Coconut, Almond & Quinoa Breakfast Cakes

Created by Laura Wright

Saturday or Sunday lunch/brunch has historically been my least favourite shift to work in terms of service. It’s just way busy and if you try to have a shred of a social life on the weekend like a normal human being, you’re paying for it in some way as the day wears on. I’ve been parked behind a giant espresso machine for solid blocks of time hammering out lattes for fancy ladies. The day is a blur of flipping those tables over and over until the clock strikes 3. There are children and there are messes of ketchup. There are total, self-entitled douchebags that need coffee. Clatters, clangs, beeps, change clinks, sizzles + shouts. The fullest hours imaginable.

A couple years ago, I found myself on such a day catching a moment behind a vitrine all filled to the brim with pâté, pickles, cheeses and marinated items; my elbow supporting my chin and heavy gaze. Other hand firmly planted in the pocket of my faded navy blue apron. My boss came up behind me so silently and leaned up on the case as I did, looking out at the scene. After I made some throwaway comment on how crazy it had been all morning, he said something so great. He gestured out to the dining room and remarked “Isn’t it wonderful to look out and see everyone smiling and to get a sense that they’re all laughing together?” And it was actually nice. It made me feel better about my lack of sleep, not being able to have a leisurely  read + eat with my man, about those DB’s I mentioned earlier… I felt less like I was swept up in service and more like I was performing a necessary service for my community. I was part of the assembly that facilitated a weekly coming-together over something good to eat. Huge. People look forward to that time all week. Work became privilege.

Side note: I work in a fine establishment that only opens for dinners now, so this has become less of a thing. But! I appreciate languid breakfasts in and out of the home all the more now–for the happy chorus in a crowded dining room or the one, singular laugh of my handsome man. All of it a still new-feeling luxury for me.

So for those happy/lazy times at home, you would probably find me fixing up something like this. The quinoa in these provides crunchy textural contrast. It isn’t thrown in because of random “for your health!” kind of aspirations. They give the cakes heft and much visual interest. I toast it in cinnamon flecked coconut oil for lots of fragrance and use plenty of vanilla to warm up the largely almond meal-based batter. Cacao nibs give a wine-y chocolaty crunch and the bananas get sweet and caramelized on top of the cakes. A dollop of tangy yogurt and plenty of maple syrup finishes them off. Something wonderful to see us through to the end of winter, over some good reads and a pot of tea.

Print the recipe here!
Inspired by True Food.
NOTES: I blend everything except the spelt flour, salt, sugar and leavening agents to really smooth out the almond flour. That’s an optional step. Also, making the quinoa up the night before would cut down on prep time considerably if you’re planning on maximal chill times on a Sunday or some such thing. If you eat eggs, you could certainly add a whisked one to the batter for some extra leavening power.

2 1/2 tbsp melted extra virgin coconut oil, divided + extra for the pan
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup milk of your choice (I used light coconut milk)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup whole spelt flour (or GF all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp coconut palm sugar (or demerara, evaporated cane etc)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups almond meal
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 bananas, sliced + divided
2 tbsp cacao nibs + extra

to serve:
yogurt of your choosing (coconut, sheep, cow etc)
maple syrup

Cook the quinoa: in a small saucepan over medium heat, drop a 1/2 tbsp of the coconut oil. Once it’s fragrant add the pinch of cinnamon. Stir that around until it smells way good. Add the rinsed and drained quinoa and a pinch of salt. Stir it around in the oil a bit to toast. Add a scant cup of water to the pan. Bring the quinoa to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. You want the quinoa to be cooked, but kind of crunchy too. Drain off excess liquid and cool quinoa completely.

Add the lemon juice to the milk and set aside for 5 minutes to curdle/lump up.

In a medium bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, coconut sugar and sea salt. Stir to combine. Combine the almond meal, vanilla extract, remaining coconut oil and curdled milk in the blender. Flip it to high and blend until the mixture is very smooth, about a minute. Scrape this mixture into the bowl with the spelt flour etc. Gently fold it all together with a spatula until just combined. Add the cooled quinoa and fold it in until it’s evenly mixed.

Heat a large sauté pan or griddle over medium. Brush with melted coconut oil. Drop 1/4-1/3 cups of batter onto the pan. Spread the batter out a bit with a spatula or the bottom of the measuring cup. Press banana slices onto the top of the cakes and sprinkle with cacao nibs. Once bubbles start to form on top and the bottom is golden, flip them over. Continue to cook until bottom side is golden/dry. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping cooked cakes warm as you go along.

Serve pancakes with extra sliced bananas + cacao nibs, maple syrup and yogurt dolloped on top.

20/03/2013 (Last Updated: 20/03/2013)
Posted in: autumn, breakfast, coconut milk, spring, summer, sweet, vegan, winter


  • Oh wow, I love these! I can imagine the quinoa would add such a lovely and unique texture to the pancakes. I’m pinning this xo

  • Hi there
    I’m a bit confused as to whether you should use almond meal or almond flour in this recipe?
    Thanks, Voy

    • I think both would work, but almond flour is probably preferable.

  • I had the same problems as GIULIA. I mixed up the batter as described, but pancakes came out terrible. When i tried to flip them the batter fell apart, the inside was still liquid while the outside was ok.
    At the end i decided to make something like keiser schmarrn and it tasted delicious :)

  • I absolutely love these! Instead of placing the banana slices on top, I mash them up and add them to the batter which makes the cakes a bit lighter. Wonderful photos, you’re such an inspiration!

  • Was so excited to try this recipe (have been looking for an excuse to use almond meal for some time)! I mixed up the batter as described, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the pancakes to keep shape in the pan – they came undone as soon as I tried to flip them. Tried adding a little more water to make the batter more pancake-like, didn’t work. VERY sad considering that despite ending up in a lumpy brown pile, they still tasted delicious… any idea what might have gone wrong? Or could you propose an alternative (maybe baked) that would be harder for me to mess up? :) I want to give this another go for sure.

    • Hi Giulia, I’m so sorry on the lateness of this reply. So truthfully, I’ve found these pancakes to be a little fragile as well. The batter is quite stiff and it is intended to be that way to help them stay together in the pan. Once you drop the batter in the pan, you kind of have to spread it out a bit more manually with a spatula to get a nice flat pancake. So on that note, I don’t know if adding water to the batter would have helped. I think my best advice is just to gently spread them out a bit with the back of a spoon or spatula once the batter goes on the heat, and to use the biggest flipper you’ve got to handle them. I’m glad you thought they still tasted delicious though! And I really hope you do try them again.

  • So glad I found the link to this site – the recipes sound fantastic, as are the photos and background stories. I’ve been adding quinoa to my pancakes for a while now, but your version sounds heavenly. I haven’t done much with coconut oil, although I’ve had it in my pantry for a while. This recipe inspires me to go cook!

  • this looks absolutely amazing! have to try it asap :)

  • These look incredible, thank you for sharing. Re-thinking my own post on banana pancakes that I’ve just put up after seeing these interesting beauties! Will have to try experimenting with toasted quinoa added to breads and cakes. Happy Spring to you.

  • Made these this morning and they were absolutely perfect!! Thank you SOOOO much!

  • I made these this morning and they are delicious! I am not gluten-free or vegan, so I just substituted regular flour and regular milk for the batter. The cakes didn’t hold up too well when it was time to flip them, so I added an egg like you suggested and a tablespoon more flour and they firmed right up! I love the lemony flavor.

  • I will try to make this for myself and the little one. The photos are so gorgeous, by the way!

  • These look so good! I’ve never thought of putting quinoa in pancakes. It’s a great idea!

  • What an absolute gorgeous stack of pancakes – amazing photos and the pancakes look absolutely delicious! And I loved the little insight you gave us into what it’s like to stand on the other side of the counter. Despite having had a number of tedious jobs since being a teenager I never actually did any kind of waiting or working in a bar as I always thought it must be horrible to work where other people go to have fun – despite being an avid people watcher, it never occurred to me how nice it could be to be part of that (leaving aside the douche bags and messy children). So thank you for that! And also an important reminder to be kind to those standing on the other side of the till/counter, you name it.

  • 1: I love what your boss said! Especially as I was expecting them to growl at you or something.
    2: I hope I’m pretty friendly and non-stressful already, but this post makes me really want to consider the people serving me brunch and be particularly considerate of them.
    3: I adore the food thesaurus, I use it all the time.
    4: This recipe sounds wonderful, and I really like that you explained exactly why the quinoa is there. Aaaand I do believe I have all the ingredients…

  • These look OUTstanding. What gorgeous photos…per usual. Your words and the creativity of this recipe are just so lovely. Well done! — I also wanted to thank you for your incredibly sweet comments you left on my blog last week. They truly meant so much and were just what I needed. Thank you! xo

  • Love your blog, great rcipes and beautiful photography!!

  • do you think this recipe would work with brown rice flour instead of spelt? it looks sooo good i would love to make it :)

    • Hi Marlies! I think the brown rice flour would sub in fine, but you may have to introduce some kind of binder like arrowroot powder or ground flax seeds (a tablespoon or so of each). The gluten in the spelt kind of helps to hold it all together, so adding one of those 2 things would help. Alternatively, if you eat eggs, you could add a beaten one to the batter to help with binding too. Hope that helps!

  • Laura, your photographs have been just dynamite lately! So gorgeous.

    I was a barista for 10+ years, so I totally felt everything you wrote about. Fancy ladies! douche bags! messy children! There were moments of so much resentment, and then those moments of so much love. It was always such a weird meeting ground.

  • you’re killing me with these photos and this recipe. a while back, like a year ago, I got obsessed with pancakes. i mean seriously obsessed. and then i got obsessed with making healthy pancakes, like how much nutrition could i hide in a cake. i no longer make pancakes with the zeal I did then (don’t get me wrong, they’re still in regular rotation) but this takes me back to my days of superfood purple okinawan sweet potato pancake days. I think I need to revisit them with these. My other half would freak the freak out for them.

  • I love, love, love starting my day with quinoa. Whether it’s granola, hot cereal, or pancakes, quinoa never disappoints. This recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to whip up a batch this weekend. And your photos are gorgeous!

    I would love for you to share this recipe on this week’s Thank Goodness It’s Quinoa, the bi-weekly link party that celebrates all things quinoa. I know our readers will fall in love with this recipe just as I have!

    Happy Friday!


  • Ahh, this makes me miss waiting tables. :) I was serving breakfast in a small town sap house, and most of the people were nice and super friendly (perhaps because we all kind of knew each other!). But I dealt with my fair share of DBs that were spending the weekend out of the city in their upstate homes. Those were always the women that ordered two pancakes for their 5 year olds, ignoring my warnings that they were enormous and one would suffice. The look on their faces when I triumphantly dropped off a dinner plate with two pancakes overhanging the edges all the way around was THE BEST.

    And I am loving the idea of quinoa in pancakes! Especially with bananas + cacao nibs + yogurt. Oh my. (One of my newest flavor combo obsessions is bananas + cacao nibs. I don’t know what took me so long.)

  • This gives me such an appreciation for all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, that gives us as diners the opportunity to linger and laugh over tables of delicious food. I’m glad you are able to enjoy calmer mornings, and with these beauties. I love the quinoa!

  • GORG. I love these photos! And the recipe looks to die for. Bravo, friend!

  • These breakfast cakes are pretty much all of my favorite flavors rolled into one. I think you just created my ideal breakfast! Can’t wait until the weekend to try them out :)

  • Your blog makes me so happy. I really love the idea of these breakfast cakes. I bet they’d be a great start to the day.

  • Oh boy, can I ever relate to having a little too much fun the night before a morning shift. I used to get jealous of everyone’s good times on the weekend, but I did enjoy being a part of their fun. You make healthy and humble breakfast foods look SO appealing, Laura, love it.

  • Absolutely gorgeous, as usual!

  • I love this post both because I used to work in the service industry and can relate to both views and because breakfast (well, brunch really) is my favourite meal of the day. Cozy mornings spent lingering with good people over delicious food is one of life’s best gifts. These pancakes are stunning. I’m looking forward to trying a GF version over here in the near future.

  • Oooh these are beautiful with the red quinoa. I love all the flavours too- almonds, bannana, coconut. I actually made almond and coconut crusted banana pancakes yesterday which were suberb. This pancake fiend will be trying your version very soon!

  • I absolutely adore your photos and recipe. I look forward to reading your posts every Wed. It’s the first thing I do when I get up.

  • Gorgeous as always and love love the list of ingredients. I spend my work days sharing stories with folks in the restaurant business who do exactly what you describe: provide that special experience that people so look forward to all week/month – I couldn’t agree more that it is worth seeing it as a privilege. Awesome!

  • Hey Laura! It’s Carla from JK. :) How are you? I have a slight feeling that your story might be about him? Haha. Let me know if I’m right. But the meat and pickle vitrine and faded blue apron sound way too familiar.

    I’ve always been a fan of your blog but it has recently come in more handy. I’m finding myself in a bit of an eating rut and am trying to reconnect with good food. It’s so easy to let oneself go in this industry! Especially in the winter.

    Anyway, bottom line, you have such a beautiful blog! Your words and pictures are super inspirational and I’m so happy for your success. Keep up the fabulous work!

    – Carla
    P.S. HI MARK! :)

  • Thanks so much for posting this..I will try it. I am a survivor of food service and my own catering business. Gads! There’s a forever foodie in me, but now I find growing heirloom veggies more relaxing and still try to sneek in interesting meals to friends and family that appreciate it! Love the blog and appreciate the time it takes to do this for us to enjoy!

  • Never heard cacao nibs called “wine-y”…what an apt description!

  • These are just beautiful, Laura! I’ve never worked in food service, but I love the outlook on Saturday/Sunday morning busy times that you shared. Also glad for you that you get to enjoy your mornings at home now, with those lovely cakes!

  • Wow! These look so good! I am always looking out for healthy breakfast ideas. Sometimes I get bored of the usual: 5 cereal muesli , almond, raisins with soy milk. Thank you for sharing!

  • what a beautiful story and breakfast! i used to work in a bakery, and i remember the craziness of the morning hours on saturday and sunday. sometimes it was quite overwhelming, but when i stepped back and looked at the joy the baked goods brought them, i felt honored to work at such an amazing place. like you said, work was a privilege.

    i love the idea of adding quinoa to breakfast cakes for some heft and staying power. i will definitely have to try it this weekend!