Once you start making vegan cheese-based goodies, it's hard to stop. Especially when it comes to syrniki (traditional Eastern European cheese pancakes)! Since creating a dairy-free version a short while ago I've been regularly asked to make more of these around here -- these pancakes are definitely the kind of treat you always wish you had more of on hand somehow :)
And while I LOVE the original vegan syrniki recipe I shared on the blog previously, I've also been experimenting a bit with a grain-free version, since I know many of you wanted that option. And today, finally -- success!
These syrniki came out super soft, fluffy, and delicious. And the recipe is not too different from the original, just slightly different flour quantities and the use of almond flour + tapioca instead of grains. The almond meal gives these a lovely added flavor by the way.
One note on the texture of these is that they come out best when cooked slightly longer (until nicely browned -- my husband says the darker the better, btw), and also press them down firmly once you flip to flatten them so that they cook through better. If they're cooked too lightly the middle will be a bit doughy.
See my previous post here for additional tips and tricks with these. In a nut shell though, a few things to keep in mind are:
- The "cheese" has to be made a day in advance (or night before), so budget for it.
- The oil these are frying in gives them a lot of flavor. Traditionally a lot of oil is used, but I went a lighter route and just used a bit of oil and topped it up lightly if the pan looked a little dry.
- Making pancakes is a bit of an intuitive thing. It’s hard to pin down exactly how many minutes each side should cook for, what temperature your stove should be at, etc. You just have to use your best judgement along the way (though I wrote down what worked for me). That said, it’s also a pretty easy and forgiving recipe, so don’t stress. Just keep an eye out your syrniki… if it looks like they’re ready to flip, flip. If, while trying to flip, the bottom feels too stuck or they feel way too soft, cook them longer. If they seem to be starting to burn, lower the temperature, etc. You learn from experience pretty quickly on things like this though :)
- Check the notes section on the recipe card below for some ingredient alternatives and extra tips.
- Traditionally syrniki are served with sour cream + jam. For the sour cream part I made some rather than using storebought -- I put a link in the recipe below to the recipe I used in case you wanted to give a homemade version a try. These are also lovely with raspberry jam -- our favorite around here.
Last but not least, since with the last recipe I got asked a lot whether I tried baking these, I decided to give that a try to see what happens. You can see the result below (with the lighter pancake being the baked one). The resulting pancakes are still very tasty, though the consensus here amongst my three taste testers and myself was that the pan fried version had a much nicer texture (soft and fluffy), whereas the baked version was firmer and a bit less pleasant texturally. Flavor-wise though everyone agreed that they were still very tasty. So worth a try for those looking for an oil-free version.
Here are the alternate baking instructions:
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Scoop out some batter with a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop with trigger and flatten lightly with the back of a spoon (don't worry if not perfect). Bake for 20 mins, then flip and press down to flatten with the back of a spatula. Bake for 5 mins longer. Done!
Grain-Free Vegan Cheese Pancakes (Syrniki)
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 minutes
- Total Time: 34 minutes
- Yield: 10-11 pancakes
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews,* pre-soaked and strained**
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
- 5 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ cup hot water (should be hot/very warm, but not boiling)
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 cup finely ground almond flour***
- ½ cup tapioca starch
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- a bit of olive oil (or vegan butter) for frying
1. Blend all “cheese” ball ingredients in a high power blender until completely smooth. Pour this mixture into a nut-milk bag (over the sink), place the nut milk bag onto a small strainer over a bowl, gently twist the top of the nut milk bag closed, and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8-10 hours).
2. If making sour cream from scratch for the topping, can prepare it ahead of time as well so it’s ready for use when the pancakes are.
3. When the “cheese” is ready, transfer the soft cheese ball into a medium-sized mixing bowl (discard the water that collected in the bowl under the nut-milk bag while the cheese was forming). Add remaining pancake ingredients (except olive oil) to the mixing bowl and stir everything together thoroughly with a spoon to combine.
4. Add a little bit of olive oil to a non-stick skillet (or skillet of your choice + more or less oil as needed) and warm up to a medium temperature (my stove temp goes from 1-9, and I made these mostly on 4-5). Whirl around the oil on the pan a bit to lightly coat the base (or use a pastry brush to spread the oil around). Once the skillet is warmed up, use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop with a trigger**** to scoop up some of the batter to place onto the skillet (depending on the size of your skillet can add several at a time — I did 4 at a time for these on a medium-large skillet; just be sure to leave some space between them for comfortable flipping). Press the batter balls down lightly with the back of a spoon to flatten a little (don’t worry if they’re not perfectly flat at this point). Cook for 2-4 minutes, then flip using a spatula, press each pancake down with the back of the spatula to flatten the pancakes more, and cook for another 2 mins. Add a bit of oilve oil to the pan as needed while these are cooking. It also helps to slide them around the pan a little while they’re cooking, though not essential. Once ready, remove onto a plate and repeat with the remaining batter until done.
4. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy warm!
*If sensitive to cashews, the cheese can be made with almonds instead (following the same procedure).
**To pre-soak cashews: place in a glass bowl, cover with water, and leave to soak for 4 hours (or overnight in the fridge). Then strain and discard the water. For a quick pre-soak, cover with boiled water and soak for 15 mins, then strain and discard water. (Note: this quick soak technique doesn’t preserve the nutrition of the recipe as well as the traditional soaking technique above). Note: the purpose of soaking the nuts is to re-hydrate them and plump them up for blending into a smooth, cheesecake-like consistency. Proper soaking techniques also maximize nutrition and digestibility. If you’re interested in learning more about nut soaking and other dessert prep tips and tricks, I delve into these subjects in detail in my book Unconventional Treats.
***If sensitive to almonds, can use cashew flour instead.
****The cookie scoop with a trigger makes portioning and shaping easy, and makes the sticky batter easy to handle. Alternatively you can use a spoon to scoop batter into the skillet.