The Best 100% Whole Wheat Pancakes

Pouring maple syrup onto a stack of whole wheat pancakes.

The best 100% whole wheat pancakes don’t have to be the fluffiest, healthiest, better-than-actual-cake thing on the breakfast table. 

No, the best pancake recipe (or any recipe, really) is the one your family requests over and over, then devours each time you serve it like a new version of an old toy they just can’t wait to play with. 

And that’s what this shockingly easy, satisfyingly healthy recipe achieves. 

Overhead shot of whole wheat pancakes with apples and powdered sugar.

I prefer making these homemade whole wheat pancakes, rather than classic buttermilk pancakes or a tray of crowd-pleasing cinnamon buns, not just because they’re healthy and conveniently freezer-friendly, but because they are far more interesting. 

Whole wheat pancakes made from scratch have a pleasantly nutty, toasted flavor like a tray of freshly roasted almonds or a pot of browned butter. Whole wheat flour, with its golden oak hue, has more depth of flavor than plain white flour, which seems to stare blankly at you from its crumpled paper bag. 

A fork picking up a bite of whole wheat pancakes from a stack.

Plus, whole wheat flour does not get sticky and tough when stirred together with milk, eggs, and sugar (as if, say, you were making pancakes), because whole wheat flour contains less gluten-forming proteins than white flour. Less gluten means more fluff, so whole wheat pancakes are more likely to rise to great heights when introduced to a pan of hot oil. 

Yes, this myth-busting fact kind of blew my mind when I first learned about it too.

Recipes for white flour pancakes advise under-mixing the batter to avoid excess gluten formation, but this is not an issue with whole wheat pancakes. 

You can whisk with abandon. 

With any pancake recipe, however, I suggest letting the batter rest for about 5 minutes (which gives any gluten strands that may have formed some time to literally unwind). Wait until an air bubble or two appears on top of the batter — indicating that high-rising pancakes are in your Saturday morning’s future. 

Let’s make whole wheat pancakes

One of the advantages of this recipe is that you only have to use one bowl. (I know, any frequent cook would call that the understatement of the year.)

Since you don’t have to worry about over-mixing the batter, you can stir the wet ingredients right into the dry ingredients — all in one bowl — as you smile, smugly thinking about all of the recipes that tell you this is incorrect. You rulebreaker, you.

4 pictures of mixing whole wheat pancake batter

For this recipe, I do not assume that you have buttermilk in your house and I do not ask you to buy any. I would never do that to you. 

It’s much easier to make your own buttermilk than to run to the store on a sleepy Sunday morning (irked that you forgot the buttermilk), use a portion of it for a silly pancake recipe and then watch it, mournfully, as it decays in the back of your refrigerator. Pouring it’s lumpy corpse down the drain, you admonish yourself for not finding another use for it.

So, making your own buttermilk is as easy as this: stir 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into 1 ¾ cup whole milk and allow it to sit for 5 minutes until it curdles. Stir it again before adding it to the recipe. See? Easier than running to the store. 

4 photos showing how to make whole wheat pancakes in a skillet

This recipe is for basic, albeit delicious, whole wheat pancakes and it can serve as a wonderful impetus for all of your creative impulses. 

Try adding in a teaspoon of vanilla extract for a subtly sweet undertone, or a sprinkle of the fattest blueberries you can find. I love the combination of orange zest and cardamom with whole wheat pancakes; lemon zest would also be interesting. A generous shower of cinnamon is never unwelcome.

Double this recipe if you’d like leftovers; these pancakes freeze easily. After they’re cooled completely, I just transfer leftovers to a plastic resealable bag, squeeze out all of the air, and pop it in the freezer. When your next pancake craving hits, just pop the frozen pancake straight in the toaster for a few minutes, until it’s warmed through. 

The Best 100% Whole Wheat Pancakes

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Breakfast American
By Samantha Serves: makes about 15 pancakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes

Whole wheat pancakes are fluffier, healthier, and more delicious than white flour pancakes. How do I know? My family devours them like dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups whole milk, more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or vinegar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (such as canola or vegetable), plus more for frying
  • Salted butter, softened, and pure maple syrup, for serving

Instructions

1

First, make the “buttermilk.” Combine milk with the fresh lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit untouched for about 5 minutes until it thickens (it will also get a little lumpy- that’s okay!), then mix it again and it’s ready to use in the recipe. I find that lemon juice works slightly better than vinegar, but use what you have!

2

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, and salt. Make a "well" in the middle of the bowl to make space for the wet ingredients. Crack in the eggs, add the oil, then pour in the buttermilk and, working from the "well" in the middle and stirring outwards, stir until just combined. Adjust the consistency with additional flour or milk if needed- the batter should be thick and just barely pourable. Let the batter rest for at least 5 minutes (or while the skillet heats up) — the longer it rests, the fluffier the pancakes will be.

3

Heat a large (10 or 12-inch) skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of oil and heat until glossy (this takes about 3 minutes on my burner). Using a ¼ cup dry measure for each pancake, pour batter into the pan. Cook on one side until bubbles appear on top, then flip and continue to cook until both sides are golden brown (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet (this helps the edges stay crisp while you make the rest, but you can also just transfer them to a large plate). Repeat with the remaining batter, adding 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan for each batch.

4

To serve, transfer a couple pancakes to each plate, dot with butter, and drizzle with maple syrup. Or, eat them right off the wire rack while you make the next batch. Best served right away!

Notes

This recipe assumes that you don’t already have buttermilk in your house, but if you do, you can use buttermilk instead of whole milk and skip the lemon juice/vinegar. The recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon of brown sugar with the intention of topping the pancakes with maple syrup. If you don’t like maple syrup or you’d prefer the pancakes themselves to be sweeter, use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar instead.

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