Posted by: thehungryrunner | April 7, 2009

The Great “High-Protein Pancake” Recipe Experiment!

pancake_stackAll hail, the multifaceted pancake! Pancakes are one of those foods whose variations run the entire length of the spectrum.  On one end, you have the most decadent, almost obscenely so, creations conceivable, everything from chocolate chip to banana sundae and ooey gooey caramel concoctions that make most dessert menus look outright saintly by comparison.  On the other end, you have recipes that manage to take ingredients that include egg whites, wheat bran, and honey and somehow make the combination taste yummy.  Maybe not as resplendent as, say, apple-cinnamon crepes topped with real whipped cream, but enough to pass as a great breakfast.  And you have both the sweet — the aforementioned examples still stand — and the savory, such as potato or cheese-topped or even grated zucchini pancakes with some interesting tomato sauce.  What other food boasts that kind of versatility?

Having said that, as much as I consider myself an enthusiastic adventurer of both extremes of that spectrum, I must confess a special place in my heart for the good ol’ fashioned plain buttermilk pancake.  You know the kind I mean:  that fluffy, sweetly basic cake that you get from using any mix with the instructions “Just add water” on the label.  McDonald’s hotcakes would be another fine example.  I think of all the McDonald’s pancakes I’d consumed in my youth, almost always under the same circumstances:  en route to a family vacation destination, usually a camping trip to Florida, and am quite sure the sum total is enough to create a REAL “house of pancakes” — complete with pancake walls, chimney and sundeck!  Sometimes there’s just no substitute for the original.

But sometimes there is, and in recent years, that substitution has often come in the form of various “high-protein” pancake recipes, boasting healthier ingredients and a simplicity of preparation that appeals to my Wile E. Coyote (I’d say “MacGyver” but I’m definitely not clever enough) side.  The idea that I could take, say, a leftover packet of instant cream of wheat, an egg white, a container of yogurt and a chopped apple and in 5 minutes have a hot and tasty skillet breakfast — seems almost miraculous to me!  Hence my never-ending quest for yet another twist on that basic theme.

Which brings me to our recent “High Protein Pancake” Recipe Experiment.  I say “our” because it was a joint effort:  I would make the pancakes, and Dan, my husband would be yee royal taste-tester.  We chose our respective roles partly because I don’t have a very discriminating palate when it comes time to pancakes.  The sad truth is, I’ll eat just about anything that bears even remote resemblence to a pancake, even more so when the ingredients are unconventional and/or “healthy” (must be the novelty of it).  Dan, on the other hand, while a pancake enthusiast himself, has a more standard range of preferences, thus could be a more objective judge of those recipes that work and those that….well, fall flat.  Bad pancake pun!  Sorry about that.

Now of course, the possibilities of which high-protein recipes to test and compare are just about endless.  But for the sake of simplicity, we honed in on three versions of the same basic recipe:  Test Recipe #1 uses cottage cheese as the primary protein source, Test Recipe #2 uses whey protein powder (no cottage cheese) for the protein, and Test Recipe #3 contains both cottage cheese AND whey protein powder.  We also tested two toppings for each of the three:  either butter spray and “light” maple syrup, or a small amount of “light and low in trans fat” margarine and once again, a “light” maple syrup.   So basically, we had six different pancake breakfasts to compare and contrast.  And I must say, the difference in the appearance, taste, and texture of the three was rather distinct, and the verdict somewhat surprising!

Without further ado, here they are, our three test recipes:

Test Recipe #1:  “….With Cottage Cheese”

  • 1 small container (1/2 cup) Egg Beaters
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry oatmeal (not instant, but the quick-cook kind)
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 packet non-nutritive sweetener (I used Sweet-n-Low)
  • sprinkling of cinnamon
  • nonstick cooking spray

Directions:  Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and place on medium heat to preheat pan.  Meanwhile, combine the Egg Beaters and cottage cheese in a mixing bowl, stirring with a fork or whisk until well-blended.  Add oatmeal, sweetener, baking powder and cinnamon and mix vigorously for about a minute.  Check pan’s temperature by dropping a tiny amount of water on it.  If the water bubbles/sizzles immediately, the pan is ready.  Using a large spoon or small ladle, spoon a small amount of the batter into the pan, gently spreading it to a pancake shape if it’s too thick to do this on its own.  Cook on one side until bubbles begin to appear and burst on the top of the batter.  Using a spatula, carefully flip over and cook for roughly the same amount of time (given a choice, it’s better to overcook than undercook the pancake).  Transfer the cooked pancake to a plate, and repeat until all the batter is used up.  Serve while warm with butter spray (or light/low-trans-fat margarine) and light maple syrup.

Serves 1.

Test Recipe #2:  “…..With Whey Protein Powder”

  • 1 small container (1/2 cup) Egg Beaters
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder (I used the vanilla flavor Designer Whey Protein, which I can find readily at most of our area grocery store chains)
  • 1/2 cup dry oatmeal (not instant, but the quick-cook kind)
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 packet non-nutritive sweetener (I used Sweet-n-Low)
  • sprinkling of cinnamon
  • nonstick cooking spray

Directions:  Follow the same directions as above.  Additional water should not be needed, but if the batter is thick enough to be more like dough, add a little water to thin it out — not too much!

Test Recipe #3:  “….With Cottage Cheese AND Whey Protein Powder”

  • 1 small container (1/2 cup) Egg Beaters
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder (once again, I used the vanilla flavor from Designer Whey)
  • 1/2 cup dry oatmeal (not instant, but the quick-cook kind)
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 packet non-nutritive sweetener (I used Sweet-n-Low)
  • sprinkling of cinnamon
  • nonstick cooking spray

Directions:  Follow the same directions as above.  Additional water should not be needed, but if the batter is thick enough to be more like dough, add a little water to thin it out — not too much!

The Verdict

  • Best Taste/Texture:  Recipe #1
  • Most “Pancake Like” in Appearance:  Recipe #2

While the recipe made with just the whey protein most certainly LOOKED like the pancakes pictured on the box of pancake mixes, that’s where the intrigue ended for Dan.  His complaint?  Too rubbery, a tough texture, and an odd taste.  He actually asked my permission to not even finish the first pancake!  On the flip side (another bad pancake pun, oops), although Recipe #1 didn’t have quite the photogenic appearance one thinks of when picturing a pancake, my husband found them to be quite tasty, and happily ate the entire serving (special note:  each serving was small, I know he will thank me for making sure I offer that disclosure).  Surprisingly, to accompany the light maple syrup for a topping, Dan preferred the lighter, simpler butter spray instead of the light margarine to top the cakes.

In conclusion, it seems your best bet is, unless you have a specific reason to incorporate the whey protein, to stick with the simple and basic Recipe #1, with just the cottage cheese for protein.  What’s interesting about this outcome is it jives perfectly with my own conclusions over the years I have used this recipe.  While I actually don’t mind the flavor and texture of the whey protein pancake (true indicator of the pancake addict that I am), I myself still prefer the cottage cheese recipe.  The former tastes more like “health food,” the latter tastes like just a nice, light, yummy breakfast dish.

So there you go!  We tested and tasted these pancake recipes so you don’t have to.  Happy Pancakes to you!



  1. Wow, this is great help. My kids love pancakes, but I mind the carb low that comes 40 minutes later. We’re taking a long bike-ride today and I took a minute to search for a high protein pancake recipe that would keep them going. So many recipes out there — and how to know which one would actually turn out? Your narrative account of taste-testing 3 recipes is great. I’m going to try this. Thanks for making your experiment available!

  2. Just made your #1. They were fantastic – very pancake like & very satisfying. I used 1/2 packet of Stevia and used coconut oil instead of nonstick spray. Otherwise followed your recipe exactly. THANK YOU – I will be making these again and again.

    • Thank you, Lisa! I’m glad they worked out so well. Wow, that’s a great idea, both with the Stevia and the coconut oil. I’ll have to give that a try.

  3. Thanks! I made #1 and they are yummy (I substituted egg whites for egg beaters)! Did you create recipe or find it? Anyways, I am adding this to my breakfast rotation.

    • Hi Brit! Thank you, I’m glad you had success with it. Funny you should mention egg whites. I too (originally) used them for this recipe (still do if that’s what I have on hand); the change to Egg Beaters was partly due to our having them in the house for other uses. As far as where I got the recipe, it’s more or less the result of having made many similar variations over the years, adding and subtracting ingredients as I went along. So I guess it’s a combination of my own creation and ideas from others.

  4. Made them again. This time, added 1/2 sliced banana and 2 tbls (+/-) ground flax to the mix. This yielded 4 pancakes instead of 3. You simply must try with the flax. The batter held together better (not that it was a problem before) but I’m sure you’ll see the diff adding flax makes. I’m (unusually) excited about this concoction! I’ve shared with several friends so this particular post may be seeing alot more action soon. luv from an always-nutrient-dense seeking foodie in the SF Bay Area.

    • Thank you, sumokittysuperhero! (love the name, btw) I can imagine how this would be a terrific addition, both for taste and texture (to say nothing about nutrition). Thank you for sharing, I think I have found our Sunday breakfast for this weekend. 🙂

  5. […] meals.  I have to admit there were no photos taken.  The above shot is from The Hungry Runner.  Fitting because the pancakes this morning were the healthy post-workout […]

  6. […] But in the case of Greek yogurt, that place is most definitely that of high-protein pancakes (need a recipe?  Check here).  There’s something about the thickness of the Greek yogurt, the tang, yet the moisture it […]

  7. […] Cottage Cheese Protein Pancakes (Adapted from The Hungry Runner Blog) […]

  8. I just made the #1 Recipe and they were great! After I mixed all of the ingredients, I put them in the food processor to eliminate some of the “chunkiness” so that they had more of a pancake-like consistency and appearance. They turned out great!

    • Hello Lauren, That’s a great idea! I don’t have a food processor but I do have a good blender. I’m going to have to try that out and see how it affects the consistency!

  9. This was great – everyone loved it, and was very easy to make.

    • Thank you for letting me know — glad to hear it! 🙂

  10. I make similar to #1 at least twice a week, I know you said put in mixing bowl and whisk… but try this if you haven’t yet! I put it all in a blender and it blends up just like regular pancake batter… I put a little almond butter on top and it’s the perfect protein meal!

    • Hey, thank you for the suggestion! I’ll have to try it, especially with the almond butter. One of my favorite foods!

  11. im loving it 🙂

    Learn how to make protein fluff here with our recipes!
    Low calorie and high protein fluff!

  13. […] Pancakes- Pancakes do not have to be fattening or unhealthy. Try Oatmeal Pancakes, High Protein Pancakes, Pumpkin Pancakes or Spelt Pancakes as healthy […]

  14. anxious to try theses

  15. […] and spoon some low-fat yogurt or drizzle sugar-free pancake syrup on your healthy hotcakes (for recipes, see my 2009 post, The Great High-protein Pancake Experiment).  But why limit yourself?  At […]

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