Vegan food can sometimes get a bad wrap or be viewed as regular food’s inferior companion—but that’s certainly not the case.
With all the options available today, it’s possible to make practically any recipe vegan-friendly, from cakes and cookies to savory dishes, and of course, the perennial breakfast staple: pancakes. Vegan pancakes are not only downright delicious, but they add in some pretty wholesome and flavorful ingredients as substitutes, providing a complete meal to make every morning get off to a good start.
What are pancakes made of?
Pancake recipes vary, but they’re traditionally made with a mixture of eggs, buttermilk or milk, butter, oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. You can also make them using a store-bought box mix, although additional ingredients will be needed to transform the powder into batter and that list will vary for every brand.
While some pre-made pancake mixes are vegan (only requiring water), others require milk and/or eggs. Be sure to check both the ingredients and the instructions to ensure you choose the right one.
Common substitutes to make recipes vegan
When making changes to recipes, it’s important to understand that the finished product may come out looking or tasting different than the original—and that’s okay! For some, that’s actually part of the fun. Using different ingredients allows you to experiment in the kitchen and create something that’s your very own.
For whipping up delicious vegan pancakes in particular, you’ll need to find substitutes for three main ingredients that are all dairy: eggs, buttermilk or milk, and butter. Here are some of the items that you can use in place of these that will keep the same texture, add flavor, and make your pancakes free from animal byproducts.
Regular eggs add structure, moisture, and color to foods without adding in a distinct flavor. They also help products to leaven, or rise, during the cooking and baking process. Quality pancakes are typically light, fluffy, and almost cake-y in texture, but you can imitate that final result without needing any eggs.
Apple sauce is an amazing egg substitute because it makes foods extra moist. It’s commonly used in baked goods, but it also works out perfectly in vegan pancakes. It will make them a little denser, so you can reduce the number of flapjacks you consume to feel full, and throws in some fresh fruit to make it even healthier. To make the switch, use a quarter-cup of applesauce for every egg the recipe calls for. Santa Cruz Organics Applesauce is a refreshing and delicious option that is delightfully smooth and packed with vitamin C.
Bananas also add moisture to recipes that call for eggs, and they’re especially great for making vegan pancakes. If you’ve ever experimented and thrown in fruits, cinnamon sugar, or chocolate chips into the batter, you know that mixing it up and throwing in the unexpected can result in a gooey, warm, delicious pancake. Bananas are no exception. One mashed banana is the equivalent of one egg, but note that while applesauce tends to give off a mild flavor, bananas are much more noticeable, so use them in recipes where they’ll add to the overall taste rather than derail it.
Flaxmeal and water
Combine a tablespoon of ground flaxmeal and three tablespoons of water and you’ll have possibly one of the best replacements for eggs in regards to texture. Whereas applesauce or bananas may make your pancakes a bit more dense, this substitute will keep them light and fluffy. An added bonus is that flax is high in fiber (so you’ll feel nice and full afterwards) as well as omega-3 fatty acids to keep your heart healthy. If you don’t have any flaxmeal available, you can also try using Garden of Life Organic Plant Protein Powder or Garden of Life Vanilla Raw Protein for the same effect.
Thrive Market also sells an ingenious product known as VeganEgg. Made from whole algal flour, gellan gum, nutritional yeast, and salt, these completely plant-based “eggs” are nearly identical to the real thing—they even come in a paper carton. Just whisk in some ice cold water and use in any and all egg-based recipes.
Buttermilk or milk substitutes
Milk not only makes pancake batter moist and ready to be placed on a frying pan, but it also gives flapjacks their structure and shape. Luckily, when it comes to milk replacements, there’s many options—it’s really a matter of choosing which one you like the best:
- Soy milk: Made from soybeans that are soaked in water and then ground up.
- Almond milk: Created using the same process as soy milk—usually the almonds are ground in a blender with water and then the pulp is strained out with a collander, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag. Naturally, it has a nuttier flavor than soy milk. Pacific Foods Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Beverage adds in a delectable yet barely there vanilla flavor that will enhance regular flapjacks or complement more complicated recipes. For a somewhat thicker option, you can also make your own quinoa milk. It has an incredibly similar taste but with the perfect consistency for making flapjacks.
- Coconut milk: Two types of coconut milk exist: thin and thick. To make it, coconut meat gets pushed through a cheesecloth, resulting in thick coconut milk. If that liquid gets soaked in water and then pushed through cheesecloth again, it will have a thinner consistency. For pancakes, stick with something thicker like Native Forest Vegan Coconut Milk Powder. The condensed mix will provide a more solid consistency, making your next stack of pancakes extra tall and delicious. Plus, coconuts have natural antioxidants and a whole dose of medium-chain triglycerides that will keep your heart healthy and provide an energy boost.
- Hemp milk: Made from the seeds of the hemp plant, this dairy substitute has only recently made its way onto grocery shelves in the U.S. Because it’s from the same plant that produced marijuana, there has been some controversy over hemp products in the past; however, the seeds from which hemp milk comes from do not contain the active drug substance known as THC. Pacific Foods Original Non-GMO Hemp Beverage is lightly sweetened and offers a smooth, creamy, and nutty flavor. It’s packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, along with essential amino acids. If you’re looking to make your morning pancakes a bit healthier, then this is definitely the way to go.
Butter is a common ingredient in baking and cooking, because it works directly with the other ingredients needed to gives them body and texture. Butter makes pancakes extra fluffy—but what if you’re vegan? You’ve got a few great options that will yield some amazing results.
We’re all for vegan butters, but some of them have some not-so-savory ingredients that are hard to pronounce. You can actually make your own vegan butter with only four simple ingredients: coconut oil, avocado oil, turmeric, and sea salt. It’s an amazing 1:1 substitute for regular butter, and you might even already have all the ingredients in your pantry.
If you’d rather keep things a bit simpler, try using an oil that you like in a 0.75:1 ratio to butter. Because oil has the tendency to be, well, oily, it’s best not to do a 1:1 ratio here. It will weigh down your pancakes and leave them a little too moist and greasy. Coconut oil especially is perfect for making pancakes, as its flavor is mild and it can easily melt.
Vegan pancake recipes
Ready to try your hand at some delicious vegan pancakes? Here are some of Thrive Market’s favorite recipes, using many of the substitutes mentioned above.
Here’s the one recipe you need for the perfect stack of pancakes—all they need is a little maple syrup drizzled on top. Take out the honey and use agave instead and use one of the egg substitutions that work best for you to make it completely vegan. The lemon and orange zest take this dish to a completely new level, making a rich breakfast delicacy light and refreshing. Top with a bit of fresh fruit, like strawberries or blueberries, to make it even more invigorating. Or, add the fruit into the batter to warm them up and make your pancakes ooze with flavor.
Whether you’re curled up around the fire in October or it’s the middle of summer, pumpkin flavor is too scrumptious to pass up any time of the year. In this recipe, pumpkin puree provides incredible depth—to make them extra rich, add in some vegan cream cheese filling to make your stack even more special. Even better, you can whip them up in twenty minutes or less.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then look no further than these decadent pancakes that have dark chocolate melted right into the batter and syrup. Dark chocolate satisfies the desire for something sweet, while the vanilla extract intensifies the overall flavor of the flapjacks. Use coconut milk to really bring out the cocoa flavor without weighing it down. These make a great dessert option, too.