These sweet zucchini walnut pancakes are like a loaf of your favorite zucchini bread taking on the shape of pancakes. Packed with shredded zucchini, olive oil, whole grains, and walnuts, and gently perfumed with cinnamon and lemon zest, these pancakes have enough fiber, vegetables, and healthy fats to qualify as a healthful breakfast option.
These pancakes taste toasty from the white whole wheat flour, gently tangy from the buttermilk, warm and sunny from the cinnamon and lemon, and with lots of crunch from the walnuts.
Maple syrup (warmed for bonus points) and a pat of butter are, in my opinion, the perfect accompaniment to these pancakes. A mild, runny honey is a lovely alternative.
If you’ve ever wanted a legitimate excuse to eat cake for breakfast, look no further!
Zucchini: No Need to Squeeze
This recipe calls for about two cups of shredded zucchini. You don’t need to squeeze the moisture out of the zucchini as you might for other recipes. This one takes advantage of the high water content of zucchini. The rest of the liquid ingredients (like buttermilk) are kept to a minimum, so the balance of wet and dry ingredients isn’t thrown off.
Do Not Overmix the Batter
Over-mixing the batter makes pancakes tough and dense because of too much gluten development. While this is less of a concern with whole wheat flour, gentle mixing is still the way to go for the loftiest pancakes.
Use a large rubber spatula to mix the batter until the ingredients are just barely combined. You don’t want any large pockets of dry flour, but some small lumps are good and even highly recommended!
How to Perfectly Cook Zucchini Walnut Pancakes
For diner-style pancakes with evenly golden-brown bottoms, an ungreased pan is the way to go! With a good non-stick skillet or griddle, there’s little chance of sticking and the pancakes will turn out golden from edge to edge.
Oil or butter in a pan tends to pool underneath the pancakes and result in a mottled–but tasty!–appearance. If you swear by greasing your pan or it’s not reliably non-stick, use oil as it’s less likely to burn than butter.
If you’re feeding a crowd and would like to sit down all together, simply slide your pancakes onto a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet as they come off the griddle. Keep them warm in an oven that’s been preheated to 275°F—it’s warm enough to retain the heat of the pancakes but not enough to overcook and dry them out.
Delicious Pancake Variations
Here are other spices, nuts, oils, and flours I’d use and recommend.
- Substitute ground cardamom for the cinnamon for a little something different.
- Almost any other roughly chopped nut will work in place of the walnuts: almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts.
- White whole wheat flour is key to keeping all the goodness of whole grains without the heaviness or bitterness that regular whole wheat sometimes has. But if you can’t find white whole wheat, don’t let that hold you back from making these pancakes! Simply substitute a half and half mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flour (that’s 3/4 cup of each in this recipe).
- Use a neutral vegetable oil (such as canola or peanut) or melted coconut oil instead of the olive oil.
How to Store and Reheat Pancakes
Zucchini walnut pancakes will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Beyond that, they tend to dry out and do better in the freezer for long-term storage.
These pancakes are good candidates for freezing. Stack them in an airtight container or zip top bag with a small square of parchment or wax paper between each to prevent them from sticking to each other. Freeze them for up to 1 month.
A toaster is great for reheating pancakes. They emerge crispy outside and warm in the middle. Toast on a medium-low setting for about 2 minutes. (Toasters and settings vary so some experimentation might be needed to figure out the perfect configuration for yours.)
Never microwave pancakes to reheat! They become rubbery and limp.
More Ways to Win at Breakfast
Zucchini Walnut Pancakes
- 1 1/2 cups (170g) white whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (227g) buttermilk
- 1/4 cup (50g) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon packed finely grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
- 8 ounces zucchini, coarsely shredded (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup (56g) roughly chopped walnuts
- Maple syrup and butter, for serving
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk to combine.
Combine the wet ingredients:
In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, olive oil, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest until combined well.
Make the batter:
Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture along with the shredded zucchini and chopped walnuts. Using a spatula, fold the batter until the ingredients are just combined and there are no large pockets of dry flour. Do not overmix. Some small dry lumps are okay.
Cook the pancakes:
Heat a large non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat. If using an electric griddle, heat griddle to 325°F. I don't grease the skillet, but you can use a little vegetable oil if the skillet isn't reliably non-stick.
Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop the batter onto the skillet, cooking one or two pancakes at a time or as many as will fit without overlapping.
The pancakes are ready to flip when the edges look matte, bubbles form on the surface, and the bottom is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the second side is a light golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Serve the pancakes:
Serve the pancakes immediately with maple syrup and butter.