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How to Make Pancakes

Flip your own flapjacks like a pro.

When pancakes are on the breakfast menu, we don’t hit the snooze button. Not even once. It’s pretty much the only occasion where leaving our actual pillow is easy, knowing we are just minutes away from building a stack of edible pillows using only a mixing bowl and a griddle.

Okay, not only a mixing bowl and a griddle. There are a few other players involved. We’ll get into all of that later, along with everything you ever wanted to know about pancakes — including a recipe to make the best Fluffy Pancakes from scratch

History of Pancakes

What we Americans picture when we hear “pancakes” is probably pretty clear: A fluffy stack of breakfast food, drizzled with maple syrup. Mmm, yes.

What you might not know is that pancakes are one of the earliest everyday recipes, with versions dating back to the Stone Age. Over the last 30,000 years or so, the pancake has crossed many borders and changed quite a bit. For one, it is no longer cooked on a rock nor tastes like a rock. However, the basic principles of pancakes have remained the same—simple batter + hot surface = flat, tasty food.

Pancakes Around the World

Ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes with honey. In many areas of Europe, people used to (and still do) fill up on pancakes the day before Lent—so much so that Fat Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada.

In France, they use a thin, unleavened batter to make crepes. The Dutch make heftier pannekoeken, which is a great dessert or breakfast. In Russia, they make them miniature, top them with caviar and call them blinis. In India, they use a savory fermented batter made with rice and lentil flour to make giant, crispy dosas. In Japan, they make savory okonomiyaki with fillings like cabbage, shrimp and green onions.

Native Americans had been making pancakes with cornmeal long before European settlers landed, and they shared their recipes with the new arrivals. Today johnnycakes are still a staple of southern soul food.

Honestly, pancakes are eaten in so many areas of the world and have such a long, diverse history that we’d keep you here all day if we could… but we won’t. Because we’re hungry.

How to Make Pancakes from Scratch

Our easy Fluffy Pancakes recipe is almost as easy as opening a box.

Ingredients + Equipment

You’ll need a mixing bowl, a wire whisk, a spatula and a non-stick griddle or skillet. An electric griddle works wonders too, if you make a lot of pancakes at your house. The ingredients you’ll need are:

  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Griddle, milk, eggs, whisk, vegetable oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt

The Batter

Pancakes aren’t complicated, so the batter is everything! For best results, mix that bowl of batter up right before it’s going to hit the griddle.

The wet ingredients come together first. Beat the milk, eggs and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl with a wire whisk.

The dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, sugar and salt—are then stirred into the wet mixture. Baking powder is what makes the pancakes fluffy, while the sugar helps the exterior caramelize just enough. And a dash of our friend salt enhances the flavor.

Gently mix everything together until it’s combined, but still lumpy. It’ll only take about 10-15 seconds to get to that liquidy-lumpy state. If you over-mix the batter, you’re going to be chowing down on a very tough, rubbery pancake because the gluten molecules start having a party. If you under-mix, you might end up with a mouthful of flour.

Pancake batter in a mixing bowl, with a whisk

The Cooking

Brush a non-stick griddle or skillet with vegetable oil, clarified butter or cooking spray before heating. You don’t need too much with a nonstick pan. (You may be tempted to use regular butter, but it tends to burn easily. Save the butter for the breakfast table.)

Heat the griddle over medium-high heat. To determine when the griddle is ready for pancake action, run your hand under the faucet and carefully flick just a tiny bit of water onto the surface of the pan. The water droplets will bead up and sizzle when it’s ready.

Pour ¼ cup of batter onto the hot griddle and cook 1-2 minutes or until the bubbles on the surface have finished popping and the pancake is dry around the edges.

Now it’s time to flip. Using a spatula, gently turn the pancake over and cook on the other side until golden brown.

Pancakes on a griddle

How to Keep Pancakes Hot

If you’re cooking for a crowd, turn the oven to 325°F and put your finished pancakes on a baking sheet as they come off the griddle. That way they all stay hot until you are ready to eat.

How to Store Leftover Pancakes in the Freezer

Stack cooled pancakes between a sheet of waxed paper or parchment. Wrap the stack in foil and freeze. To reheat, preheat the oven to 400°F. Unwrap frozen pancakes and remove from waxed paper. Heat pancakes in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5 to 7 minutes or until heated through.

How to Store Leftover Batter

Storing leftover batter is one of those things one could technically do, but should one? Nah, one really shouldn’t.

The baking powder loses its oomph very quickly and the gluten molecules have a field day of chewiness when they are allowed to sit around. Rather than storing leftover batter, we recommend making just the right amount of batter for your breakfast or cooking up the whole batch and storing leftover pancakes in the freezer as directed above.

Twists on Pancakes

Pancakes are meant to be twisted! There are so many ways you can upgrade your pancakes, from batter mix-ins to mid-griddle additions to final toppings.

Batter mix-ins might include pureed pumpkin with pumpkin pie spice, lemon zest and ricotta cheese or even mashed bananas. Our Gingerbread Pancakes are perfect for the holidays. Buttermilk is a common substitute for milk in pancakes too, as the acidity provides extra volume, browning and flavor. Adding additional (or different) wet ingredients may mean you need to adjust your dry ingredients accordingly, so unless you’re simply shaking a bit of cinnamon into your batter, you’ll want to follow a recipe to make sure your flavored pancakes turn out perfectly.

Mid-griddle additions would include those tasty bits that you’ll want to place on your hot cakes before you flip them—things like whole berries, chocolate chips, crunchy granola or little pieces of bacon. Adding these types of things to the individual pancakes rather than the batter helps them stay evenly distributed and keeps them from burning. You can use the same Fluffy Pancake recipe outlined above and easily personalize it with whatever you like without changing the batter.

Topping options are pretty much unlimited when it comes to pancakes, and also don’t require any new recipe. Obviously butter and maple syrup are classic pancake pairings for a reason—there is no substitute for a hefty drizzle of real maple syrup. But it’s also wonderful to think outside the syrup container and try topping your pancakes with jam, caramel, nuts, fruit, whipped cream, sprinkles and more!

4 Easy Twists on Pancakes

Pancakes vs. Waffles

We won’t make you choose between Team Pancake and Team Waffle, but we will tell you the difference between the two.

You can technically use the same batter for both pancakes and waffles, but adding a little bit more fat and sugar will help waffles achieve that perfect crisp exterior and airy interior as opposed to a more cake-like pancake. (Side note: You should try these cookie dough waffles.)

How to Make Pancake Shapes

Pancake art is such a fun activity with the little ones. There’s the classic Mickey Mouse, Halloween spider webs, heart shapes and birthday messages. Adding a few drops of food coloring makes it extra fun, too.

To make shapes, you can use a small spoon or a plastic bag with a corner snipped off like you’d use to frost a cookie. Or you can fill a squirt bottle (like a clean ketchup bottle) to get even more batter control to create fun shapes, patterns and letters. A squirt bottle will also help achieve those perfectly round pancakes, if you’re a perfectionist.

Squeeze bottle with pancake batter and a griddle
Rise and shine, Internet! More easy breakfast recipes await.