Lemon pancakes: Light... lemony... luscious!

lemon pancakes

Why did I ever think making pancakes was difficult?

Before I worked here at King Arthur Flour, I couldn’t even make box-mix pancakes, where all you do is add water to the bleached flour/dextrose/partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil mix.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I couldn’t make good pancakes—because I was using a box mix full of bleached flour, dextrose, and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

Now that I’ve worked here 19 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about pancakes. Like how to make moist, eggy pancakes out of flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt, and baking powder. And how to take those same ingredients, and make high-rising, fluffy, light pancakes—just by tweaking how you mix them.

I’ve learned how to add a touch of vanilla or a spoonful of malt to change the flavor. How to fancy things up with blueberries or cinnamon chips or ginger. And even how to make truly great whole-grain pancakes.

Most of all, I’ve learned that if you start with a good recipe and use good ingredients, you’re going to make good—no, make that great—pancakes. Guaranteed.

There are 33 pancake and waffle recipes at kingarthurflour.com. If you think you can’t make good pancakes, start with our Guaranteed Simply Perfect Pancakes. Advance to Blueberry Pancakes, then to Ginger Pancakes with Blueberry Maple Syrup. And please try our Homemade Whole-Grain Pancake Mix—you may never go back to “regular” pancakes again.

In honor of the first day of spring and warm days to come, meet the latest addition to our pancake lineup: sunny Lemon Pancakes with honey-butter topping. Think you can’t make good pancakes? Start here.

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First, we’re going to separate some eggs. I know there are many ways to separate eggs—because you’ve all told me about your own personal favorites in the past. So use whatever method you like best.

What’s with the fingernail polish, you ask? Michelle, a lovely young lady from a local high school, job-shadowed me the day I made these pancakes. The first thing I asked her to do was separate eggs. She proved to be an old (and colorful!) hand at it.

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Here are the whites. Notice: NO sign of egg yolk. Good job, Michelle!

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And here are the yolks. Notice: very little sign of white.

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We’ll begin by mixing egg yolks, buttermilk, sugar, and ricotta cheese.

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Stir till smooth.

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Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and lemon—grated rind, or lemon oil.

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Hmmm, which one to use? Lemon oil, or grated rind?  Michelle and I divided the batter in half and tested the two, side by side. We couldn’t tell the difference in taste. If you have a lemon on hand and feel like grating it, we can offer you an efficient, effective Microplane zester. And the flecks of peel do add a certain visual element to the pancakes. But if you simply care about taste, and want to save yourself some time, keeping a bottle of lemon oil in the fridge is very handy.

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Mix to make a smooth, thick batter. Set it aside.

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Whip the reserved egg whites till they’re very frothy.

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Fold them gently into the batter.

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Once again, smooth and fairly thick.

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Preheat your griddle or frying pan, and grease it lightly, if necessary. About 350°F is a good temperature, if you have an electric griddle with temperature settings. Scoop the batter onto the griddle by the 1/4-cupful. A muffin scoop is just the right size, and makes it easy to dollop the batter onto the griddle.

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Michelle shows us how it’s done.

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Use the back of the scoop or cup to spread the batter into a circle.

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Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until bubbles start to form and pop on the top surface.

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Flip the cakes over to reveal—hopefully!—perfectly browned undersides. Note the thickness of this pancake. Because of the beaten egg white, these cakes bake up thick, then deflate slightly when you take them off the griddle.

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Is that a perfect-looking pancake, or what?

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Michelle and I were a bit worried that the thickness of the cakes would prevent them from cooking all the way through. So I asked her to peel one open. No wet batter; nice flecks of lemon. Success!

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We wanted to check the actual surface temperature of the griddle, so Susan grabbed a laser surface-temperature thermometer our merchandise team wanted appraised. We could tell it was quite far off… out it goes! We don’t believe in kitchen tools that don’t do what they’re supposed to.

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While Michelle piled the pancakes on a plate, I made the honey-butter topping.

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Two parts soft (NOT melted) butter, one part honey, by weight.

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Stir together till smooth. Add some leftover grated lemon rind, if you have any. Or not.

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Make a short stack. Spread with honey butter.

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Add more honey (or syrup), if you like.

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As they say in Maine—SOME good!

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Well, of COURSE I have to enjoy a few bites of everything I photograph… The extra step of beating the egg whites, plus the ricotta cheese, makes these cakes super-light and ultra-moist. This recipe’s a keeper for sure.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Lemon Pancakes.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Bongo Room, Chicago: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes topped with crushed gingersnap and brown sugar butter, 3 pancakes, $9.25

Make at home: Lemon Pancakes with honey butter, 3 pancakes, 83¢.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Sandy

    Yippee….can’t wait to make these!! I tried a Lemon Ricotta Pancake recipe last year and it was a disaster, the recipe was from a magazine. But also last year, one of our favorite breakfast restaurants, which features a specialty pancake each month, featured a Lemon Ricotta Pancake that was to die for. So I can’t wait to try your recipe because the lemon is so yummy in a pancake and the ricotta makes it so nice and moist too. Thanks for the recipe!!!

    Enjoy, Sandy. Be advised that these are mildly lemon. For a more assertive flavor, just increase the grated peel or lemon oil. PJH

    Reply
  2. Melinda

    I adore all that is Baker’s Banter, but I find something terribly wrong about putting cheese in my pancakes. It just doesn’t make sense. Can I leave out the cheese?

    Melinda, rather than leave a key ingredient out of these, why not make any of the other pancake recipes – they’re all delicious, truly. The cheese adds moistness and flavor to these, but if you don’t like cheese, try the Simply Perfect Pancakes, OK? PJH

    Reply
  3. Allie

    I have made those guaranteed perfect pancakes and that is a terrific recipe. Last time I threw in some white whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour and it was fabulous. I even kept some overnight in the fridge and microwaved them in the morning (I made them for dinner originally–I never have time to make something like pancakes for breakfast).

    I think I will try the topping described here on the other pancakes.

    Reply
  4. Bridgett

    There are so many great things in this post! The onset of spring (finally) celebrated with luscious lemony pancakes (yum) created with a student on the side (who looks like she was a valuable assistant). I will definitely be trying these out as I am not a fan of maple syrup and love the topping of honey on these.

    Reply
  5. Sandy

    Melinda….do not worry about putting ricotta cheese in your pancake batter. Take my word for it….it makes the pancakes truly out of this world!

    Reply
  6. Kathy

    Now THIS is what I like to see when I pop open a browser window on the first day of spring (and a Friday to boot!) – comfort food made with lemon! I’m one of those who, while I like my occasional dark chocolate, will always reach for something sharp, tangy, and refreshing first – anything made with flavors like lemon, cranberry, mint, and lime.

    I would also top these wonderful-sounding pancakes with a simple compote of dried fruits – apricots, cranberries, apples, what-have-you – simmered slowly with a little water and orange juice (and maybe vanilla at the end). A couple tender-crisp-fried bacon strips to round out the flavors and textures and I would be supremely content. Thanks, PJ. I’ll make these soon.

    Kathy – I’ll be over for breakfast this weekend! Thanks for the luscious description… PJH

    Reply
  7. Kathy again

    Oh! I should like to add that my favorite pancakes are cold pancakes – as in, let them sit out until they’re room temp, then eat them out of hand – and that these would be a MARVELOUS candidate for cold eating.

    I think this stems from growing up watching my father slather pancakes with butter, then scatter white sugar thickly over the top before tucking in. It so turned me off to overdoing pancake garnish that I found that they reveal their essence – they’re really a quick bread, after all – when they’re cold.

    Oh, my granola, yogurt, and apple for breakfast just isn’t going to cut it now…

    Reply
  8. Mike T.

    Okay, I’m off to Kentucky this weekend to visit a friend. Guess what we’ll be having Sunday morning… Go on, guess… ;-)

    For those that can’t get over the cheese, just think of it as adding milk that has a bit more flavor and substance to the batter.

    Now, for the technical question… Did you use another temperature gauge to test the griddle? How do you know the griddle was not calibrated correctly??? Hmmm….

    Mike, I just knew from experience that a griddle at 350°F will take about 3 minutes to cook pancakes. And this griddle was set for 350°F, yet the laser reader was off by about 50°F… Enjoy your weekend! PJH

    Reply
  9. Heidi

    Sounds Yummy!! Is there a way to make waffles from this recipe?

    You know what I’d try, Heidi? Sub 1/4 cup melted butter for 1/4 cup of the ricotta. The point with waffles is, they have more fat (to make them crisp). Not sure if the ricotta will totally overwhelm the butter and leave these soft rather than crisp, as waffles, but give it a try – PJH

    Reply
  10. April in CT

    I absolutely LOVE pancakes and these look fantastic! I had no idea the lemon oil existed so I’m really excited to hear about this! I rarely buy lemons or limes and when a recipe calls for zest I’ve always wondered what I could substitute. I’m definitely ordering some of this stuff!

    April, you’ll love the lemon oil! Use a few drops up to 1/2 teaspoon; it’s very strong. Also, it’s great for taking off those sticky pricetags on glass bottles or stoneware… Store it in the fridge; it’ll last forever. Enjoy. PJH

    Reply
  11. Jen Schall @ My Kitchen Addiction

    These look absolutely delicious. I absolutely love making pancakes – I bought an electric griddle solely for that purpose! I will definitely give this recipe a try – I love lemon, particularly in the spring and summer. The flavor just brightens everything up! Thanks for the fantastic recipe idea.

    Reply
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  13. cindy leigh

    ohhh…… great timing.
    This is my favorite flavor combo of the month. Last week I used my Friendship Cake starter to make a honey lemon ricotta bundt cake- drizzled with honey lemon syrup. SO good! Great flavors.

    Reply
  14. Sugar Duchess

    Yum! Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I’ve had a bit of a love affair with pancakes lately. I don’t usually have ricotta on hand, so do you think yogurt would make an okay substitute? Give it a try! Just let the yogurt drain in a strainer for about half an hour to rid it of the excess liquid. Molly@KAF

    Reply
  15. Stacy

    Yum. I made fluffy lemon pancakes last week and haven’t made lemon-ricotta ones in a while. They are my absolute FAVORITE type. Adding a scattering of fresh berries makes them PERFECT.

    Reply
  16. Kristen

    Hello, you dear King Arthur Bakers! This recipe sounds de-licious! Can anyone comment on trying to switch this to have more whole grains? What do you think about whole wheat pastry flour or barley flour (should I add some vital wheat gluten if I give the second option a go?)

    Thanks and keep these recipes a’comin!

    Hmmm… Kristen, how about if you just make whole grain pancakes from our homemade whole-grain mix? It’s easy to make up the mix and keep it in the fridge, then just add the wet ingredients when you want pancakes. For lemon, just add some lemon oil – I think that would be a better option than trying to deconstruct/reconstruct this recipe.

    Reply
  17. Kim

    Could I use lemon extract instead of lemon oil?

    Sure, Kim – you’ll need to use more, and it won’t taste as real as pure lemon oil, but have at it – PJH

    Reply
  18. Kathleen

    Yummy. Yummy – I love pancakes and I love lemons, I have even eaten raw lemons. My Grandpa use to cut me a stalk of raw rubarb, that was a real treat to me that I always looked forward to, but I have never, never liked cooked rubarb. Now you may go yuck, but to me they were a very special treat. You have brought back a special memory
    Kathleen

    Reply
  19. SusanG

    My family prefers thin pancakes – thicker than crepes, not nearly so thick as this. (I think it’s b/c we figured out more browned outsides for the same weight in pancakes!) I assume I wouldn’t whip the whites, and would add more water as I do for the other recipes. Any other suggestions for keeping them less fluffy?

    My brother owns a service marina. At my request, he got me a laser surface-temp thermometer for Christmas – they use them around the boatyard for very odd things. I think it’s pretty accurate – and it’s nice and small, about the size and shape of a flattened hb egg. It’s also on a lanyard so always handy. If your team wants a recommendation for testing, let me know. (I thiought I was getting the ‘gun’ style, and this is so much better, not to mention storage friendly!)

    I’d go with your experience on this. Experiment, have fun. Frank from KAF.

    Reply
  20. Katherine

    Ah, man…I haven’t made pancakes in awhile. I’ve been making waffle batter which my hubby eats over the week, but I’m a pancake girl at heart. I’ll have to make some soon.

    Don’t think I’ll make these, though. I’m more an old-school kind of pancake girl; berries for me. (My husband loves, oddly enough, raspberries in his pancakes…but you have to be careful or they stick to the griddle like nothing’s doing. Breaking them up first helps.)

    Reply
  21. Danielle

    Oh My Goodness!! Everyone at my house raved over these! I knew the
    minute I read the recipe a couple of days ago that I would ( MUST ) try this recipe. I read the blog and adjusted for waffles and made them this morning using a heart shaped deep waffle maker we’re getting acquainted with in our kitchen. I have an 11 yr old who is certain that
    he does not like ricotta at all and an 80 yr old who only likes heavy dense
    sweet things… and a few of us inbetween.. and we were all thrilled.
    I must say that when I thought of what I might say about these what came to mind was” A sunrise wedding followed by breakfast with these on the menu!! :) BTW.. I did not have buttermilk on hand so used milk
    with lemon juice and can only imagine what degree of heaven I have missed til I have exactly the right ingredients here to do this again !!!

    Thank you again King Arthur bakers!!

    And thank YOU for sharing, Danielle. Enthusiasm is always welcome here! PJH

    Reply
  22. Lisa

    I’ve always thought making pancakes from scratch was easy; I make them all the time. You just throw the ingredients and put them on the griddle. What is so difficult about that?

    Don’t mind me, Lisa – I just have bad pancake karma… PJH

    Reply
  23. Maxine

    OMG these are indeed wonderful. Had the perfect opportunity to make them this morning, walked into the kitchen as my husband was grimly surveying the miserable results of his attempt to make himself some pancakes. I had no idea a mix could go so wrong. It’s always fun when King Arthur rides to the rescue. I did use fat free ricotta cheese with no apparent ill effects. The pancakes were light, lemony and delicious. I see some serious competition for my usual King Arthur sourdough pancakes.

    WooHoo. We love hearing about the weekend success stories in the kitchen. Keep both those pancake recipes in your arsenal! Happy Baking to both you and your husband! Irene at KAF

    Reply
  24. Oolong

    I like making pancakes, but when I make them no matter what recipe they always rise too high and have uncooked batter in the middle. What should I be doing differently?

    Try less baking powder/baking soda – that should do it. Try cutting it in half, to begin. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  25. Christina Dykins

    I really enjoyed reading this page and comments, PJH has got me hungry for pancakes and I will try the whole grain versions, Good job!!

    Reply
  26. DavidC

    Great Pancake Recipe! I have been making pancakes every Sunday morning for 16 yrs. Yes a little obsessive, but there are my comfort food. I never thought to use ricotto cheese…nice! I have used orange zest though. Will have to try the lemon. One question…I occasionally have “rings of saturn” around the outer perimeter of the pancake. I was told that they occur when the pan is too hot. Is that true? I have varied my temperature and had some success. Should I try a different pan?

    Hi David – are the rings like different degrees of browning, or different degrees of rising, or..? Never heard of this symptom, so need a bit more explanation… PJH

    Reply
  27. Laura

    While the pancakes look completely amazing, I’m more interested in the job shadowing bit! I’m in high school too… how did Michelle do it? Was there an application, or did she just ask, or was it set up by the school…? To be more on topic, my brothers have only ever eaten chocolate chip Bisquick pancakes. :p I’ll persuade ‘em into trying these lovelies soon!

    Laura, the program was initiated through one of the local high schools, so if I were you, I’d ask your guidance counselor about job shadowing programs in your local area. Hope yourb rothers can be weaned off Bisquik! PJH

    Reply
  28. benbob

    Whip the egg whites till they’re “frothy”… Really? Soft peaks? Medium? Stiff? I’m guessing soft peaks, and I realize not a fully comprehensive guide, but beating egg whites and folding it into batter tends to be a more difficult task. It’s hard to explain how gentle you should be with the whites once they’re whipped, but to tell someone to beat them till they’re “frothy” is almost naive…

    I do like the use of ricotta though, and I might actually have to try these. >.<

    Well, naive… I’ve been called worse! How about “barely there peaks”? It’s soft mounding, but not hard peaking. It’s heavily frothy: white, not opaque. It looks like the picture – that’s probably the best way to describe it. :) PJH

    Reply
  29. Leah

    OOOH buddy, I’m going to go get the stuff today and have them for dinner tomorrow (I’m usually not up when my hubby goes off to work at 6AM, still not used to air force time LOL)

    But I’ve always loved pancakes, ever since my dad would always make them for me when I went to school. My hubby is sure in for a treat!

    OH and the honey butter is what sold the deal for me :P

    Reply
  30. Joe Esslinger

    Those pancakes looked really great! However if you really want to entice someone to try that recipe or taste those delicious looking pancakes, try getting a professional manicure with either no polish or a clear polish, that stuff you are wearing makes me think you are hiding dirty fingernails underneath. In my opinion when working with food we should be as close to natural as possible. Just a suggestion

    Joe, as noted, the fingers you see are those of a high school girl doing a job shadowing day with us. I assure you, she was spotlessly clean, well groomed, a lovely girl in every way. She washed her hands multiple times during the day. I think the polish was a fashion statement, not an attempt to hide anything. PJH

    Reply
  31. Marco

    Those pictures are making me hungry… even though I just finished my lunch. I’m going to have to give this recipe a try.

    Reply
  32. Chef Benwa

    So what you are telling me is that your experience and a knob on a griddle is more accurate than a laser surface thermometer? How do you know you haven’t been 50 degrees off every other time you have been making pancakes?

    I suppose you believe the knob on your oven and don’t bother to put a thermometer in that either.

    I just think it’s unfair to judge a product with out a little more testing. You obviously have a lot of people who follow your blog, they deserve more through evaluation.

    Hi Chef: We regularly have our ovens checked by a professional. We also use oven thermometers inside each oven. We did test the laser surface thermometer on other surfaces; it was off. I just simplified the testing story in the blog, as it wasn’t relevant. Rest assured, we thoroughly test all of our products. Thanks for your input – PJH

    Reply
  33. grace

    I just can’t cook pancakes. I am fine with recipes, batter etc but the cooking I fail. The first few are perfect but then they start to burn, not cook whatever … they are definately not like your perfect specimens.

    Maybe it is the temperature or that I use butter in the pan.

    Reply
  34. George Erdosh

    This is awesome! you did a great job both explaining and illustration. I do make great pancakes, too. I emphasize to keep mixing to bare minimum–just until dry and wet ingredients are mixed. Buttermilk and yogurt pancakes are lightest, fluffiest.

    Check out Tried and True Recipes from a Caterer’s Kitchen—Secrets of Making Great Foods

    On Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

    Reply
  35. Paulineh

    What great pancakes and I love the butter lemon topping. I usually just add the lemon juice but I will follow your recipe for the pancakes and the topping next time. Thanks for this recipe. Will be great for Sunday breakfast.

    Reply
  36. jazz

    i like your nail polish!

    Not me , Jazz – my high-school job shadower. I prefer bright red pedicures. But thanks- PJH

    Reply
  37. Jack

    I’d like to make these, but see no measurements to follow. Am I missing something?
    Just click where it says Raspberry Puff Turnover for the recipe. Joan@bakershotline

    Reply
  38. Victoria

    Couldn’t believe that I found this recipe here! I am a long time KAF fan and recently visited the Bongo Room while on vacation and have been dreaming about these pancakes ever since. What luck to find the recipe from a trusted source. Any thoughts on how to duplicate the gingersnap butter served at the restaurant? It was so yummy!

    Sorry, Victoria, I’ve never heard of the Bongo Room – but glad we seem to have created the same pancake! Is the gingersnap butter dark, as though it has molasses in it? Or lighter, as though it might be crystallized or fresh ginger? Describe it – texture, taste, color. Maybe we can figure it out… PJH

    Reply
  39. Victoria

    Sorry PJ – did not realize you responded to my question! The cost comparison at the end of the recipe specifically mentions the Bongo room hence my thought that you were mimicking their delicious pancakes! Anyway, the Bongo Room served their pancakes with a compound butter that contained crushed gingersnaps and brown sugar. It was a delicious complement to the pancakes and (for me at least) negated the need for syrup. I’d love to hear your suggestions on proportions since I can’t find a similar recipe online. Wish I lived closer to the Bongo room so I could go back and research in person.

    Victoria, sounds like you could simply crush some gingersnaps very fine, stir in some brown sugar, then add melted butter till it’s the right consistency, tasting for sugar balance along the way. Sound like a plan? PJH

    Reply
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  42. Phoebe

    Is the butter in the honey butter topping the salted or unsalted variety? Thanks for your time.

    Unsalted. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  43. susannah

    Hi – Of all those 34 recipes, which is the one that yields the moist, eggy pancakes you mention? That’s the kind of pancake I’d like to make but I’m not sure which recipe – or technique – would give me that texture. Thank you!
    Hi Susannah,
    I’d say start with the Simply Perfect Pancakes. They’ve definitely earned their name! ~ MJ

    Reply

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