When the Little Misses ask me to make these pancakes for them, they’re probably not thinking about how nutritious they are …. These Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes prove yet again that even the tastiest of treats can be packed with stealth nutrition. And, they’re easy to make and quite versatile if you’d like to make some substitutions. (Note: Recipe updated December 2018.)
Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes
I like to switch up my pancake game, trying different flavourings, flours, sugars, brans and more. Many of my recipes start with what I consider my “mother” recipe, these basic pancakes that I developed long before blogging was a thing. From there, I let curiosity and my imagination take me away.
A few weeks ago I was mixing up a batch of basic pancakes for Little Miss A, who had slept over, when I discovered my supply of bran was past the point of no return. Yup, it smelled rancid. It’s always smart to follow your senses, so into the bin it went. That started me on a different path, leading me to the idea of a chocolate pancake. I added some cocoa powder to the recipe, and Miss A pronounced them delicious. To quote my seven-year-old critic:
“The chocolate pancakes with maple syrup on top taste like a chocolate glazed doughnut.”
I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but hey, I knew I was onto something.
A Sleeveful of Nutritional Tricks
The next time I made these pancakes, I decided to employ a few nutritional tricks that I keep up my sleeve. After all, if the kids (little or grown up) are going to get excited about chocolate, you may as well slip in some ingredients that normally don’t generate the same enthusiasm, right? I’ve served these pancakes to the pickiest eater in my family, who’s six years old, and also to a three-year-old who doesn’t yet have much in the way of a filter — if she doesn’t like something, she’ll tell me, “That’s disgustin’, Nana.” Charming, no? We’re working on that!
What can I say, they both loved this nutritionally maxed-out version of the chocolate pancakes, and have already asked me several times to make this party on a plate again. And I’ve obliged, because I know how good these Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes are for them.
Instead of unbleached all-purpose white flour, I used a blend of wholegrain buckwheat flour and spelt (both organic, by the way, although you may choose to buy the regular version). Buckwheat is a gluten-free pseudo-grain flour (the buckwheat plant is actually related to rhubarb, go figure). Buckwheat flour is high in protein and fibre, and has other nutritive value as well. (For more about gluten-free flours, see The FBC Guide to Using Gluten-Free Flours.) It also has an assertive flavour.
The proportion you use in a recipe depends on the outcome you’re looking for. For instance, using 50 percent buckwheat in this pancake recipe turned out great; I used the same proportion in a muffin recipe, but found it too buckwheat-forward … back to the drawing board on that one!
Because of the buckwheat flour’s strong character, I opted to blend it 1:1 with spelt flour to tone it down a bit. Spelt is an ancient grain that’s related to wheat and it does contain gluten. To me, it’s a “softer” flour than all-purpose or whole wheat flours, but it can be used in place of them in different proportions depending on what you’re making. So, just to be clear, because these pancakes contain spelt flour, they’re not gluten free!
Both cacao powder and plain cocoa powder are nutritious. So what’s the difference? Cacao powder and nibs are the least processed and most nutritionally rich form of chocolate, high in antioxidants and other nutrients. The main difference between cacao and cocoa is that cacao is raw, obtained by cold-pressing cocoa beans, whereas cocoa is created through roasting, which affects the nutritional value. On the other hand, cacao is higher in calories and costs more. The good news is that you can use them interchangeably. Read more in my Raspberry Cacao Smoothie post.
So for a recipe like this where I’m going all out, nutritionally speaking, and using organic, alternative flours, you can bet that I’m also going to dip into my stash of cacao powder. And if I don’t have any cacao powder on hand? I’ll use regular plain (i.e., unsweetened) cocoa powder without a second thought.
These healthful pancakes definitely call for a sweetly unrefined approach. Coconut sugar has a deep, almost caramel-like flavour, and I used it here to help offset the assertiveness of the buckwheat flour. I also used it because, as sugars go, it’s much lower on the glycemic index than the white sugar I grew up with, and it offers other nutrients. That said, it’s still sugar and best not consumed with abandon. (Easier said than done when it comes to my Coconut Sugar Caramel.)
Milk or Mylk?
I’ve only made this particular recipe with regular dairy milk, but I’ve made other pancakes with different types of non-dairy “mylk” before. If you’re going to use a nut or seed milk, like almond milk, do consider making your own. Commercial nut milks contain a lot of additives and may not be as healthful as you think. It’s relatively easy to make a batch of nut milk, and you can freeze some for future use. I also sometimes substitute kefir or buttermilk for regular milk, and I think the tang they add would work well in this recipe. (I guess there’s another batch in my future!)
The Crowning Glory: Maple Syrup
While there’s no maple syrup in these pancakes, at my house there’s certainly maple syrup on them. It’s my go-to syrup for topping pancakes, much better for you than commercially-prepared toppings full of glucose/fructose and other things I don’t want to float my pancakes in. (Okay, I need to remember that even maple syrup’s a topping, not a main ingredient — it’s still a form of sugar, after all). Plus, maple syrup has the added benefit of being locally produced and its unique flavour is unparalleled.
It’s All in the Marketing
As any of you who’ve had to feed children and/or other assorted selective eaters know, it’s all in the marketing. For instance, when I made Poulet au Vinaigre for my kids when they were little, I always called it Ketchup Chicken. Much as it pained me to do so, I knew Chicken in Vinegar Sauce would completely turn them off before they even tasted it. And as it turns out, they loved Ketchup Chicken! By the same token, Bulger Pilaf became Mediterranean Rice and also a family favourite.
So, when it comes to these pancakes, trust me and just call them Chocolate Pancakes. There’s no point in arousing anyone’s suspicions with the word “buckwheat.” That said, I do think it’s important it be in the title for those of you looking for a recipe that’s on the alternative side.
And hey, if you’re feeling suspicious of “hippie ingredients,” just use all all-purpose flour, cocoa powder and granulated sugar. You won’t hurt my feelings.
By the way, guess what I’m having for supper tonight …
Let’s Get Flipping Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes!
These pancakes may taste like a chocolatey treat, but that doesn't stop them from being good for you! Follow the recipe for the full nutritious impact, or make substitutions for the flour, cacao powder, coconut sugar and milk. Note, the cooking time indicated is for making one pancake at a time. It you have a larger pan than I do, or better yet, a griddle, you can decrease the cooking time considerably. (Note: I updated the recipe in December 2018 to increase the amount of baking powder for fluffier pancakes.)
- 1/2 cup wholegrain buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch kosher salt
- 2 tbsp cacao powder
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil plus a bit more for the pan or griddle
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
Add the wet ingredients (yes, this includes the sugar!) into a medium-sized bowl, and whisk until well blended. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes before making the pancakes. The batter becomes thicker during this time.
To make the pancakes, drizzle a non-stick pan with the cooking oil you used in the batter and heat it over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a dollop of batter to the pan. (I use a quarter-cup measure, almost full.) When bubbles are breaking through the surface, flip the pancake over and let it cook about 30 seconds or so longer. Stack the cooked pancakes on a warm plate (over a warming burner, in a very low oven or just on the stovetop) while you finish the batch.
To serve, spread the pancakes with room temperature butter and pour maple syrup over the stack. A few strawberries on the side are always welcome, too.
Looking for More Flipping Fun?
Here are three pancake recipes suitable for any special occasion (and if you’re eating pancakes, then, hey, it’s a special occasion!): Porter Beer Pancakes with a Porter and Maple Butter Sauce (uh-huh, you read that right), Caramelized Apple Sour Cream Pancakes, and Cornmeal and Raspberry Pancakes.