Remove the buttermilk and eggs, and pancakes and waffles will be flat, chewy, and totally void of flavor, right? That’s what I thought too, until I went into the kitchen and began experimenting with ingredients and techniques. After some trial and error, I found that with a few simple ingredients (you probably already have them in your kitchen) you can make high-rising, rich-tasting pancakes and waffles.

Replacing the Flavor of Buttermilk

Buttermilk lends a rich, full flavor to pancakes and waffles. But I’ve found several ways to make dairy-free hotcakes richly flavored.

Sour soymilk: Sour soymilk makes a beautiful buttermilk replacement. Make this by adding fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to full-fat soymilk and set it aside for several minutes until the mixture curdles. Unlike plain soymilk (or plain cow’s milk), the sour or “clabbered” soy improves flavor by adding a tangy aftertaste.

Oil: If you choose the right oil, you can enhance the flavor of the pancake or waffle. One of my favorite oils is hazelnut. It contributes a subtle but delicious nutty flavor. Unrefined light sesame oil (not toasted) also works well. But if you want no additional flavor, use canola oil.

Sugar: Sweeteners play a very minor role in pancake and waffle batters. One tablespoon is usually sufficient, although you can use an extra tablespoon if you plan to eat pancakes and waffles with just fresh fruit instead of syrup. I think that maple syrup delivers the best flavor in most recipes, although other liquid sweeteners, such as honey or rice syrup, can be substituted.

Taking Out the Eggs

Eggs make pancakes and waffles fluffy (airy) and tender (not gummy). Removing the eggs from the batter can result in very flat, tough pancakes and waffles. But I found two simple ways to add lift and softness.

Baking soda and acid: Baking soda leavens batters that contain acids (the lemon juice or vinegar in the sour soymilk). Together the baking soda and acid create carbon dioxide (you will notice bubbles in the batter), which gives airiness to the resulting pancakes. Adding 1/2 teaspoon of soda provides enough lift for a full recipe and compensates for the lack of eggs.

Flour: Even though the baking soda helped the pancakes rise, they were somewhat gummy and tough (waffles, however, were fine). I realized this was due to the unbleached white and whole wheat flours I was using. Wheat contains proteins known as gluten that toughen when cooked, unless counter-balanced by the emulsifiers in eggs and the large amount of fat (from melted butter) in most pancake recipes. Because I didn’t want to use eggs or add a lot of fat, I had to find a new combination of ingredients with less gluten.

Unlike wheat, buckwheat (despite the name, this grain is not related to wheat) and cornmeal do not contain gluten. When I replaced some of the wheat flour with these grains, I was amazed at the results. Texture significantly improved. Buckwheat Pancakes rose even higher, and had no trace of gumminess. Cornmeal Pancakes also had an excellent texture – hearty, yet not at all heavy or tough.

Mixing the Batter

Sifting the dry ingredients together eliminates the inevitable clumps that form in baking soda and flours, although I found that whisking the dry ingredients in a large bowl works as well, with less mess.

The baking soda is activated as soon as it blends with the liquid ingredients. For this reason, the batter should be used promptly (within twenty minutes) after mixing, before the rising action starts to dissipate. And mixing should be minimal or the finished product will be tough. A wire whisk allows you to combine liquid and dry ingredients thoroughly with just a few strokes.

Cooking Pancakes

To prevent sticking and keep fat to a minimum, use nonstick cookware when making pancakes. I prefer a lightly oiled nonstick electric skillet set at 375 degrees. I think electric cookware does a better job of regulating heat than a pan placed on the stove, which tends to overheat, especially during later batches.

Of course, you can use a nonstick skillet on top of the stove as long as you watch the heat carefully. To test temperature of skillet, heat it until drops of water bead up and dance around. Be prepared to turn the heat down after the first batch is made to keep the pan from becoming too hot.

For consistent sizing, it’s best to pour pancake batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot griddle or skillet. Pancakes cook quickly Wait only until the bubbles that form on top of the batter break and the edges of the pancakes begin to set (about 2 minutes) before flipping. Continue cooking until the other side is nicely browned (another minute or two).

Cooking Waffles

Even if you have a nonstick waffle iron, misting it lightly with cooking spray (or brushing it lightly with oil) before each batch ensures that the waffles will release without tearing.

As for baking time, both waffle irons that I used have a light that goes off after three or four minutes, at which time the waffle is supposedly done. It never is. I bake them an additional two to three minutes to get them good and crisp with a rich brown exterior. Baking time may vary slightly with different waffle irons. Do not open the iron during the baking process or when you see steam coming out, or you run the risk of tearing the waffle.

BASIC WAFFLES

Makes four 7-inch round or six 4 1/2-inch square waffles

The batter for this master recipe takes less than ten minutes to assemble. The variations that follow require only a few extra minutes of prep time.

Waffles can be held in a preheated 275-degree oven for up to 20 minutes. When they come out of the waffle iron, place them directly on the oven rack (if you put them on a plate, they’ll become soggy). Waffles also freeze beautifully in zipper-lock plastic bags and can be popped into a toaster directly from the freezer for a quick weekday breakfast.

  • 1 1/2 cups soymilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4   teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2   teaspoon salt
  • 1     tablespoon oil
  • 1     tablespoon maple syrup
  •       Vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. Stir together soymilk and lemon juice or vinegar in 2-cup glass measuring cup. Set aside for 2 minutes to curdle.
  2. Plug in waffle iron and heat. Preheat oven to 275 degrees to keep waffles warm.
  3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
  4. Whisk oil and maple syrup into curdled soymilk. Make a well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. Gently whisk just until thoroughly moistened and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. (Do not overmix.)
  5. When waffle iron is hot, mist with cooking spray and pour about 2/3 cup of batter over the surface. Close and bake until steam is no longer coming out of iron and waffle is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and serve immediately or place directly on rack in preheated oven to keep warm and crisp while you bake remaining waffles. Re-mist waffle iron with cooking spray before adding more batter. Serve with Fruit Compote, Mango Sauce, or maple syrup and fresh fruit.

PER 7-INCH ROUND WAFFLE: 210 calories, 8g protein, 6g fat, 34g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 516mg sodium, 12% iron

ORANGE PECAN WAFFLES

Makes four 7-inch round or six 4 1/2-inch square waffles

Follow Basic Waffles, adding 2 tablespoons minced orange zest and 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped, to the dry ingredients.

To shorten prep time in the morning, prepare the orange zest and the nuts the night before and store in covered containers in the refrigerator. For a variation, try toasted hazelnuts instead of pecans. Serve with Fruit Compote, Mango Sauce, or maple syrup.

PER 7-INCH ROUND WAFFLE: 272 calories, 9g protein, 12g fat, 37g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 516mg sodium, 11% vitamin C, 13% iron

GINGERBREAD WAFFLES

Makes four 7-inch round or six 4 1/2-inch square waffles

Follow Basic Waffles, reducing soymilk to 1 1/3 cups, lemon juice to 4 teaspoons, whole wheat pastry flour to 1 cup, and baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon. Whisk 1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably hi-lysine, into dry ingredients along with 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon each freshly grated nutmeg and ground cloves. Replace maple syrup with 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses. (Blackstrap molasses replaces maple syrup in this spicy recipe for a more traditional gingerbread taste.) Serve with Fruit Compote or maple syrup.

PER 7-INCH ROUND WAFFLE: 243 calories, 8g protein, 6g fat, 42g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 446mg sodium, 11% calcium, 23% iron

PINEAPPLE COCONUT WAFFLES

Makes four 7-inch round or six 4 1/2-inch square waffles

Follow Basic Waffles. First, place 5 ounces unsweetened dried pineapple (about 5 rings) in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. Drain, discard tough core from each piece, and chop fine. There should be about 1/3 cup. Proceed with recipe, reducing soymilk to 1/3 cups, lemon juice to 4 teaspoons, whole wheat pastry flour to 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons, and baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon. Whisk 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom into dry ingredients. Stir 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut into dry ingredients. Add chopped pineapple along with liquid ingredients.

The amount of flour is reduced here due to the highly absorbent nature of the coconut. The addition of pineapple makes these waffles chewy and slightly less crisp than the other varieties. Serve with Mango Sauce or maple syrup.

PER 7-INCH ROUND WAFFLE: 270 calories, 7g protein, 9g fat, 45g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 456mg sodium, 15% vitamin C, 12% iron

SUNFLOWER-OAT WAFFLES

Makes four 7-inch round or six 4 1/2-inch square waffles

These wheat-free waffles are a departure from the other varieties in technique. They’re made from rolled oats and sunflower seeds and prepared in a blender. The waffles are a bit more dense than the others and have a strong nutty flavor.

  • 1 3/4 cups soymilk
  • 2     tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4   cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 3/4   teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2   teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. Combine soymilk and lemon juice or vinegar in blender until smooth. Set aside for 2 minutes to curdle.
  2. Plug in waffle iron and heat. Preheat oven to 275 degrees to keep waffles warm.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients (except cooking spray) to blender. Blend at high speed until thick and creamy, about 60 seconds.
  4. When waffle iron is hot, mist with cooking spray and spread about 2/3 cup of batter over grids. Close and bake until steam is no longer coming out of iron and waffle is crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and serve immediately or place directly on rack in preheated oven to keep warm and crisp while you bake remaining waffles. Re-mist waffle iron with cooking spray before adding more batter. Serve with Fruit Compote, Mango Sauce (page 80), or maple syrup.

PER 7-INCH ROUND WAFFLE: 271 calories, 11g protein, 12g fat, 31g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 517mg sodium, 4% calcium, 15% iron

BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES

Makes eight 4-inch pancakes

This batter is quite thick. Do not be tempted to thin it down or you’ll get soggy pancakes rather than fluffy high-risers. For Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes, omit sesame seeds and gently fold 1/2 cup fresh or frozen, unthawed blueberries into finished batter. Do not attempt to keep warm in oven – serve immediately.

  • 1   cup soymilk
  • 1   tablespoon lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 1   tablespoon oil, plus some for greasing griddle
  • 1/2  cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2  cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 2    tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1    tablespoon maple syrup
  1. Stir together soymilk and lemon juice or vinegar in 2-cup glass measuring cup. Set aside for 2 minutes to curdle.
  2. Lightly oil nonstick griddle or skillet and heat to medium-high, about 375 degrees if using an electric model.
  3. Whisk flours, baking soda, salt, and sesame seeds together in large bowl.
  4. Whisk oil and maple syrup into curdled soymilk. Make a well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. Gently whisk just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix or pancakes will be tough.)
  5. Pour batter by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto hot griddle. Turn pancakes when bubbles that form on surface break and batter begins to set around edges, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until other side is nicely browned, another minute or two. Remove from griddle and serve immediately with Fruit Compote or maple syrup.

PER PANCAKE: 85 calories, 3g protein, 3g fat, 12g carbohydrates, 1.5g fiber, 192mg sodium, 5.5% iron

CORNMEAL PANCAKES

Makes fourteen 4-inch pancakes

I always prefer hi-lysine cornmeal to the regular variety for its sweet, nutty taste and higher amounts of amino acids. Look for it in natural foods stores. This recipe makes enough pancakes to feed a crowd; cut the recipe in half if just serving two or three people. For Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes, gently fold I cup fresh or frozen, unthawed blueberries into finished batter. Do not attempt to keep pancakes warm in oven – serve immediately.

  • 1 1/2 cups soymilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 2     tablespoons oil, plus some for greasing griddle
  • 1 1/3 cups hi-lysine cornmeal
  • 2/3   cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4   teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4   teaspoon salt
  • 1     tablespoon minced lemon zest
  • 2     tablespoons maple syrup
  1. Stir together soymilk and lemon juice or vinegar in 2-cup glass measuring cup. Set aside for 2 minutes to curdle.
  2. Lightly oil nonstick griddle or skillet and heat to medium-high, about 375 degrees if using an electric model.
  3. Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. Stir in lemon zest.
  4. Whisk oil and maple syrup into curdled soymilk. Make a well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. Gently whisk just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.)
  5. Pour batter by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto hot griddle. Turn pancakes when bubbles that form on surface break and batter begins to set around edges, about 2 minutes. Continue baking until other side is nicely browned, another minute or two. Remove from griddle and serve immediately with Mango Sauce or maple syrup.

PER PANCAKE: 94 calories, 2g protein, 3g fat, 15g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 189mg sodium, 4.4% iron

FRUIT COMPOTE

Makes about 2 3/4 cups

Other dried fruits, including figs, cherries, and cranberries, may be used in place of or along with the apricots and prunes. The compote can be made a day in advance, refrigerated, and reheated when needed.

  • 1   cup dried unsulphured apricots, chopped
  • 1   cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1   large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1   large pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4   slices lemon
  • 2   cinnamon sticks
  • 1   cup water

Combine all ingredients in 2-quart saucepan. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until fruit is soft, about 15 minutes. Cool until just warm. Remove lemon slices and cinnamon sticks. If desired, mash lightly for creamier, moister consistency. Serve with waffles or pancakes.

PER 1/3 CUP SERVING: 110 calories, 1g protein, 0g fat, 28g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 3mg sodium, 30% vitamin A, 7% vitamin C, 6% iron

MANGO SAUCE

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This sauce is best the day you make it.

  • 2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup orange juice

Combine mangoes and 1/4 cup orange juice in food processor or blender. Process until smooth, adding more juice as needed if thinner consistency is preferred. Warm gently or serve at room temperature with waffles or pancakes.

PER 1/3 CUP SERVING: 73 calories, 1g protein, 0g fat, 19g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2mg sodium, 40% vitamin A, 59% vitamin C