Teff n’ Quinoa Gluten Free Vegan Pancakes Recipe
Autumn and Winter are ideal times for the warming, grounding quality of of pancakes. But why use pre-packaged, over-salted, sugary, low-fiber pancake mixes whose pre-ground grains may or may not be fresh, when it’s so easy to make it yourself.

shalom_pancakerecipeHere is today’s recipe– spicy like my mom’s spice cake, low-fat, naturally sweet without sugar, and with as little salt as you want.. If you like salt, add some! You control what goes in to the mix. So use some quality sea salt if you need to. Trader Joe’s has two kinds of great sea salt, one French from the Atlantic, and one Spanish from the Mediterranean. Have kids? Add a little raw sugar to the mix, but don’t ruin their palates; a little bit goes a long way.

Pan cakes are just what they say they are: little cakes baked on a pan. Baking is a method of cooking that imparts a deep, grounding, nurturing warmth to foods, so it is very good in cold weather. I get the best results from a well seasoned cast iron pan, in addition, you barely need any oil for the pan; after the first batch I don’t even re-grease the griddle.

I buy whole grains and grind them in my spice grinder as needed, that way they are as fresh as possilbe, because the oil in the germ is protected from rancidity more when whole than when floured. By “spice grinder” I really mean a simple coffee grinder. I have two. One I use to grind my spices like cumin, pepper, and coriander. That way they are always fresh and full of the essential oils that give them their aroma and taste. The second one I use for grinding grains and even lentils into flour. Of course a food processor works just as well or better, since the motor is stronger, but I have limited counter space and the spice grinder is quicker and easier to use.

What I love about this recipe, too, is that teff and quinoa are both so light, and ginger and nutmeg aid digestion, so you can eat these without needing to nap afterwards,  whereas wheat based pancakes can be so leaden in the stomach.

Teff and especially quinoa are both good grains for Kapha types, in that they are lighter, and also slightly bitter, so a Kapha type can indulge in this kind of pancake, whereas wheat based ones they need to avoid.   While quinoa could be too bitter and light for Vatta in cold dry weather, in this recipe, with its warm, sweet flavors, its quite balanced, which elucidates the fact that foodstuffs effects on the doshas are somewhat ameliorated by how they are prepared and combined. This recipe  is tri-doshic; good for all three doshas, Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha,  in autumn and winter.

The Grains:

Teff is an ancient grain from the Ethiopian highlands; it is the staple grain for the Ethiopian and Eritrean peoples, used to make the delicious sourdough “bread” injeera. (Injeera is more like a pancake than a bread, closer to the South Indian dosai than anything else). It is the smallest grain in the world; as such the ratio of starch to germ is low, so it is nutrient rich–high in fiber, iron, calcium, and protein. And, this is iron that is more easily absorbed than animal food iron, and its protein comprises 8 of the amino acids we need. There is a light teff and a dark one. For pancakes, I go dark. Whole Foods. Arrowhead mills brand in the grain and beans section.

Quinoa (“keen-wah”) is the “miracle” grain of the Incas. Quinoa is the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name. It is actually a seed, rather than a true grain, as the mother plant is not a grass. It grows at high elevation, is very light in your stomach, is gluten free, and like all seeds, packed with nutrients.

Quinoa had the role in Inca culture that corn had for the Mayans. It was considered sacred, and as such was scorned and even suppressed by the Spanish colonialists as associated with the “pagan” faith of the indigenous people.

Quinoa is 12-18% protein, so it is really good for vegetarians, and also for people who have trouble overeating carbohydrates. Unlike wheat or rice it contains a balanced set of amino acids, too. It is also high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron, and is gluten free.

Quinoa is a bit of an acquired taste, it is very light and nutty, but it is also very slightly bitter when cooked alone like rice. My remedy when cooking it alone as a grain is to prepare it with sauteed onion, and some variety of spices, like curry powder or cous-cous spice. Its great in a meal with beans and vegetables.

I often cook it with chick peas, as they are a naturally sweet and easy to digest legume. In the case of these pancakes, you won’t notice any bitterness at all.
There is a light quinoa in the bulk section of whole foods, and in the packaged grains you will find a dark or red quinoa. I used the light one here.

“Eden Soy” Soy Milk is, after fresh soy milk from the Chinese market, my favorite brand of Soy Milk. This company is owned by people who follow the principles of macrobiotics, which shares the concept of making foods digestible with Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Their soy beans are cooked with Kombu seaweed, which aids digestion of beans, and is good for you. Their sweetened version is mildly sweetened with barley malt, which does contain gluten, but their unsweetened version is gluten free.


To be honest, I don’t own a measuring cup. I do everything by a small Indian cup that they measure grains with in Tamil Nadu, called a “shundu” Its about 2/3 of a cup. I measure my spices by eye in the palm of my hand, like my cooking mentors in India, Lakkumi, did. I would ask Lakkumi how much of something to put in, and she would hold out her hand placing her thumb by the tip of her index finger for a tiny bit (a pinch); by the first crease in her finger (distal inter-phalangeal joint to be exact) for a little bit, about a teaspoon; and hold out all four finger with a bent thumb crossing her palm for a tablespoon or two.

So I will guess at the amounts I am using and buy a measuring cup for next time.

Teff, 1/2 cup
Quinoa, 1/2 cup
Alum Free Baking Powder, enough to help it rise, say a tablespoon
Cinnamon, a lot. maybe a teaspoon, even more if its raining.
Ginger, less. maybe a half a teaspoon or a quarter
Nutmeg, a pinch or two.
Sea Salt a pinch or two is optional
Raw Sugar, a teaspoon, if you like
Oil, a tablespoon or two. Sesame, Walnut, or Almond will give a subtle nutty flavor, Coconut tastes like coconut, and Ghee is heavenly and heavy.
Eden Soy brand unsweetened Soy Milk, enough to make a liquid batter to your taste. If you have never made pancakes before, a more liquid batter makes thinner cakes.


1.Place dry ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly with a whisk. Combine Oil and Soy Milk with a whisk. Combine wet and dry ingredients with a spoon, being careful not to stir too much or your cakes will be flat. Allow the batter to rise for a good 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, heat your pan.

2.Apply a thin layer of oil on the pan, spoon the batter according to your preferred size, you can make little pancakes, big pancakes, or bigger pancakes.

3.When they start to get little bubbles, and the sides are brown, flip with a spatula.
Once the pan is hot, keep the flame low enough to brown without burning, and so that the insides are thoroughly cooked. If you have young children, this is something they might love helping you with. It is quite a sensory experience for the little ones, watching the pancakes cook.


The variations on the theme of hot cakes are endless.

Commonly, I like to grind some seeds and or nuts into powder, and mix in with the dry ingredients. Last time I used flax and pumpkin. I love to use almonds and flax. Sunflower and cashew are great. Sesame seed or black sesame give a unique taste and color.

Sometimes I make my pancakes with a South Indian taste. To do this I either grind some dry coconut with cashew or almond or black sesame. Or grind the nuts and seeds solo, and add some coconut milk along with the soy milk. Or I might use cow’s or goat’s milk. The latter is good if your child has allergies or digestive weakness.

For my Indian taste I drop the nutmeg and replace it with Cardamom, which I grind fresh with the cashew or almond. For the above recipe I would use a 1/2 teaspoon. I may even grind Saffron along with it, for the above recipe about 5 strands. One could go to town and put a little Orange Blossom water or Rose water in the batter. Very romantic.

Indian raw sugar is called Jaggery, Gur in Hindi, and Vellum in Tamil. There is jaggery made from sugar cane and jaggery made from palm sap, and another from coconut sap. The soft, golden colored one made from sugar cane, has a lovely malty taste. If I want to make a sweet Indian pancake I add some jaggery with coconut milk and lots of cardamom and whole cashew or ground almond and use clarified butter (ghee) or coconut oil to grease the pan. I might put tiny threads of fresh ginger, or some fresh grated ginger in the batter, too. Now we are on festival foods, though.

Egg. One can step up the protein on this if you want and add a free range egg.
Just two eggs with the above amounts will give you a pretty eggy tasting pancake, but it will make it moister and thicker. If you beat the yolk and white separately, so that the white gets little crests in it, your pancake will be really light.

Yogurt or Kefir. Yogurt or Kefir in place of or in addition to the soy milk, gives a lovely texture to pancakes. You could use soy kefir or soy yogurt if you are vegan. Plain yogurt or fruited is also great as a topping on pancakes, and balances their heaviness. Let the yogurt come to room temp, so that you are not spoon cold yogurt on your hot pancake.

Berries. Y’all already know that one. My favorites are blue, but I really prefer to just put them on top.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, pancakes in general are nice for Vata, as they are warming, nourishing, grounding, and sweet. But they are typically heavy and sweet, making them not so good for Kapha. Due to the use of Teff and Quinoa, this recipe is more Tri-doshic, acceptable for all three doshas. If you have a real Pitta imbalance, with symptoms like heartburn, or skin problems involving heat, you might omit the ginger, but at this small amount it will more than likely aid your digestion without producing too much heat.

Let me know if you make a new pancake and we can put your recipe up on the blog! Thank you.

copyright eyton j. shalom, san diego, ca, 92104 Jan 12, 2009 all rights reserved, use with permission

Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego


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