Gluten-Free Lemon Pancakes: Rise and shine!

Aren’t these the most lemony looking pancakes you’ve ever seen?

Bright as a summer sun, their color comes from eggs, and whole-grain cornmeal, and grated lemon peel. A totally golden triple play if ever there was one.

One thing these pancakes DON’T have: wheat flour.

That’s right – the protein in wheat that bonds with liquid to form gluten is absent from these gluten-free pancakes.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t rise into light, fluffy pancakes.

Xanthan gum, your best friend in the kitchen when you’re baking GF, steps in for that absent gluten to give these cakes the structure they need.

Still, that structure can be fickle, depending on subtle differences in your other ingredients, and how you combine them.

To whit, when I was making these pancakes in the test kitchen, my fellow baker, Sue, took one look and said, “What happened to those? That’s not how they’re supposed to look.”

“Well, I noticed the recipe photo online had them quite a bit thicker. But I followed the recipe exactly. What’s up with that?” I said.

Sue and I did a quick huddle, and discovered that I’d used a different brand of cornmeal than she and fellow GF baker Andrea had, when they originally created the recipe.

In addition, they’d assumed a 10- to 15-minute rest period before cooking, because that’s how long it took to preheat their griddle. I used a different griddle, and started preheating before I made the cakes – so my batter didn’t rest at all.

We surmised these two factors – one slightly different ingredient, one minimally different technique – could spell the difference between thick and thin pancakes.

Still, we had to test our hypothesis. Which Andrea promptly did, following her original recipe.

Ah-ha! Mystery solved. Andrea’s cakes, using store-bought cornmeal and incorporating a rest for the batter, were thick.

Mine, using our organic cornmeal and going immediately from bowl to griddle, were thinner.

And you know what? Both versions were tasty as all get-out.

You just can’t go wrong with these Gluten-Free Lemon Pancakes.

As “Mary from California” says in a review of this recipe, “My husband, who refuses to try anything gluten free, said these were the best pancakes he has ever eaten! I was very impressed with how high they rose!”

(She must have been using store-bought cornmeal!)

Let’s make a gluten-free breakfast, shall we?

Whisk together the following:

1/2 cup gluten-free potato starch
3/4 cup cornmeal (whole-grain preferred)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

Next, get your lemon ready.

My favorite grater is a Microplane zester. Unbelievably fast and efficient.

Whisk together the following:

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 to 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind (the rind of 1 or 2 medium-large lemons); or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil

I used vegetable oil rather than butter here; I find hot melted butter combined with cold milk and eggs turns into butter globules. And, since I didn’t warm my milk and eggs to room temperature (ALWAYS in a hurry), I subbed the oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Stir gently to combine.

See how thin my batter is? If I’d given it a 10- to 15-minute rest, it would have thickened up; and my pancakes would have been taller.

But no need to wait, if you like thinner cakes.

Pour about 2 tablespoons batter at a time onto the griddle.

Cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes, until their tops are bubbly, their edges look dry, and their bottoms are golden brown.

See how the pancake is beginning to lose its wet shine? Time to flip.

Turn over and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve hot, with butter…

…and with a sifting of confectioners’ sugar, rather than syrup.

Though if maple/lemon sounds good to you, go for it!

Any kind of fruit syrup would be good here, too. As would a garnish of fresh berries.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Gluten-Free Lemon Pancakes.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!



    Thank you for gluten free recipes! I recently had to go gluten free and so badly miss baking regularly. Between your new GF mixes and recipes like these, I am getting back to the things we LOVE!
    We hope you enjoy them, Brenda! 🙂 ~Jessica

  2. Aaron Frank

    Wow. I knew cornstarch was GF but I never thought about corn meal. Makes sense. Would potato starch/flour work as well? Then I could use these for Passover instead of the usual matzah meal pancakes.

    Potato starch is already an ingredient in this recipe. Are you wanting to replace the cornmeal with potato starch also? ~Amy

  3. "Mrs. Hittle"

    These look really good!

    One of my favourite ways to do pancakes is with an orange syrup, and i bet a lemon syrup would be great here! You can’t have too much lemon!

    Here’s the recipe, if this sounds good to anyone else. 🙂

    1/2 c. orange juice concentrate
    1/2 t. orange zest
    1 c. sugar (this stuff is SWEET– feel free to cut down!)
    1/2 c. butter

    Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally. This makes a ton, but it keeps awhile in the fridge.

  4. Lorilee

    I’m very happy to see KAF branching out and making GF foods! For those of us who don’t mind gluten, is there a way to make these WITH gluten? I have no idea what or where to get potato starch or the gum and prefer to use what I already have if possible. Thank you!
    Of course you can try these with an all purpose flour in place of the potato starch. I would omit the xanthan gum and watch the consistency when using an all purpose flour in place of potato flour as they absorb moisture differently. Please let us know how they turn out. ~Amy

  5. Aaron Frank

    Hi Amy,

    Yes. I’d like to be able to make these completely with potato flour or potato flour and starch.

    Yes, using a combination of potato starch and potato flour should be fine. We also had a report of someone using potato starch and a lighter corn flour and having be a success. ~Amy

  6. Richelle (Andalucia, Spain)

    Made these this morning! Substituted the potato starch for AP flour and used very fine corn flour. Left out the Xanthan. Added a bit more sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. We ate them with homemade strawberry jam… lovely! Thanks for the recipe.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, it is so helpful to know that the recipe works this way! ~Amy

  7. Julie

    Would it be possible to substitute lemon juice instead of the lemon oil/lemon zest?

    Sure, Julie – a tablespoon of lemon juice should add some flavor, but add more to taste, if you like – PJH

  8. Amy

    These look amazing! Would it be possible to make these into waffles instead of pancakes? I just got a new waffle maker and would love to try out GF lemon waffles!
    I encourage you to try these as waffles. Usually waffles will have more fat (melted butter or oil) than pancakes (2-4 T) for a nice crispy exterior and tender interior. Try without this adjustment first. See how it goes! Elisabeth

  9. Kathryn

    Is there anything that might work to substitute for the milk for my multiple allergy son? He’s been experimenting to try and find a good light corn pancake and this looks as though it is nearly where it needs to be at for him.

    Can he have soy milk or rice milk, Kathryn? Either of those would work just fine… PJH

  10. Daniel Randolph

    My wife has Celiac Disease and Beringers as well. It is hard to cook for her due to the many foods she cant have. It is nice to see a recipe that doesnt have soy in it. I made these for her with using Sweet Potato Powder instead of the Potato Starch. She actually cried because she hasnt had pancakes in over a year. Thank you for posting a very simple and doable recipe for fumbling men to use like myself.
    Oh my gosh, YOU are making ME cry! What a sweet thing to do, you great hubby you! ~ MaryJane

  11. Kerri

    I made husband says he would like to have them as crepes next time with some lemon curd and blueberries..maybe some coconut whip cream(I am dairy free)..I used coconut milk and coconut nectar sugar to replace the refined sugar. If we were making crepes I would just thin out with more milk..start with 1/4 cup probably. Tasty:)

  12. Anna

    Recently I learned I have a corn allergy and am presently grain free. Is there a non-grain substitute for the corn meal that would work for these pancakes?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It may be best to look at our other GF recipe for Pancakes or Waffles, using some lemon in place of some of the vanilla. Letting that batter sit for 15 minutes will yield fluffier pancakes. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  13. Rosemary Distel

    I just made these and they were terrific! They were so sweet that you really didn’t need maple syrup! The recipe called for 3 T of sugar. Is the sugar just for taste or is sugar needed for other things when baking?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      As far as pancakes are concerned, sugar provides flavor and it helps the pancakes brown when cooked. Jon@KAF

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