Rosa Parks’ Peanut Butter Pancakes

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the past and present achievements of African Americans. Today, I want to celebrate the memory of a woman who courageously helped to change our nation and make it a better, more equal place– Rosa Parks.

On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus. Her refusal was the spark that lit a firestorm of change. It resulted in the Montgomery bus boycott, a controversial protest which lasted a year and ended when segregation on buses was deemed unconstitutional. The civil rights movement rapidly became a subject of national attention, and Rosa became a central figure in the struggle for equality in America.

From Rosa’s autobiography, “Rosa Parks – My Story”:

People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (ca. 1955) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Many people don’t realize that Rosa was not the first one to take a stand by keeping her seat. Before Rosa, there was 15 year-old Claudette Colvin. In Montgomery, Alabama on March 2, 1955, Claudette refused to give up her seat for a white woman. She was inspired by her high school studies at the time; she’d been learning about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and other important black leaders who had made strides for equality. When faced with the choice of giving up her seat, Claudette’s conscience simply wouldn’t let her do it. She was arrested for her peaceful act of protest.

The NAACP took note of Claudette’s act. Black civic leaders had been looking for a way to protest the Montgomery bus situation for years, and they were impressed by Claudette’s act of rebellion. However, they felt that Claudette might be too young and unreliable to be the face of this protest. As Secretary of the NAACP and a respected figure, Rosa Parks was chosen to be the figurehead of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her act was directly inspired by Claudette’s act, which happened nine months prior. Just thought I’d share that interesting, little-known tidbit of history!

Last year, a cache of personal papers, photographs and memorabilia was discovered in the Detroit house where Rosa spent the last years of her life. A New York auction house called Guernsey’s was selected to represent the archive and find it a permanent home. Here is a description of some of the items they found:

The Rosa Parks Archive consists of thousands of items of virtually every description. Her countless awards range from the most significant to the most charming, the latter presented to Mrs. Parks by many of our nation’s school children. One section of her library contains volumes inscribed to her by such noteworthy figures as Dr. Martin Luther King and President Clinton while another section contains somewhat worn text books with Rosa Parks’ own name written in pencil from her childhood days at the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery. The archive reflects Mrs. Park’s day-to-day life with personal items ranging from her wardrobe, her eyeglasses, her driver’s license, her address book, and her Bible. The archive contains a well-traveled suitcase filled with assorted fabrics from Rosa’s days in Montgomery as a seamstress.

Among her personal papers a recipe was found, scribbled on the back of an envelope, for “Featherlite Pancakes.” While we can’t be 100% sure that Rosa used this recipe, it seems quite probable that she did, given that it was found within her personal items and written in her own handwriting.

Rosa’s handwritten recipe for Featherlite Pancakes. Photo: Guernseys

Here is the recipe as it appears on the envelope:

Featherlite Pancakes

Sift together

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar


1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon shortening, melted, or oil

Combine with dry ingredients

Cook at 275 degrees F on griddle

The recipe is fairly self explanatory as written; I have provided a few detailed cooking instructions for clarity below. I made the assumption that smooth peanut butter should be used, because of the fact that Rosa called these pancakes “featherlite”– I’m guessing a pancake that is “light as a feather” isn’t supposed to crunch. I used smooth peanut butter, and the pancakes turned out very light indeed. They are truly delightful, with a wonderful texture and a mouth-watering peanut butter flavor. In fact, my stepdaughter has decided that this is now her favorite pancake recipe– and she’s a picky eater! They’re really tasty.

One quick reminder– if serving guests that you don’t know very well, make sure you let them know in advance that these pancakes contain peanut butter. Some people have peanut allergies (which can be lethal), so hidden peanut butter can be dangerous. Cook with care!

February 4 is Rosa Parks’ birthday. Cook these pancakes as a way to honor Rosa’s memory… and Claudette’s! May their courage be an inspiration to us all.

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Rosa Parks' Featherlite Peanut Butter Pancakes


  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or melted vegetable shortening to grease pan (or more if needed)

You will also need

  • Griddle, skillet, or electric griddle
Servings: about 12 pancakes
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Sift together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  • Mix together wet ingredients (minus the oil) with a fork till smooth: egg, milk, peanut butter.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing lightly-- do not overmix, or pancakes will turn out heavy and dense. A few lumps are okay.
  • Grease your skillet or griddle with oil or shortening (I use peanut oil). Heat skillet over medium (or heat electric griddle to 275 degrees F). Test heat by flinging a droplet of water onto the surface of the skillet-- it should sizzle and evaporate, but not pop or crackle.
  • Pour the batter by scant 1/4 cupfuls to form pancakes on the hot skillet.
  • Let the pancakes cook for 1-2 minutes till bubbles rise to the surface of the batter and burst.
  • When the pancakes turn golden brown on the bottom, flip them. Let the pancakes continue to cook for 1-2 minutes longer till golden brown on both sides and cooked all the way through. Re-grease the skillet periodically between batches, if needed.
  • Serve pancakes immediately. To keep the pancakes warm while you're cooking, place them on a plate covered by a towel in a 175 degree oven. Use an oven mitt when removing the plate from the oven, it will be hot!
  • Serve warm with butter and maple syrup. Delish!

Research Sources:

Parks, Rosa (1999). Rosa Parks, My Story. Puffin Books, Reprint Edition, New York, NY.  

Before Rosa Parks, A Teenager Defied Segregation on an Alabama Bus. Sarah Kate Kramer, NPR Radio Diaries, March 2 2015.

Comments (38)Post a Comment

  1. what I love most is the image of her recipe handwritten on the back of an envelope as so many of us do–and held in gloved hands as if it were just the most precious thing in the world! just lovely! <3<3

  2. I am going to make these for my daughter tomorrow on Rosa Parks Birthday! Great idea- thanks:) But I may have to alter it a bit- thinking chocolate chip PB pancakes would be amazing!

  3. Tori, outstanding post. The recipe looks straightforward and doable. I agree with Peggy, a handwriten recipe on the back of an envelope held by hands wearing conservator gloves. It doesn’t get more woman to woman than that…From one of our country’s heroines to each woman looking at that picture and recipe. Excellent research !

  4. This is great! I read the title and could not imagine what pancakes would have to do with Rosa Parks, but now I see.

    I had the pleasure of meeting her in Chicago in 1994 along with Mamie Till-Mobley (Emmett Till’s mother) and I wish I would have had the courage to ask questions instead of just stare at her, wide-eyed.

    Thanks for taking the time to make and share this recipe.

    Also, we should know the name Claudette Colvin-she refused to give up her seat 9 months before Rosa Parks. If you look her up you will find that her case was hushed because she was only fifteen years old, pregnant, and not considered to be good press for the Civil Rights movement at the time. She is still alive.

  5. Tori, this is such a beautiful, moving post. Thank you.

    I have never had peanut butter pancakes. The Mister and I love peanut butter about as much as we love pancakes. This recipe sounds like a great way to use up some fresh, homemade peanut butter I just made. YUM! I can’t wait to try this.

    Do you think these would freeze well?

  6. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is the best pancakes I have ever made and tasted. I’m 18 years old and made this fir my siblings..It’s so easy to make and most of the items can be found in your home. I made this two days in a row. Ate it for breakfast and lunch because that’s how great they were. Follow me on Twitter at @itsJennyDeeDawg By the way, thank you so much for this recipe!

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made these pancakes today for my son and husband. They were lovely! My son is not a fan of peanut butter, but enjoyed the pancakes. I will keep these on a regular rotation for Sunday breakfast.

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My two boys(ok, me too), are always up for a new pancake recipe. We’ve dabbled with adding peanut butter & bananas to batter, with mixed results. One of my sons recognized Rosa’s name in the headline(seems they are still studying this in school!) and claimed we HAD to try these. Who am I to say no to a little weekend school work.
    I was a little hesitant with the amount of baking powder(seemed excessive), but proceeded to forge ahead and ended up with the lightest, airiest pancakes ever made. My boys assign everything I feed them with a 1-10 rating. These received a 7, and believe me, they are brutal critics. I award them a 9, since no one asked… Good stuff! Thnx Tori

    1. Faythe,
      Could you please share your gluten free and dairy free adaptations? Would love to make these and be inclusive to a gluten free girlfriend. Thanks in advance.

  9. Could this be used for waffles? Would you have to alter the recipe? I can’t wait to try these! I love a shmear of peanut butter on pancakes so this is right up my alley!!!

  10. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    That is so cool that such an amazing woman did what I and maybe others do when in a hurry, lol, grab what is handy and write down a recipe I want to try. Thank you for the reminder of such a wonderful person. Also for sharing her recipe.

  11. Made these for fathers day. I would make them again, but very cautiously. They turned out too salty, so I would not add extra salt- the peanut butter is salty enough. I would also be way more careful when cooking them. If you cook them on to low of heat, they fall apart when you try to flip them. If you cook them on too high of heat, they burn.

  12. I’m delighted to see this post highlighting a personal point about Mrs. Parks. I understand that she was such a lady and a strong, yet gentle spirit. I can imagine her in the kitchen preparing pancakes and discussing the issues of the day with her good friend Johnnie Carr. Thank you

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this piece of history and the fantastic recipe! We loved these pancakes SO much, and they will be a staple in our home now! Yum!

  14. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My daughters and I made these for breakfast today – WOW!!! These are fantastic!!! A delicious breakfast with a lesson about civil rights! Perfection!

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    These pancakes are light, fluffy, flavorful and absolutely delicious! I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for additional nutrition, flavor and texture. I wasn’t sure about using so much baking powder but decided to follow the recipe as printed; glad I did. Be sure to use aluminum-free baking powder (I think Rumford is the best). I admire Rosa Parks greatly and feel humbled to have one of her personal recipes. Thank you Tori!

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    we all loved this recipe today and loved hearing my 12 yr old give her rendition/mini version of Rosa Parks on the bus to her lil brother/5yrs old. funny how lil kids are so innocent, and didn’t understand ‘colored’. Grown ups make things way to complex.

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made this tonight with breakfast for dinner. They are heavenly with a good maple syrup. I added Chocolate chips to some of them. Ny absolute favorite pancake now!

  18. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Delicious pancakes! Some of the best I’ve had.

    I lowered the 2 Tablespoons of baking powder to 2 teaspoons.
    In the first batch all I could taste was the baking soda. I’m not sure if I’m sensitive or if it’s a misprint.
    This did affect the rising though, I’ll either add a little more or a bit of baking powder.

  19. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This was great! Thank you for people who said to skip extra salt when using salted peanut butter! That made the saltiness perfect. Plus, I used crunchy peanut butter, which I liked for its texture. I also added a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla and chunks of banana! Yum!

    Thank you!

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