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How to Make Pancakes from Scratch - Recipes, Tips, Variations

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

The perfect pancake is brown, fluffy and soft on the outside, and just cooked and moist on the inside. Sourdough wholemeal pancakes are often described as 'heavenly', for good reason. Others varieties such as the cherished buttermilk pancakes, are made with plain white flour. Your choice of ingredients depends on what taste and texture you are looking for, but there is much more to pancakes than the ingredients.

A lot depends on how they are mixed and cooked. There as some essential tricks to learn to help you make pancakes just the way you like them. Dump the pancake mix and learn how to make them from scratch and you will never go back to the packaged stuff.

There are lots of variations and you should try the range of recipes provided below to discover the variety that appeal to you. Try some of the wholemeal pancakes or sourdough varieties which have a nutty flavour and a completely different texture to ones made with white flour. There are many other flours to try including rye and buckwheat. You can also try adding cornflour to the mixture. This article describes how to make pancakes from scratch at home and includes recipes for many pancake varieties.

Lets start with the buttermilk pancake which is regarded by many as the ultimate pancake. Properly made, these pancakes are very light and almost melt in your mouth. Buttermilk is the magic ingredient for these pancakes. It adds flavor, but its acidity reacts vigorously with the baking soda to generate extra lightness. If you cannot find genuine buttermilk you can simulate it by mixing 1 cup of whole milk or low-fat milk with the juice of half a lemon or lime and letting sit for a few minutes. This will sour the milk and give it acidity. White or cider vinegar will also work in the same proportion. Yogurt can also be used as a replacement for some of the milk, due to its acidity.

Standard Buttermilk Pancakes

The Wet Ingredients

1 egg
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla
3 tablespoons (50g) butter, melted (use the microwave or a saucepan)
1 1/2 cups (350ml) of buttermilk

The Dry Ingredients

1/2 teaspoons (4g) salt
3 Tablespoons (40g) sugar
1/2 teaspoons (3g) baking soda
1 cup (165g) plain white flour (try bread flour or other general purpose plain flour)
1/2 teaspoons (2g) baking powder

  • Start by putting the dry and wet ingredients into separate bowls.
  • Whisk the wet ingredients lightly. Add about half the quantity of the dry mix and whisk smooth. Starting with half the flour mix helps to get a smooth consistency.
  • Add the rest of the dry mix and whisk together thoroughly but briefly. If you mix too long at this stage you will develop the gluten in the flour and this can reduce the lightness of the pancakes (you are not making bread!).
  • Set the batter aside for a few minutes to allow the flour to soak up the moisture and the baking powder and baking soda to start to work.
  • Test the batter for the right consistency. It is hard to be exact with the proportions as the flours differ considerably. The batter should be fairly thick and not too runny. You want the batter to pour onto the frying pan without spreading too much unless the pan is tilted. Don't be afraid to add extra flour to thicken it up or extra milk to thin it. Wait until the batter has been set aside for a short time before testing it. You can also add extra flour or milk when you are cooking the pancakes if you need to adjust the consistency when cooking.

The Frying Pan - I don't know why but some pans work better than others for no apparent reason. If you go on holidays and have to use a pan where you are staying it may take a while before you get used to using it. If in doubt take you pan with you (I'm serious!). A heavier pan such as a cast iron one or heavy aluminium or enamelled pan are the best (or a heavy griddle). These heavy pans spreads the heat, allows the pancake to be shaped by tilting the pan, prevents burning, prevents sticking and browns the pancakes evenly. A simple light non-stick frying pan, or electric frying pan or skillet can be used but they are not as good.

Pan Temperature - The next critical part is the temperature of the pan. Heat the pan on the low to medium setting on your stove top. Add few drops of oil on the fry pan and let it heat up. Pour off the excess liquid oil. Use a cup for the excess, which you an reuse if needed. You need to get the temperature just right so that most of the bubbles on top have burst and the bottom have browned nicely. The first one or two pancakes probably won't work and may stick to the pan. Don't worry this is normal. You should hear a sizzle when you pour in about 1/4 cup of batter and tilt the pan to spread it out. If it sizzles loudly, or is too quiet you will need to adjust the temperature. If the bottom browns too quickly, before the top layer starts to cook the pan is too hot. You may need to add more milk or flour to get the consistency right.

Knowing When to Flip and Cooking Perfectly - It is important to cook the pancakes properly. Too fast and they will burn, to slowly and they will not brown properly. You don't want pancakes with gooey liquid centers of uncooked batter. As the pancakes cook, have a look underneath to check that the bottom is not getting too dark. A good guide is about 90-120 seconds per side. The time to flip is when most of the small bubbles on the top of the pancake, burst and become craters. The upper surface will also appear to be a little dry. If the pancakes start to stick add a few drops of oil and spread around the pan by twisting it from side to side. Only add a tiny amount or the oil will spoil the pate of the pancakes. When you flip, you need to do it quickly so it doesn't splatter across the pan. Once flipped the second site will only take about half the time to cook. Lift occasionally to test that both side are cooked and brown in color.

Inclusions and Variations

You can sprinkle fruit, like bananas, blueberries or sliced strawberries, on the top of the pancakes, but this article does not deal with toppings and sauces. Kids will be intrigued when you chocolate chips between the layers and the chips melt nicely. You can add various items to the individual pancakes as inclusions as they cook including blueberries, pushed below the surface, banana slices, pieces of apply or cheese pushed slightly into the batter. You can also add dried herbs and spices onto the batter such as basil, cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla and sugar. Many pancake devotees omit all of these and only use fruit and syrup as topping to coked pancakes.

Flour - A really good quality bread flour can make a big difference. Don't be deceived into using cake flours hoping that it will make the pancake lighter, because it won't work. You need the extra gluten in a bread flour mix to help trap the air that forms bubbles during the cooking. You can use a variety of other flours such whole wheat flour, rye and corn flour, or various mixtures (one third rye, one third wholemeal, one third white flour). You can also add wheat germ and ground oatmeal. Some of these flours may make final pancakes heavy. To overcome this, just add 1 tablespoons of wheat gluten to make up for the heavier flour, or and extra egg.

Selected Recipes

Pancake Recipe using Plain Milk

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

  • Use a fine sieve or a flour sifter to sift the flourand mix with the baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
  • Melt the butter completely and set it aside to cool slightly. Of use vegetable oil.
  • Whisk the melted butter together it together with 1 1/4 cups milk, the egg and vanilla.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients in a bowl with gentle mixing with a wooden spoon.
  • Rest for 10-20 minutes and cook.

Another Basic Pancake Recipe

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoons salt

  • Sift together the dry ingredients in one bowl. In a second bowl, whisk the egg and milk
  • Then add the liquid and butter to flour,mixing until just smooth.
  • You can add blueberries, diced apple, or chopped banana to the batter. Cook the pancakes.

Wholemeal Pancakes

300ml (1/2 pint) milk
1 egg
100-125g (3 1/2- 4oz) wholemeal flour (bread style is best)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
pinch of salt

  • To make the batter using a blender or food processor, put the egg, salt, milk and oil into the bowl and blend thoroughly. Then add the flour and blend again for about 30 seconds.
  • To mix by hand, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Whisk the egg in a jug with the oil and milk, then pour this into the flour and whisk in until the batter is smooth. Let the batter stand for 30 minutes if possible.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat (pastry) flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of brown sugar or honey
3 eggs, separated
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of vegetable oil.

  • Sift flour with salt, baking powder, and sugar.
  • If using honey, add it to the milk and oil and whisk together with the beaten egg yolks
  • Combine the wet ingredients with dry ingredients and then just fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Cook on greased griddle or frying pan.

Wholemeal Banana Pancakes

2 large bananas
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon honey (plus 1 tablespoon of brown sugar for extra sweetness)
1 1/2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
Olive oil cooking spray
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or full cream or low fat milk with a squeeze of lemon juice)

  • Mash the banana.Combine buttermilk, honey, eggs and mashed banana in a jug.
  • Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients into well. Whisk the ingredients until smooth and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Cook the pancakes and add thin slices of banana topped with honey, maple syrup or golden syrup and yoghurt.

Blueberry Wholemeal Pancakes

1 tablespoon honey
1 cup milk, plus extra if necessary
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup blueberries

  • Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk and honey in a second bowl.
  • Add the flour and mix until just moistened, then fold in the blueberries.

Rich Wholemeal Pancakes
2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
2-3 drops vanilla extract
2 tablespoon wheatgerm
350ml (12fl oz) buttermilk
25-40g (1-1/2 oz) soft brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
200g (7oz) wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
25g (1 oz) butter, melted

  • Sift or sieve the flour into a large bowl and add the wheatgerm, sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  • In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the melted butter, eggs and vanilla extract.
  • Combine with the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Sour Dough Starter see ( How to Make Sourdough Bread, Starter, Recipes, Tips )

1 tablespoon of dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar (or honey)
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups flour

  • Combine the ingredients, expose to the air and let ferment for about five days, stirring every day.
  • The starter can be kept indefinitely in the refrigerator in a ceramic or plastic container (nor metal).
  • If the liquid separates at the top simply recombine.
  • The starter mixture should have the consistency of thick mud and an acid aroma, with no mold.

Sour Dough Pancakes

Mix up sour dough batter by combining 1/2 cup of starter, 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups water. Leave in a warm place for about 8 hours (overnight). You can replenish the starter from this batter.

Remaining Ingredients
1 egg, whisked
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil such as corn olive oil or rice ran oil
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoon of brown sugar or honey

  • Mix dough thoroughly and add the egg, oil and milk.
  • Add the salt, baking soda and brown sugar to the batter and fold in.
  • Set aside for a few minutes before frying.

Sourdough Pancakes - Recipe 2

1 1/2 cups of sour dough batter prepared the night before
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tablespoon of honey or brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of melted butter
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
2 Tablespoons of milk

  • Mix all ingredients and Bake on a griddle. Enjoy!

Sourdough Pancakes - Recipe 3

2 cups of sour dough batter prepared the night before
1 egg
2 Tablespoon cooking oil
1/4 cup instant dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar

  • Add the dry ingredients evenly to the top of the batter and mix gently.
  • Set the batter aside for several minutes, then fry on a hot, lightly greased griddle.


© janderson99-HubPages

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • janderson99 profile image

    Dr. John Anderson 2 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

    Thanks, I try very hard to find suitable ones and adjust them a tad when needed. Full attribution of course!

  • dobo700 profile image

    dobo700 5 years ago from Australia

    Thanks, there are some new ones here for me to try

  • fordie profile image

    fordie 5 years ago from China

    Excellent. I love pancakes but have only ever known the one recipe. Time to experiment