Flipping out

Pancakes can be a minefield for those with food allergies. We’ve sought out some alternative recipes that show it’s perfectly possible to make gluten, dairy and egg-free versions without compromising on flavour.

No one should have to live without pancakes. Yet the trinity of pancake ingredients – milk, flour and eggs – can cause misery for people with food allergies or intolerances. True food allergies are most common in children: 6–8 per cent of British youngsters have at least one, according to Allergy UK.  One in 100 people in the UK have to follow a gluten-free diet because they have the autoimmune condition coeliac disease, according to the charity Coeliac UK. Then there are the millions who struggle with food intolerances. Luckily, these days there’s a host of alternative ingredients you can use to make pancakes. Follow a few nifty tricks from “free-from” cooks, and everyone can get frying and flipping this Pancake Day.

Good news: there’s a raft of alternatives to pour into your pancake batter. If you’re lactose intolerant, you could simply switch to lactose-free milk (M&S does a good one, produced in the UK). It has the same consistency and taste as regular milk. If you have a dairy allergy or are avoiding it for other reasons, rice milk and almond milk both work in pancakes without affecting taste or texture: simply swap them for the milk in your favourite recipe. To make fluffy “buttermilk“ pancakes, I add a tablespoon of lemon juice to 225ml of almond milk and leave to stand for five minutes. Look for non-GM and unsweetened products: Rude Health does a range of sugar-free, organic almond, rice and oat milks. Then there’s the small matter of toppings. “Try pure extra-virgin coconut oil on top instead of butter,” suggests Jordan Bourke, author of The Guilt-Free Gourmet.

Pippa Kendrick, author of The Intolerant Gourmet, is a big fan of Doves Farm Gluten-Free Self-Raising Flour, a wheat-free blend of tapioca, rice, potato, maize and buckwheat flours. “Doves Farm is British, it’s an ethical company, and was one of the first to focus on gluten-free, using separate mills,” she says. Jordan Bourke is also a fan: “It’s a fairly straightforward swap for regular flour, especially if you’re making thin pancakes or crêpes. You wouldn’t know they were any different to normal pancakes,” he says. To make wholegrain or “earthier” pancakes, Kendrick suggests using half of a white flour blend such as the Doves Farm and half brown-rice flour or gram flour (made from ground chickpeas). This will help to keep the pancakes from becoming too dense.

If you can’t eat eggs, you’re going to need something else to bind those pancakes together. Kendrick uses an egg replacer by Orgran called No Egg (“the only one on the market”) in her lemon and sugar pancakes. The product is a blend of potato starch and tapioca flour.

Alternatively, she suggests using cornflour: a teaspoon of cornflour plus two tablespoons of water and a pinch of baking powder (gluten-free, if needed) is “equivalent to one egg”. “Whisk to get a bit of froth into it,” she says, adding: “Pancakes made with egg replacer definitely taste as nice as regular ones.” An alternative that’s popular with vegan cooks is apple purée. Use it in sweet pancakes, or when you want apple to be an integral part of the flavour – for example, in hot cakes with cinnamon and currants. Apple purée won’t work with thin pancakes or crêpes, says Kendrick. But it’s good for “US-style chubby, gooier pancakes”.