Learn the science behind:
We’ve made carrot pancakes, a Dutch style, French crepes, pancakes from the oven, milk-free pancakes and pancakes without eggs. Plenty types of pancakes (and the failed rhubarb pancakes)! So why not make some pumpkin pancakes?
What’s great about these pancakes is that they have a hint of pumpkin flavour but are not overly pumpkiny. Instead, the pumpkin does its work on the background, creating a super soft and fluffy pancake, a lot richer than a regular style pancake. Actually, it’s worthwhile to discuss pumpkin in some more detail, its science is pretty fascinating.
What happens when you add pumpkin to pancakes?
There are a lot of reasons you might want to add pumpkin to your pancakes. You might have some left over pumpkins, you feel like something different, you want to make an orange pancake or you want to experiment with new textures. (You might also do it for nutritional reasons, but we won’t go into those here.)
You can bake a fluffy American-style pancake using just flour, milk, baking powder (or soda) and maybe an egg. These will give light and fluffy pancakes, as long as you use the ratios correctly. The ingredients are pretty simple and predictable. You know what will happen when you add more or less sugar. That is because the ingredients aren’t too complicated.
Pumpkin on the other hand is a little less obvious to understand. It has a lot of fibers, moisture, but also, every pumpkin is different and may work different in your pancake batter. In order to get the best pumpkin pancake result, we’ll dive into some pumpkin science.
A pumpkin is about 90% water, just like most other vegetables. It actually needs that water for the flesh to be firm. Apart from the water pumpkins contain mostly carbohydrates (including sugars) and a little protein and fat. Pumpkin also contains quite some vitamins and minerals, however, not all will survive the pancake baking process.
Pumpkins contain quite a bit of sugar. Once you’ve taken the water out of the pumpkin, more than 25% can be sugars. This sweetness contributes a lot of flavour to a pancake and can contribute to browning of the pancake (due to the Maillard reaction).
Carbohydrates & fibers
Not all carbohydrates in the pumpkin are sugars. There are also a lot of larger carbohydrates present in the pumpkin as well as fibers.
One of these fibers is pectin. We’ve discussed the power of pectin in pumpkins before. Pectin is good in making gels or jams and can thus help thicken up your pancake! This is a nice textural effect which is different from the regular starches that sit in your flour and also in your pumpkin.
That said, the starches in pumpkins are different from those in wheat flour. They cook at a slightly different temperature and hold onto water in a different way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find proper differences, but just be aware that they’re there.
Pumpkin doesn’t contain gluten, a type of proteins present in wheat. This makes it hard to use a lot of pumpkin in breads. The gluten won’t develop well and thus it is hard to create that light and airy texture. However, if you do not want a lot of gluten networks (as is the case for pancakes), this is not a problem. It might even be an advantage since it will be harder to over mix the batter (over mixing can result in gluten networks forming)!
Colour of pumpkin
You can use pumpkin to ramp up the colour of your pancake! It can make your pancake just a tint more yellow or orange. This colour is mostly coming from β‐carotene, that also gives carrots its orange colour.
Related to the zucchini
Pumpkins are closely related to the zucchini. Generally, zucchinis are somewhat less starchy than pumpkins, but, they also make perfect ingredients for baked goods (see our chocolate zucchini cake). The reason pumpkin works well is quite similar to that of the zucchini!
11422 Pumpkin raw, USDA National nutrient database, link, visited 12-Aug-2018
Periodic graphics: the chemistry of pumpkin, Compound interest, link
Want to be updated on new food science articles? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter
Hamed Mirhosseini, Nur Farhana Abdul Rashid, Bahareh Tabatabaee Amid, Kok Whye Cheong, Milad Kazemi, Musfirah Zulkurnain, Effect of partial replacement of corn flour with durian seed flour and pumpkin flour on cooking yield, texture properties, and sensory attributes of gluten free pasta, LWT – Food Science and Technology, Volume 63, Issue 1, 2015,
Pages 184-190, link ; researchers looking to use pumpkin (flour) for gluten free pasta!
Pongjanta, J., Naulbunrang, A., Kawngdang, S., Manon, T. and Thepjaikat, T.Utilization of pumpkin powder in bakery products, Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol., 2006, 28(Suppl. 1) : 71-7, link ; testing the use of pumpkins in various baked goods