Protein Pancake Series: Updated Birch Benders Review

Pandemic or not, I’ve been eating a fair amount of protein pancakes. Sometimes the commute from my bed to my desk seems insurmountable and then fast, delicious protein pancakes are the way to go. 

Before I met my favorite protein pancakes – Kodiak Cakes, my jam was Birch Benders. I gave them a 9/10 at the time and described their mouthfeel as “sweet fluff and protein fairies dancing on the tongue.”

I thought they missed the mark (egregiously) with their instant Keto Cup Pancakes, and gave them the harshest TastyStacks rating of Not Pancakes. But I still assumed their regular protein pancake mix, my old tried and true, were reliably delicious.

I tried them side by side with Kodiak Cakes for a real-time comparison. I even made the Birch Benders pancake second, giving them the preheated pancake edge. Aesthetically speaking, the Birch Benders pancake looked more golden brown when I flipped it. But that’s where the positives stopped.

They were fine, kind of. If our definition of “fine” means unfluffy pancakes that do not make my mouth happy. They were more dense than Kodiak Cakes, which are perfectly fluffy every time. Their texture paled in comparison.  They were dry and disappointing. I ended up freezing the Birch Benders pancake for some day when I’ve run out of Kodiak Cakes at the same time as a zombie apocalypse and really need an emergency pancake. 


JUST THE STACKS – 5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Dry and flat and boring but not terrible.

Mouthfeel: Disappointing. I cheered myself up making pancake fruit faces. Cute, right?

Protein per serving: 16g

Carbs per serving: 26g

Price:  $4+ per box

Available at: Birch Benders and Amazon. But I suggest Kodiak Cakes instead.

TastyStacks Turns One!

A brief rundown of my year in pancakes – pour yourself some syrup and enjoy.

For everyone who asks me what my favorite pancakes have been so far, I always mention Nighthawk, but with a caveat. Nighthawk was my absolute favorite, and also my first review. Then I had to break up with them, and it was not because of my shoeless date. Then Nighthawk redeemed themselves and has been back in my pancake cravings ever since, with only slight suspicion.

I ate a lot of mediocre pancakes, including an all-you-can-eat pancake date with a time limit. I had several really bad pancakes, some of which forced me to create the category “Not Pancakes.” I’ll save you the trouble of clicking that link and let you know that Erewhon makes raw vegan bullshit pancakes that are flat and circular shaped but are most definitely not pancakes. And Birch Benders, which makes one of my favorite protein pancake mixes, totally misses the mark on what makes a pancake with their dreadful “Keto Cups.” Hard pass.

I ate a ton of protein pancakes and pretended to be a runner. Just kidding, I have never pretended to be a runner, though I have finisher medals that say otherwise. You can let me have this humble running brag, as running is basically my kryptonite.

Finally, I had a lot of delicious pancakes and met a handsome pancake purist along the way (only excessive syrup allowed) who didn’t mind when I accidentally flung pancake pieces at him. I look forward to another year consuming delicious carbs and contemplating mouthfeel. And remember, you should never have trouble cutting pancakes.

Keto Cakes: Are These Even Pancakes?

Like the rules of poetry (and pretty much everything), I believe the rules of pancakes are meant to be broken. Otherwise life would be a whole lot less fun, creative, and delicious. However, definitions make for good guidelines and it is within this framework I present this review.

Birch Benders makes one of my favorite protein pancake mixes. They are guaranteed to be easy to make and fluffy to eat. Recently, they launched a line of microwavable cup mixes, including several pancake flavors. A pancake in a cup! How cool and cute is that!

At $11.99 for a package of four, plus shipping, these aren’t inexpensive. Oh, and they are also marketed as “Keto,” because people hate carbs now. They are not low calorie though, at an average of 200 calories per tiny cup serving. I don’t really know where the calories are coming from (maybe the 17g of fat), but if I’m going to eat 200 calories or more of a small pancake, they better taste fucking good.

I bought two varieties: Strawberry Shortcake and Classic Maple. I was especially interested in the Strawberry Shortcake, which I tried first. I guesstimated the addition of three tablespoons of water. I thought the batter smelled like a strawberry Pop-Tart, which I love (not a keto food product). I microwaved my adorably decorated Strawberry Shortcake cup for 60 seconds and then looked at it very suspiciously. My first bite was…terrible. I tried another bite to be sure and then threw it away. It was dry, tasted artificial, and left me with a bad mouthfeel.

The next one I tried was the Classic Maple, and I very carefully measured three tablespoons of water, in case this was an operator error situation. I mixed, microwaved, and again looked at the finished product suspiciously. This one was better, but something was still off about it. It kind of tasted like a pancake, but I had to think pretty hard about it.

So are these even pancakes? 

The Strawberry Shortcake gets a resounding “no” and while the Classic Maple was reminiscent flavor-wise of a pancake, it was certainly not a “flat cake made of thin batter.” It was a semi dry, salty, fluffy ball of “maybe pancake.”

I want to reiterate that Birch Benders makes excellent protein pancake mixes, which I will continue to use. I might consider eating the rest of these alleged “pancake cups” in an emergency situation, where I also have access to power and a microwave. The only thing these left me with was a terrible craving for a real pancake topped with strawberries. 

JUST THE STACKS – 0/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Not good. I wanted to give one point for the Classic Maple, but since I have deemed these Not Pancakes I can’t even give out a point.

Mouthfeel: Sad, disappointing, and confusing.

Protein per serving:  7g*

Carbs per serving: 10g*

Price:  $11.99 for 4

Available at: Birch Benders and Amazon.

* The nutrition facts listed on Amazon and Birch Benders are slightly different from each other for the same products and I don’t know why this is, but surely someone is going to get upset if they don’t know if something has 7 or 10 grams of protein.

Protein Pancake Series: Kodiak Cakes Cake-Off

Let’s say you’re already late for work but desperately need a pancake fix and just don’t have the fucking time to slice strawberries. Whip these fluffers up and wham-o!

I recently updated my dating profile to note I was only interested in dating men who were good eaters. Shockingly, this has not brought the boys running to me. While my next pancake date percolates, I had a very exciting pancake-off between three Kodiak Cakes Power Cake mixes: Strawberry Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Oat, and Almond Poppy Seed. They all have 14 grams of protein per half cup serving, and I made these with unsweetened cashew milk instead of water. Let’s start eating!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip  
I was excited about all of these, but I was most excited for the Strawberry Chocolate Chip. This is one of my favorite pancake combinations and it’s hard to get the consistency right but it can be done. There’s a risk the strawberries end up in a mushy clump in the middle of the pancake, but this problem is avoided using a mix with just the strawberry flavor.

The batter smelled slightly like strawberry milk, which was pleasant. There are adorable mini chocolate chips in the mix! That was my favorite part. The taste was good but not outstanding. The strawberry flavor is a little off. Obviously, if you’re expecting real strawberries you’re going to be disappointed, but I think you’re better off adding real strawberries.

Tasty Stacks Rating: 7.5/10

Cinnamon Oat
The Cinnamon Oat batter both smelled and resembled oatmeal cookies when mixing. Surely this bodes well, right? That’s what I thought too. I hate to write this, but these were bad. We’re talking Mel’s Drive-In bad, except still better than that because I could easily chew them. I’m not sure what to do with this mix, the side of the box suggests I can make these into muffins, which might be better.

Tasty Stacks Rating: 2/10  

Almond Poppy Seed
The Almond Poppy Seed, which I have tried once before, remained my favorite of these three. The flavor reminds me of a subdued marzipan. The batter has tiny poppy seeds in the mix so this impacts the texture slightly, though not in a negative way for my mouthfeel. You should definitely put fresh strawberries on these. I don’t think they even need syrup, but of course they are excellent with (high quality) syrup. 

Tasty Stacks Rating: 10/10  

The Winner!
The clear winner of these three was the Almond Poppy Seed, followed by the Strawberry Chocolate Chip. The Strawberry one is growing on me to be honest. Let’s say you’re already late for work but desperately need a pancake fix and just don’t have the fucking time to slice strawberries. Whip these fluffers up and wham-o! Kodiak Cakes mixes make sturdy pancakes, so you can throw these in your bag and take them with you as you journey through your day.

Protein Pancake Series: Kodiak Cakes

Do you know how hard it is to get perfect pancake fluff with a protein pancake mix? These knock it out of the park every time.

I swiped right on a guy with a beaming smile and muscular arms holding a chicken in his lap. It was the chicken that really intrigued me. “Is that your pet chicken?,” I asked, half jokingly. Not only was it his pet chicken, it was one of several, and they even have their own social media account.

The subject of my pancake blog came up pretty quickly, and he told me his favorite protein pancake mix was from Kodiak Cakes. He made sure to note he could also make excellent pancakes from scratch, but I have yet to verify this. 

Kodiak Cakes is a popular pancake mix with the tagline: “Nourishment for today’s frontier.” The packaging has an aggressive but cute looking bear on the front. They have delicious sounding varieties including: Buttermilk, Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon Oat, Almond Poppy Seed, Chocolate Chip, Strawberry Chocolate Chip (!!!), Peanut Butter, and Buttermilk Chia. 

Up until recently, I had been so happy with Birch Benders mix I hadn’t made room in my belly to try Kodiak Cakes. My date raved about these and I humored him by letting him make me some. He used the Almond Poppy Seed mix and substituted cashew milk for water. This is a brilliant taste-bud discovery we should all be using in our protein pancake mixing. It adds a delicate and silky lushness that makes for a brilliant mouthfeel. 

The pancakes were out-fucking-standing. I topped them with fresh strawberries and syrup but you could eat them plain. They passed the standalone test, or the “naked” test as I like to call it when I’m flirting, which I am absolutely doing here. The Almond Poppy Seed is not a flavor I might have picked on my own and that would have been so sad because these were so damn scrumptious. They were fluffy, creamy, and substantial with a mild, sweet almond flavor. In short, I had found protein pancake heaven.

For the full effect, I recommend these with eggs from your backyard chickens (and bacon, but hopefully not from your backyard pig). Sure, you could use eggs from the grocery store, but what fun is that?

To make sure I really loved the pancakes and was not just smitten with my date, I tried the Buttermilk mix on my own. Absolutely outstanding. Do you know how hard it is to get perfect pancake fluff with a protein pancake mix? These knock it out of the park every time. I prefer the Almond Poppy mix to the Buttermilk but I’m confident in saying these are my new favorite protein pancakes.

Who knows what the future holds, aside from the obvious burning planet and impending zombie outbreak, but one thing is for sure: Kodiak Cakes have seized the coveted golden protein pancake skillet from Birch Benders in a delicious and unexpected twist. You should all be eating these. I’m about to buy every single fucking variety on KodiakCakes.com (because Amazon doesn’t have all the varieties).

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Pancake bliss; perfectly sweet & fluffy & filling.

Mouthfeel: Really fucking luscious.

Protein per serving: 14g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price: $5.50 for 18 oz.

Available at: KodiakCakes.com, Amazon.com

Keto Cakes: Birch Benders Keto Pancake Mix

These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face.

Keto is IN and carbs are OUT. At least that’s the message I get from the Keto Corner at Erewhon in Venice, CA. Keto muffins! Keto cookies! Keto bread! All the delicious carbs you want to eat but can’t but now you CAN. Including, you guessed it, pancakes!

I am not a nutritionist (obviously) and I don’t understand how food high in fat and cholesterol is better for you than food high in delicious carbs. But in the name of keto pancake research, I tried Birch Benders Keto Pancake mix. I chose Birch Benders because they have very fucking tasty pancake mixes that have never led me astray. 

Mix, water, skillet, heat, and bam! Keto pancakes!

The first thing I noticed was a salty flavor, which was confusing. Perhaps this is to make up for the taste that went missing when the carbs took a hike. These weren’t as fluffy as full on carb pancakes either. They didn’t have that decadent buttermilk flavor that almost melts in your mouth. 

The second thing I noticed was that this was a flimsy flapjack. These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face. This did not substantially impact my rating, but I do appreciate a sturdy stack with some heft. 

Overall these weren’t bad, and are probably a decent choice if you’re riding the keto wave, but I recommend adding chocolate chips. In the future, I don’t know that I’d choose the 11 grams of fat and 40% of my daily cholesterol intake over the 26 grams of carbs in my regular Birch Benders Protein Mix.

JUST THE STACKS – 6.5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Not bad, not great. Almost pleasant.

Mouthfeel:  Slightly salty, light, and delicate. Like a cloud.

Protein per serving:  9g per 1/2 cup.

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz.

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Protein Pancake Series: Flapjacked

The Banana Hazelnut flavor is excellent, it’s slightly sweet and slightly nutty (much like myself).

Flapjacked was the first protein pancake brand I discovered when looking for something better than my two ingredient egg & banana pancakes. A lot of people rave about egg and banana pancakes and while it’s nifty you only need two ingredients for them, I need that perfect pancake fluff. 

Along came Flapjacked! They started off strong, with a great name, emphasizing the “Jacked” in their logo. Their mix doubles as a baking mix and I have made some delicious protein donuts from them. (You have to think about them as protein donuts and not real donuts, otherwise you’ll be disappointed.)

All you need to add to the mix is water, but you can use an egg or milk instead. Versatile! I have fond memories of making these in my tiny basement apartment in Boston especially during the occasional snow day. Snow day pancakes are a delight best experienced and not described. 

Flapjacked was my favorite until I discovered Birch Benders, which I find to have a bigger fluff factor. I recently tried the Flapjacked mix again in the name of pancake research. Also, Birch Benders doesn’t have a Banana Hazelnut flavor (hint, hint).

Half a cup gives you 20g of protein, which is plenty, unless you want to make a giant pancake. Then you need a full cup and an activity planned to put all that protein to good use. I used the Banana Hazelnut flavor and added chocolate chips. Flapjacked also has Buttermilk, Carrot Spice, and Cinnamon Apple mixes in addition to a line of Mighty Muffins, Protein Cookie Mixes, and Cookie Bars.

My pancake was not as giant as I would have liked, but that’s hardly a criticism. The Banana Hazelnut flavor is excellent, it’s slightly sweet and slightly nutty (much like myself). It’s also slightly grainy, so if you don’t like that in pancakes you might not love this mix. They’re fluffy, but Birch Benders still exceeds them in the fluff factor. Something about the texture didn’t thrill my mouth, but overall Flapjacked is a solid and sturdy choice for a protein pancake mix.

JUST THE STACKS – 7.5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Slightly sweet, nutty, & grainy. Good but not outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Something was a little off in this department.

Protein per serving:  20g per 1/2 cup.

Price: $6.99 – $12.99

Available at: Amazon, the Internet at large, grocery stores.

Protein Pancake Series: Birch Benders Peanut Butter Protein Mix

Several minutes, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and a giant serving of chopped strawberries later, my giant pancake was cooked to perfection.

I don’t mean to fitness brag, but after completing a 6.2 mile trail run with a group of people and being the very last to finish, I was fucking starving. I raced home (but because I live in LA it was a 35 minute race with traffic) with only one thing on my mind: pancakes. And I needed them to be fast, filling, and semi-nutritious. This meant protein pancakes. Because I was so hungry I didn’t want to chance using a new mix I hadn’t vetted, I went for my tried & true brand: Birch Benders

Birch Benders has come out with an incredible variety of options my mouth has yet to experience. I chose a new one: Peanut Butter Protein. One flick of the oven, one cup of mix, and roughly two-thirds of a cup of water later, I was already halfway done making these. The batter looked and smelled like peanut butter, which I usually try to stay away from. If left unattended with a jar, I am likely to take cheap white bread and use it as a vehicle for loading massive amounts of peanut butter on it. But it seemed doubtful I could get into the same kind of trouble with a protein pancake mix. 

Several minutes, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and a giant serving of chopped strawberries later, my giant pancake was cooked to perfection. Part of why I like Birch Benders so much is that I have nailed the technique and find that the batter cooks evenly and deliciously every time. (Every time except the times that I get distracted and burn them, which isn’t their fault. Making pancakes, even from a mix, involves a degree of adoration and care.)

My giant peanut butter protein pancake was fluffy and slightly sweet, solid traits that I have come to expect from Birch Benders mix. Compared to the strong smell of peanut butter when I was mixing the batter, the taste was mild. It was more like a hint of peanut butter rather than a full on mouth blast. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, but this is obviously not the same thing as shoving spoonfuls of peanut butter in your mouth. It was a nice change from my usual plain Buttermilk Birch Benders mix though, and the chocolate chips brought out more of the flavor. If you’re looking for a strong peanut butter taste I’d recommend lathering real peanut butter on top, but if you’re happy with a gentle mouth hint of nutty goodness, these will do the trick. 

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS  

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Mild peanut butter flavor but overall a solid & satisfying pancake experience.

Mouthfeel: The perfect blend of sweet fluff and protein.

Protein per serving:  16g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Protein Pancake Series: Birch Benders Micro-Pancakery


My favorite way to eat these is to cut up fresh strawberries and make a strawberry smiley face.

I was lucky to find my current favorite protein pancake mix, Birch Benders, through a short trial and error period. A good protein pancake is tricky, you want it to be healthier than regular pancakes but you also want it to taste good, and be sustainable. One cup of this mix (two servings) is enough to power me through all sorts of activities: kayaking, Tough Muddering, and staying awake until my midday weekend nap. However, these pancakes do not have perfect stats. For example, they have six grams of sugar per serving, and that’s probably part of why I like them. Pick your pancake battles.

When I first tried these, I was instantly delighted with their sweet taste and fluff factor, two items that had been lacking in previous protein pancake mixes I’d tasted. Some people may roll their eyes at mixes, but not me. I appreciate being able to “just add water”, stir until smooth, and pour the entire bowl of batter into a pan. These make fantastic giant pancakes, too.   


This mix is the closest thing to regular pancakes I’ve come across so far. My favorite way to eat them is to cut up fresh strawberries and make a strawberry smiley face. I suggest adding chocolate chips for a little extra oomph. Yes, adding chocolate chips makes these less healthy but like I said, pick your own pancake battles, don’t pick mine. 

These also travel well. I have brought them on planes, in cars, on hikes, and to a Wilderness First Aid class, where people asked with envy if I was eating pancakes. Yes, I’ve gotten some weird looks. I don’t know if that was due to the pancakes or not. I pulled these out of the seat pocket on a plane once and paired them with a tiny, expensive bottle of prosecco which is an experience I highly recommend. 

Birch Benders makes several other pancake mix varieties: Paleo, Banana Paleo, Keto, Chocolate Chip Keto, Chocolate Chip, Pumpkin Spice, Six Grain Cinnamon, Plant Protein, Gluten-Free, and Classic. Whew!

Just the Stacks – 9/10 Tasty Stacks  

Overall Taste: Really fucking good.

Mouthfeel: Sweet fluff and protein fairies dancing on the tongue. 

Protein per serving:  16g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price: $4.99-$5.99 for 16 oz

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Protein Pancake Series: Trader Joe’s Mix


This is literally how I imagine myself when deadlifting – as a man, picking up a pancake barbell.

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s. Many of my fond memories are from the tiniest Trader Joe’s on Boylston St. in Boston and involve Mac & Cheese Bites and Lobster Ravioli. You can imagine my delight when I discovered Trader Joe’s started selling protein pancake mix. The packaging design gets an A+. This is literally how I imagine myself when deadlifting – as a man, picking up a pancake barbell. I am sad to report that the illustration was the high point of my pancake experience. I tried these twice, just to be sure. Like many protein pancake mixes on the market, all you need to add is water, which is great if you are both very hungry and short on time.

My first attempt at making these failed spectacularly. The main problem was too many blueberries. I got overly excited to use fresh farmers market blueberries and dumped a generous handful (or two) in the batter. Due to the blueberry abundance, the giant single pancake I made didn’t cook evenly. Parts of the middle weren’t cooked through and some of one side was burned. Taste-wise it was terrible. I made a painful decision to throw the pancake away.

On my second attempt, I went back to basics, in case these were terrible due to operator error. I made several small pancakes, instead of a single giant one. I added a few chocolate chips to each after I had dolloped the batter into the pan. I monitored them carefully. Finally, it was time to eat them.

Overall, these were mediocre. They were a little chewy and had a slightly odd, grainy consistency. The pancakes themselves were pretty tasteless and needed toppings. At a certain point, adding chocolate chips and syrup to protein pancakes defeats their purpose but that tipping point is a personal decision. These are marketed as “buttermilk” pancakes and include buttermilk powder as one of the ingredients, but they didn’t have any of that decadent buttermilk taste. On the plus side, they were filling, have a decent amount of protein, and virtually no fat or sugar. I felt sufficiently nourished after lifting heavy things and putting them back down, so these served their purpose, though not in the most delicious way.

Just the Stacks – 5/10 Tasty Stacks  

Overall Taste: Bland with a hint of whole grain.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and grainy.

Protein per serving:  10 grams per 1/3 cup (I used 2/3 cup).

Price: $3.49 for a 1lb. box.

Available at: Trader Joe’s stores.