Easy Chinese Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes （南瓜饼 Nan Gua Bing)
October 3, 2020
Fall has finally arrived. Despite Texas’ generally higher temperature compared to other states, the weather is noticeably getting cooler. Ordinarily we’d take our kids to pumpkin patches, which my oldest boy absolutely loves. This year, with the pandamic going on, I’m not even sure if we can “trick or treat.”
Anyway, with or without the pandamic, at least we can still enjoy what this time of the year has to offer: pumpkins. This bright colored winter squash has plenty of nutritional and health benefits. There are also many ways to take advantage of this wonderful squash. You can eat the pumpkin flesh by roasting, steaming, or making it into a pie. The seeds are a great snack after either dry roasting or roasting in olive oil. In a previous post, I made a Garlic Butternut Squash dish that was inspired from a “Casserole Pumpkin” I had in a bistro in Beijing.
Today I’m making a Chinese pastry, Pumpkin Pancake, that is both easy and tasty by using pumpkin purée. You can either buy canned pumpkin purée from grocery stores or use some leftover pumpkin purée after making a pumpkin pie. The leftover purée is perfect for making these pumpkin pancakes since the recipe does not require much. One cup of pumpkin purée can easily make 10 pancakes.
If you never had Chinese pumpkin pancakes, you might be pleasantly surprised by both their look and their taste. These Pumpkin Pancakes are not the traditional pancakes Western people may have in mind. They look more like one of those small pastry dishes on a Cantonese dim sum table. And don’t expect these to taste like pumpkin pie spice, which is a blend of several spices that many Americans are accustomed to thanks to successful marketing over the past 20 years.
These Chinese pumpkin pancakes use very few ingredients. They taste smooth, sweet, soft, and slightly chewy. Texture-wise, they are similar to mochi.
To make these Chinese pumpkin pancakes, simply mix some sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice) and some sugar with the pumpkin purée. No sweet rice flour? No worries. Other gluten-free flours work well too. I have used pain rice flour, gluten-free flour, and almond flour to make these pancakes. In my opinion, the sweet rice flour produces the best texture, super soft, yet a bit of chewy, but the other flours make pumpkin pancakes taste pretty awesome too.
These golden looking pancakes look absolutely adorable and mouth watering after being slightly pan fried. I think they taste the best when they are warm. But you can certainly eat them cold and pack them as snacks for an outing.
Gluten Free, Vegan
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10-12 small pancakes
- 1 cup pumpkin purée1
- 1 cup sweet rice (glutinous rice) flour2
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ~ 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)3
- ~2 tablespoons rice crumbs (optional)3
*See Notes for ingredient substitutes
- In a mixing bowl, add the 1 cup of pumpkin purée. Use a whisk or fork to make sure the pumpkin purée is smooth and without clumps.
- Add the 1 cup of sweet rice flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar to the pumpkin purée, mixing thoroughly.
- Pour some sesame seeds and rice crumbs into two separate small plates.
- Use a tablespoon measurement spoon to scoop out some pumpkin mixture and roll it gently in between your palms to form a round ball. Roll the ball in either the sesame seeds or the rice crumbs.
- Put the ball gently on a flat surface lined with parchment paper. Use your palm or fingers to gently press the ball into a round surfaced (slightly flattened) pancake. Repeat the same process to make the rest of the pancakes.
- Heat a non-stick pan or well seasoned cast iron skillet under medium-low heat. Add the 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is getting warm, carefully add all the pumpkin pancakes to the pan in one layer. Pan fry for 3 to 4 minutes then gently flip all the pumpkin pancakes to the other side and pan fry for another 3-4 minutes. (Make sure the heat is medium-low or low. The pancakes will brown or burn if the heat is too high. When flipping, be extra careful as the pancakes are super soft.
- Carefully transfer all the pumpkin pancakes to a plate to cool for a minute or two. The pancakes are best enjoyed when they are warm.
- You can either buy canned pumpkin purée or make your own by either roasting or steaming a pumpkin. Homemade pumpkin purée is more flavorful. I find roasting to be the easiest way. To roast (see pictures below), cut the pumpkin into halves and scoop out the seeds. Then put the 2 half pumpkins face down on a lined baking sheet and in a preheated 350°F (~175°C) oven for 1 hour to 1.5 hours. Cool completely after pumpkins are done. Peel the skin off and use the flesh for the purée. When picking pumpkins for cooking, look for sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins). They are much smaller, sweeter and less fibrous than carving pumpkins. One small sugar pumpkin can yield at least 3 cups of pumpkin purée. You can also use Kabocha, also called Japanese pumpkin, to make pumpkin purée.
- I got my sweet rice flour from my local Asian grocery store. You can find sweet rice flour in most Asian grocery stores. Even non-Asian grocery stores often carry sweet rice flour. Like I mentioned in the introduction, sweet rice flour makes the softest pumpkin pancakes. But you can substitute sweet rice flour with rice flour, gluten free flour, or almond flour. All purpose flour works too if you are not gluten sensitive. If using all purpose flour, reduce the flour amount by half.
- These are optional. But I find the toasted sesame seeds and rice crumbs add more flavor and texture to the pumpkin pancakes. If you are not gluten sensitive, you can replace rice crumbs with regular bread crumbs or panko.