How to Eat a Falafel in Lebanon

falafel abou rami

Pull up at roadside stand.

falafel menu

Be happy you’re with people who speak Arabic.

pita bread

Watch the guy behind the counter open a package of flatbreads and spread them out over the entire table in front of him.

Lebanese falafel making

Watch a lightning-fast guy next to the flatbread guy shape falafels from chickpea batter and drop them into a giant wok-like pan of bubbling-hot oil.

frying falafel

Watch what looks to be a hundred falafels bobbling around in really hot oil.

fried falafel

Watch them pull the falafels out of the bubbling-hot oil.

falafel

Be happy they’re not skimpy on the falafels, which get mashed down with a fork after they’re placed on the breads.

falafel and herbs

Be happy they’re not skimpy with the fresh herbs either.

falafel and pickles

Be happy they’re not skimpy with pickles.

falafel with tomatoes

Let them add some nice ripe tomatoes.

falafel with turnips

Try to contain your enthusiasm as they add strips of pickled turnips although be concerned that people might think you accidentally cranked up the saturation in photo-editing software. (You didn’t.)

falalel with yogurt tahini sauce

Nod in agreement as they pour yogurt-tahini sauce with a ton of garlic in it over the whole thing.

falafel with harissa

When the guy asked if you want hot sauce, say “Yes” – with great enthusiasm.

eating falafel

Grab a fermented yogurt or fruit drink from the refrigerator yourself, then join everyone else outside at one of the wobbly tables with your tightly rolled-up falafel sandwich.

falafel sandwich

Add some extra-spicy pickled chili peppers – and sit at a table, trying not to make a mess of yourself while you wolf down the whole thing unbelievably fast.



Abou Rami
Saida Seaside Road
Saida, Lebanon
(Map)



lebanese falafel makerfalafel in Lebanon
pineapple drinkfalafel patties

97 comments

  • Yum! This does make me happy…and hungry!

  • Awesome David! you tell it like it is!
    wish i could bite into one right now.

  • Love the step by step! Looks absolutely divine. Am craving for Maoz now! THough I think it’ll most likely be a far cry from what you had.

  • Thanks for sharing your glorious travel experiences in Lebanon this week. I’ve been enjoying them immensely. Would you recommend a good falafel recipe? Since last year I have been using the one from Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem.” One thing that I have found challenging is getting just the perfect temperature of the oil when frying. They seem to either cook too quickly and are therefore very dark on the outside and raw on the inside, or they cook too slowly and are just laden with oil. I would love to hear your suggestions.

    • I’ve not made falafel but you should make sure to use a recipe that calls for uncooked chickpeas – I know Yotam’s does, but I haven’t made them.

  • The best falafel I’ve had in Paris was on Blvd de Clichy just west of the Metro station– they bake their own pita. I was a little taken aback when they asked if I wanted mayonnaise.

  • OMG, that looks delicious! Thank you for taking me there through your post.

  • As a lover of all things pickled, I was delighted that your chicken shawarma from the other day and now this falafel were both very generously ladeled with pickles. Imagine my utter delight to see the pickled turnips as well! I made your recipe when you first posted it and, never having had them before, was happily surprised. And your suggestion of adding them to a pulled pork sandwich was spot on. Thanks for that suggestion and moreso for this beautiful travelogue of Lebanon.

  • Wow, this looks amazing…you’ve definitely made me want to visit Beirut! When I lived in Paris, I taught English in the Tour Montparnasse, and every Wednesday there was a market in front of the Tour where a Lebanese family had a stall. I always looked forward to getting lunch there and sitting in the Montparnasse Cemetery with my falafal sandwich. What an experience you’re having to actually be in Lebanon!

  • The last time I had falafels it was the sad cold things at the Whole Foods salad bar :( ….. And those picked turnips sure are neon colored!

  • Tell. Me. About. It. I climbed a hundred stairs (not exaggerating much) to get to a Moroccan restaurant I know in London and had a falafel wrap to die for the other day…. soooooooo good.

  • Loving your posts this week! The falafels look amazing, as does everything else you’re experiencing! Thank you for drawing positive attention to this part of the world. Been to Beirut many times to visit family, I’m excited to see where you eat next! When are you getting to dessert?? Sea Sweet is awesome! Enjoy your time in such an intriguing and hospitable country. Cheers!

  • I’d love to know what those herbs were!

  • Wow that looks sooo delicious. Love the post! Love your site.

  • oh wow!! i bet they make killer shwarma

  • I know falafel is delicious… But THIS looks immense. Once the pickles are added the colours are so beautiful. I am veeeeery envious right now!

  • I must visit Lebanon.

  • Hi Dave…. Nice post, especially the pics.. I get falafel from my Halal guys truck on my corner in upper Manhattan…….. I get it with the Yogurt AND bbq sauce.. So delish…. It’s nice I don’t have to go to Lebanon for falafel….

  • We went to similar stalls in Syria! It was just before the Arab Spring.

  • these look amazing…i want this now!!! tell me about the pickles. are they any thing like ours? dill or sweet? and what herbs? i love all your posts about Lebanon! thanks!

  • That’s gonna be the MESSIEST, smile.

  • I WAAAAAAAAAAAANT! I would’ve totally opted for the fermented yoghurt drink! :) Now, I wonder how the ones in Paris fair to this one… or any other that are in Lebanon…..

  • Having lived in the Middle East for 6 years, I MISS the falafel from that part of the world. These photos made me want to jump in and take a big bite out of that sandwich.

  • wow! I can’t get over the colors! That pickled turnip is something else. Admission: I haven’t ever had a falafel – need to fix that. Enjoy your trip!

  • What gorgeous pictures!

  • Yesterday for lunch I had a felafel kebab from a shop that makes its own bread. (Possibly the only kebab store in Perth that does this) Delicious! The fillings weren’t quite as generous as the one in your kebab, and no neon pickles, unfortunately, but the hot sauce was hot, hot, hot!

  • Look just awesome. Have eaten and made Falafel, want to eat it in the middle east.

  • aww, David! This is the best falafel in Saidon. My college roommate dated Abou Rami’s son (now married) and we had lots of very good falafel as a result. Hope you are enjoying Lebanon!

  • Oh wow, they look so amazing. I love those turnip pickles; there are a few restaurants here that have them.

  • DEAR GOD. These photos take me *right* back to my Israel trip in December. That falafel looks absolutely mouth-watering– there is NOTHING like falafel in the Middle East. Thank you for posting this! :)

  • wow, and wow. that looks so delicious and could be poster for travel to Lebanon in a heartbeat – sign me up. :) mmmm

  • This is my all-time FAVE falafel restaurant in the world! When I lived in Lebanon, my friend and I would take a whole day to go to Saida to get falafels from Abou Rami’s… :) We would eat one when we got to town, spend the afternoon walking around Saida, and then eat another before we headed back to Beirut…

    I rarely eat falafel now that I am back in the States b/c I am waiting until I can eat from this restaurant again!

    Thank you for posting this! And enjoy one for me!

  • Mmmm yum, I love Felafels – my mother used to work at a restaurant where she made many a day and I have been lucky enough to learn the secrets of the trade. You can actually make a massive batch of them and freeze them too!

    For me, the perfect Felafel filling is hummus, bbq sauce, tasty grated cheese, a little bit of yoghurt sauce and the Felafels wrapped up in a pita bread…..amazing!!

    Slightly off the topic but today I just stumbled across my food markets in Melbourne – Felafel Dry Chips – they were in a health shop – I am silly for not buying them and seeing what they tasted like..

    Donna

  • OMG I want to go to there….looks so good!

  • Beautiful photos….you’re really making my mouth water with this whole Beirut trip! Enjoy it!

  • ROFL @ white people amazed by falafel :D

    • Am not sure what a “white” person is, but I’m of Syrian descent, so am not sure if that counts. But I know a lot of people of various nationalities who love falafel, in addition to those from the Middle East.

  • OK David-

    these teaser posts from the middle east are too much.
    I consider you responsible to now engage in an extensive exploration and illumination of the tricks and techniques we need to know in order to do some of this at home. It’s simple food, but so incredibly delicious, I can barely keep myself from licking the screen.
    So your life just got more complicated.
    In addition to keeping us up on all the fabulous sweets in and around Paris, I will be watching for posts on types of flatbreads, what separates fabulous falaffel from the little grease bombs that are usually served. condiments, sauces, etc.
    And while you’re at it, a word on halvah, wouldn’t hurt to confirm you as a reigning food god.

    • There are a lot of flatbreads in Lebanon and many of them that I’ve seen, no one uses a recipe; they told me they just mix flour, water, and a little olive oil. Much of the making is in the technique and I’ve got some upcoming posts showing how they roll, stretch, and bake the doughs that are pretty fascinating.

  • Love, love, love this! Beautiful pics! I have to go eat a falafel now. :)

  • yum! Know what I am making for lunch today. Thanks for the photo tour

  • Your Beirut trip posts make me want to jump on a plane, go to Lebanon, stalk you down the streets until I find you and take you to some of the best street food places you will ever experience! DO NOT leave Beirut before you go to Al Soussi on Zeidaniyeh street for what could very possibly be the best fatteh ever!

  • Looks perfect, especially the pickles….so yummy looking.

  • I am curious, can you tell me why the felafels at our local middle-eastern place (run by middle-easterners) are totally bright green inside of the caramel colored crust?

    They taste good, and they look the same on the outside as the ones in your photos…but not on the inside.

    I suppose I should just ask the chefs the next time I am there…

    Love your blog…I visited France for the first time a year ago…fantastic trip and your blog brings back happy memories.

    • I imagine they just use a lot of herbs. There are so many variations and different countries in the Middle East (and elsewhere) all add their own seasonings to falafel.

  • I am just so hungry now. So hungry. And also I want to pickle turnips. How do they get so vibrant? They look rather psychedelic.

  • My mouth is watering!

  • אוי,כמה הייתי רוצה לטעום מהפלאפל המשגע הזה! מתי כבר יהיה שלום??חבל שכאזרחית ישראל אני מנועה מלנסוע ללבנון…אולי בעתיד.הפלאפל נראה משגע
    טליה מישראל

  • Love a good falafal… and this looks like it! xv

  • I woud love to know how they make the flat bread. Nudge nudge. Maybe another post.? It’s so wonderfully thin and doesn’t look dry at all. I so wish I was eating one right now. Pictures are fabulous!

  • There’s a little place in San Francisco’s Sunset District called Sunrise Deli that makes delicious falafel for those of who can’t make it to Lebanon.

    I too mourned when Scheherazade closed, I loved watching them make their dough.

    • That was a great place, and the filo was amazing. So sorry when it closed, but they told me their kids weren’t interesting in running the bakery when they retired.

  • I literally salivated while reading this one!

  • I wish I was allowed to enter Beirut. It seems like a great place. And their falafel looks like the real deal. Your article made me more curious about Beirut and hungry for real Mediterranean food. Excellent pictures!

  • I make your splendiferous pickled turnips all the time (thank you) and am well aware of their startling yet natural hue. Thanks for this virtual nosh.

  • I want to you please falafel Lebanon recipe .

  • Looks amazing, although the pickles turnips (which are delicious any way you spin it) are sometimes colored with Rhodamine, and not with beats, which makes them more pink than beat colored. won’t kill you or anything like that, but still, just FYI.

  • Must have been amazing! Love falafel, all things middle eastern… Among many other things….

    My sister makes these chickpea fries with sea salt that are to die. I imagine they must have something like that there too.

    Thanks for sharing- totally get the narrating of the anticipation while watching the prep… I’m there with you!

  • Immediately after your first post from Lebanon, I ordered a Lebanese cookbook. Now I have to wait for it to get here while you torture me with deliciousness! Your friends could definitely clean up if they offered food tours of Lebanon – I think I could keep them in full-time business just by myself.

  • Totally yum of course. As far as in Lebanon; Do people make these
    at home or are they a treat? Is it considered more lunch than dinner? Is the cost reasonable? I’ve had them out but sometimes
    the sauce on them has too much raw garlic
    to tolerate. Go they use raw garlic there?

    • I think people get these at stands more than they would make them at home. People like garlic is Lebanon but in the US, we tend to use a lot of it so it’s a primary flavor, whereas in the foods I’ve had in Lebanon, it’s more balanced with the other ingredients.

  • The best FALAFAL i ever had was in Israel….never got over it…made with chick peas,The green ones are made from either Fava beans or green Lentils.sometimes from a pkg mix…..not good, too gummy.only eat the chickpea ones.Soak the dried beans over night. Drain, and grind in a food processor,into tiny pics and go from there with the seasonings…can find the real thing, recipe on line

  • You mean they don’t add any chewable water (aka iceberg lettuce) to a falafel sandwich in Lebanon? You mean to say that I have been cheated my entire life?

  • These look great. Where can I get some in Phoenix!

  • I’ve been so inspired by your posts that I had to find a Lebanese restaurant today. What a delicious experience! We had pita bread (housemade), toum, hummus, falafel, lamb biryani.

  • This really makes me miss the food in the Middle East. I enjoyed seeing a regional toppings variation.

  • I cooked some chickpeas the other day and couldn’t decide what to make – hummus, falafel- I made Falafel, so good I could eat one everyday.

  • The way to fry up falafel and be sure they are fried all the way thru is to make each one into a patty not a ball. That way, when each one is fried brown it is fried all the way thru. They fit into the pita pocket more easily as well.

  • okay, you win, hands down, you are the best food writer ever… well, maybe not ever, but the best i’ve read of late… I’m laughing , I’m now hungry , and even anxious to try pickled turnips on my next falafel filled pita

  • Oh David, where oh where have you been here on my screen through your Blog (I am a follower now of course) all this time.You not only took me back to Paris, but especially to Lebanon, please if you can, bring more pictures and recipes. A couple of weeks ago the biggest (and I mean BIG) Mall in the whole of India has opened in our City here in the south. The fantastic thing is, that they, beiing largely arabic investors etc., we now at last!!!! get so many wonderful things in their hypermarket which I previously only could buy in Dubai. Dont laugh, but one of the items I only stocked up with was this wonderful Flatbread – basically fresh out of their oven and I have already earmarked for Chef to show me how to make it at home. Cant wait to see (step-by-step?) your instructions – be quick, please. Have to leave, have to read more and more on your blog. Ciao, Carina

  • Love falafel and here in Egypt it is the typical morning breakfast but I can not eat it as it is fried in oil that is as old as I am and I immediately get sick. Will have to start making it at home but the fun is going out to eat it.

  • That’s a banquet in a piece of bread. The pickled turnips need to live at my house.

  • I am so lucky to live in Toronto, where we have falafel representation from all over the globe! The pickled turnips are ubiquitous here…they are certainly a delicious addition to an already tasty consortium of flavours. David, if you ever come to Toronto and would like to do a falafel tour, I am your girl. Thank you for a wonderful post on a delicious meal. And thanks for bringing a food perspective to Lebanon…such a nice departure from the regular issues in the media about the place. And if you happen to run across any Yemenite dishes, would love to hear more…

  • Random question for the International Ice Cream Expert, David: Breaking out my ice cream maker for the summer… what are your top three flavor choices for first ice cream of the season?

    Safe travels in the Mideast!

    • Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream, Chocolate Sorbet, and when you get raspberries, Raspberry-Rosé Sorbet!

  • OMG… that brings a lot of memories. Last time I visited my relatives and ate my ever best falafel in Lebanon was 16 years ago. My eyes are full with tears now….. of course of happiness (and sadness @ the same time) Thanks for bringing me back @ least for a moment. Btw you can try Abu André’s falafel in Jounieh.

  • You have me so hungry for falafels that I’m inspired to go to the (close by) Falafel Drive-in in the SF southbay for lunch today. Their falafels are so good I get cravings for them! The inside of the falafel has a lot of green flecks of some sort that make them appear more green than the beige of chickpeas. Can’t figure out what it is, Cilantro or parsley, maybe? They serve them in pita bread with chopped cucumber, tomatoes and the yogurt tahini sauce and a thick, hot chili sauce, if you like. The owners are Lebonese and have had this place (in an old Dairy Queen style building!) since 1976, I think. Whatever, it’s the gold standard for falafel for me! Of course, I’d sure like to try them in their home country just to see if there is any difference.

    • It’s likely it was parsley – I haven’t had anything with cilantro in Lebanon, nor have I seen it. In San Francisco, there used to be a little storefront called Truly Mediterranean on Haight St and 16th St. Don’t know if they are still there, or if they are still good, but I remember them being pretty terrific.

  • DAVID YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY RULES !! HAD THESE IN ISRAEL, BUT NEVER LOOKED THIS GOOD !!!

  • Shared this! David, we used to live around the corner from Al-Dar when we were in Paris. You brought me back to the sights, smells and vivid colors of this cuisine and the wonderful Lebanese people. Miss Al-Dar, Paris and you!
    Bisous!

  • Reading these Lebanese posts is torture, just as it was the last time you were there. Lucky, lucky you, David. Mmmmmm.

  • Next time PLEASE take me with you!!!!

  • I’m looking forward to having my first Falafel! I hear there are real good ones in Paris :)

  • Delicious and beautiful. How much is a flight from SFO to Lebanon?

  • This reminds me of Boston! They have a food truck there called The Clover that serves legit “chickpea fritter” sandwiches. Tahini sauce, pickled veggies, the works. It’s amazing…

  • Got a little distracted by stuff here in the U.S., but thanks so much for the picks on ice cream. Made my spring a tiny bit more exciting! :) Strawberry-sour cream it is!

  • Hello,
    Good post, great pics too!
    I’d like to make a few comments though (Im lebanese and I live in Beirut):
    -Theres no yogurt in tarator (at least not in lebanon)
    -There’s usually little garlic in tarator, sometimes none at all. Maybe the place you went to used lots of it?
    -Lebanese falafel are greenish-yellow on the inside. Egyptian falafels are totally green on the inside. The recipe changes from one country to the other.
    -Hot sauce is not standard for falafel shops. Usually falafel are served with pickled hot peppers on the side.
    cheers!
    glad you’re enjoying your stay in Lebanon

  • Hi David. I was just perusing your recipes and am contemplating the banana chocolate chip upside down bread. Quick question: would it work with ripe bananas that have been frozen?

  • We left the US to be in Australia to be able to help my ageing inlaws,We live and I work in a “not so little Beruit” area of Western Sydney.The people are gorgeous the food is fabulous and the pickled turnips indeed are that colour!!.To eat “American” in Sydney would be very expensive for groceries and the like, But to eat Lebanese and buy the groceries are defintely the more frugal and delicious way to go.Lovely culture and they really seem to like teaching this American girl about all things Lebanese…( its a rather large population ).The Leb cultured dairy products are really nice and very reasonably priced.( a fraction of the prices in the chain groceries and defintely better!!)…I would have thought French would be spoken as well as Arabic?( and english maybe less common)

  • How did these compare to those of L’As du Fallafel in Paris? It gets lots of write-ups as a place to try for Israeli fellafel.

    • You can’t really compare falafel in one city, or country, to another as they are completely different. In Paris, give Maoz a try; they’re the closest to the falafels that I’ve had in the Middle East. They have a variety of hot sauces to choose from, as well as salads and pickles, and pretty good French fries as well.

  • The sequence of the photos and the entire display make me ravenous. I love a good falafel. Thanks David.

  • Fantastic.

    Just to answer a couple of questions:

    1 – the Falafel that are green inside use Cilantro.
    2 – the green herbs in the sandwiches are fresh green mint & parsley chopped.

  • the white sauce used here is called TARATOUR which is mainly composed from “tahini” (sesame seeds) :)

  • Oh David, I would love to be you.