Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gluten-Free, Vegan Chai-Spiced Pancakes

I remember the first time I had homemade pancakes.  Growing up, I'd had plenty of pancakes made at home, but they always came from a box.  Just add water and eggs and voila - fluffy pancakes to stack high and then drown in maple syrup.  But the time I'm referring to is when I first had pancakes from scratch.

I was in grad school, and over at friend's house watching a movie.  Afterwards, we were both hungry, so he disappeared into the kitchen.  As I heard the open and closing of cabinet doors and the sound of metal utensils being placed on granite counter tops, curiosity got the better of me.  Entering the kitchen, I saw a skillet, a whisk, a large mixing bowl, and he was lining up eggs, milk, and flour next to the stove.  Still clueless, I asked what he was making, and when he said pancakes, I remember my face scrunching up in equal parts amazement and surprise, with perhaps a dash or two of doubt.  He wasn't even using a recipe - so strange.

But when it came time to eat them, I was simply amazed at how good they were.  While previously I had always been that guy who enjoyed his syrup with some pancakes, I found that I hardly needed any with these - there were so flavorful.  Slightly nutty, spiced with cinnamon, and made with applesauce and honey.  At the time, I seriously couldn't believe that pancakes made from scratch could taste better than pancakes from a box - that was my frame of mind then.  But there I was, taking the leftover pancakes with me back to my apartment, being proved wrong.

Fast forward 11 years and here I am making my own pancakes from scratch for the first time, gluten-free and vegan.  And when tasting them brought me back to that same feeling of amazement, surprise, and comfort, I found inspiration to share them with you.  

FYI,  you may never go back to pancakes from a box after this.

Chai-Spiced Pancakes
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours
Cooking Time: 2-4 minutes per pancake
Yield: Four to six 5" pancakes

generous 3/4 c (4 oz) gluten free all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom

scant 1/2 c (4 fl. oz) unsweetened non-dairy milk
1/2 (2-3 oz) ripe banana, mashed
2 tablespoons (1 fl. oz) oil
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
1 teaspoon whole psyllium husks or ground chia powder

extra 1/4-1/2 c (2-4 fl. oz) unsweetened non-dairy milk

oil for greasing pan

What you need:  medium mixing bowl, small mixing bowl, whisk/sifter, spatula, nonstick skillet/pan, cooking spatula

1.  Whisk or sift dry ingredients together in medium mixing bowl.  Combine wet ingredients and psyllium husks in small mixing bowl until well incorporated.
2.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture to form a generally smooth, thick batter.  If bananas are not your thing or you don't have any on hand, you can substitute applesauce or another pureed fruit. 
3.  I suggest letting the batter chill for at least 30 minutes, during which you will notice the batter thicken as the flours and psyllium husks/chia powder hydrate.  Then add the extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup of liquid to loosen the batter to your preference.  Thicker, cake-like pancakes whet your appetite?  Add less.  Thinner pancakes with crisper edges more your speed?  Add more.
*Note:  You can definitely chill this batter overnight if you'd prefer to make the batter in advance.  I often make the batter before bed, and then add the extra liquid and cook the pancakes in the morning.  Big time-saver for busybodies like me.
4.  Warm pan over medium to medium-low heat and very lightly grease with oil.  Add batter and swirl pan to form a roughly 5" circle.  Bubbles will rise through the batter as it cooks, producing tiny holes in the batter as they pop and release vapor.  Wait until this stops and the edges of the pancake appear dry/matte. Flip and cook until finished, usually only a fraction of the time it takes to cook the first side.
5.  Continue until all the batter is gone, regreasing as needed.

Flip me, I dare you...

They say the first pancake won't be that pretty.  Pretty tasty, perhaps.

A happy and handsome family of pancakes.

I used Michael Ruhlman's ratio for pancakes, 2 parts flour / 2 parts liquid / 1 egg, as a jumping off point.  As most gluten-free flours have a greater capacity for absorbing liquid and I wanted a vegan pancake, the only major adjustments I had to make were adding more liquid and substituting mashed banana for the egg, resulting in a ratio that looks more like this:

2 parts flour / 3-4 parts liquid / 1 part egg substitute

And using this ratio, the sky really is the limit.  I've made these grain-free using ground almonds, buckwheat flour, and tapioca starch, I've added goji berries, fresh blueberries, puffed millet, and dried coconut to the batter, I will sometimes curdle the non-dairy milk with vinegar or lemon juice for buttermilk pancakes, and I've even made them savory with sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary.   So many ways to make them your own - to make them special.  And when you know how to use a ratio like this and gain a better understanding of how ingredients work/play with one another, you really don't need a recipe.  

And hindsight 20/20, that's not so strange at all. [wistful sigh]


  1. Pancakes and scrambled eggs were always a go to before; when you needed a quick snack or late night meal. I can recall those shake and pour pancake mixes and I guess we did eat them, but I don't think that they ever tasted that good. I remember us liking the bisquick mix though. After transitioning from vegetarian to vegan; I didn't really miss the scrambled eggs, but who doesn't love a home-made waffle or pancake? I was undaunted when it came to making gluten free and vegan pancakes though because I had previously made several permutations of mochi waffles and pancakes etc. Mmmmmmm =) When I read about your amazement about your friend's ability to make pancakes from scratch; I laughed a little. What an evolution it's been since we were little munchkins. It's nice to know that we've really grown up and armed with knowledge, that we're now able to do so many things that we had previously thought were impossible. =)

  2. Pancakes from scratch are manna from heaven. This is known. :D In my gluten-full days I remember ordering pancakes wherever I went and my mark of a good place was weather they were scratch or from a box. Because you can ALWAYS tell when it's from a box. Definitely going to make these on a semi-lazy morning. :D

  3. Is this recipe including others high in calories to gain weight?


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