Pea and za’atar falafel

Turn to your freezer for this fresh take on a deliciously healthy snack


Photo: Haarala Hamilton

I always have a bag of peas in my freezer for quick pastas, sides and this recipe. Though green peas aren’t traditional, I love the colour and sweetness they bring to these hot, crispy falafel, which will disappear as soon as they hit the table. Serve these simply with flatbreads, tahini sauce and a chopped tomato salad or with herby grains and chopped cucumber. 

Wild thyme, or za’atar in Arabic, grows wild in the mountains and hedgerows across the Levantine. And this herb is the star ingredient in this eponymous Levantine spice blend. The dried thyme available in the West is different but similar enough. While za’atar can be found on supermarket shelves across the UK these days, I encourage you to make it at home. It’s easy to make and infinitely better than store-bought products.

Serves: 4

Prep: 10 minutes (plus minimum 2 hours soaking or overnight)
Cook: 15 – 20 minutes

200g dried chickpeas, soaked with ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda for 24 hours
1 onion, roughly chopped
100g frozen peas, defrosted
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Za’atar (shop bought or home made)  
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp fine salt
Black pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying

For the Za’atar (if making – makes enough for a 300ml jar)

4 tbsp sesame seeds
6 tbsp dried thyme
6 tbsp sumac
½ tsp salt


  • If making the za’atar: toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, or until light golden.

  • In a food processor, combine the thyme, sumac and salt and grind until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds.

  • Transfer to a clean 300ml jar. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients, except for the vegetable oil, and pulse until well mixed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan to a depth of 4cm over medium heat. The oil is ready when a cube of bread dropped in sizzles on contact and turns golden in 30 seconds. (Alternatively, use a thermometer and heat to 160°C.) Shape the falafel mixture into balls, about 4 cm in diameter, or press slightly into patties.
  • Working in batches, carefully lower them into the hot oil and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the falafel to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain. Keep warm. Repeat with the remaining falafel.
  • Serve a few falafel with flatbreads, garlicky sauce, tomatoes, lettuce and pickled vegetables, if using.

Recipe adapted from The Levantine Vegetarian (Phaidon) 

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