One thing just about everyone can agree on is that pancakes are delicious. They aren’t always good for us though, so a lot of people have cut them out of their diets in an attempt to start their day with a healthier food option. But there are ways to make pancakes healthy again by using ingredients that won’t add inches to your waistline or send your blood sugar levels soaring.
With a few adjustments, you can drop the refined sugar and processed flour and opt for much healthier alternatives without sacrificing taste. Here are some of the healthiest and most delicious ingredients to add to your pancakes.
How to Flavor Your Pancakes Without Too Much Syrup/Other Sources of Sugar
Refined sugars are one of the worst ingredients commonly found in pancakes. On top of that, most store-bought pre-packaged pancake mixes are coupled with highly processed flour and inflammatory oils, which makes a disaster of a recipe when it comes to eating healthy. A good pancake recipe doesn’t need that much sugar, and it certainly doesn’t have to be from a bad source. Fruit, raw honey, and maple syrup are great alternatives to refined table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other highly processed sugars.
The problem is that a lot of unhealthy ingredients hide in pancake recipes. Even homemade recipes call for enriched white flour, vegetable oil or granulated sugar. Sure, you can skip the premade mixes and make your own recipe at home, but you’ll need a good recipe to follow. If you’re not sure how your current favorite pancake recipe stacks up, here is a list of ingredients you want to avoid:
- All-purpose flour
- White or brown sugar
- Regular cow’s milk
- Corn syrup
- Hydrogenated vegetable oil
- Palm oil
- Defatted Soy Flour
- Additives or preservatives such as food colorings or dyes
Research shows that diet high in refined starches and sugar and low in antioxidants and fiber from fruits and vegetables are linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, which is the perfect formula for chronic diseases. Processed foods are not as healthy as their whole food counterparts because they have been stripped of many nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and essential fatty acids. Instead of using a store-bought pancake mix recipe, try making one at home using the following ingredients:
1. Almond Flour
Like coconut flour, almond flour is an excellent choice for low-carb and gluten-free dieters. It contains slightly fewer carbohydrates and fiber than coconut flour but has more calories. A lot of healthy pancake recipes call for the use of both almond and coconut flours because the two pair well together. Coconut flour has a mild taste and lots of fiber, so it absorbs more water than almond flour to create a soft yet dense consistency. On the other hand, almond flour tastes nutty and crunchy, and the mixture tends to be firmer. Plus, when you use them together you’ll get a more complete source of protein and good fats.
Bananas are the perfect binding agent for your pancake batter. They are soft and mushy. Plus, they’re tasty and full of manganese, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Additionally, bananas are prebiotic, which means that they feed the good bacteria in your gut to promote digestion and a healthy microbiome. Since they are sweet and sticky, bananas can replace refined sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that are used sweeten or enhance the texture of your pancake batter.
3. Coconut Flour
Replacing the wheat or enriched flour in your pancake recipe with coconut flour is a great way to get more fiber, protein and healthy fats in your diet. A one-quarter cup serving of coconut flour provides you with a whopping 10 grams of fiber to support digestive health. Plus, you’ll be skimping out on the gluten and nuts, which are off limits for many people.
4. Flax Meal
Flax meal rounds out the healthy gluten-free flour list. It’s made of finely ground flax seeds, which is the leading plant source of anti-inflammatory omega three fatty acids and fiber. When flax seeds are ground into a fine powder, it unlocks their nutrients because whole flax seeds tend to be so small that they go through the digestive tract undigested. Eating flax meal instead of flax seeds is an excellent way to make you’re getting the nutritional benefits of the food when you eat it.
Like almond flour, flaxseed meal has a slightly nutty taste that enhances the flavor of your pancake recipe. It’s nut-free, so it’s a great alternative to almond flour if you need a nut-free base to pair with coconut flour.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is the perfect sweetener for any pancake batter. It has a sweet flavor and is loaded with health benefits. Research shows that apple cider vinegar may be able to stabilize blood sugar levels after meals, fight diabetes, make you feel full so you lose weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and protect against cancer. It also has antibacterial properties that are great for boosting the immune system and fighting germs from the common cold.
6. Ghee or Coconut Oil
Pancake recipes call for oil on two different occasions. Some recipes have you add them to the recipe itself. You’ll also need to save some to coat the pan you are cooking the pancakes in. Instead of using hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are high in unhealthy fats, use coconut oil or ghee.
Coconut oil has incredible health benefits. It has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties to boost the immune system; healthy fats and antioxidant properties that promote weight loss; and soothing anti-inflammatory qualities that soothe the digestive system.
Ghee, or clarified butter, is butter that is made from grass-fed cows. It’s higher in nutrients and healthy fats than butter and lower in casein and lactose, which is excellent for people who are sensitive to dairy. Plus, it tastes better! You’ll add a rich and deep flavor to your pancake recipe when cooking with ghee.
7. Almond or Coconut Milk
Lots of pancake recipes call for milk to make the batter smooth and creamy. Unsweetened almond or coconut milk are great replacements for regular cow’s milk because they are dairy free and lower in sugar. They also contain good fats and fewer carbohydrates to help maintain stable blood sugar levels all day long. Dairy products that contain lactose can be hard on the digestive tract. They have also been linked to skin problems, such as acne.
When picking out coconut or almond milk at the store, be sure it does not contain added sugar or carrageenan. Try making your own at home if possible to ensure that you’re not using any harmful ingredients.
If you’re looking for a natural sweetener to go in or on top of your pancakes, look no further than good old berries. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries contain unique flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins that have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and neuroprotective properties. They also support collagen production to give you healthy skin and increase levels of vitamin C in the blood.
9. Organic, Pasture-raised Eggs
Eggs are a staple in most pancake recipes, but it’s a good idea to make sure your eggs come from a high-quality source. Look for organic and pasture-raised eggs as this ensures that the chickens have room to roam and access to sunshine, which enhances the nutrients in the eggs. Cage-free doesn’t always mean that the chickens are free to roam.
10. Maple Syrup
Pancakes and syrup go together like peanut butter and jelly. But not all maple syrups are created equally, so you’ll need to make sure you’re buying the real stuff to top your pancakes with. Some recipes even call for maple syrup in the batter as a natural sweetener. Pure maple syrup is high in manganese, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It also contains as many as 24 different antioxidants.
When picking out a brand at the store, go for the darker, grade B types as these tend to be higher in antioxidants than lighter syrups. Also be sure the only ingredient is 100 percent pure maple syrup with no added ingredients.
11. Raw Honey
Raw honey is an excellent topping for any pancake recipe. It’s sweet and tasty and has been shown to help naturally treat coughs and wounds, boost energy, decrease allergies, and reduce inflammation. One study even found that manuka honey kills more bacteria every available antibiotic! The trick is to find a jar of honey that is raw and unprocessed so that it has not been stripped of its many nutrients.
12. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
Adding a pinch of sea salt to your pancake batter is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness of berries, bananas, honey or maple syrup. Pink Himalayan sea salt is high in antioxidants that naturally detox the body. Unlike other sources of salt, it contains up to 84 different types of trace minerals.
13. Vanilla Extract
Pure vanilla extract is not only flavorful; it’s also a powerful antioxidant. It has been shown to boost brain power, reduce inflammation, pain, and fevers, and lower cholesterol. Be careful though because a lot of store brands contain hidden sugar.
Sweet spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, are a great way to add flavor to your dish without the calories. As a bonus, cinnamon increases blood flow throughout the body and lowers blood sugar in people with diabetes while nutmeg is a brain tonic and naturally reduces pain.
15. Raw Cacao Powder
If chocolate pancakes are your thing, then add in some raw cacao powder in place of the usual sugary chocolate chips. It’s one of the best sources of antioxidant flavonoids ever! Studies show that cocoa may help improve cognitive function, reduce inflammation, promote healthy skin and aging, and even lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. There’s a big difference between raw cacao and cocoa powder though. One is highly processed and the other is raw. Look for a brand that is 100 percent pure unprocessed or raw cacao powder.
16. Nut Butter
Nut butter is flavorful and full of nutrients such as good fats that may be able to protect against heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. They make a great topper to any pancake recipe, or you can put it in the batter before cooking. Nut butters a great binding agent so that you can use them in place of eggs in vegan dishes. Again, be sure there are no sugars added to your favorite store brand. Or you can make your own nut butter at home!
Health Pancake Recipe
The next time you need a pancake fix but want to skip out on all the sugar and unhealthy ingredients, try this recipe instead. It incorporates a lot of the above-mentioned healthy options. These pancakes are paleo, keto-friendly, low-carb and starch-free. Check out the recipe here. Here’s what you’ll need to make it.
- One-quarter cup flax meal
- One large organic, pasture-raised egg
- One tablespoon nut milk (use water if you’re nut-free; coconut milk will work, too)
- One-half teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- One-quarter teaspoon baking soda
- One-quarter teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
- Optional: cinnamon and nutmeg
1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. If the batter is too thick, add some more water, apple cider vinegar or some lemon juice. You want the mixture to be sticky but wet enough to spread throughout the pan easily.
2. Add about two tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee in a frying pan and set to medium heat. Wait a few minutes until the pan is hot before adding the batter.
3. Pour or spoon the batter into the frying pan and cook for one to two minutes on each side. You’ll know they are ready to flip when you see little bubbles form in the batter.
4. Once they are done, add to your plate and top with raw honey, maple syrup, or berries. You can also add some nut butter on top, slather some ghee or coconut oil on, or eat them plain!