I love colorful holiday food as much as the next person but, though I’m usually an everything in moderation kind of parent, artificial food color doesn’t sit well with me. Of course my children eat candy at the movies and on Halloween, and whatever comes in those party goodie bags is fair game. But when I’m cooking at home, I’m not so into using Yellow 5 and Red 40. So on holidays like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, when colorful food is all the rage, it’s time to get creative.
Natural food colors like the ones by India Tree are the obvious solution—and they are a good one!—but they aren’t always easy to find and shopping for them online requires some planning ahead. When there’s no time for that or I find a super easy way to use vegetables as a natural coloring, like in these all-natural Pink Velvet Pancakes, I go with that. Because extra vegetables—even in a Valentine’s Day breakfast recipe! I’m in love with that.
The not-so-secret veggie behind these naturally pink pancakes, which are perfect for Valentine’s Day, are beets. While I normally prefer roasted beets, you want to use steamed or boiled beets in this case. You’ll get a more neutral flavor that keeps these sweet breakfast pancakes from taking on a savory flavor.
As in, they won’t taste the beets. (I promise.)
Valentine’s Day is on a weekend this year, so pancakes seem like the right move. Still, if the thought of steaming beets to make pancakes sounds like too much, you can either make them ahead or check the produce aisle of your supermarket for packaged pre-cooked beets, which I’m seeing around more and more. They make pink pancakes as easy as any other kind.
Watch the video to see how I incorporate beets in this fun Valentine’s Day recipe and—bonus!— you’ll also learn my secret to impossibly fluffy pancakes, which works on any pancakes, pink or not.
All-Natural Pink “Velvet” Pancakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup beet puree (made from 2 small to medium beets pureed with 1-2 tablespoon water)
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 tablespoons sugar
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Fresh strawberries, for serving (optional)
1. If you’d like to keep your pancakes warm as you cook, start by adjusting the oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 200 degrees, and place an oven-safe platter in oven. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, beet puree, egg yolks, and melted butter until combined.
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or an electric hand mixer, whip egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold in whipped egg whites until just combined—a few streaks should remain.
4. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch pan over medium heat until shimmering, 3 to 5 minutes. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out oil, leaving a thin film of oil on bottom and sides of pan. Using 1/4 cup batter per pancake, portion batter into pan and cook until bottoms of pancakes are brown and top surfaces start to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until the second side has browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Serve immediately or transfer pancakes to warmed platter in the preheated oven. Repeat with remaining batter, using remaining oil as needed.