How I made the perfect keto syrniki (Ukrainian cheese pancakes)
Syrniki — is a traditional Ukrainian breakfast fare. It is something many kids smell from the kitchen upon waking up in the morning. I was craving these little things for a long time after moving to the US. However, this seemingly simple recipe is not at all easy to make!
The challenge was to make the pancakes keto-friendly as I am currently following the diet. In simple words, it means that I could not use regular flour or sugar which are the ingredients of any popular syrniki recipe. Additionally, I can not consider myself a very experienced cook, so the recipe had to be effortless and quick.
It took me weeks and kilograms of wasted cheese to finally be able to make them the way my mother makes it (or even better, sorry mom :D). It’s funny what one can do to get a feeling of home. So what is the secret? Why I failed miserably even following the advice of many successful recipes from friends and from the internet? The following are the mistakes I made.
Choose the right cheese
After a lot of trial and error, I realized that the choice of cheese is not that important, in contrast to the general opinion. However, you still want to aim for the dry curd cottage cheese, farmers cheese or white cheese. The best way to find them on a shelf is to visit a Russian or eastern-European grocery store. I had to drive up 1.5 hours to Ukrainian Village (a neighborhood in Chicago) and buy 6 pounds of different cheese. The one that works best for me is the Ludwig Dairy Twarog Farmers Cheese. I could not find it online, and their website was down as of the moment this post is written. Aim for larger curd, and forget about the regular cottage cheese. It is too wet and your pancakes will spread out like on the picture below.
Use coconut flour
One of my biggest mistakes was using almond flour. Even though almond flour is a key to the ketogenic bakery, I realized that it actually loosens the batter instead of making it hold together. Even though it was not my main mistake when trying to make perfect keto syrniki, switching to coconut flour helped a lot while reducing the total calories. In fact, there is very little to no flour at all required for the batter itself, otherwise, it is going to taste more like regular pancakes.
I use coconut flour from Hodgson Mill. It adds amazing taste and smell to the dish. I liked how it tasted so much that now I also serve my syrniki with coconut flakes.
Use more oil and a non-stick pan
My biggest mistake and probably the most important thing about making syrniki is the way you actually cook it! It is very important to use enough oil so that the batter makes as little contact with the pan as possible, otherwise, it is going to stick to the pan and start spreading out and melting. Another important thing is to use vegetable oil, such as extra virgin olive oil for frying. I used butter initially as I do with the regular keto pancakes, but it simply did not work.
Roll it in coconut flour
Finally, to prevent melting, it is important to roll the individual pieces in flour before throwing them on the pan. It will give an awesome golden crust for the pancakes and hold them together on the pan.
Finally, my recipe
- 200g farmers cheese
- 1 raw egg
- 1 tbsp coconut flour (optional — I like to reduce the calories by adding as little flour as possible, but it makes it harder to roll the balls)
- 1/2 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp powdered monk fruit sweetener
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Try to not make the mixture too smooth, you want the cheese texture. Make balls out of the batter and roll them in coconut flour. If they are spreading out, consider mixing the batter a little more for extra stickiness.
Pour cooking oil on the hot pan. It is very important to add enough oil so that the pancakes have minimal contact with the pan. Carefully lay out the pancakes on the pan and fry until golden crust on medium fire. It should not take more than a minute or two for each side. When done, I like to pour out the leftover oil and let them cool down a bit in the pan before serving. Serve with berries and sour cream. Personally, I prefer serving with coconut flakes, full-fat Greek yogurt, breakfast syrup, and a little bit of cinnamon.
The real hack is to bake it instead of frying. By not using cooking oil the syrniki come out with minimum calories. I set the oven for 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. It is still possible to get the golden crust on both sides if using parchment paper by simply flipping them after 10 minutes. Even though I prefer the fried option because of the more crunchiness, bakes syrniki are definitely a healthier option and is the easiest if you want to premake a lot of them for the whole week.