Gluten-free pancakes recipe

This is a very easy, no-fuss, gluten-free pancake recipe that relies on masa harina. Amounts are for 2 people.

Dry ingredients:

3/4 cup masa harina for tortillas

3/4 cup masa harina for tamales

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar (if desired)

Wet ingredients:

2 eggs

1 tablespoon oil or melted butter

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (can use water)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Additional water as desired

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then add the wet ingredients. The batter will be too stiff. Do not use additional buttermilk. Instead, use water to thin the batter how you like it. I like my pancake batter a bit on the thick side.  I cook mine on a buttered cast iron skillet. This batter does better if you cook it for a little longer, at a little lower temperature than you would standard pancakes. I like to stir in different fruits, nuts and spices, too. I do not like “fluffy” pancakes. I prefer my pancakes to have some substance, and to make me feel like I’ve been fed. These fit the bill. They may be too heavy for your tastes.

Why this recipe is brilliant: It uses masa harina! Masa harina is great for gluten-free cooking and baking because some mysterious property is has is that foods made from it hold together! Unlike regular corn meals and corn flours that produce goods so delicate they can’t be handled, food made with masa harina is much sturdier. Most gluten-free recipes that are trying to recreate wheat-based foods include a bunch of esoteric ingredients like xanthan gum and bean flours that try to make up for the gluten. With masa harina, you don’t need any of that. Masa harina is also great because it is good nutrition. Regular cornmeal and corn flour, which are ground from maize (field corn or dent corn), are not nutritionally accessible, and excessive reliance on them for food leads to vitamin deficiency disease, such as pellagra. Masa harina, on the other hand, is made using nixtmalization, a process native to the Americas, in which the corn is first soaked in calcium oxide, or lime, before grinding, which render the nutrition bioavailable. This difference in processing, which was unknown to the descendants of the Europeans living in the United States, is why native peoples have relied on maize to sustain them for thousands of years, and the southerners who ate plain cornmeal in the United States fell ill.

Give this recipe a try. I have not tried to make a vegan version. If you do, let me know how it turns out. I also think if you have a favorite pancake recipe, the masa harina may be flexible enough for you to just substitute it for the amount of wheat flour. The key is to use half masa for tortillas, and half masa for tamales. Both kinds of masa harina will be on the shelf at your local Latino market. I feel that gives the best texture.

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  1. #1 by Jonathan Avedian on May 7, 2012 - 5:13 am

    Thanks! I made these this morning for a visiting celiac relative using all Maseca yellow corn flour masa harina (it is all I had), and they were wonderful – I like them better than regular pancakes! We had to cook them at a lower temperature on our electric griddle for a little longer than the regular pancakes, but it is a keeper, even for us that can eat gluten. How does using the tamale masa change the texture?

    • #2 by thinkfeelhealth on May 7, 2012 - 7:53 pm

      Hi, Jonathan!

      I’m so glad you gave this a try and it was a success! Your comment reminds me that they do in fact cook lower and slower than regular pancakes. I have been making whole grain pancakes for so long, I forgot about that part. I should edit the recipe to reflect that, thank you. To answer your question, tamale masa yields a pancake that is much cakeier, lighter and fluffier. For me, all tamale masa is too fluffy. I like ym pancakes to have a bit of heft. All tortilla masa, though, is a bit too smooth. Tamale masa has other uses for gluten-free cooking, too, being superior for cookies, bars and cobblers. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. #3 by Cathryn Cardellino on February 15, 2015 - 2:16 pm

    I made these using water instead of buttermilk and adding 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. I separated the eggs, beating the whites to peaks and folding them into the finished batter. The cakes were delicious, thick and fluffy except for tasting of baking soda. I used only 3/4 tsp. + 3/4 tsp baking powder, but maybe because of just using water, it was too much. Next time I will only use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. baking soda and they should be perfect. I also think 1 tsp. of salt is too much and will reduce that as well.

    • #4 by thinkfeelhealth on February 15, 2015 - 3:22 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Cathryn! If you are beating the eggs to stiff peaks, you can use way less baking soda. The stiffly beaten egg whites are a very effective leavening agent. I make a reduced carb version of these that uses no baking soda at all, using beaten egg whites instead. Choosing to use baking powder rather than soda is your call, of course, you can do as you like. I don’t know how that affects the recipe, since I’ve never done it. I’m glad you had success!

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