I have an embarrassing confession to make… until just a short while ago, I couldn’t make pancakes. Almost every time I tried, the batter would come out sticky, undercooked, burned, gummy, thick, or thin. Sometimes all of the above at once. One attempt after another, one disaster after another.
I had these terrible dreams that I would someday be on a cooking game show, crushing the competition and moving through the challenges until I reached the final round. The announcer would say, “and for the grand prize, Andrew, all you have to do is… cook a simple pancake!” My face would fill with dread and I’d shout “NOOOOOO” as I ran out of the kitchen.
I mean, this isn’t completely my fault. Making light, fluffy, delicious pancakes with only plant-based ingredients is really hard. They say that the mark of a good chef is the ability to cook an egg perfectly. It’s a simple thing that requires so much skill to get right. In the world of vegan cooking, I think pancakes are the true test; if you can get them right, you can cook anything.
Recently I decided to conquer this problem. I read books on baking, I studied the science of how gluten reacts in batter, I practiced, failed, and practiced some more. Ultimately I realized that cooking vegan pancakes is easy once you know the proper technique. Honestly, much of what clicked for me came after reading this article by America’s Test Kitchen, Secrets to Perfect Pancakes.
When everything finally came together, it was totally worth the struggle. These are by far the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever tasted. They’re simple, sweet, light, fluffy, and just a little tart from the “buttermilk” we add. If you’ve ever struggled with pancakes, definitely give this recipe / tutorial a shot.
Makes 6 4-inch pancakes
- 1 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
Tips for Perfect Pancakes
- Over mixing is your enemy. This is the most common mistake. When wheat flour is mixed too much, it stresses the gluten and leads to tough, gummy, terrible pancakes. Seriously, a few swirls to incorporate the wet & dry ingredients is enough. You want to leave lots of lumps in your batter.
- Hot pan! The pan must be very hot for pancakes to come out right. If you add the batter into a mildly-warm pan, they will be undercooked and gummy. If you don’t hear a sizzle the moment the batter hits the pan, you’re in trouble.
- Wait for those bubbles. When making pancakes, if you get the batter and temperatures right, you should see bubbles on the surface at around the 2-minute mark. Then flip and cook for 1.5 minutes on the other side.
- Keep them warm. When making pancakes for the whole family, it can be tough to keep them all warm since you can only make 2-3 at a time. Add a cooling rack to the oven and warm it to 150-200º F. As the first batches are finished, pop them in the oven to stay warm.
Step One: Flax Egg
One of the most exciting parts about this recipe is that it uses no banana. So many vegan pancake recipes rely on banana to hold things together. This makes the batter too dense, for one, and it also adds a banana taste (not surprisingly). Instead, we’ll use a flax egg, which is 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons of water. Whisk these together in a bowl and set aside to thicken.
Step Two: Mix Carefully
In a medium mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and stir together.
In a separate bowl, add the non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar to create buttermilk. Then add one tablespoon melted coconut oil and finally the flax egg. Mix the wet ingredients.
Now, carefully mix the two together without stressing the batter. To do this, form a “crater” in the middle of the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients (as shown) into the crater. Slowly stir until most of the batter is incorporated. A few small lumps are your friend, too much mixing is not.
Step Three: Hot Pan
Warm the pan over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Then, use a paper towel to spread a little vegetable oil over the bottom of the pan. Test the temperature by cooking one small pancake first. If it sizzles when it hits the pan and forms bubbles after 1-2 minutes without burning, your temperatures are right.
Use a 1/4 cup measurement to create the perfect 4-inch pancakes. If your pan is large enough, you can cook 2-3 at a time. Again, wait 2 minutes for large bubbles to form on the surface, then flip and cook for another 90 seconds. Store the first batches in a warm oven while you finish the rest. Then, top with blueberries, maple syrup, chocolate, peanut butter, coconut whipped cream, or whatever you love on pancakes.