Blue cornmeal pancakes originated in northern New Mexico (particularly in and around Santa Fe) and make for a hearty, whole grain breakfast full of unique Southwestern flavors. I make these with spelt flour, and a blend of blue cornmeal, and blue masa harina, so it’s low in gluten (read: low, not completely gluten-free). They can indeed be made with regular all-purpose flour, or gluten-free flour mix in place of the spelt flour.
This is one of the few pancake recipes, actually menu items in general that was on my food truck that since day one, proudly emanating its wholesome Southwestern influence on our breakfast offerings. I tried to take it off the menu to make way for other fun new stuff, but the growing number of devoted fans had already become entranced by the distinct corn taste, and got crazy when I tried to take it away from them!
Blue corn masa is a very fine powder made from blue corn. It's a staple ingredient in many Mexican dishes, such as tortillas and tamales. In this blue corn pancakes recipe, blue corn masa adds a distinctive color and earthy flavor, while contributing a slightly denser texture compared to regular flour. If you don't have blue corn masa, you can use regular yellow or white masa harina as a substitute.
Blue cornmeal is a coarse flour made by grinding dried blue corn kernels. It's rich in antioxidants and has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. In our pancakes, the coarse grade blue flour provides a delightful texture and a beautiful subtle hue. It's a versatile ingredient that adds a unique twist to your breakfast. If you're unable to find blue cornmeal, you can use yellow cornmeal as an alternative.
White Spelt Flour comes from spelt, an ancient grain with a nutty flavor and a nutritional profile similar to wheat flour. It's a great choice for adding a tender and light quality to the pancakes. The spelt flour in this recipe complements the earthy tones of the blue corn and enhances the overall taste. If you need a gluten-free option, you can replace spelt flour with a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities and cooking directions.
📖 How to master this blue corn pancake recipe
Pass the cornmeal, masa harina, spelt flour, baking powder, and sea salt through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Alternately you can just whisk the cornmeal mixture together to remove and small lumps or clumps.
In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, agave nectar, 3 tablespoons oil, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients. Whisk together to form a smooth, light blue batter.
Heat a cast iron griddle, nonstick griddle pan, or large skillet over medium heat.
Once the pan is hot, heat 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine, and spread it around the surface of the pan until melted. Ladle out 4 tablespoons of batter to form each pancake. I use a lightly oiled ¼ cup measuring cup (which is 4 tablespoons) to spoon batter right onto the cooking surface to keep the size and shape of the pancakes consistent.
Cook the pancakes for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbles form on the surface and the edges start lifting off the pan. Flip and fry on the other side for about 2 minutes, or just until cooked through.
Add more vegan butter to the pan before frying the next batch.
They just make such a refreshing change from regular pancakes!
Some variations using this recipe
There are a couple of fun things I suggest you try out:
- Fresh corn - add fresh cut corn kernels to the batter. It's legendary like that.
- Blue corn cranberry pancakes- Mix a generous handful of chopped fresh cranberries into the pancake batter. The tart cranberries turn these into autumnal heaven!
- Muffins - with or without the fresh corn added, you can use this batter in a lightly oiled muffin tin! I usually top each muffin with a light dusting of plain streusel before baking them, and I like to serve them warm, cut open with a dollop of vegan whipped cream.
- Waffles - This batter works great in a waffle iron too! Just make sure most of the steam has stopped escaping from the waffle iron before you open it, so that you know the waffle is cooked through and will not fall apart when you do. *I have only made blue corn waffles with the recipe as it is. If you add corn kernels or make it gluten-free I am making no guarantee that you will not cause a tear in the space-time continuum or whatever.
The word masa means dough, and unsurprisingly masa harina is often used to form the corn dough used for making tamales and fresh tortillas. It is a finely ground corn with a more delicate texture than cornmeal.
I like using both in this recipe because the diversity of flavor and texture is a refreshing change from regular pancakes, which often leave me feeling like I just ate a cup of white flour for breakfast. This is no game for those high-fructose corn syrup princesses Jemima and Buttersworth, so send them packing. "Blue Cornies" (as my kids whole family have always called these) are the perfect delivery system for real maple syrup.
You don't NEED anything more than a frying pan to make these, but...
I prefer to use a stovetop griddle pan that can fit over two burners because when I make pancakes, it's always for at least my whole family. If you don't own a griddle pan, it's a great thing to have, and I especially recommend ones that can be used as a grill on the other side (to put grill marks on tofu and veggies marinadated in nuoc cham or nam prik pao). I actually use my griddle pan more for the grill side since I love adding grilled flavors to my cooking, and firing up an outside BBQ is not practical when you just want to brush some eggplant with Korean bbq sauce or tom yum paste to grill up for a tiny portion of a bowl. I use the grill side of my griddle pan ALL THE FREAKING TIME to make vegan elote, and you should too, because they are easy and so delicious!
What I sometimes do, especially for camping is make my own blue corn pancake mix for easy assembly later. Just mix your dry ingredients in one container, and your wet in another, and they are ready to mix up and cook at a moment's notice. The dry ingredients will stay good for months, but the liquid mix must be used within 5 days.
✌️You might really wanna make these too.
These are some of my favey dishes to serve when I am on a breakfast bender:
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New Mexico Vegan Blue Corn Pancake Recipe with Piñon Butter
First, make the Pinon Butter (or skip these steps if you intend to use plain vegan butter)
- In a dry sauté pan set over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly golden all
- over, about 6 minutes. Transfer them to the empty bowl of a food processor.
- Add the coconut oil, margarine, salt, cinnamon, and agave nectar to the now- empty sauté pan and melt them together over medium heat.
- Pulse the toasted pine nuts in the food processor several times to yield coarse fragments. Stir in the coconut oil mixture, then scrape out the food processor’s contents into a small bowl. Refrigerate and let cool until the fats have solidified (about 1 hour). Using a rubber spatula, mix everything together (the pine nuts may have settled during the initial chilling). Use the pine nut butter immediately, or store in an airtight container for later use. (The butter will keep in the refrigerator for months, if it isn’t eaten well before then.)
Make the pancakes
- Pass the cornmeal, masa harina, spelt flour, baking powder, and sea salt through a mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Alternately you can just whisk the cornmeal mixture together to remove and small lumps or clumps. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, agave nectar, 3 tablespoons oil, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients. Whisk together to form a smooth, light blue batter.
- Heat a griddle, nonstick frying pan, or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, heat 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine, and spread it around the surface of the pan until melted. Ladle out 4 tablespoons of batter to form each pancake. I use a lightly oiled ¼ cup measuring cup (which is 4 tablespoons) to spoon batter right onto the cooking surface to keep the size and shape of the pancakes consistent. Cook the pancakes for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbles form on the surface and the edges start lifting off the pan. Flip and fry on the other side for about 2 minutes, or just until cooked through. Add more margarine to the pan before frying the next batch.
- Plate two or three pancakes per person with a half teaspoon of pine nut butter spread between each of the layers of pancakes, and a little more dolloped on top. Serve the syrup in a small pitcher on the side, warmed if preferred.
Sift and Mix with Care:
- Sift blue cornmeal, blue corn masa harina, spelt flour, baking powder, and sea salt into a bowl. Alternatively, whisk the mixture to ensure a smooth batter without lumps or clumps.
Wet Ingredients Magic:
- In a separate bowl, combine unsweetened plant-based milk, agave nectar, 3 tablespoons of oil, and vanilla extract. Create a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet mix, and whisk to form a smooth, light blue batter.
Heat It Right:
- Heat a cast iron griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine, spreading it until melted. Ladle 4 tablespoons of batter for each pancake, ensuring consistency in size and shape.
Perfect Flip Timing:
- Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes until bubbles form on the surface and edges lift. Flip and fry for an additional 2 minutes or until cooked through. Add more vegan butter before frying the next batch.