Any given Sunday, sleepy-eyed cooks wander into their kitchens, bathrobes half-tied, wondering how to make pancakes from scratch. You could reach for a box of mix, but pancakes are actually one of the easiest things to make yourself. In fact, if you’re wondering how to make homemade pancakes you’ve come to the right place.
The secret to pancake success? I like to call it “The Three B’s”: Buttermilk, Baking Soda, and Bubbles. Pancakes are essentially a quick bread, that is, a bread-like product with no yeast needed. Instead of relying on yeast to give them a lift, pancakes lean on a key combination of an acidic ingredient (buttermilk) and an alkaline one (baking soda) to create carbon dioxide (those bubbles). Most of the gas is released as soon as the two are combined and then again when heated. Those little air bubbles are what gives your pancakes their lift. It also means your first batch of pancakes will likely be fluffier than your last.
Now that you know the secret (it’s science!) it’s still important to adhere to the amounts of each “B” in a recipe: too much baking soda can give your pancakes a slightly metallic flavor, not enough and they’ll be flatter than, well, you know. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than ½ teaspoon baking soda to 1 cup of buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt. Tip: I’ve used all three interchangeably in my favorite homemade pancake recipes, just thin the thicker ones with a bit of milk until pourable. You can even make your own buttermilk substitute by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of milk, whatever kind you have on hand (but preferably not skim).
Now that you know how to make great homemade pancakes from scratch, it’s time to start practicing. Here at Real Simple we’ve practically written a book on pancakes. We have recipes for old fashioned pancakes, buttermilk pancakes, banana pancakes, pumpkin pancakes, even a gluten free version. We even have a recipe for one great big pancake baked right in a sheet pan: it’s perfect for feeding a crowd, no short-order cooking skills required. Cooler temperatures call for our gingerbread pancakes and we’ve been known to gift a jar of our whole grain pancake mix for the holidays.
So, whether you’re craving blueberry-cornmeal pancakes for breakfast, savory pancakes for dinner, or peanut butter and chocolate pancakes for dessert, we’ve got you covered.
Curious about pancakes of a different kind? Check out our recipe for Okonomiyaki—that’s a Japanese Cabbage Pancake—here.
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