How to Make Your Best Pancakes Ever
A complete guide to becoming a homemade pancake master.
Pancakes have a way of making even the simplest breakfasts slightly more decadent. And although they’re associated with the first meal of the day, they’re really a decent choice for any moment when your sweet tooth begs for a bite of pillowy, syrup-soaked bread. However, for some, the prospect of making pancakes from scratch (or even cooking them at all) can seem intimidating. Gathering the necessary dry and wet ingredients for a base pancake batter involves more work than simply picking up a commercial pancake mix or some frozen pancakes, and that time is not a luxury that’s always available, especially on busy weekday mornings.
For those who prefer store-bought mixes or pre-made pancakes, those options are understandable essentials. But if you’ve never made custom pancake batter before, it’s absolutely worth a try. And once you get the basics down, a world of interesting pancake variations open up. You can make fluffy, souffle-style pancakes one morning, or create pancakes that taste like orange creamsicle. With a little effort and time, the possibilities with homemade pancakes truly are endless.
To help you make your best pancakes yet, we’ve put together a guide that will take you through the process from start to finish—from putting together your first batter, to branching out beyond stove top cooking methods. Use this guide to whip up your first homemade pancakes, or to switch up your usual weekend breakfast formula.
Step One: Make the Batter
To make up a basic, from-scratch pancake batter, all you need is a few simple ingredients that are likely already in your pantry. Add a cup of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder and a half teaspoon of salt in a bowl; whisk to combine, and then fold in a cup of milk and a large egg. Whole milk works best here, but two-percent and skim should work fine as well (as should most plant- or nut-based milks).
Once you’ve made a basic pancake, feel free to experiment with different flours and formulas. Maybe olive oil pancakes are your speed, or pancakes made with grapeseed flour. A bit of cocoa can be used to make fantastic chocolatey pancakes. For vegans or others who don’t consume eggs and dairy, a bit of lemon can be added to dairy-free milk to create a buttermilk replacement. One to two mashed bananas, or a half cup to a cup of applesauce, can also be used to create a perfect vegan pancake when combined with a cup to 1 ½ cups of dry pancake mix. To get light and fluffy vegan pancakes, however, try a somewhat unconventional egg replacement: chickpea liquid. Amazingly, the liquid in canned or jarred chickpeas, when whipped using a hand or stand mixer, creates a meringue-like substance (known as aquafaba) that can help you to create an egg-less, souffle like breakfast treat.
If combining all of the ingredients from-scratch every time you want pancakes sounds intimidating, feel free to mix your dry ingredients ahead of time and store them in an airtight container. Once you’ve found your favorite batter, consider writing the full recipe down on an index card and taping it to the homemade pancake mix container. That way, you’ll have an easier time portioning out the dry ingredients when it’s time to create the batter. The index card will also remind you the amount of eggs, milk, or other liquids you need to complete the recipe.
Step Two: Add a Mix-In or Fillings
Once you’ve gotten the basics of making your favorite batter down, consider whether you want to add something a little bit extra. For example, you could chop up some seasonal fruit to add to your pancakes, or mix in a handful of nuts or chocolate chips. But there’s tons of other possibilities to explore: candy, for example, or marshmallows. Mixing your favorite jam into the batter could make for delicious fruity pancakes, and although they may seem like a restaurant exclusive, stuffed pancakes are actually surprisingly easy to make at home. For those delicacies, you’ll want to pick a pliable—but firm—filling, like canned apple pie, nutella, peanut butter or marshmallow fluff. Putting a crisp strip of bacon in your pancake isn’t a bad idea either. Of course, if you’d rather just stick to plain pancakes, feel free to skip to the next step, or scroll further down to find out how to cook up your homemade batter.
Step Three: Choose a Topping
Now that you’ve put together a batter and decided whether you want some extra mix-ins, it’s time to decide on the best finisher for your flapjacks. Butter and maple syrup are, of course, classics, but they’re not the only way to dress a delectable breakfast sweet. Consider using honey, jam, or homemade compote to top your morning stacks. Peanut butter or nutella can also be used to top a pancake, as can any cookie or nut spread that you prefer. Pancakes can also be delicious when topped with whipped cream cheese and fresh fruit, or simply when adorned with powdered sugar or whipped cream. If you’re feeling like a particularly sugary start to your day, pancakes with ice cream and caramel syrup might be worth a thought. Feel free to get creative with this stage; no law states that pancakes must be completed with syrup alone.
Step Four: Make Your Cakes
How to Make Pancakes On the Stove
There’s many ways to cook a flapjack, but let’s start with the simplest, and most frequently used method—on the stovetop. To make your pancakes in a pan, start with a nonstick skillet and melt a tablespoon of butter. It’s best to start with medium heat, but feel free to experiment with higher or lower temperatures once you become more confident with cooking the batter. Grab a spatula, and add a third of a cup of batter to the pan. Wait until the pancake bubbles across the center and turns brown at the edges before flipping it, then cook for another one to two minutes. If you’re new to cooking pancakes, start with only one pancake in the pan at a time. With practice, you’ll be able to several at once.
Once you’ve mastered the basic stovetop method, consider stepping up your pancake game with a souffle variation. By folding stiffened egg whites or whipped chickpea liquid into the rest of the pancake batter, a home chef can create a fluffy, jiggly pancake that will delight young and old alike. Japanese-style style souffle pancakes can be created using 3-inch pastry rings, or by creating your own rings by stapling parchment paper to a strip cut out from a cardboard milk carton. If using a mold sounds like too much work, a more freeform version of souffle cakes can still be created by filling a pan with batter containing whipped egg whites. When creating a souffle pancake, be careful not to knock the air out of the cake when flipping. Sliding the pancake out onto a plate may be helpful; alternatively, steam can be used to cook the top of the pancake if the pan is covered with a saucepan lid.
If you’re making stuffed pancakes, you’ll also likely want to cook them up on the stovetop. Measure out a ¼ of a cup of batter, and make two small pancakes. Let them cook for about 30 seconds, and then spoon a bit of your filling into the center of each pancake. Then, cover completely with more batter, flip once the underside is golden brown, and get ready for a fluffy pancake with a pocket of delicious filling.
How to Make Pancakes In the Oven
Oven-baked cakes can be a fun way to mix up your pancake game. These fluffy, crispy cakes are often cooked in a cast iron skillet, and can make a fantastic centerpiece for a small brunch gathering. To make an oven pancake, make up your favorite batter, or use one of the recipes suggested above. Heat your oven to 425 degrees, and coat the cast iron skillet completely with butter. Once the oven is heated, pour in your batter and pop it in for 16 to 18 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with powdered sugar or decorate with honey, and serve. This method treats the pancake a bit like a popover, so don’t be surprised if the pancake puffs in the oven, then flattens a bit once taken out.
Once you’ve mastered a simple oven-baked cake, feel free to top it off with fresh raspberries, or with a custom compote made from marmalade and fresh fruit. If you’d like, you can cook up some cinnamon apples in your cast iron before pouring in the batter, for a fruity twist to your Dutch-style pancake. Mixing fruit puree into your oven pancake can also be delicious, especially when creating a pancake batter with a custardy consistency.
How to Make Pancakes In an Instant Pot
Get the Recipe: Instant Pot Buttermilk Pancake
The Instant Pot is another fun way to make up a large, fluffy pancake. To make up this breakfast, whisk up your favorite batter and then spread melted butter at least two inches up the inside of your instant pot. Pour in the batter, then use either the cake setting or low pressure, whichever your machine has. Cook for about 40 minutes, then hit the quick release button and wait about 10 minutes. Release from the Instant Pot liner using a rubber spatula.
How to Make Pancakes On the Grill
Get the Recipe: Grilled Pancakes
Pancakes taste even better in the great outdoors (or in your backyard). To make these cakes, set some grill grates over a campfire, or heat up a gas or charcoal grill. Once the grill is hot, place a cast iron pan on the grates, let the pan heat up for five minutes, butter it and then cook your pancakes as you would over a stovetop. Fry up some sausage or bacon at the same time for added smokey flavor.