can be done by hand or with a tool called an aleb falafel (falafel mould).[6][47] The mixture is usually deep fried, or it can be oven baked.

Falafel is typically ball-shaped, but is sometimes made in other shapes. The inside of falafel may be green (from green herbs such as parsley or green onion), or tan. Sometimes sesame seeds are added on top of the falafel before frying it.

The pita falafel sandwich was popularized after Israel's independence and in the 1950s by Jewish Yemeni immigrants. Yemeni Jews were the first to introduce the concept of serving falafel in a pita with condiments.[54] A 19 October 1939 The Palestine Post article is the first mention of the concept of falafels served in a pita bread as a street food.[55] When served as a sandwich, falafel is often wrapped with flatbread or stuffed in a hollow pita bread,[56] or it can be served with flat or unleavened bread.[57] Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and other garnishes can be added.[58][59] Falafel is commonly accompanied by tahini sauce.[25]


When made with chickpeas, falafel is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.[60] Key nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B, and folate. Phytochemicals include beta-carotene.[61] Falafel is high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol.[62][63]

Chickpeas are low in fat and contain initially no cholesterol, but a considerable amount of fat is absorbed during the frying process. Falafel can instead be baked to avoid the high fat content associated with frying.[1][58]

World records

World records for falafel:

The largest falafel is held by the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa (Jordan) in the Dead Sea, Jordan, on 31 May 2019 with the falafel weighing 101.5 kg (223 lb 12.3 oz).[64]

The largest serving of falafel is held by Chef Ramzi Choueiri and around 300 students of Al-Kafaat University, Beirut, Lebanon, on 9 May 2010. It weighed 5,173 kg (11,404 lb 8 oz).[65]


  1. ^ a b c d Grogan, Bryanna Clark (July 2003). "Falafel without fat". Vegetarian Times. pp. 20, 22. ISSN 0164-8497. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  2. ^ "falafel". American Heritage Dictionary (5th ed.). 2011.
  3. ^ "دیکشنری آنلاین - Dehkhoda dictionary - معنی پلپل". abadis.ir. Retrieved 6 January 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Definition of falafel | Dictionary.com". www.dictionary.com. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  5. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed., March 2022) has a 1936 citation.
  6. ^ a b Davidson, Alan; Jaine, Tom (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-19-280681-9. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  7. ^ a b Habeeb, Salloum (1 April 2007). "Falafel: healthy Middle Eastern hamburgers capture the West". Vegetarian Journal. Archived from the original on 2 September 2019. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  8. ^ Ham, Anthony (2010). Africa. Footscray, Victoria: Lonely Planet. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-74104-988-6. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  9. ^ a b Petrini, Carlo; Watson, Benjamin (2001). Slow food : collected thoughts on taste, tradition, and the honest pleasures of food. Chelsea Green Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-931498-01-2. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  10. ^ Helman, Anat (2015). Jews and Their Foodways. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-049359-2. The claim that Indian cooking may have influenced the invention of falafel is reasonable. There are many fried foods in India that predate falafel and that are similar in shape and consistency. British soldiers familiar with vada, ambode, dal ke pakode and other fried foods might easily have experimented and encouraged resourceful Egyptian chefs to come up with a local equivalent.
  11. ^ Galili, Shooky (4 July 2007). "Falafel fact sheet". Ynet News. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  12. ^ Lee, Alexander (1 January 2019). "Historian's Cookbook - Falafel". History Today. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  13. ^ "A short wrap-up of the history of falafel". ZME Science. 21 July 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  14. ^ "The falafel battle: which country cooks it best?". the Guardian. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  15. ^ Wilson, Hilary (1988). Egyptian food and drink. Shire. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-85263-972-6.
  16. ^ Raviv, Yael (1 August 2003). "Falafel: A National Icon". Gastronomica. 3 (3): 20–25. doi:10.1525/gfc.2003.3.3.20. JSTOR 10.
  17. ^ Denker, Joel (2003). The World on a Plate: A Tour Through the History of America's Ethnic Cuisine. U of Nebraska Press. p. 41. ISBN 0-8133-4003-9.
  18. ^ a b Solomonov, Michael (2018). Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious. Houghton Mifflim. ISBN 9780544970373.
  19. ^ Liz Steinberg. "Food Wars: Did Jews Invent Falafel After All?". Haaretz.
  20. ^ Green, Aliza (2004). Beans. Running Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-7624-1931-9.
  21. ^ a b c d Kantor, Jodi (10 July 2002). "A History of the Mideast in the Humble Chickpea". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  22. ^ a b MacLeod, Hugh (12 October 2008). "Lebanon turns up the heat as falafels fly in food fight". The Age. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  23. ^ Kelley, Leigh (28 January 2010). "Dining with a Middle Eastern flair". Times-News. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  24. ^ Allison, Jerry (6 January 2009). "Fast food – Middle Eastern style". The News Journal. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  25. ^ a b c d e Roden, Claudia (2000). The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Random House. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-375-40506-8.
  26. ^ M. Conroy, Thomas (2014). Food and Everyday Life. Lexington Books. p. 73. ISBN 9780739173114.
  27. ^ Davidson, Alan (2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 295. ISBN 9780191040726. Falafel are made for religious festivals, especially among Christian communities during Lent when meat is forbidden.
  28. ^ Roden, Claudia (1970). A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Penguin. pp. 60–61.
  29. ^ Nocke, Alexandra (2009). The place of the Mediterranean in modern Israeli identity. Jewish identities in a changing world. Vol. 11. Brill. p. 125. ISBN 978-90-04-17324-8.
  30. ^ Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 287.
  31. ^ Williams, Emma (2006). It's Easier to Reach Heaven than the End of the Street. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 378. ISBN 978-0-7475-8559-6.
  32. ^ Karmi, Ghada (2002). In Search of Fatima. U.S.A.: Verso New Left Books. p. 39. ISBN 1-85984-561-4.
  33. ^ a b c Pilcher, Jeffrey M. (2006). Food in World History. Routledge. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-415-31146-5.
  34. ^ a b Thorne, Matt; Thorne, John (2007). Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite. Macmillan. pp. 181–187. ISBN 978-0-86547-628-8. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  35. ^ Nahmias, Roee (10 June 2008). "Lebanon: Israel stole our falafel". Ynet News. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  36. ^ "Falafel | History Today". www.historytoday.com. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  37. ^ Perry, Charles (May 2007). "Middle Eastern Influences on American Food". In Smith, Andrew F. (ed.). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-19-530796-2.
  38. ^ Curtis IV, Edward (2010). Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-8160-7575-1. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  39. ^ Lenhard, Elizabeth (January 2006). "Cuisine of the Month". Atlanta Magazine: 194. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  40. ^ Schmidt, Arno; Fieldhouse, Paul (2007). The World Religions Cookbook. Greenwood Publishing. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-313-33504-4. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  41. ^ Westmoreland, Susan; Editors of Good Housekeeping (2004). The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. Hearst Books. ISBN 978-1-58816-398-1. Retrieved 23 February 2011. ((cite book)): |author= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  42. ^ Wolfe, Frankie Avalon (2007). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being Vegetarian. Penguin Group. pp. 175, 186. ISBN 978-1-59257-682-1. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  43. ^ Murphy, Jane (2010). The Great Big Burger Book: 100 New and Classic Recipes for Mouth Watering Burgers Every Day Every Way. ReadHowYouWant.com. p. 304. ISBN 978-1-4587-6463-8. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  44. ^ Berkoff R.D., Nancy (1999). Vegan in volume: vegan quantity recipes for every occasion. ISBN 978-0-931411-21-2. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  45. ^ Leonard, Joanne (October 1996). "New Ways with Falafel: The Middle Eastern favorite has evolved from a high fat sandwich stuffer to a low fat meal magician". Vegetarian Times. pp. 36, 38. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  46. ^ Whitney, Winona (June 1991). "Minute Meals". Vegetarian Times. p. 30. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  47. ^ a b Campion, Charles (9 May 2002). "Falling for fine falafel". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  48. ^ Malouf, Greg; Malouf, Lucy (2008). Artichoke to Za'atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food. University of California Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-520-25413-8. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  49. ^ Ayto, John (1990). The glutton's glossary: a dictionary of food and drink terms. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02647-4. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  50. ^ Dimbleby, Henry; Baxter, Jane (20 March 2015). "The world's best falafel recipe comes from Egypt". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  51. ^ Bittman, Mark (4 April 2007). "For the Best Falafel, Do It All Yourself". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  52. ^ Kathrynne Holden. "Fava Beans, Levodopa, and Parkinson's Disease".
  53. ^ Russ Parsons. "The Long History of the Mysterious Fava Bean".
  54. ^ Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious. Michael Solomonov, Steven Cook. Page 23
  55. ^ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Gil Marks, HMH, 2010
  56. ^ Marks, Gil (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish food. John Wiley & Sons. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-470-39130-3. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  57. ^ Basan, Ghillie (2007). Middle Eastern Kitchen. Hippocrene Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7818-1190-3.
  58. ^ a b Winget, Mary; Chalbi, Habib (2003). Cooking the North African Way (2nd ed.). Twenty-First Century Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8225-4169-1. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  59. ^ Claudia Roden, The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York, New York, Knopf, 1997, 688 p. (ISBN 0-394-53258-9), p. 273.
  60. ^ Webb, Robyn (2004). Eat to Beat High Blood Pressure. Reader's Digest. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-7621-0508-3. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  61. ^ Balch, Phyllis A. (2003). Prescription for Dietary Wellness (2nd ed.). Avery. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-58333-147-7. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  62. ^ Katz, David; Gonzalez, Maura (2004). Way to Eat: A Six-Step Path to Lifelong Weight Control. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-4022-0264-3. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  63. ^ Piscatella, Joseph; Franklin, Barry (2003). Take a load off your heart: 109 things you can actually do to prevent, halt, or reverse heart disease. Workman Publishing. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-7611-2676-8. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  64. ^ "Largest falafel". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  65. ^ "Largest serving of falafel". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 3 January 2023.