A Zucchini Pancake Challenge

For a significant part of my life I can honestly say that I worked tirelessly to get people into the kitchen to make home-cooked meals. It makes so much sense from an economic standpoint, as well as for health and wellness reasons. Home cooking is generally less expensive and healthier than meals eaten out or worse than that – purchased as fast food.

But novice cooks are often overwhelmed with the idea of cooking without having a specific recipe in front of them. Especially women, in my experience. As a result, often food goes to waste, which defeats the purpose of home cooking.

Cooking at home is work, let’s face it. You need to keep your pantry stocked. And if you believe in fresh food, you need to make grocery lists and shop often. But the most important thing in my mind, is to be creative in the kitchen without having recipes. A scary sounding proposition if you think that cooking is difficult.

Home cooking is not difficult. In fact, it’s way more fun than being a chef in a restaurant kitchen, in my mind, because you can make whatever you want on a daily basis, to suit your tastes.
Certainly prepping skills are good to know, as well as cooking techniques. But what I’m talking about is creating your own dishes based on what you have on hand. That way there is no waste.

Take zucchini. It’s September right now in the US, and zucchini, a summer squash, is still growing in my garden and readily available at grocery stores. Sure, you can bake zucchini bread and muffins, but that’s not something that’s nourishing. I’m talking savory zucchini pancakes – a lovely vegetarian option, or a fabulous side dish to protein.

If you want an exact recipe, check out my squash and corn pancakes from last summer. It’s a little more involved, but there is a recipe.

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So the following is a guide to make your own zucchini pancakes. Put your personality into your own recipe. Season as you like. You’ll know when the texture is perfect when the batter is similar to breakfast pancakes – although breakfast pancakes with lots of grated zucchini! Take the challenge and see what you come up with. No recipe allowed!

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Zucchini Pancakes

Eggs, whisked
Zucchini, grated
Liquid of choice
Onion, diced
Chile peppers, diced (optional)
Parsley, chopped
Salt
Garlic pepper
Thyme (optional)
Flour
Butter

First, whisk your eggs in a large bowl. I used 2 extra-large eggs. Grate your zucchini and add it to the eggs. I used a medium-sized zucchini.

Prep your aromatics. I chose onion, red chile peppers, and parsley. Here’s how I chopped the chile peppers.

Then add the liquid to the batter, only about 1/3 cup, and the seasonings. You can use any herbs, spices, or even pesto!

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Give everything a stir. The mixture should look similar to this.

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Begin adding flour, about 1/3 cup at a time. Don’t stir the flour in completely, just fold it in well enough to see if more flour is needed. These savory pancakes are not going to be as tender as breakfast pancakes, but we don’t want them tough and rubbery, either.

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Just add enough flour to bind all of the ingredients. Then stop. I didn’t use more than 1 cup of flour.

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These are not supposed to be big doughy pancakes with a little bit of zucchini. These are zucchini pancakes.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Add a generous amount of butter to the skillet, and then, when it’s almost browned, add spoonfuls of batter. Take the spoon and flatten the pancakes gently. If they’re too thick, there’s a risk of them not being cooked through.

After a couple of minutes, turn them over and cook for another couple of minutes.

If you’re unsure of the total amount of time required to cook these through, break open the first pancake and look at it. If the middle is still doughy, as this one is, then the pancakes need to be cook longer.

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Ideally, the outsides of the pancakes should be crispy and golden brown and the insides soft, but not raw.

Serve the pancakes warm. They’re delicious with a little dab of butter or even a little sour cream. Or simply, on their own.

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I served these spicy zucchini pancakes with a tomato salad, but my husband enjoyed the pancakes as a side dish. They also reheat very well.

Ideas for other options:

Shallots/garlic instead of onions
Green onions/chives instead of onions
Bell peppers/roasted red bell peppers instead of chile peppers
Other vegetables included like corn
Cilantro instead of parsley
Grated potato/summer squash along with the zucchini
Chopped walnuts/pecans
Whole wheat flour instead of white
Olive oil instead of butter

If you haven’t attempted savory pancakes like these before, and follow through on them without a recipe, please tell me about it. I love to see how you did. Because trust me, it will work!

By Published On: September 26th, 201449 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

49 Comments

  1. Darya September 26, 2014 at 8:08 AM - Reply

    I have a hard time shutting my cookbooks for recipes calling for eggs, flour, etc. But I’ve been a bit more daring (and confident) of late, and your method sounds quite fool-proof, and certainly quite versatile too. Great post!

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:09 PM - Reply

      Oh Darya, I definitely wouldn’t make a cake without a recipe. I’m no baker!

  2. Charlotte September 26, 2014 at 8:17 AM - Reply

    Hi Mimi! Lovely post! Once you can liberate yourself from recipes – you just open a world of possibilities to yourself! I rarely cook with recipes (except for cakes) and I find it very enjoyable to figure out what I can cook with what I have available at home – that is actually what I think about when I drive home from work! Nice idea with the pancakes, very versatile too!

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:08 PM - Reply

      I know what you mean. Having one large carrot left over can really get my mind going!!!

  3. lapetitepaniere September 26, 2014 at 8:31 AM - Reply

    It looks absolutely amazing, Mimi :)

  4. spicegirlfla September 26, 2014 at 8:55 AM - Reply

    I so agree about home cooking and actually feel sad for my friends that are always eating out! Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but feel they are truly missing out on eating healthy and knowing exactly what is in the food they eat. This is so lovely, quick and healthy. You’re photos are gorgeous!!

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:07 PM - Reply

      Oh sure, I love to go out, but we rarely do, because the choices where we live are very limited. I’m definitely not going out for bad food, no matter how much I want a break from the kitchen. And I’ve never done fast food. I just never believed in it. Now when we travel – that’s a different story. I study restaurants for weeks!!!

  5. lapadia September 26, 2014 at 9:11 AM - Reply

    Beautiful photos and recipe, Mimi; and so true about being a home cook!

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:05 PM - Reply

      Cooking at home is just home cooking!!!

  6. sallybr September 26, 2014 at 9:17 AM - Reply

    I love non-recipes! and zucchini fritters or pancakes or cakes or whatever you want to call them are one of my favorite things!

    such gorgeous photos too! lovely post, Mimi!

  7. Bam's Kitchen September 26, 2014 at 9:18 AM - Reply

    Home cooking is the best from so many perspectives. Now don’t get me wrong who does not like to be wined and dined every once in awhile but things from scratch area always better and so much better for you. Loving these zuchinni pancakes. I would love to try them with a quinoa flour and whatever veggies I can find in my refrigerator. Take Care

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:05 PM - Reply

      When I did cooking demonstrations, for the purpose to show how easy and healthy every day food can be made, I often made (breakfast) pancakes. People would be shocked at how easy it was to substitute the flours and the liquids, add flavors, fruits, nuts… It all works!

  8. heathersfp September 26, 2014 at 9:46 AM - Reply

    I have an entire cabinet full of cook books, but I’m with you on making it up as I go – and I love this idea for pancakes

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:03 PM - Reply

      Even if I want to follow a recipe, you’d have to put a gun to my head to keep me from making changes!!!

  9. milkandbun September 26, 2014 at 10:17 AM - Reply

    I’m with you all the way, Mimi! I don’t understand those people who eats out almost every day.. especially, fast food! It’s so exciting to cook/try new recipe at home, even if it’s turn out not pretty well.. :)

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:02 PM - Reply

      I don’t understand how people can afford to eat out every day. But I think a lot of them just don’t think that cooking should be the highest priority – especially if you have children!

  10. Robyn September 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM - Reply

    I agree, Mimi. The whole reason I started my blog was to convince people it’s cheaper and healthier to cook fresh foods at home. And it tastes so much better! lol.
    I love your blog, your writing and your pics :)
    Great recipe – I will give this a try. I love all the fresh ingredients! Have a nice weekend.

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 2:01 PM - Reply

      Thanks so much. I worked as a self-prescribed health and wellness advocate for many years until I gave up. I made a difference, but too many people would prefer to buy their children cocoa puffs than make oatmeal or a healthy pancake. crazy.

  11. richardmcgary September 26, 2014 at 11:17 AM - Reply

    Hi, Mimi. If you have to feed yourself, there is no reason not to feed yourself well. Life is simply too short for bad food or bad wine. ;) Love the pancakes.

  12. ladyredspecs September 26, 2014 at 4:35 PM - Reply

    Here, here, to all you say in your preamble. I make zucchini fritters year round and often serve them for lunch with salad. I usually salt the zucchini to purge the water, then little is needed in the way of dry ingredients to bind them, and rather than flour I use dry breadcrumbs. I like to flavour the fritters to chopped bacon, or fetta cheese and lots of herbs. I’ve even used zucchini fritters as canapé bases. This is a wonderfully versatile concept, shredded carrot, curry spices, chopped cashews bound with besan flour is wonderful too.

    • chef mimi September 26, 2014 at 8:05 PM - Reply

      I love all of your variations. That’s the kind of cooking I like as well. But I really don’t think the salting step is necessary, because the zucchini water makes up part of the liquid that’s added to the batter, which is minimal. It’s not wrong, I just don’t feel it’s necessary.

  13. Cecile September 26, 2014 at 6:21 PM - Reply

    These look so good – I’m voting for Sour Cream as the topping!! ; o )

  14. Victoria September 26, 2014 at 8:06 PM - Reply

    MMM….looks very hearty and delicious!

  15. anotherfoodieblogger September 26, 2014 at 10:15 PM - Reply

    Mimi, you cook JUST like I do! I rarely follow a recipe to the “T”, even my own ones, lol! Of course, like you, I am not a baker so don’t even go there about cakes and such. This is a fabulous starter tutorial for those afraid of cooking without a recipe. It’s my modus operandi. “Have fresh food, something will be made of it, somehow.” Now if I can finally finish ridding the freezer of all the Trader Joe’s meals my mom kept stock in her freezer at the condo we are temporarily staying at… Hmmmm. At least the Trader Joe’s frozen meals aren’t *quite* as salt and preservative laden as others. But I really need the freezer space and I don’t want to throw anything out. Oops. Long ramble. Keep on cooking as you do, Mimi!

    • chef mimi September 27, 2014 at 9:21 AM - Reply

      I’ve sadly never been to a Trader Joe’s. I’ve been told many times that I need to go to one when I have a chance! Thanks for the comment.

  16. thefolia September 26, 2014 at 11:51 PM - Reply

    I have to add a little feta into my zucchini pancakes and of course a squeeze of lemon.

    • chef mimi September 27, 2014 at 9:20 AM - Reply

      Of course! That’s what makes a “recipe” like this so easy. I’ve never made them the same way twice!

  17. Elaine @ foodbod September 27, 2014 at 1:38 AM - Reply

    I’m completely with you, I’m a home cook, I cook every day and rarely use recipes. It’s all about fresh and fun food :) love your pancakes and love the challenge!

    • chef mimi September 27, 2014 at 9:19 AM - Reply

      It’s so much about not wasting food, right? I cooked every single day for my children, and even made lunches for school, which most people didn’t. I certainly don’t regret all of the work.

      • Elaine @ foodbod September 27, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        I completely agree, I love seeing them eat everything that I’ve made :)

  18. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen September 27, 2014 at 5:34 PM - Reply

    These look so devourable! I love that they’re healthy.. chock full of veggies,my daughter would love these!! xx

    • chef mimi September 28, 2014 at 8:38 AM - Reply

      I just think they’re a fabulous side dish. Fun and flavorful!

  19. eliotthecat September 28, 2014 at 11:02 AM - Reply

    See, I love recipes like this!!!!

  20. apuginthekitchen September 28, 2014 at 5:57 PM - Reply

    Great post, very few people at least that I know actually cook daily, I always did, every single day and like you made lunches every day for my daughter. It was a rare occasion to eat out, the same when I was a child. Love your zucchini pancakes, super easy, nutritious and know they are delicious.

    • chef mimi September 28, 2014 at 6:12 PM - Reply

      Thanks so much! You’re right. There are only a handful of us.

  21. love in the kitchen September 29, 2014 at 5:04 AM - Reply

    Right with you Mimi! And your zucchini pancakes are way up my alley.

  22. dianeskitchentable September 29, 2014 at 12:06 PM - Reply

    It’s funny but I never used to cook with recipes when my daughter was young and living at home. Then I started broadening my horizons & it’s like I just froze and was terrified to not follow the recipe to a T. Probably because a lot of things I was experimenting with were new to me & flavors that I wasn’t sure of so I had a real fear of making something nasty. Now I think I’m a little more relaxed about it & just fling a little bit of this & that in a pan to see what happens. So I guess it goes in phases but if you’re trying new ingredients I think it is a little scary at first.
    Those pancakes look not only tasty but are so festive!

    • chef mimi September 29, 2014 at 12:49 PM - Reply

      Back when I taught cooking classes, it always was the women who required recipes. Albeit there were fewer men in those classes, they were more daring overall. I always thought it was interesting, but have no idea why this was.

  23. Francesca (@LaCucinaPovera) September 30, 2014 at 2:35 AM - Reply

    I love that you threw in so much kick! I’m going to start MAKING my mister help out – he’s totally helpless but this looks like a nice place to start!

    • chef mimi October 13, 2014 at 5:24 PM - Reply

      It’s been almost 33 years and my mister has never helped out. Good luck!

  24. sakinah30 October 2, 2014 at 11:41 AM - Reply

    Reblogged this on Cappuccino.

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