Made with a combination of garbanzo and whole grain flours, and topped with a blueberry-date compote, these might be the healthiest pancakes on the internet.
Pancakes were a weekend ritual in my house growing up, the one time when my dad cooked. He would make plain pancakes or “apple fritters,” which were actually just pancakes with apples in them. Occasionally he even made “tree pancakes,” which were dyed green and shaped like cartoon trees. I thought tree pancakes were wonderful, but my brother was grossed out by the color and refused to eat them.
Later in life, I started experimenting with vegan pancake recipes, using whole grain flours and swapping out eggs and butter for flax and almond butter. I’ve always been very loosey-goosey about making pancakes, just eyeballing it and throwing in different ingredients every time. But I admit, the results were inconsistent. My fiancé really loves pancakes, and I wanted to make a healthy version that would satisfy his craving for that classic, all-American Bisquick box version. For his sake, I nailed down a recipe, and I think it’s really perfect.
These healthy vegan pancakes are moist and tender, and fluffy enough. No, they’re not those ultra-fluffy, mile-high pancakes. They’re a little denser, but without being mushy or stodgy. They’re also whole-grain, high in protein, and devoid of refined oils or sugars.
Along with a predilection for pancakes, I inherited my love of real maple syrup from my parents. They were so die-hard that they used to sneak bottles of Grade A Dark Amber into IHOP. Rumors developed on my dad’s Sunday softball team that he had a drinking problem after he showed up to a game with a glass bottle in a brown paper bag. It was maple syrup.
Even though I’ve been making this recipe for a while now, it was hard for me to think of them as healthy, because of my genetic predisposition to drown them in maple syrup. Pair that with Tim’s preference for chocolate chips, and they wind up being a more nutritious but still very decadent rendering of the classic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- we all should have a treat from time to time.
But I wanted to see if I could make pancakes that I would really love, that would hit the spot, made up entirely of nourishing ingredients that I would feel good about eating any day of the week. So I made a blueberry compote to take the place of my usual torrential serving of maple syrup. It was everything I hoped it would be, and because of it I feel good about claiming that these pancakes are healthy.
I’m not abandoning my lifelong devotion to maple syrup- I think it’s one of the most delicious foods on the planet- but it gets oversold as a healthy alternative to white sugar. At the end of the day, maple syrup is still a processed sugar with little nutritional value.
Dates, on the other hand, are a whole plant food containing fiber and phytonutrients. Though they are 80% sugar by weight, dates are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and have a much lower glycemic index than other sweeteners. I use dates to sweeten all kinds of desserts and baked goods, and also snack on them when I’m craving something sweet. By making a pancake topping out of dates and blueberries, which are also ridiculously healthy, you can have nutrient-dense pancakes while still checking the indulgence and nostalgia boxes.
A few notes: I added lemon juice to the compote, because blueberries and dates are both so sweet, and I wanted some acid for balance. If you make this compote with a tart berry like raspberries you would probably want to leave the lemon juice out entirely, or reduce the amount if using strawberries or blackberries. I made this compote using frozen organic wild blueberries from Trader Joe’s, which I always keep on hand because they are ultra-flavorful, cheap, and more nutritious than cultivated berries.
I always make these with a 1:1 ratio of bean flour to grain flour, because the bean flour has a very soft, fine texture and adds moisture and tenderness, while the grain flour adds structure, flavor, and helps the pancakes rise. For the bean flour, I use either garbanzo flour or garbanzo-fava mix (from Bob’s Red Mill), but I imagine white bean flour would have a similar result. For the grain flour, I’ve used spelt, rye, barley, or oats ground in the food processor. I’ve also tried combining buckwheat or brown rice flour with one of the coarser grain flours, and had good results.
If you’re serving these with maple syrup, try adding some berries, chocolate chips, or sliced apples. If you’re doing the blueberry compote, I’d recommend making plain pancakes, or bananas could be nice.
I have a nonstick skillet and I’ve found that these come out fine without oil, but if your pan is a different material feel free to add some oil or butter.
I’ve tried making big pan-sized pancakes many times, but it kind of stresses me out, so now I stick to the smaller size. Usually I get three batches of four pancakes, which are each about three or four inches in diameter. Between Tim and I, we eat these all in one sitting (if we’re lucky, while watching Bob’s Burgers). If they were being served alongside other dishes, I could see them feeding four people.
The Best Healthy Vegan Pancake Recipe
Makes 12 smallish pancakes
½ cup chickpea flour (see notes)
½ cup whole grain flour (see notes)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
A generous pinch of salt
2 tbsp ground flax
2 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
Oil for cooking, optional (see notes)
Blueberry Compote, to serve (recipe follows)
Whisk flax, almond butter, water, and vinegar together. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the flax has become somewhat gelatinous.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, then stir in the wet ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 200°F and keep an oven-safe dish handy to keep pancakes warm while you’re making more batches.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot (you can test this by scattering a few drops of water on the surface and seeing if they sizzle) drop a few ladles of batter into the pan, and cook until bubbles start to form, about three minutes. Flip and cook for about two minutes on the other side. The pancakes should be a light golden-brown on both sides.
Serve with warm blueberry compote or maple syrup.
½ cup date syrup (recipe follows)
½ cup water
1 cup blueberries
Juice of half a lemon
Combine date syrup, water, and blueberries in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. Cook until thickened- you want the texture to be somewhere between a syrup and a jam. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice.
This makes more than you’ll need for the compote. Keep leftover syrup in a jar in the refrigerator and use it to sweeten anything from oatmeal to brownies. It should last for at least a few weeks.
Put one cup of pitted dates in a glass bowl, and cover with one cup of boiling water. Let sit for at least five minutes.
Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth.