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So most traditional falafel recipes call for "soaked chickpeas", and particularly warn against using the canned version. I've been experimenting with making falafel out of lentils (mostly because they are more likely to be in my house), but have mostly struggled.

One key difference between the two is that many lentil-based falafel recipes say to cook the lentils first, but of course this makes them very soft (much softer then soaked chickpeas), and they tend to dissolve when fried (although they can be baked this way).

So, I'm really interested in the difference between soaking and cooking for chickpeas vs lentils. Are they totally equivalent? Is there any danger in soaking lentils (but not cooking them further) before turning them into falafel? Does frying uncooked (but soaked) chickpeas result in "cooked" chickpeas, or are you basically just eating raw chickpeas?

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    What sort of lentils? I would expect red lentils might soften adequately with soaking, but not most others. The middle of falafel gets hot, so the soak hydrates it, then the frying cooks it. BTW I normally form falafel into burgers and shallow fry, flipping with great care. That might be worth a try if baking comes out too dry – Chris H Feb 16 at 16:40
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    Considering that unsoaked lentils cook in 20 minutes while chickpeas take 2 hours (and still firm), try the soaked-uncooked lentils and see what happens. How bad could it be? Note that both chickpeas and lentils are the legumes lowest in fat (along with adzuki). – Yosef Baskin Feb 16 at 21:39
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If you want to make "falafel" out of lentils, then you should look to folks who actually make deep-fried lentil balls regularly, and that's Indians. Dal Vada, balls of lentils that are deep fried in vegetable oil, are always made with lentils of some kind that have been soaked by not cooked. Cooked lentils, like cooked peas, will not hold together.

My suggestion is that you look through the various dal vada recipes online, and change the spicing on them to match falafel spices (cumin, onion, garlic, parsley, and Aleppo pepper).

However, one thing to notice is that most recipes use chana dal (black chickpeas), moong dal (mung beans), or black-eyed peas. So it may still be the case that trying to get patties to hold together using grey/red lentils is very difficult, even if you don't cook them.

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    I would read most of your answer as meaning "no you can't". "Dal" includes chickpeas, lentils, and many beans. Chana dal is split chickpeas, and both black-eyed beans and mung beans cook like chickpeas. Your first link is to a recipe using yellow lentils though.which suggests otherwise, depending on which yellow lentils they mean – Chris H Feb 18 at 7:35
  • Well, the first link in this answer uses yellow lentils, which besides being lentils, is relatively close to the red dal often called masoor. So I think from a technical perspective, this is probably the answer. I'll mark it as such when I actually try one :-) – levitopher Feb 18 at 16:31
  • hah! you're right, I assumed that first recipe was chana dal and didn't look closely. revising answer now – FuzzyChef Feb 18 at 18:01
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I don't have experience with making falafels with lentils, but I experimented making falafels with cooked chickpeas (canned or not) and it never worked, they dissolved when frying as you explained. So you really need to use dry chickpeas that you will soak overnight (recipes say about 12h, I've left them a night and part of the following day it was fine). You don't eat them raw though, because you will then process them and your mixture will cook when frying. There is no danger in soaking lentils, on the contrary like many legumes it is recommended to soak them before cooking to to make them easier to digest. Most of the lentil falafels recipes I checked said to cook them before and then baked, so it seems that using only soaked lentils might not work very well or not be very good!

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  • I make fried falafel balls using cooked chickpeas. I adulterate the recipe with enough instant Masa to keep the balls from disintegrating in the deep fryer. Hardly authentic, but it works. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 18 at 0:58

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