Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes. Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Gina Nistico for The Washington Post

Pancakes are often considered a spurge that veers away from healthy breakfast goals – a reputation that isn’t entirely unwarranted. Since many batters are made primarily with white flour, sugar and butter, they’re literally a type of cake cooked in a pan – fine to eat now and then, but not every day.

On the flip side, pancakes can also be a tender, fulfilling treat that tracks perfectly with the most nourishing breakfast choices. They are easy vehicles for whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit and yogurt, and they can be made deliciously with healthy oil and minimal sweetener. There is a multitude of good-for-you, delicious pancake possibilities. I know, because I have probably made 101 varieties of them over the years. My ideal pancake delivers the tenderness of cake, but with grounding texture and flavor that goes beyond simply sweet.

This recipe brings all that – and more.

Made with an extra-soft variety of whole-wheat flour – either whole-wheat pastry or white whole-wheat – these lemon flapjacks turn out light and tender. (A combination of equal parts regular whole-wheat flour and all-purpose also works, as would a gluten-free cup-for-cup mix.)

The wheat flour gets whisked with some almond flour, which adds body, protein, healthy fat and minerals. Egg and yogurt make the base of the liquid ingredients, providing plenty of nutrient-rich protein. Heart-healthy oil keeps the crumb soft and rich-tasting, and a burst of lemon from the fruit’s juice and zest, balanced with vanilla extract and a touch of maple syrup, gives them a bright punch of flavor. Poppy seeds bring it home with a pop of texture and a festive look.

Served dusted with confectioners’ sugar, these pancakes feel like a special occasion – they’d be an ideal treat for Mother’s Day – but they are so healthful and simple to make they could rightly be enjoyed any time of year.


Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

4 servings (makes 12 pancakes)

With a bright punch of lemon and lovely texture from poppy seeds, these pancakes feel celebratory. And since they’re made with whole grain and almond flours, yogurt, healthy oil and minimal sweetener, they make for a healthful breakfast or brunch that could rightfully be enjoyed any time.

Make ahead: The batter can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Storage: Refrigerate leftover pancakes for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

1 cup (120 grams) whole-wheat pastry flour(see Substitutions)


1/2 cup (60 grams) almond flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

3 large eggs

1 cup (227 grams) plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt


1/4 cup (60 milliliters) whole or reduced-fat milk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more for optional serving

1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as avocado oil or canola, plus more for the pan

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 tablespoon poppy seeds

confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)

lemon slices, for serving (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pastry flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined and there are no clumps. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk, lemon juice, maple syrup, oil, lemon zest and vanilla until well combined. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture, and stir until just combined and no dry streaks remain. It’s OK if the batter has some lumps. Gently stir in the poppy seeds.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush lightly with oil. Add a small drop of the batter to the griddle or skillet, and if it immediately sizzles, the pan is ready. Use a No. 16 disher or a 1/4-cup (60 milliliter) measure to scoop 3 to 4 mounds of the batter onto the griddle or skillet, depending on the size of your pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pancakes are browned on the bottom and beginning to dry at the edges, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the other sides are browned and the pancakes are cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Adjust the heat as needed if the pancakes are browning too quickly. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve the pancakes topped with confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, if desired, and/or a slice of lemon, if you’d like.

Nutrition per serving (3 pancakes): 366 calories, 39g carbohydrates, 143mg cholesterol, 16g fat, 5g fiber, 16g protein, 2g saturated fat, 505mg sodium, 12g sugar

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