Perhaps you’ve been here before. Hungover, tired, and unwilling to lug yourself all the way to Usdan or Swings to get some food in your belly. After a night of socializing, very few are content to eat a bowl of cereal in the morning, but even fewer are brave enough to attempt to make their own substantial breakfast. What if I told you you can quickly make yourself a luxurious brunch without having to leave your kitchen and spend 15 points? Enter: the Lazy Student’s Sweet Potato Pancakes. They’re rich, aromatic, and packed with all the nutrients sweet potatoes can provide.
You may be asking, “Why would I put sweet potatoes in my pancakes, when pumpkins are much more appropriate to New England fall?” Let me let you in on a little culinary secret: anything the pumpkin can do, sweet potatoes can do better. Pumpkins are hard, stringy, and have very little natural sweetness or flavor on their own, which means you often must compensate with added cane sugars. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are soft, versatile, abundant in nutrients, and need no extra sweetener (although you can knock yourself out with the maple syrup if you so please). Leave the pumpkins for carving. To the handsome squash’s credit, sweet potatoes don’t look as good on your doorstep.
The next time you’re looking for a way to shake up Thanksgiving (and not piss off Grandma), try making a sweet potato pie instead of a pumpkin pie, and move beyond the tired, marshmallow-topped casserole that frankly limits the sweet potato’s potential. Your relatives will thank you. In the meantime, get acquainted with the humble tuber by adding it to your weekly brunch rotation.
Lazy Student’s Sweet Potato Pancakes
(proportions can be adjusted as needed)
1 serving pancake mix, prepared as directed*
1 sweet, sweet potato
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla (optional but like, not really)
*In this recipe, you can use any kind of pancake mix you desire, or you could even use your favorite buttermilk recipe if you’re feeling ambitious. I prefer the kind that uses eggs, oil, and milk instead of the ‘Just Add Water’ variety, because it yields a fluffier pancake. Just prepare the batter as you would normally, and add more sweet potato depending on the number of servings you make. I use one sweet potato per two-person serving of batter.
Before you start making your batter, set a pot of water to boil and peel your sweet potato. Cut the potato into rough cubes or chunks, as it will make cooking faster. Once the pot reaches a boil, cook the sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes. Once you can easily cut through the chunks with a knife, drain them and put them into a bowl to mash. Mash, mash, mash the sweet potato with whatever mashing device you have handy. A fork will work fine if you’ve cooked the potatoes long enough. You can leave some chunk if you’re that kind of texture person, or you could mix in the sweet potato smoothly as a puree. It’s entirely up to you and your personal relationship with sweet potatoes.
Now take your pancake batter, from whatever origins it came, and fold in the mashed sweet potato. To prevent the batter from getting too tough, I would refrain from mixing the pancake batter too much before introducing the sweet potato, and going for a laissez-faire approach when folding in the mash. A light hand is best! Too much mixing, and the pancakes will be flat and un-fluffy. Add in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can add a full teaspoon of cinnamon instead. What I’ve found is that pumpkin pie spice on its own tends to be nutmeg-heavy without the sufficient spice that cinnamon provides, so adding both is ideal. Vanilla rounds out the flavor palette with an earthy sweetness.
When cooking the pancakes, use a nonstick or well-buttered frying pan or griddle. Wait for the pan to get hot before pouring the batter, or else it will spread immediately upon contact and you’ll end up with a thin, greasy disc. Flip the pancakes once you see bubbles begin to form on the surface. Serve your autumnal flapjacks with butter (or Earth Balance—depending on your mix, this recipe can be vegan!), maple syrup, and a light dusting of cinnamon sugar if you’re feeling fancy. Chances are, you’re too tired to feel fancy but at least you got these pancakes in less than a half hour!
Brooke Kushwaha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brookekushwaha.