Top tips for perfect plant-based pancakes

It’s Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day. Traditionally made with milk, eggs and flour, at first glance it might seem pancakes are off the menu for sensitive eaters or plant-based diners. Fortunately, that’s not the case. There’s a whole assortment of plant-based pancake recipes available that are egg, dairy and even gluten free.

Here are three versions on the website you could try:

  1. A simple buckwheat pancake, so gluten free as well as dairy free, more like a traditional pancake and still just as good!
  2. A lovely thick and fluffy pancake made with apple and maple syrup –
  3. If you fancy something even more unusual, why not give these pumpkin pancakes a go?

Whatever type of plant-based pancakes you try, there is the potential for disaster in creating the mix or cooking the pancake. So to avoid disappointment and frustration, and to have wonderfully light and tasty pancakes to devour tonight, here are my top tips for a perfect Pancake Day. Enjoy!

  1. If you are making a flax-egg, make sure you use freshly ground flaxseed and leave the mix to thicken for a few minutes before pouring into the pan. You need to let the flaxseed to do it’s magic and help stop the pancake falling apart when you flip it.
  2. Use a good quality non-stick pancake pan or thin frying pan. Pre-heat the pan on a medium heat for a couple of minutes before pouring in the first dollop of batter. This will help the pancake to cook through more evenly, preventing it from either burning, or just not cooking at all!
  3. Patience is key. Once you have poured in your pancake mix and spread it around the pan, leave it be until the surface is covered with lots of bubbles. If you have the heat right, it won’t burn and will be set enough to flip successfully. Go to soon, and it will collapse in a soggy heap.
  4. Be adventurous – plant-based cooking is the perfect opportunity to let your creativity run wild, either with the mix or with the toppings.
  5. Have fun. Letting the kids help with creating and cooking your pancakes is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with them, as well as help them learn about real food and flavours.

Quick chickpea veggie pancake

It’s amazing how many people are trying to include more plant-based food in their daily lives – a really positive start to the New Year. But still one of the biggest concerns I hear about eating well with food intolerances, or getting on board with a whole-food plant-based lifestyle, is time – it takes too long to cook from scratch, especially in the evening with work, after-school activities or just the general busyness of everyday living.

To be honest, that is true at times. But not every meal needs to be a full on cordon bleu experience! There’s lots of top tips I’ve shared in my blog posts about how to save time; planning ahead is a key skill to develop. Plus creativity – that’s essential. It’s amazing what you can rustle up with only a tin of beans and a scattering of random vegetables!

If time is not on your side and you haven’t yet developed your veggie ninja skills, then this simple yet delicious recipe will be perfect for you. It’s quick, cheap, full of flavour and super-healthy nutrients and seriously filling as it’s main key ingredient is chickpea flour. Use whatever veggies you have, or your family likes, but try and make them as varied in colour as possible. Not only does it look pretty, but you will get a whole range of phytonutrients, those magical natural plant chemicals that help to keep us fit and healthy (especially important at this virus-filled time of year).

Chickpea flour, more commonly known as gram flour or besan, is one of my most favourite ingredients; it’s packed full of healthy protein, minerals and fibre and is amazingly versatile. It’s also gluten free. In fact it’s so wonderful, it deserves it’s very own blog post – that will be coming soon. Buy it at your local Asian food store rather than from the ‘speciality flour’ section at the supermarket – it will cost half the price!

This recipe makes one huge pancake that can be cut into 4 enormous giant-boy slices or 6 normal appetite wedges. Serve it with a quick green salad and sweet potato wedges for the ultimate filling rainbow dinner. Enjoy!

Quick veggie chickpea pancake (serves 4 – 6)
2 medium leeks, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
6 mushrooms, chopped
100g peas
1 tablespoon dried thyme
200g chickpea/gram flour
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
500ml water
salt and pepper
Heat a large frying pan and saute the leeks and red pepper over a medium heat until they start to soften and brown (about 8 minutes). Add the mushrooms and cook until the juices start to come out. Stir in the peas and the dried thyme and simmer for a few more minutes.
In the meantime, sieve the chickpea flour into a bowl. Add the ground flaxseed, turmeric, garlic powder and seasoning. Gently whisk in the water until everything is well combined.
Pre-heat your grill on a high setting.
Once the veggies are ready in the pan, carefully pour in the chickpea mix, tipping the pan from side to side to make sure the whole pan is covered. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture starts to solidify and the bottom of the pancake browns. This will take about 10 minutes. Place the pan under the pre-heated grill (make sure the handle is away from the heat) and finish cooking the top until it’s set and lightly browned.
Remove from the grill and leave to settle for a couple of minutes, then slice into quarters and serve straight from the pan.

Pumpkin pancakes

Pancake Day, or rather Shrove Tuesday, is coming up, the last day before the beginning of Lent and the start of the lead up to Easter. I’ve written about this before in this blog post:

I’ve never been that keen on traditional pancakes, even when I’ve managed to give them the Sensitive Foodie makeover! But I do like thick and spongy American style pancakes. The problem is they are often packed with dairy and refined sugar and oil. So these pumpkin pancakes are a real winner as they not only taste great and have a lovely soft fluffy texture, but they’re also full of whole foods and are dairy free and gluten free too.

As a parent, I know it can be hard to get your kids to eat vegetables at times; a contentious issue that can create family stress, especially if your child just refuses to eat the food you have prepared for them. Using vegetables like pumpkin in popular kids foods like pancakes is therefore a win win situation. The pancakes taste great; sweet and fluffy and a choice of toppings helps them be creative in the kitchen. Win for them. Super healthy ingredients like pumpkin (packed fully of betacarotene and other helpful phytonutrients as well as natural fibre and vitamins and minerals), buckwheat and cinnamon mean that you know they are getting powerful nutrients that are good for them – a win for you.

If you think it’s a bit odd using pumpkin in pancakes, it’s actually really useful as it takes on a couple of roles. One is it’s natural sweetness reduces the amount of sugar you need to add in to the recipe – complex sugars always win over refined. On top of that, pumpkin can be used to replace eggs in a lot of egg free and vegan baking, as it acts as a binding agent, one of the major roles eggs play in baking.  Practical and healthy all in one.

I’ve noticed that a lot of American recipes with pumpkin use canned pumpkin in their list of ingredients. Whilst I’m sure you can buy it in the UK, the only time I’ve ever seen it were some exceedingly expensive tins on the self in the local expat supermarket whilst we were living in India!  If you do find canned pumpkin, make sure there’s no added sugar (it really doesn’t need it). For me though, the key thing about buying tinned pumpkin puree is that much of the vital nutrients and anti-oxidants are lost in processing. So even if I saw it on the shelf, I would always make may own to ensure it’s as fresh as possible. And it’s so easy – for these pancakes, I peeled half a butternut squash and chopped it into chunks, then steamed it for 10 minutes or so until soft. Once cool, it got popped in the fridge ready to be mashed to a pulp for these pancakes. There’s even some chunks left over, so they’ll get added to a rainbow salad later on today.

So, for Pancake Day this year, why not make a new tradition and try these gorgeous pumpkin pancakes? And of course, you don’t have to keep them for one day a year! Once you’ve tried these out, I’m sure they’ll become a firm favourite throughout the year.

Pumpkin Pancakes (makes 12 smallish pancakes)
300ml soya or other dairy free milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice or cider vinegar
95g pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons maple syrup or coconut sugar
160g buckwheat flour (or flour of choice)
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free if needed)
pinch of Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of mace or nutmeg
toppings of choice (blueberries, maple syrup, banana etc)

Pour the dairy free milk into a bowl and add the lemon juice or vinegar to make it curdle, creating a non-dairy buttermilk. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in another bowl and mix well. Then pour the pumpkin puree, oil, vanilla essence and maple syrup into the dairy free buttermilk and whisk well to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisk again and ensure all the ingredients are mixed well then leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Heat a crepe pan or a light frying pan to a medium heat. Pour two tablespoons of mix onto the pan and spread slightly. Cook on one side for a few minutes until bubbles appear, turn with a fish slice then cook the other side until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Turn out onto a warmed plate and repeat the process until all the mix is used up.  Serve warm with topping of choice.


Friday night rainbow savoury pancakes

Friday night dinners have to be quick and easy, just because it’s Friday, really! Rainbow pancakes are ideal as they are super tasty and don’t take much time to make.

So what was used from the veg box? One of the carrots (I’m gradually making my way through them), a handful of chard and then the cherry tomatoes, not for the pancakes but roasted on the side – oh and they tasted sublime!

For the sharp eyed, you’ll notice there is an interloper in the veg ingredients – I snuck in some sweet potato, not just for the gorgeous colour but to use as a binding agent. Once steamed and puréed, sweet potato goes a little gloopy, and works brilliantly helping to hold everything together in gluten free plant based recipes. They also contribute towards the texture and can be added in surprisingly well to a variety of recipes – anyone tried my sweet potato chocolate brownies…..?

The other key ingredient in the pancakes is the flour – for this particular pancake I’ve used chickpea flour (otherwise known as besan or gram flour). I first discovered this flour when living in India, and find myself using it more and more, simply because it’s amazing! First it has a strong flavour so contributes a savoury taste. It’s packed with minerals, particularly magnesium, B vitamins and is a great source of protein and of course fibre. Finally, it’s gluten free and really adaptable for all sorts of recipes. Don’t try to lick the bowl though, as it tastes pretty foul when raw!

To finish off the dish, I made a spinach and walnut pesto sauce as it needed a little something on the side, and that’s what I had in the fridge!

So give this a go – it takes about 20 minutes in total if you already have some sweet potato pureé to hand. Enjoy!

rainbow pancakes
Rainbow pancakes

Rainbow savoury pancakes
1 cup chickpea flour/besan/gram flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
200ml water
1 medium carrot, grated
2 small sweet potatoes, steamed and mashed
handful chard
handful parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
cherry tomatoes
olive oil
First, heat the oven to 180ºC, place the cherry tomatoes still on their stems into a baking tray with a splash of olive oil and pop in the oven to roast for 15 minutes or so.
Wash the chard and separate the stem and leaves. Finely chop the stem and put to one side. Place the leaves into a frying pan and dry fry for a couple of minutes to remove some of the water. Leave to cool.
Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, make the pancakes. Place the flour, turmeric, baking powder and salt into a bowl and mix together well. Add most of the water to make a thick batter. Stir in the sweet potato, chopped chard stems, chopped chard leaves, grated carrot and parsley and mix together really well until everything is combined. Add a little more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a drop of oil in a pan and dollop 2-3 spoonfuls into the middle, spreading it out to make a large pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes until starting to brown, then flip and cook the other side. Slide out onto a warm plate and repeat until all the mixture is used up.
Cut each pancake into fours, then serve with the roasted tomatoes and some pesto or sauce of choice.

Half term breakfast pancakes

It’s half term this week for our region of the UK, a welcome break in the normal routine of chasing teenagers up out of bed, prompting, reminding and miraculously getting them out of the door vaguely on time and conscious! When the kids were little, I loved just spending some relaxing time with them, going out on little excursions and generally chilling out together; now they just enjoy chilling out with their friends and I don’t get much of a look in, apart from in the food producing department!

Breakfast on a school day is usually a case of getting something quick and nutritious inside of them; the holidays allow a little more time. This week I made these great wholesome pancakes; they are easy to prepare, but tend to be saved as a weekend or holiday treat as pancakes just seem to take longer to cook than I expect them too. My giant boy teenager, who had already consumed one breakfast, polished off four and said they were the best dairy free pancakes he’d tasted!

What’s great about these pancakes is that apart from being dairy free, they’re also gluten free, contain no refined sugar or oil and are packed with fibre and nutrients. I’ve used buckwheat flour which in itself is a fabulous source of plant based protein as well as fibre, manganese and magnesium. Flaxseed, which I’ve used as an egg replacer, is a fabulous source of omega 3 and cinnamon is just an all round fabulous anti-inflammatory that can help reduce cholesterol, maintain good blood sugar control and just tastes wonderful! And if you use almond milk as your non-dairy milk, you get fantastic amounts of calcium and vitamin E thrown in for good measure.

I’ve used maple syrup as the sweetening agent which is one of the least refined sugars you can get your hands on; you could use agave syrup or just normal sugar if you don’t have any maple syrup to hand, but that reduces the overall favourable nutritional profile of these pancakes. Having said that, the superb amount of fibre in these pancakes should negate the negativities of a little added sugar (unless you are on a specific disease reversing programme). If you don’t have buckwheat flour to hand, use wholemeal wheat flour, but add a little less milk as it shouldn’t need as much.

Give these a go one lazy morning and see how great a nutrient packed pancake can taste.

Apple and maple pancakes
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
2 1/2 tablespoons wate
1 apple grated
125g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
300mls non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon maple syru
First of all, soak the ground flaxseed in the water for a few minutes – it will become thick and gloopy. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and cinnamon together. In another bowl, mix together the milk, apple and maple syrup, then add in the gloopy flaxseed mix, stirring well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix well. It should be very thick; add a little extra non-dairy milk if it seems too thick to come off the spoon.
Heat a non-stick frying pan and wipe over with oil.  Add a spoonful of mixture into the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until brown. Keep warm until the whole batch is cooked, then serve with additional maple syrup, fruit or whatever you like to add to your pancakes. Enjoy!

Buckwheat pancakes for pancake day

It’s pancake day today, or rather it’s Shrove Tuesday in the church calendar, the day that traditionally all the yummy food is eaten up ready for Lent. It’s another religious date that has been commercially hi-jacked; remember the slogan “Don’t forget the pancakes on Jif Lemon Day”? 
Pancakes can be a challenge for anyone eating a free-from diet, whether it’s due to excluding wheat, dairy or eggs. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives out there; my favourite for savoury pancakes is buckwheat. Despite it’s name, buckwheat is not wheat but the seed of a crop that’s related to rhubarb and sorrel. It tends to be classified as a grain because of it’s culinary use, but it is gluten free (some products such as soba noodles tend to mix it with wheat, therefore making it no longer gluten free). A great whole food source of protein and fibre, it’s also got a good whack of magnesium, iron, phytonutrients and is really low in fat. It does have quite a distinctive earthy flavour though, so can be an acquired taste to some!
Of course, galettes in France are traditionally made from buckwheat. Whenever I think of galettes though, I picture India rather than France, due to the wonderful creperie in Bangalore, Chez Mariannick. An oasis of European familiarity in the crazy overstimulation of an Indian city, it’s well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in the area (they’re on TripAdviser).
To make a truly free from buckwheat pancake, all you need is some buckwheat flour, baking soda, salt and water mixed together. You can use non-dairy milk and vanilla if you want slightly creamier and sweeter pancakes – just use one to one measurements i.e.: one cup of buckwheat flour to one cup of milk, one teaspoon vanilla and one of baking soda.
If you fancy something a bit more healthy (and hippyish according to my daughter!), then try these buckwheat and sunflower seed pancakes instead. Using the whole buckwheat groat ensures you are eating the whole food with all the nutrients available. Soaking makes the buckwheat more ‘alive’; you can soak this up to three days allowing it to sprout, releasing even more amazing nutrients. That’s if you plan ahead of course. If you’re more like me and plan things at the last minute, 20 minutes soaking will be just fine.
Buckwheat pancakes
2 cups buckwheat groats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
(apple sauce, cinnamon or vanilla if you want sweet)
First, rinse the buckwheat groats well and place in a glass jar or bowl. Cover with water and leave to soak – somewhere between 20 minutes to 3 days! When you’re ready, pour out into a sieve and rinse well. Pop into a blender along with the other ingredients. Add enough fresh water to cover the top of the the buckwheat and blend until smooth. Poor a ladle full onto a hot pan coated with a little oil. Cook as normal pancakes and enjoy!