Do you love pancakes but want to make a healthy pancake recipe for breakfast? Pancakes can be part of a healthy breakfast if you use a few tricks to make them a little better for you by adding whole grains and using low-fat dairy. They’ll still be delicious and will be much healthier for you than a traditional stack of white-flour cakes smothered in butter and syrup. Here are our secrets for how to make healthy pancakes.
—Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor
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 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.
Any additional flavor we get from using whole milk in pancake batter isn’t worth the extra fat or calories. We would rather melt just a little bit of butter on top of the pancakes where we can really taste it. Replace the whole milk in your pancake mix with skim milk or, better yet, buttermilk. Buttermilk (despite its rich-sounding name) is naturally nearly fat-free and it adds a nice tanginess to the pancakes that you can’t get from regular milk.
If your pancake recipe calls for melted butter in the batter, skip it and opt for canola oil instead. Butter is high in saturated fat and as long as you’re adding other flavorful ingredients to your pancakes (like buttermilk, whole-wheat flour or fruit) you won’t even taste the difference.
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.
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.
Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Resist overmixing – it will make the pancakes tough.
Let the batter sit without stirring, for 10-15 minutes. As the batter rests, the baking powder forms bubbles that create fluffy pancakes and the gluten in the flour relaxes to make the caes more tender.
Coat a 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.