Nothing gets more cheers than when a big stack of pancakes hits the breakfast table. This version has a vegetable and fruit twist! The classic buttermilk pancake base is loaded with carrot cake-inspired ingredients. The good news is unlike a cake, there is no baking needed or long wait time to dig in!
Freshly grated carrots, chopped raisins, pecans, and a handful of bold spices get folded into the thick batter. The pancakes rise into tall and fluffy stacks that are perfectly golden brown on the surface.
Maple syrup is always a winner to drizzle on top, but a lightly sweetened and spiced cream cheese topping is even better. These pancakes deliver all of the characteristic taste of carrot cake, but for breakfast.
Carrots in Pancakes? Yes!
A big slice of carrot cake layered with smooth cream cheese frosting is pure bliss. You’ll be surprised that it’s actually quite simple to shift the basic flavors of the dessert into griddle cake form.
It may seem strange to add fresh carrots into the batter, but the finely grated root vegetable seamlessly melds into each pancake. Carrots are naturally sweet, and lose their crunch when cooked, making it a great pairing in the recipe. You just want to make sure you use the fine or smallest holes on your box grater for the carrots.
Bold, warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves add the delicious aromatics that the baked version delivers. Chopped pecans add a delightful unexpected crunch to each bite. Raisins, love them or hate them, add just a touch of extra sweetness.
Make These Pancakes Extra Special
Just a little dollop of cream cheese topping makes these pancakes borderline dessert, without being overwhelming. A simple combination of softened cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and heavy cream whipped until light and fluffy is a special treat that you won’t want to skip.
Swaps, Suggestions, and Substitutions
- Nuts: You can totally skip adding in the nuts and the taste would still be delicious.
- Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute milk -- preferably whole milk, but any milk will work. However, the batter won’t as thick, and you will need to add some kind of acidic ingredient.
Two cups of whole milk + two tablespoons of lemon juice. Allow it to sit for five minutes before adding to the batter, or
- One and a half cups milk + a half cup Greek yogurt or sour cream whisked together. In this case, your batter will still be thick.
Tips for Making the Best Pancakes
- Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, leaving a few streaks of flour. This ensures that the batter is not over-mixed, turning rubbery instead of tender.
- Make sure to allow the pancake batter to sit for ten minutes before cooking to allow the ingredients to hydrate.
- The batter is very thick—use the back of the spoon to quickly shape it into a circle in the pan, about three and a half to four inches in size.
- Pancakes are ready to flip when small air bubbles rise to the surface and pop in the wet batter.
- Do not press down the pancakes after flipping! This will make them flat instead of tall and fluffy. This pushes out all of those beautiful bubbles formed from the baking soda and baking powder to give rise to the cakes.
What’s Better: Oil or Butter?
Vegetable oil is my cooking fat of choice for pancakes. It’s neutral in flavor, has a high smoke point, and just a thin layer is needed to coat the pan.
Butter is much more flavorful—however, as the dairy solids cook, they begin to brown. If left in the pan for too long cooking several pancake batches, the cakes can take on a burnt flavor. If you do go with butter, just use a paper towel to wipe down the pan in between to make sure you are using fresh butter each time.
How to Make a Big Batch of Pancakes
The best way to keep the pancakes warm so everyone can eat together is to keep them in a low oven.
- Preheat your oven to 200°F.
- Place a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet pan.
- Layer the cooked pancakes on the baking rack and place in the oven while you make additional pancakes.
- Don’t leave the pancakes in the oven longer than 20 to 30 minutes—otherwise, they could dry out.
The Best Way to Freeze Pancakes
The beauty of these pancakes is that they freeze wonderfully so that you can warm one up anytime the craving hits. Once the pancakes have cooled down, layer them between parchment paper and place them in a resealable bag. They can be frozen like this for up to one month.
The best way to thaw frozen pancakes is one by one, loosely wrapped in a paper towel set on a plate. Defrost on high power until warmed through, about 60 to 75 seconds.
I actually do the defrost method, then toast them on a low setting to get a nice crispy contrast on the surface, just like frozen waffles. This way, they taste just like you made them fresh!
More Pancake Recipes
Carrot Cake Pancakes
- For the Cream Cheese Topping (makes 1 1/2 cups):
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup (81g) golden brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- For the Carrot Cake Pancakes:
- 2 cups (284g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (24g) brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon (3g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (3g) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups (480ml) buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons (44g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (116g) carrots, peeled and finely grated
- 1/2 cup (57g) pecan halves, finely chopped plus more for topping
- 1/4 cup (37g) raisins roughly chopped
- Vegetable oil, as needed for cooking
- To serve:
- Pure maple syrup, as needed for topping
Make the cream cheese topping:
Add cream cheese, heavy cream, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to the bowl of a stand mixer or use a hand mixer. Beat the ingredients together on medium speed until fully combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, 45 to 60 seconds. Set it aside, and make the pancakes.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
Combine the wet ingredients:
In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, cooled melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the finely grated carrots, chopped pecans, and chopped raisins.
Make the batter:
Gently stir in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, there should be a few flour streaks and batter should be lumpy. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes before cooking. The unmixed flour should hydrate while the batter sits; if it doesn't, stir the batter once or twice and let it sit a few more minutes.
Prepare the pan:
Heat a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, use a paper towel to wipe a thin layer of oil over the surface.
Cook the pancakes:
Add 1/4 cup of pancake batter into the pan. Use the back of a spoon to form into a circle. Cook three pancakes at a time, if your pan allows.
Cook until the pancakes are golden brown, edges are set, and a few small bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, greasing the pan as needed.
Serve pancakes with cream cheese topping, chopped pecans, and maple syrup.