I absolutely love falafel. Also hummus. Falafel and hummus together, ideally. Chickpea on chickpea. I don’t know why I find them so comforting, but I genuinely adore them. Of course, you can make falafel yourself. And I sometimes do. But, to be perfectly honest, it is a bit of a hassle. If you want them to be really excellent you have to deep fry them. I don’t have a deep fryer (thank god, really, because I’d never stop using it if I did), so I have to faff about with a pan and hot oil and even though it’s perfectly doable, I am lazy enough that I don’t do it too often.

So, mostly, I buy falafel. And that’s perfectly okay. But I’ve never thought too much about what kind of falafel I buy, preferring to simply chuck the cheapest option directly into my open mouth. It’s silly, though, because good, proper falafel are a wonderful thing, and worth getting right. Yes, the best are fresh from the fryer, hot and crisp and perfectly seasoned. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, most often it’s the supermarket version that will simply have to do.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of falafel or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which who had made product A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Falafel

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Falafel
per 100g
£
kcal
fat
carb
fibre
protein
salt
Waitrose
1.56
256
12.9
23.9
7.7
7.3
0.91
Aldi
0.64
245
12
26
5.7
6.3
1.4
Tesco
1.64
208
9
20.3
7.2
7.6
0.9
Sainsbury’s
1.00
281
15.5
25.2
6.4
6.8
1.25
Cauldron
0.63
268
14
25
6.0
7.5
1.5

A – Tesco – 4/10

  • Holds itself together well, doesn’t fall apart when you bite into it. A bit too dry when eating. A little bland – some spiciness of the finish but not enough salt. Not offensive but not interesting.

B – Aldi – 6/10

  • More texture than A. Obvious chunks of chickpea, more flavour. Still a little bland. Tastes of chickpea but not a lot else. Could do with more spice and salt, but basically fine.

C – Cauldron- 7/10

  • Obviously visually different from all the others. Much lighter and softer, not at all dry. Very smooth. Flavour of chickpeas, and a bit of a herby taste too. A nice spiciness on the aftertaste. Could do with a little more salt.

D – Waitrose – 8/10

  • Really different from the others. Chunks of onion and chickpea are obvious. Sweeter than the others, in a good way, but more spiciness too. Tastes of real ingredients, not a bland paste.

E – Sainsbury’s – 4/10

  • Not particularly fresh or natural tasting, but not awful either. Fine, but very nondescript.

Conclusions

Two front-runners here. The Waitrose falafel were  the tastiest and the clear winner. They were actually sweet potato falafel – I couldn’t find a sample of plain own-brand falafel in the shop – but what really made them stand out from the pack was the fact that they tasted like they had been made from real, natural ingredients that you could identify on eating.

The Cauldron falafel are probably a brand leader and I really liked those too, although they were very different from the other samples, being softer and lighter. It seems falafel are such simple little things, and comparatively fresh, so you can’t really get away with just using cheap ingredients and not bothering to season them properly.

All of them would be fine in a wrap or doused in hummus, but I was really surprised and interested at the vast gulf between the basic and the high-end offerings here – I will definitely buy Cauldron in the future, whereas before I would not have bothered with a brand, thinking that supermarket own would be just as good.