Here’s How to Give Your Pancakes a Healthier, Tastier Makeover

We here at A Healthier Michigan have been gorging ourselves silly today in honor of National Pancake Day with the realization that it’s easy and fun to give the humble flapjack a healthier, more flavorful makeover.

I confess to being bored by the ubiquitous and unimaginative buttermilk pancake that is a staple of breakfast menus. There’s little textural appeal, they’re light on flavor, heavy on the gut and not especially healthy, being comprised mainly of bleached white flour and caramel-colored high fructose corn syrup.

However, when done right, pancakes can be ethereal — and a great way to start your day.

Ever since I saw this video (below) from The New York Times, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to work in leftover, cooked grains to spice up pancakes. I think of it as as a kitchen sink approach, letting whatever’s lying around in the fridge and cupboards dictate what I make.

Here, the Times’ Mark Bittman makes pancakes using whole-wheat flour, cooked oatmeal, dried apricots, almonds and cardamom (recipe here):

I haven’t followed this recipe per se but have played around with new and different ingredients. The great thing about pancakes is they’re totally forgiving and don’t depend on being exact with ingredients. As Bittman says, “The key to the whole thing is, just don’t make boring pancakes.”

Here are some tips I’ve discovered for making the most of your morning flapjacks:

  • Incorporating leftover, cooked whole grains adds welcome and unexpected texture. Brown rice is wonderful, as is quinoa.
  • You’ll probably need a little white flour, but you can also add whole wheat flour or wheat germ for added nutrition.
  • Adding a mashed banana adds great texture, nutrients and flavor. So do mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Yogurt works great as a liquid base, but you’ll probably need milk or something else to make it sufficiently soupy before adding the dry ingredients. Coconut milk or coconut water work great and add flavor.
  • Adding blueberries, strawberries, apples, dried or fresh cherries or other fruit is never a bad idea.
  • I recommend eating pancakes with real maple syrup, honey or fruit preserves instead of commercial pancake syrup. You won’t need a lot.
  • Frying them in a neutral-flavored vegetable oil, like canola (not olive oil), adds a nice crispy texture to the cakes’ exterior that can’t be replicated with, say, butter. So good.

Getting crafty with your pancakes is a great way to boost their nutritional value and sneak some healthy nutrients past fussy kids who normally wouldn’t touch them.

What are some of your favorite pancake recipes?

Photo by Jim Barter

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