Falafel is made from fava beans or chickpeas or a combination of the two. In Egypt, fava beans are used exclusively. Other variations may contain only chickpeas. This is the case of Plaestinians, Yemenite Jews in Jerusalem as well as in Syria and Lebanon. In the Levant, Falafel is generally made only with chickpeas. Unlike many other bean patties, in falafel the beans are not cooked before they are used. Instead they are soaked, possibly skinned, then ground, a small quantity of onions,parsley, spices (including cumin), and bicarbonate of soda are added. It is then deep fried at a high temperature. Sesame seeds may be added to the balls before they are fried; this is particularly common when falafel is served as a dish on its own rather than as a sandwich filling.
Recent culinary trends have seen the chickpea falafel have more success than fava bean falafel. Chickpea falafels are served across the Middle East, and have been popularized by expatriates of those countries living abroad. However, fava-bean falafel continue to predominate in Egypt and Sudan and their respective expatriate communities, and Egyptians are fond of deriding chickpea falafel as inferior.[source?]
In Israel small 2 1/2 cm spherical balls are made, while in Egypt and among Palestinians larger patties are shaped with a tablespoon or a special scoop with a lever to release them into the hot oil.