When you think of pancakes, you probably think of buttermilk pancakes topped with maple syrup. It’s a delicious and classic breakfast combination. You might not know it yet, but lemon and ricotta is also a classic flavor pairing and these wonderfully light, flavorful pancakes are just the recipe in which to see those two flavors shine.
There are two key ingredients that make these pancakes so special: egg whites and ricotta.
Of course, every ingredient is important, but these are the two that make these pancakes stand out. The ricotta cheese gives the pancakes a tender and almost velvety mouthfeel that is a contrast to many breadier pancakes. The egg whites are beaten and folded in to the batter, causing the pancakes to rise up like little souffles as they cook.
Ricotta cheese is a mild Italian cheese that is used in many pastries, though it works its way into savory dishes (like our lasagna soup recipe) more often than it is used in desserts.
The soft cheese is made of up fine, creamy curds and is easy to whip into a cake batter, a cheesecake batter or a pancake batter, like this one. The ricotta makes the pancake batter thicker and heavier than most pancake batters, which translates to a pancake with a very moist, luscious interior in this lemon-ricotta pancakes recipe.
A pancake batter made with ricotta alone might be too dense, but these pancakes get their lightness from beaten egg whites.
Since only two eggs are used to make this meringue, it only takes a minute or two to whip up the egg whites and fold them in to the batter. Working in conjunction with the baking powder already in the pancake batter, the egg whites ensure that every bite of the pancake is perfectly light and fluffy – even with all that rich ricotta cheese inside.
Since these pancakes cook up to be so tall, it will take them a little bit longer to cook through than some other types of pancakes. The pan should be nice and hot when you dollop your batter onto it, but you should reduce the temperature after flipping the pancakes over so that they will have a chance to cook completely without burning. Keep a spatula handy so that you can peek underneath the pancakes to see that they turn a nice golden brown and do not become too dark.
Though the ricotta and the eggs provide most of the texture for these pancakes, I can’t forget the importance of the lemon.
Fresh lemon juice and zest provide most of the flavor in these pancakes, making them taste like a bite of springtime even if you’re making them in the winter. You only need one fresh lemon to get enough juice and zest for this recipe, so don’t skimp and pick up a fresh one to get the best results.
Light & Fluffy Lemon Ricotta Pancakes Recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup ricotta cheese (if you want to go the DIY route, see our post on how to make ricotta at home)
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in egg yolks, ricotta cheese, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest.
Whisk batter until everything comes together. Batter can be slightly lumpy, but there should be no large clumps of dry ingredients remaining.
In a medium bowl, whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture.
Preheat a nonstick griddle or large pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. When a drop of water sizzles, but does not immediately evaporate, the griddle is hot enough. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan for each pancake.
Cook until the bottom is golden and bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake. Reduce heat to medium (or lower, if necessary), then flip the pancake and cook until golden on the other side. Serve immediately and repeat with remaining batter.