Pancake Fridays: Red Velvet Pancakes

You know it’s obsession when you’re crouching on your stone-cold cement balcony at 6:50 a.m. trying to convince your frigid fingers to arrange a drip of cream cheese frosting just so while trying to balance, focus and shoot with your camera in the other hand.

It’s cold for Houston. We’re talking some 40 degree temperatures. Daylight savings means no more photographing after work, so hello early morning photoshoots!

I’ll only do it for pancakes.

I didn’t want to put the source of the food coloring in the title since it might turn some people off. But I want everyone to give them a chance. They’re soo.good. And HEALTHY. Guys. These pancakes are red because they have…

Beets. Yup. And they make these pancakes incredibly luscious and tender without a lick of oil. Or butter. Or coconut oil. No fat 4eva!

There is a little more sugar in this recipe than what I usually put in. But you can always dial it back, or swap in a little less honey or agave if you desire.

Although I’m totally a fan of rainbow-studded baked goods, a large part of why I make stuff from scratch is to NOT ingest all the funky preservatives and crazy ingredients that are in a lot of processed foods. Food coloring included. And it turns outΒ when you put grated vegetables into pancakes, they turn magically tender and fluffy instead of gummy, like most no-fat baked goods. WHY IS THIS?? I have no idea, but I’ll take it.

So once you have these super healthy pancakes, you must then, um, obviously smother them in cream cheese frosting.*

And cocoa powder–the cocoa powder is a MUST. I sprinkled it on for aesthetic purposes and ended up scraping the plate for every dusty, bittersweet crumb. It’s the perfect balancing act to an incredibly rich frosting.

I don’t usually eat my photoshoots after I shoot my food. (Correction: I don’t usually eat ALL of my photoshoots.) But I had to hide these in the fridge to keep myself from demolishing the entire stack before work.

Conclusion: these are fabulous. Though I’m usually all about the pancake and ambivalent towards toppings, I have to demand that you make these with the frosting. These pancakes are a little plain, underlined by a subtle chocolatiness and punched up with earthy, rustic beet sweetness. They are phenomenal when you add frosting and cocoa powder. If you use a judicious hand with the frosting, these can still be considered a fairly wholesome breakfast, unlike these jokesters.

PS. These were prompted by a tupperware of frozen leftover cream cheese frosting from a certain batch of cinnamon rolls. I figured red velvet pancakes were the perfect vehicle to use it up which was FALSE! I still have tons left. Any suggestions for what to do with it?


I adapted this from Smitten Kitchen’s carrot cake pancakesΒ by adding a dash of cocoa powder, upping the sugar and swapping in a lower amount of beets for carrots. If you are topping this with cream cheese frosting or some kind of sweet topping (please, please do!), I think you could stand to decrease the sugar by a tablespoon. I’m in the habit of snacking on some plain, and so wanted them on the sweeter side.

My beets were extremely juicy after grating. I tossed them into the batter, juice and all. No need to drain or attempt to pat dry.

Beet Red Velvet Pancakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 14 small pancakes

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated beets (about 1 large)

Cream cheese topping
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in beets. Stir beet mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until just incorporated. Let rest for five minutes while you make the cream cheese topping and heat a lightly greased pan over medium heat.

To make the cream cheese topping: In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy and lump-free. Whisk in powdered sugar, two tablespoons milk and vanilla. If you’d like the mixture thinner, add the remaining tablespoon of milk.

If you have not already done so, grease the pan with a thin layer of oil (I like using a paper towel to spread the oil around). Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the pan per pancake. Flip when the surface begins to look dry, taut and the mottled with bubbles. Cook until pancakes are crisped on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer finished pancakes to a serving dish or tray in a 200 degree oven, to keep warm while you repeat the process with the remaining batter, re-greasing the pan as needed.

Serve warm with cream cheese topping and extra cocoa powder.

Nutrition facts (per pancake, or 1/14 recipe): 60 cal, 1g fat, 1.4g fiber, 5g sugar, 2g protein)

Check out my other Pancake Fridays!

Pancake Fridays: Cornbread Pancakes
Pancake Fridays: Lemon Bar Pancakes
Pancake Fridays: Peanut Butter Carrot Pancakes
Pancake Fridays: Pumpkin Pancakes
Pancake Fridays: Tarte Tatin Pancakes
Pancake Fridays: Tres Leches Pancakes
Pancake Fridays: Whole Wheat Pear and Chocolate Pancakes

65 responses to “Pancake Fridays: Red Velvet Pancakes

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  5. Love the post! Great photos! And isn’t it a pain now that we have lost our evening light?! I feel like I am rushing to have a beer or make dinner before I lose light…but that doesn’t happen. I end up taking day pictures of beer and then drinking them later πŸ˜€ But it doesn’t work as well with food…

    • Thank you so much! Yes, it is SUCH a pain–never realized how much I take natural light for granted until I tried to shoot in 5pm pitch-blackness! But good thing it doesn’t stop the beer drinking πŸ™‚

  6. Ahh, these look delicious! I happen to love beets, and what a great idea to use them for color! So glad to have discovered your lovely blog… your photos are beautiful. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

    • Hi there! They’re actually not very heavy–there’s a very light chocolate flavor and the pancakes have a fairly subtle sweetness. The cream cheese frosting is SUPER rich though!

      Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  7. I love pancake Fridays but even more love the fact that your red coloring is beets instead of red dye number 49. Beets make it so moist and your photos are just gorgeous.

    • Aww that is adorable!! You must have fed your little one well if she loves beets! So healthy πŸ™‚ I hope she likes them if you end up trying these!

  8. Erika, Pancake Friday is my favourite day of the week! I can’t believe you used beets for the red colour – that’s so cool! Perfect alternative to using that icky food colouring (one reason why I never make red velvet anything). And I’m totally onboard with smothering the pancakes in cream cheese frosting. More please!

    • Awww thanks Nancy πŸ™‚ I know, I can’t wait to make more red velvet things with beets now! So get ready for even more cream cheese frosting!!

  9. you know it’s obsession when you don’t let your boyfriend (or anyone) eat the pretty cookies until AFTER you’ve shot them in pure daylight. πŸ˜‰


  10. Oh my Erika! These look so sinfully adorable!! I love this so much. What a great brunch, or late lunch, early dinner, or even 3:00 a.m. meal!

  11. Love that you used beets, that’s my one problem with red velvet anything is that I can’t get over how much food coloring goes into it!! Haha, isn’t it crazy what we’ll do to get a good photo?? Your frosting pictures came out perfectly πŸ™‚

    • Aww thank you so much!! And I totally agree about red food coloring–so gross to think about all the chemicals you have to ingest for most commercial kinds!

  12. These pancakes look scrumptious. And I most definitely want them in my belly right now. Like I want to run home and buy beets and have them for dinner. I’ve never used beets as food coloring, but I’ve seen it often and I love the idea. I actually really like how the color is kind of a muted red and not an artificial firetruck red. These are seriously beautiful Erika!

    And I definitely understand the photo thing that you mentioned. So often, the very first thing I do when I get up in the morning is run out to my balcony to take some food photos. I know that my roommate probably thinks I’m crazy. But the light is so nice then!

    • Haha awww thank you so much! You totally should have them for dinner because um, wholesome much? And I’m glad you liked the red–I was worried they wouldn’t be red enough with the whole wheat flour and cocoa powder but beets have some serious color power!

      Lol totally! Luckily my roommate puts up with all my crazy photography stunts (like stacking four chairs to create a light diffuser when I was trying indoor photography) but hahaha I’m sure she thinks I’m crazy on some level πŸ™‚ You’re right-that morning light is just unbeatable!

  13. Oh yes, I’ve seen beets a lot of food coloring, it’s sooo much healthier! Yours look gorgeous as always!! I know what you mean about gummy too….it’s a huge challenge with vegan pancakes without the use of eggs. Eggs give them fluff and a lightness! It’s quite a challenge for me but I’ve learned a lot of tricks and am mastering my techniques and love baking. I always love what you post, definitely mouth watering!

    • I know, I tried making lemon poppyseed pancakes without eggs the other day and they were an utter, utter fail :(( Have you tried Post Punk Kitchen’s pillow pancakes? They are my absolute FAV vegan pancake, hands down. I mean, not that I’ve had a lot, but I liked them just as much as a “normal” pancake πŸ™‚

      Thank you so muchh πŸ™‚

      • Oh, I’ve actually made vegan work after many batches and many trials of different ingredients. I use apple cider vinegar, make sure my pan is well heated and make sure the battery’s not overly thick. I also partially cover with a lid so the top and center cook more evenly since vegan pancakes often have that problem of mushy centers. I also use coconut milk which I love in them πŸ™‚ Hey, practice makes perfect right? Lol. I once saw on Elana’s pantry that she made 12 batches of cupcakes before perfecting a recipe! πŸ™‚

  14. Ohhhh my goodness! These are so interesting… I’m glad you saved the “beet” secret until I started reading your post so I went into this with an open mind. I’ve NEVER had beets but am somehow convinced I won’t like them (I have no idea why!). However, your recipes always inspire and intrigue! I swear, your pictures alone make me want to give grated veggies a shot. You’re so creative!

    What the heck do you mean you don’t usually eat your creations? Does your boyfriend?! Please tell me they don’t go to waste?! They look way too amazing for that!

    • Hahaha okay I’m glad my strategy worked on at least one person! I can’t believe you’ve never had beets! Ugh, I’ve some of the most amazing salads with beets…beets, goat cheese, arugula, a little lemon, olive oil salt and pepper?? Yum.

      Haha, but I know what it’s like to think that you just won’t like something (hello me and cream cheese frosting. I resisted it for years!) Think of beets as…really soft, maroon carrots πŸ™‚ They really don’t have a strong taste at all. Haha I really think you should try them!!!

      LOL yes, usually I try to pawn the leftovers off on my bf, my lovely roommate who is great about trying my baking failures and successes alike, or anyone else within feasible reach. I definitely eat some (in some cases, most!) of what I bake, but I try to give a lot of it away :)) (I can’t stand waste either!)

    • Thank you! I thought they were tasty, though my beet-hating sister might disagree πŸ™‚ But beets really are the most gorgeous color–I think they should be used more often!

  15. These look Amazing!!! The use of beets instead of oil and food color is amazing! This is such a great idea! I can use it to tint cakes, frosting etc! Thank you for such a great recipe and idea!

    • I’m so glad you like these!! I was worried I would scare everyone off haha πŸ™‚ But I just LOVE beets! I made a beet red velvet cake and tinted the frosting pink and I thought it was so coool. I am so flattered that you reblogged these on your healthy blog! Thank you so much and have a great weekend πŸ™‚

      • I love beets too! Using artificial food color is so bad for you. My sister in law is super allergic to red dye and it is in EVERYTHING that is red out there. It is my pleasure to share your recipe and healthy alternatives to fat and food color. Really great idea πŸ™‚ Have a great weekend as well πŸ™‚

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