Pancakes . . .
There are nights where I dream about my favorite pancakes. I wake up craving deliciously thick buttermilk pancakes filled with chocolate chips or blueberries and covered in syrup. Needless to say, pancake mixes don’t compare to made from scratch buttermilk pancakes. It would be like comparing table syrup or diet syrup (which I never knew existed until recently, nor have I ever seen it in Canada) to 100% maple syrup. It’s just not right.
However, I accept pancake mixes as the convenient pantry staple they are and often use them. I wouldn’t be the person I am, who indulges in pancakes three to four times a week, without using pancake mixes. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t it get boring? No, and I’ll tell you why. Pancakes are versatile. There are so many other things you can add to pancakes to make them a unique treat every single day of the week. Isn’t it unhealthy? That really depends on your definition of health and the mix that you use. I’ve recently started using Flourish Pancakes mixes, which are high in protein and fiber and low in sugar.
Though, I must warn you that this article isn’t about “healthy” pancakes. These pancake ideas have both calories and sugar; I’m not sorry. But if you want a low calorie, no sugar alternative to pancakes, I recommend blending one banana (or some pumpkin puree) with one or two eggs and frying that up for breakfast instead.
Now onto actual pancakes and elevating traditional pancake mixes . . .
Tip #1 – When They Say Add Water, Use Milk
I don’t drink dairy milk often, so I mix my pancakes up using vanilla or chocolate non-dairy milk, or even non-dairy egg nog. You could also use any other type of milk, including buttermilk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, or goat or sheep’s milk. Some non-dairy or full-fat milk can create much denser pancakes, though, so if the batter appears to be too thick or hard to stir, you should add more liquid, especially if you don’t like super-dense pancakes. Another option is to use an extract or fruit syrup to replace some of the liquid.
If the mix you use requires eggs or oil, you could try a banana or a 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree in the place of one of the eggs (or in addition to the eggs, you’ll just need more mix to achieve the proper consistency) or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Any one of these substitutions would change the taste of the pancakes overall.
Tip #2 – Change Up the “Filling”
As you’ll see in my chocolate banana pancakes, you can add almost anything you’d top your pancakes with to your pancakes while they’re cooking. I love poking things into the pancakes' bottom, including banana slices, chocolate chips, frozen berries, or sprinkles. Mix-ins and add-ins can turn everyday pancake mix from yawn to yay!
Of course, toppings are delicious too. Try cooking fresh fruit or frozen fruit into a sauce, which is a lot less challenging or time-consuming than it sounds. Or you could stick with the classics like jelly or jam, nut butter, or maple syrup. If you want to try something new, get your hands on some maple butter, caramel spread, or cookie butter. Cream cheese, whip cream, and bananas are always good toppings too.
If you’re tired of the sweet root, know that savory pancakes are a thing too. If I’m craving something more along the lines of eggs or bacon but want pancakes, I make a breakfast sandwich creation with eggs, cheese, and meats using the pancakes as the bread — this is more time-consuming but worth it. You could also add bacon, ham, onions, and or cheese to your pancakes. I prefer to make my pancakes from scratch in the savory case because I can cut out sugar to ensure they’re not too sweet for the savory toppings.
Syrups and spices can also elevate your batter. I like using vanilla extract or fruit syrups to change the flavors and enjoy using seasonal spices to make my breakfasts festive. Pumpkin spice pancakes are delicious, of course, but so are gingerbread spice and egg nog pancakes. In the summer, don’t shy away from using tropical fruit. Just because it’s not traditional doesn’t mean it won’t be tasty. Some of my wildest experiments have turned into my favorite treats.
Tip #3 – Create Variety
If you’re sticking ingredients into your pancakes while the first side cooks, it’s easy to have more than one “type” of pancake. With three pancakes in a pan, one could be blueberry, one could be chocolate chip, and one could be banana.
Or if you’re up to it, you could create two or more different batters and dye them different colors or make them different flavors. A little variety goes a long way. Who's going to turn down rainbow pancakes? Why do you have to decide between blueberry and chocolate chip?
Another way you can create variety is by changing the shape. Pancake muffins might be easier to make than actual pancakes. Preheat the oven to 350 and cook the muffins for 15–20 minutes, less time for mini muffins, more time for regular-sized muffins. For pancake muffins, I recommend using a mix that requires eggs and contains baking powder and salt (or they won’t rise). I have never tried to make them with a blend that doesn’t use eggs. You can add syrup to the batter or dip the muffins in syrup. For add-ins, place the add-ins into the batter once it’s already poured into the muffin tin. Finally, let your muffins rest for at least 5 minutes once they come out of the oven.
My Favourite Combinations
My favorite right now is chocolate, chocolate chip pancakes with banana slices pushed into the batter. If I want to elevate these even further, I make a peanut butter and jam sandwich out of two pancakes or spread maple butter on them.
The mix I use is a chocolate protein pancake and waffle mix; however, you can add cocoa to a traditional blend to get chocolate pancakes. I recommend a tablespoon of cocoa powder for every two pancakes, i.e., if the amount of mix you use makes ten pancakes use about four tablespoons of cocoa. I prefer dark chocolate chips, but any chocolate would do. You could even try caramel or white chocolate chips or candy, like M&Ms or Reece’s Pieces. The slices of banana are the real game-changer anyway. You’ll never settle for slices just on top of your pancakes again.
The trick is to cut the slices thin enough so that when you press them in, the bottom of your pancake will still cook properly. As you can see in my photo, my slices are a little on the thick side.
The Holiday Treat
Pancakes, but make them festive. My first tip is to use egg nog (or non-dairy nog) instead of water or milk. You’ll be able to taste the egg nog, though, so if you don’t like egg nog, you probably won’t like it in your pancakes. You may also have to use more liquid than usual as egg nog has a thicker consistency. For add-ins, I’d recommend fresh berries, candy cane pieces, or chocolate chips. Whip cream, a berry sauce or syrup, or icing would also make great toppings. Honestly, these could be served as dessert but would be equally great on Christmas morning and sure to tie you over until your early dinner.
Egg nog not your thing? Try peppermint mocha pancakes or gingerbread pancakes.
For peppermint mocha, use either a chocolate mix or add cocoa (as discussed above) and use an espresso shot or coffee for part of the liquid, i.e., half espresso, half milk. Add peppermint extract to the batter. Pop-in some chocolate chips and/or candy cane pieces and top with whip cream and chocolate shavings or powdered sugar.
For gingerbread pancakes, use all the warm spices you would in a gingerbread cookie recipe and add in more liquid than it calls for to get the right consistency with the spice's addition. You can even make gingerbread pancakes into a fun activity. Cut shapes into the cooked pancakes and decorate them just like you would a gingerbread house or cookie. Or, if you’re feeling confident, pour the batter into fun shapes. Mickey Mouse is a pretty easy shape to master; how hard can a gingerbread person be?
Pancakes can be plain and simple or extra decadent and fancy. They can be a quick Monday morning breakfast on-the-go (have plain pancakes will travel) or a luxurious Sunday brunch item stuffed with chocolate and bananas and layered with fruit, syrup, and whip cream. Pancakes can be whatever you make them. Just make them fun, okay? And please, don’t make them with water.