How to Make Buttermilk Pancakes




Introduction: How to Make Buttermilk Pancakes

Golden, fluffy buttermilk pancakes make the perfect Saturday morning breakfast.  But this simple recipe makes perfect pancakes easy enough to whip up any day of the week!  A quick look inside the science of pancakes reveals the secrets to light-as-air, featherweight cakes with the perfect depth of buttermilk flavor.

The Science

There are two factors that contribute to fluffiness in pancakes - the gluten (in the flour), and how the baking soda reacts to the acid (in the milk).  

Gluten is made up of long proteins.  The proteins in dry gluten are all crazy and tangled - think of the strands of your hair after you wake up from a night of restless tossing and turning.   Adding a liquid to the gluten makes it easier for the proteins to arrange themselves.  Kneading or mixing the gluten then makes the proteins longer and easier to arrange, much like combing your crazy bed hair.  So the trick to keeping the gluten in the pancakes from getting too flat and elastic is not to over-comb your hair.  What?  Don't overmix the batter and the proteins won't get flat and chewy. 

Baking soda (in this case mixed with baking powder) makes the bubbles in the batter that makes the pancakes rise.  When the soda meets an acid, it creates carbon dioxide!  But when the carbon dioxide bubbles are stirred up too much, they pop and release their gas, leaving you with a flat mess.  So again, don't overmix your batter, or you'll release all the gas before it has a chance to fluff up your pancakes.  

Science is clearly telling us: for the fluffiest pancakes, don't overmix your batter.  
Stir just until the ingredients are incorporated.  The final batter should be lumpy with small streaks of flour visible.

makes 12 4" pancakes
  • 2 cups (250g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 (360mL) cups buttermilk - if you don't have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a measuring cup, fill to 1 1/2 cups with milk
  • 1/2 cup milk (120 mL) (plus an extra tablespoon or so if batter is too thick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil (for brushing griddle)
  • Pure maple syrup (opt)

UPDATE: Thanks to comments by Instructablers Kojak and AmyLuthien, I have updated this recipe to remove the sugar (making it slightly healthier), and suggesting the use of an un-oiled cast iron skillet for cooking (even healthier still!).  Thanks for the great comments!

  1. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in medium bowl. In second bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, eggs, and melted butter. Make a well in center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredient. Gently fold together with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined (batter should remain lumpy with few streaks of flour). Do not overmix or science will make you sad Allow batter to sit 10 minutes before cooking for the soda + acid to work up some good gas bubbles.  
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out oil, leaving thin film of oil on bottom and sides of pan to ensure even heat distribution. Keep the paper towels to re-oil the surface for the next batches. 
  3. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour batter onto griddle, making sure not to overcrowd. When pancake bottoms are brown and top surface starts to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes, flip cakes and cook until remaining side has browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Re-oil the skillet and repeat for the next batch of pancakes.
  4. To keep pancakes warm while cooking up the next batch, transfer cakes to a baking rack on a cookie sheet and keep in an oven set to 200F.  If you put them directly on the cookie sheet, or on a plate wrapped in foil, the pancakes will get soggy as the steam is released from them. Give them air, keep them warm, and they'll taste as good as the batch fresh off the griddle!

Use the batter within one hour of mixing, or the baking soda/powder mixture will expend its gas-making powers and leave you with flat, dense pancakes.   If you can't eat them all in one sitting, fry them up, let them cool, and freeze them for later!  

Top with fresh butter and maple syrup.  Enjoy!

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    28 Discussions

    I made them today for lunch. They were wonderful. I just don't know why they were so good. It wasn't a problem with the instructions or the ingredients. The problem was with me.
    I had all the ingredients out on the kitchen counter. My only concern was I had an unknown amount of buttermilk and milk in those opaque plastic quart bottles. I started with the buttermilk...just 1/2 cup. Milk brought it up to 1 3/4 cups. I had some heavy cream and added 1/4 cup + 1/2 tsp of cider vinegar.
    Put the liquid into the dry and folded the mixture. I was about 8 minutes into the 10 minute rest when I realized I forgot the salt. I threw some in and folded it in. (Only a portion of 2 cakes had a slightly salty taste)
    I used a #20 disher which is 1/3 cup. It still yielded 13 pancakes.Cooked the first one and it worked perfectly. Rose quite nice. Tasted great. Tested shaking the pan after I added the 1/3 cup of mixture. As expected, the were not as high as the ones that spread on their own. After I made 7 pancakes (I ate the first 4 immediately), I remembered I had some frozen blueberries in the freezer. I added a handful, ice particles and all. The next 6 had blueberries, and when they were cooked, went into the freezer. I could hear them calling me, so I ate 3 for dinner. Excellent.
    I was patting myself on the back and sending thanks and hugs to Scoochmaroo, when I realized I really messed up. I left out the sugar! That is why I was surprised that they turned out so well.

    1 reply

    I don't see sugar in your ingredients?? Am I blind?

    Hey! I just nominated you for the 601Contest: Breakfast! Good luck!

    1 reply

    I made these and they were absolutely to die for thanks for the recipe

    sorry for the missing letters, I wanted to tell you I got a box of buttermilk packet(3) I used one whole packet fr 6 Pancakes ,as usualy David does not like pancakes . It was 1/2 the recipe. I used stevia and there was only one Tablespoon of butter it must have been because of the flax. Hope you will try they were great, I didn't tell David about the Buttermilk or the Flax and he said they were good. I said they were blueberry pancakes. well they were!


    I just made buttermilk pancakes for me and David,thois morning , I use dry buttermilk it used to come in a can and I would add 2-3 T of the Powdered Buttermilk, to the Dry mix and whisk with the other ingredients, the add a cup of water. they come out delicious,I did a flax one ,I ground flax seeds in my bullet, and added to the dry ingredients. it was in Everyday Food magazine, from Martha Stewart.
    I threw in frozen blueberries
    and I only use white whole wheat flour.
    Funny I found this sight on my email and found the pancakes at 7 PM. I clicked on breakfast . My favorite meal!

    So wait, why do we not want sugar?

    Yeah, yeah, healthy and all that. But geez, these are pancakes. Meant to be eaten with bacon and stuff.

    How much sugar did you use in the original? its been edited out!

    Oh my. I saw this picture and felt like I was being punched in the guts by a mixture of hunger and intense lusty longing. Oh buttermilk pancakes, will you marry me.. Im going to make these for breakfast tomorrow!

    The only thing I would change would be the pan you're using and the oil. Use a clean, dry cast iron skillet, and NO grease. You don't need grease to make pancakes.

    2 replies

    It's the way my mother always did it, and her mother before her, and her grandmother and so on . . . most likely all the women before them also used a hot dry cast iron skillet to make pancakes. ;D They key is it has to be "spittin' hot" - flick a drop of water on in and if it hisses and sizzles, the pan is ready.

    Without sugar and with adding some spices that could be a really good lunch-alternate!
    Thank you for inspiration :)

    Leftover pancake--smear butter & jelly on it-roll up and toothpick it. Put in fridge-Good lunch. I like them thin.Thanks for great instructable!

    Looks like "Pancake Perfection" to me! Insanely beautiful. BIG question: My partner is celiac (no gluten) -- I've experimented over the years and manage to come up with a near-perfect waffle batter but still can't do fluffy pancakes. Any ideas how this technique could incorporate gluten-free flour? Many thanks for any suggestions...

    Brilliant. For me Maple Syrup is a MUST. Will do this on the weekend.

    Excellent! I love to cook and try to alter recipes to make them better/taste a little different in a positive way. I have to say that I love this recipe and the Instructable that you did is very Alton Brown-ish (<-my hero! lol). I hope to see more from you and will keep my eyes open!