buttermilk pancakes

Back-to-school buttermilk pancakes

14 September 2017

I’ve always wanted to like pancakes. As a kid obsessed with Little House on the Prairie, every time I read Laura Ingalls Wilder describe Farmer Boy‘s lavishly buttered stacks of golden pancakes, I could smell the hot griddle, see the bubbling pancakes, hear the soft squish of Almanzo’s fork as it cut into the tall stack, dripping with melted butter and maple sugar.

But I grew up in a Bisquick household, and my pancake reality – salty and artificial-tasting – was never very appetizing. In cafeterias, I politely bypassed the steam trays of floppy brown discs and, in diners, never ordered the staggeringly large rounds that looked as if a brown frisbee had landed on a dinner plate.

I love a thick challah french toast or a delicate, eggy crepe, and about a decade ago my friend Venus turned me on to some amazing flaxseed pancakes (that we usually make in banana chocolate chip form).

But this summer I started making straight-up classic American buttermilk pancakes – thick, fluffy, golden brown – and (shocker, I know) they are so good. Super basic. Super wholesome. Super easy.

Turns out I am a pancake fan. I just didn’t have good ones before.

And pancakes are really so much fun on a weekend morning. Because pancakes aren’t grab-and-go, see-ya-I-gotta-jam food. You need a plate, a fork. You sit down. You pass the syrup.

And these pancakes are everything I always imagined – light, crisp-edged and utterly delicious on their own. We pour on maple syrup and pile the pancakes with fruit – berries, peaches, bananas – because this is modern-day California, not the wild West.

And here’s a secret: You don’t really need to go buy buttermilk. Plain yogurt (or sour cream) mixed with milk works just as well, maybe even better.

We start with the basic dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt.

I adore buttermilk as an ingredient (cornbread, scones, cake), but plain yogurt with milk works so well, I haven’t bought real buttermilk in years. I always have a vat of plain yogurt in my fridge; it’s so versatile for sweet and savory eating and cooking.

Our liquid ingredients: primarily buttermilk (or yogurt and milk) and eggs.

Melted butter and a bit of vanilla.

Wet ingredients into dry.

Mix until just combined. Too much mixing makes tough pancakes – casual and lumpy is good for pancake batter.

Temperature is everything for pancakes. Start off moderately hot, then turn down to low. The first batch you’ll fiddle with the temperature a little to get it right. At the perfect temperature, the insides will cook just as the outsides get golden brown.

Look for small air bubbles on the surface to tell you it’s almost flipping time.

Better than any pancake house. And you can stay in your pajamas.

We even like leftover pancakes. They can’t match fresh, of course, but on a rushed weekday morning they are quick, convenient and still very good. Eating them I feel the glow of a weekend morning, memories of a relaxed summer holiday, and a communion with the early days of America, during which a stack of pancakes provided nutrition and comfort for a hard day’s work on the frontier.

Buttermilk Pancakes
Picture-perfect pancakes – thick, fluffy, golden – that taste as great as they look. We love them fresh on a weekend morning, and leftovers make a quick, convenient weekday breakfast or snack. Better than any pancake house, and you can stay in your pajamas. Adapted from Food.com.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if using salted butter)
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or 2/3 cup plain yogurt and 1 1/3 cup milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking oil
  • Maple syrup, for serving


  1. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir with a fork to mix.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. Mix well to make sure eggs are fully incoporated.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix until just combined (too much mixing makes tough pancakes). Lumpy batter is fine; just be sure to scrape the bowl with a spatula and fold in any unmixed flour hiding out at the bottom.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat (350 degrees F if you have an electric griddle) until hot enough that when you flick in a drop of water, it rolls across the surface and evaporates. Add about a tablespoon of oil and quickly tilt the pan to distribute it around. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to add pancake batter to the skillet. Turn heat to low.
  5. Cook until small bubbles appear at the surface of the pancakes and undersides are golden brown (edges will start looking dry too). Flip pancakes and cook again until undersides are golden brown – the second side cooks more quickly than the first. It takes a batch or two to get the cooking temperature right. If the pancakes brown before the insides cook, turn the heat down.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve pancakes hot, with syrup.

Serves 4-5.


  • Leftovers: Uncooked batter keeps in the fridge for a day or two (if it separates, stir it briefly before using). Usually I cook it all and store leftover pancakes in the fridge – though not as crisp and fluffy as fresh, they’re still a conveniently quick breakfast or snack.
  • Toppings/add-ins: distribution is best if you add to each pancake right after you pour the batter in the skillet (they tend to clump together if added directly into the batter).
  • Pancake thickness: a thicker batter makes a thicker pancake, and vice versa. Adjust the thickness by tweaking the thickness of the liquids, eg more yogurt and less milk for thicker pancake; more milk and less yogurt for thinner. Buttermilk users can thicken it with yogurt or thin it with milk.
  • Buttermilk substitutions: You can use the vinegar-plus-milk or lemon-juice-plus-milk substitution for buttermilk (use 1 tablespoon for every cup and let it sit a few minutes before using), but your pancakes won’t be quite as thick.
  • 1.5x recipe (useful for my crew of 6): 3 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup yogurt and 2 cups milk), 3 eggs, 6 tablespoons butter, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie 18 September 2017 at 3:48 pm

Nice to see you back! Will definitely give this a go with the kiddos this weekend!


Lingling 23 September 2017 at 9:53 am

This recipe is amazing! As a fellow Little House reader, I can almost imagine Almanzo eating stacked pancakes on a cold Sunday morning. In modern day Massachusetts, these pancakes are also toddler approved! My son loves these pancakes topped with fresh mangos. Thanks for sharing Chinese Grandma!


bamboo salt malaysia 1 October 2017 at 11:50 pm

This recipe is lovely. Can’t wait to try it myself. I believe my little one will love it very much! Great thanks!


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