White sauce popped up in New York falafel carts in the 90s – it’s tangy, creamy, garlicky and nearly impossible to work out how exactly it’s made. This is our vegan version without mayo. Use liberally in any situation involving pita or falafel! Falafel is a traditional dish served throughout the Middle East. The tangy, spicy white sauce commonly served with falafel in the United States is less traditional than you may realize. Many traditional dishes that come to the U.S. are adapted to better suit American tastes. Invented in 1990 by a small group of food cart entrepreneurs, the falafel white sauce represents an attempt to do this for Middle Eastern cuisine, making it more palatable to a wider range of consumers.
Falafel is made of chickpeas and/or fava beans ground and shaped into balls or patties and deep fried. No one is entirely sure where it came from originally. One theory is that it originated in Egypt approximately 1,000 years ago and spread throughout the Middle East from there. Regardless of its origins, it gained quite a foothold in Israel, where it is a popular street food.
Falafel is versatile. You can eat it as part of a salad or purchase it as a pita or flatbread sandwich. Because it is deep-fried, it is high in fat and calories and should not be eaten every day. However, it also offers some nutritional benefit because of the fiber and protein in the chickpeas.
Original White Sauce
In 1990, three former hot dog cart vendors formed The Halal Guys, a food cart company that would meet the dietary restrictions of Muslim customers, particularly cab drivers picking up lunch on the go. They invented their white sauce as an Americanized update to the traditional fare and kept the recipe a closely guarded secret. The sauce proved so popular that many tried to imitate it, though the consensus is that none have yet duplicated it. In 2020, the Halal Guys offered their white sauce in plastic packets rather than the squeeze bottles used in the past. The packets listed some of the ingredients that go into the white sauce, though some remain under wraps. Without giving away the recipe, the company has pointed others in the right direction. The following recipe for falafel white sauce takes inspiration from the Halal Guys’ creation but dispenses with non-vegan ingredients such as eggs.
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serving Size: 6 servings
Combine all ingredients in a blender, combine until very smooth. As always, taste as you go adding lemon, sweetness, or salt as desired.