American Ballet Theatre’s Virginia Lensi Shares Her Allergy-Friendly Oat Pancakes

March 29, 2024

When Virginia Lensi first moved to the U.S. from Milan, she fell hard for one element of American culture: brunch. “It was my first time realizing that people here actually have pancakes on Sunday,” says the American Ballet Theatre corps dancer. “I had brunch once, and I loved it. I always wanted to keep pancakes as a tradition on Sundays with my friends or my boyfriend.”

But for Lensi, who is allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts, and kiwifruit, it wasn’t as easy as going to a restaurant or following a standard recipe. “I decided I needed to figure out my own recipe,” she says. With the help of her mom, tuning in from Milan via FaceTime, Lensi experimented with coconut flour and brown rice flour before settling on oat. She also learned that chia seeds can act like an egg substitute, binding the batter together. “There were a lot of trials and errors, but I figured out that it is possible to make pancakes if you have a lot of food allergies, or you just want to avoid eggs or dairy,” says Lensi.

a woman holding a plate of pancakes standing next to a window with a skyline in the background
Lensi with her pancakes. Courtesy Lensi.

The Joy of Cooking

Living with severe allergies while managing ABT’s grueling rehearsal and touring schedule hasn’t always been easy for Lensi. Eating out or relying on prepared food is rarely an option. “When I was younger, I always felt like cooking was a chore because I have to do it literally every day,” she says, adding that even on tour, she cooks her own food; the company travels with a microwave for her to use. But recently, thanks to cooking together with her boyfriend, ABT dancer Andrii Ishchuk, and experimenting with recipes she finds on Instagram and YouTube, she’s learned to relish her time in the kitchen. And when that’s not enough? “I like to put a TV show on, and that makes it more enjoyable,” says Lensi. “I love any comedy show. Right now, I’m rewatching ‘Ugly Betty.’ ”

Knives Out

The one kitchen tool that Lensi can’t live without is sharp knives. “I love having good knives,” she says. “Because my arms are not super-strong, if I have a bad knife I really have to push too hard. I am really picky about that.”


  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup oat milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 tbsps cane sugar (“I personally like the taste of cane sugar,” says Lensi. “It has more of a flavor, and growing up I always used it.”)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (“I use the brand Enjoy Life, because it’s free of 14 common allergens,” says Lensi.)
  • berries
  • maple syrup


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine oat flour, oat milk, olive oil, cane sugar, chia seeds, and chocolate chips. Mix until the batter is smooth. If it feels too thick, you can add a bit more oat milk as needed.
  2. Set a nonstick pan over medium heat. Pour some olive oil onto a paper towel and use it to grease the pan. (Lensi stresses the importance of this step: “If you don’t use the paper towel, the oil goes around the pancake instead of underneath, and the pancakes stick to the pan.”)
  3. Using a soup spoon or ladle, spoon small amounts of the batter into the prepared pan to create individual pancakes. Allow them to cook until small bubbles form on the surface, then carefully flip them with a spatula.
  4. Top the pancakes with a generous serving of fresh berries, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve warm, and enjoy!
three pancakes sitting on a white plate with strawberries and syrup
Courtesy Lensi.