How to Make Healthy Pancakes

By: Hilary Meyer

whole-grain buttermilk pancakes

Pictured Recipe: Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

Forget boxed mixes. All you need are a few ingredients, two bowls and a whisk and you’ll be cooking healthy pancakes from scratch by the time your coffee’s brewed. 

Pancakes can be part of a nutritious breakfast if you use just a few healthy tricks. Our Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancake recipe uses 100% whole-wheat flour, heart-healthy canola oil and just a tablespoon of sugar. Compared to most store-bought mixes or a ­classic recipe, ours saves about 30 calories, 3 grams saturated fat and 4 grams total sugar per serving, plus you’ll dish up 2 extra grams of fiber. To get started, make a batch of our Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancake recipe and then use that master recipe to create favorite flavor variations like banana-chocolate chip, ­blueberry, gingerbread and more. They’ll still be delicious and will be much healthier for you than a traditional stack of white-flour cakes smothered in syrup. 

Start with This Basic Recipe: Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

Step 1. Prep Your Dry Ingredients

Use Whole-Wheat Flour to Boost Fiber

Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl. If desired, replace up to 1/2 cup flour with another whole grain (cornmeal, oats or buckwheat flour).

Step 2. Don't Overmix

Mind Your Toppings

Whisk wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and whisk just until combined. Resist overmixing—it will make the pancakes tough. 

Step 3. Rest the Batter

Mind Your Toppings

Let the batter sit, without stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes. As the batter rests, the baking powder forms bubbles that create fluffy pancakes and the gluten in the flour relaxes to make the cakes more tender. 

Step 4. Flip When You See Bubbles

Mind Your Toppings

Coat a large nonstick skillet (or griddle) with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Without stirring the batter, measure out three 1/4-cup pancakes, pouring the batter into the pan. Cook until the edges are dry and you see bubbles on the surface, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, 2 to 4 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter, coating the pan with cooking spray and reducing the heat as needed. 

5 Tips for Making the Best Healthy Pancakes

how to make healthy pancakes

1. Boost Fiber

Most traditional pancake recipes call for white flour, which has a neutral flavor but doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition. To make healthy pancakes, use whole-wheat or another whole-grain (cornmeal, oats or buckwheat) flour instead. Whole-wheat flour has 16 grams of fiber per cup compared to 3 grams of fiber in white flour. For milder flavor, you can use white whole-wheat flour, which is most similar to white flour with a slightly nutty flavor, but regular whole-wheat flour will also work. If you’re hesitant to make 100% whole-wheat pancakes, start by replacing half the white flour with whole-wheat flour in your recipe to get used to the difference. For extra fiber and omega-3s, add up to 3 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds or chia seeds.

2. Don't Pat Your Pancakes

Love a fluffy flapjack? Don’t pat them with the spatula after flipping. It compresses the air inside and makes them dense.

3. Add Fruit or Nuts for More Flavor

Pancake batter is a pretty forgiving blank canvas—you can enjoy plain pancakes or you can add flavorful ingredients to it without compromising the final pancakes. You can add 1 cup of flavoring ingredients for every 1 1/2 cups of flour in your recipe. Add blueberries for some added sweetness and cancer-fighting anthocyanins or raspberries for a healthy dose of fiber and vitamin C. Chopped toasted nuts, which add healthy fats, are also a great addition, as are other fiber-boosting foods like oats and wheat germ.

4. Make Them Ahead

No time for mixing and measuring in the morning? Prep your pancakes ahead of time for an easy mid-week breakfast. The mixture of dry ingredients can be stored airtight for up to 1 month; the batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; cooked pancakes can be frozen, airtight in a single layer, for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave or oven.

5. Mind Your Toppings

Don’t deprive yourself—one of the reasons we all love pancakes is because of a little butter and maple syrup on top. Just keep in mind that a little goes a long way. A teaspoon of butter coupled with a few tablespoons of syrup is all you’ll need. Or try pairing your pancakes with a side of fruit or berries for added natural sweetness.

Customize Your Pancakes

healthy pancake flavors

Start with the basic Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancake recipe and then create your favorite flavor variation like banana-chocolate chip, ­blueberry, gingerbread and more.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes

In Step 1: Add 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips. 
In Step 2: Add 1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 medium).

Blueberry Pancakes

In Step 2: Add 1 cup blueberries and 2 tsp. orange zest.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Pancakes

In Step 1: Add 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds. 
In Step 2: Add 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese plus 1 Tbsp. lemon zest. 

Pumpkin Pancakes

In Step 1: Add ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice.
In Step 2: Add 1 cup pumpkin puree plus ¼ cup toasted chopped pecans.

Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes

In Step 1: Add 1 tsp. ground cinnamon. 
In Step 2: Add 1 cup grated apple (about 1 medium).

Gingerbread Pancakes

In Step 1: Add 1 tsp. ground ginger and 11/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice. 
In Step 2: Add ½ cup unsweetened applesauce and 2 Tbsp. molasses.

3 Tasty Toppings

Quick Mixed Berry Pancake Sauce

Quick Mixed Berry Pancake Sauce

Toss 3 cups frozen mixed berries, 3 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. cornstarch in a large micro­wave-safe bowl until well combined. Micro­wave on High for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave on High until slightly thickened and steaming, 2½ to 3½ minutes more. Serves 8: ¼ cup each

Warm Apple Pancake Topping 

Bring 1 cup apple cider and ¼ cup packed brown sugar to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 3 large (peeled and thinly sliced) apples, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the apples are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine 2 Tbsp. cider and 2 tsp. cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir into the apples and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in ½ tsp. vanilla extract. Serves 10: 1/4 cup each

Honey-Yogurt Pancake Sauce

Whisk 1/2 cup honey into 2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt. Serves 10: 1/4 cup each

Watch How to Make Healthy, Fluffy Pancakes

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