Israeli Black Bean Fritters
I call these fritters instead of falafel because, whereas falafel are usually deep-fried – often translating to greasy + heavy – these are sautéed in a lightly oiled skillet for a (healthier) bite that’s tender + fluffy inside with a light crisp on the outside.
Calling on Israeli flavors to pair with a colorful veg chop, I incorporated cilantro, mint, cumin, chillies and lemon into the black bean base — something a bit different and unexpected for summer. In keeping with the theme, ours landed atop a mixture of spinach and arugula, fresh mint and basil leaves. Lemon-thinned tahini sauce + a sprinkle of sumac to finish.
Since the fritters are made entirely of beans, herbs and spices, they’re low in calories and offer a fair amount of filling and sustaining fiber and protein — a delicious way to pack more of these healthy legumes into your daily diet!
Each serving (about four) is an excellent source of plant-based iron, and comes in just under 120 calories with only 1 gram of fat, and 8 grams and 7 grams of fiber and protein, respectively. Plus they’re vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
What’s in it for me?
For only 37 calories and 0 grams of fat, 1 ounce of black beans provides an additional 10% each of your DV for fiber and folate, as well as 2.5 grams of protein. Black beans also contain high concentrations of anthocyanins — pigments that promote antioxidant activity and have beneficial effects on cardiovascular function and inflammation. (Read more about the general nutrition of beans.)
One ounce of fresh cilantro provides roughly 30% of the adult vitamin A DV, and more than 100% of your daily vitamin K, all for about 6 calories. Fresh mint contains a variety of nutrients and volatile oils that offer antioxidant benefits, in addition to anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Chilli peppers are generally low in calories, and provide vitamins A, C and K, plus small amounts of fiber, folate and potassium. Capsaicin, a bio-active compound and the ingredient that gives chilli peppers their “heat,” stimulates release of endorphins to naturally fight stress and pain, and may give metabolism a little boost. Though quantity of cumin used in this recipe is small, it is rich in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and is a surprising source of iron — about 7% of the DV.
These black bean fritters are right at home in a light supper or lunch salad, as shown here. And if you’re starting to think about, or already are, packing lunches, these would be a fun addition!
Ooorrrrrrr, change up the ingredients ever so slightly for an entirely new take: cilantro, oregano and lime or orange for a Latin flair; all basil and fresh garlic instead of cumin for Italian; dill and basil with lemon for Greek; stick with mint and cilantro but go with curry powder or garam masala instead of cumin for Indian…
OTHER SERVING IDEAS
+ Middle Eastern- or Greek-inspired antipasti with some olives, fresh fruit and veg, feta cheese
+ wrap inside in a warm corn or plantain tortilla, wheat pita or naan + crunchy ice-bath onions and salsa, hummus, or a yogurt or tahini sauce
+ going Italian, pile onto zucchini noodles (or summer squash salad) with warm tomato sauce + grated hard cheese
+ Latin, serve on sauteed cauliflower “rice” with blistered tomatillo salsa, fresh avocado + quick-pickled jalapeños
+ turn up the spice with North African Ras el Hanout or harissa chilli paste and serve with smoky collards
+ as a snack alongside one of the sauces + a bowl of almond-coconut dukkah for crunch
Tell me… How do you incorporate more beans into your diet? Which flavor combo/serving route would you choose for these black bean fritters?
- 6 cilantro sprigs, ends trimmed but keeping most of the stem (lots of flavor!)
- A small handful fresh mint, leaves picked (these stems are woodier), to yield roughly 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on your taste for mint
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more depending on your heat preference
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 to 1/2 small fresh red or green hot chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1 large lemon, zested and juice of 1/2, reserving the other whole half for finishing
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 1, 14-oz can, rinsed and drained)
- In a food processor, whiz together the cilantro and mint until coarsely chopped. Add the cayenne, cumin, chilli, lemon zest and juice; pulse a few times to incorporate. Add the beans, and whiz again until the mixture is finely chopped and comes together as a ball. (You may need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides.) Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper (or more cayenne, if you prefer). Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 to 60 minutes, up to overnight.
- Cover a large plate or small tray with a piece of wax paper; set aside. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, scoop up a small amount of the bean ‘dough’ (a little bit shy of the size of a ping pong ball is best). Cup the mixture between your two hands (slightly damp or oiled helps) to form a rough teardrop shape, using your fingers to pinch the ends more into a point; place onto the wax paper and continue until finished – you should end up with about 12. Place the plate or tray in the refrigerator, loosely covered with a paper towel or light kitchen towel, for another 30 minutes to help firm up before cooking. (NOTE: These are never perfect, but homemade and rustic looking is kind of the point! If you don’t have time and/or don’t care about the shape, discs, logs, whatever you feel like making, even keeping them in the ball that comes out of the scoop, is more than fine! Then again, if you’re feeling fancy, give the two-spoon quenelle technique a whirl – a see HGN Notes.)
- Heat a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high; oil when hot. Using your hands or a small spatula, carefully transfer each chilled dough portion to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned and crispy. (The recipe contains no ingredients of concern in terms of needing a proper amount of cooking, so whenever you feel they are done, they’re done!) Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. If all didn’t fit in the pan on the first run, continue with a second batch in the same manner, and keep the finished fritters warm in a low oven (or simply cover the plate with an upturned large bowl to seal in the heat).
- Squeeze the reserved lemon half over top of the fritters. Serve at once while still warm with the reserved cilantro and mint leaves. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container up to 5 days, or freeze up to 2 months. Reheat in a dry skillet, under the broiler on a foil-lined tray, or in the microwave. They’re also excellent cold!
+ Sub dark or light red kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini or lima beans for the black beans... really any of the creamier beans.
+ Swap the cilantro and/or mint for any fresh herb you like, e.g., basil and parsley for Italian, basil and oregano for Greek, OR keep cilantro and mint, but swap out the cumin for curry powder or garam masala to make it more Indian-inspired.
+ Use lime or orange juice instead of lemon.
+ Instead of cayenne use another hot spice like dried chipotle powder, dried ground Aleppo pepper, Ras el Hanout or regular chile powder; or try a more mild addition like smoked paprika, regular paprika or lemony sumac.
Recipe adapted from Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life.
*The recommendations for those on blood-thinners, such as Coumadin (or generic warfarin), is to be consistent with the amount of vitamin K eaten from day to day, as the two interact with one another. If you take any of these types of medications, be aware of the high vitamin K content found in peas, parsley, spinach and other leafy greens.
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