We Tried 8 Boxes of Pancake Mix — And the Clear Winner Tastes Exactly Like the Ones Grandma Used to Make

published May 9, 2024
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overhead shot of all of the pancake mixes being tested. From left to right: King Arthur, Dolly Parton, Mrs.Butterworth's. Bob's Red Mill, Bisquick, Pearl Milling Company, KRusteaz, Hungry JAck
Credit: Alex Lepe

You probably have a great pancake recipe in your collection — one that’s so good your dad requests it anytime you visit. Who could blame him (or whoever “your dad” is in this scenario)? The best pancake recipes are tender, fluffy, at times extra-fluffy, and oh-so delicious even before they’re topped with a pad of butter and drizzle of maple syrup. They become otherworldly.

Could a box of the premade mix possibly compare? For the sake of sleeping in and skipping an early-morning grocery run for buttermilk, we just had to find out. (Spoiler: Three did.)

The Best Pancake Mixes At-a-Glance

We selected eight pancake mixes, focusing solely on original and buttermilk options from popular brands we grew up with and more recent newcomers. We included both just-add water mixes and ones that require milk, eggs, and oil in their preparation instructions. We also looked at recent sales data and past taste tests to round out the selection. All are widely available throughout the country and priced between $3 and $6 at the time of this tasting, though some of the package sizes vary.

Credit: Alex Lepe

After a sunny afternoon of sampling and tallying, these are the pancake mixes we’d happily break out on a Saturday morning (or any other day of the week).

Credit: Alex Lepe

Best Pancake Mix: Bisquick Original Pancake & Baking Mix

Ola, our culinary assistant, predicted this iconic yellow box would yield the most golden pancakes — and that’s without even tasting them. She did, however, mix (and cook) all eight of the pancake mixes, and  Bisquick Original Pancake & Baking Mix really stood out. “I like the thickness of the batter,” she says, which included eggs, milk, and vegetable oil in addition to the mix. “It almost feels like a nice cake batter,” adding, “I love the way it browns.”

The actual tasters were equally as impressed with the rise of these pancakes. The “fluffiest of all,” says Mara, our senior editor, Groceries. They’re “very light and a little cakey,” adds Andrea, our social media manager (though she wouldn’t mind the tiniest bit more chew). The tender pancakes have a mostly neutral flavor and “a bit of a sweet aftertaste,” adds Rachelle, our senior product manager, or in the case of one taster, a slightly artificial butter flavor. “These tastes like my grandma’s griddle pancakes I loved growing up,” says Charli, executive lifestyle director. Five of six tasters ranked it in their top three.

What’s So Great

  • Oh-so fluffy
  • Tastes like childhood
  • Budget buy

Good to Know

  • N/A

Buy: Bisquick Original Pancake & Baking Mix, $4.57 for 40 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Alex Lepe

Runner-Up: King Arthur Baking Company Buttermilk Pancake Mix

The beloved baking company is a solid choice, and had the texture been less controversial (more on that in a minute), King Arthur Baking Company Buttermilk Pancake Mix could have leapfrogged to first position. This just-add-water mix creates more made-from-scratch-looking pancakes, notes Alex, our editorial assistant. They’re also the second thickest, behind our winner (a coincidence?!). 

The “very light blondies,” as Andrea calls them, are sweeter, likely thanks to cane and brown sugar in the mix, but still balanced, notes Cullen, our home associate editor. They’re noticeably denser than most others in the group. Tasters were into it — with one exception. The buttermilk pancakes went from pleasantly chewy to overwhelming, with several tasters calling them “gummy” or “pasty.” Others found them just right, and would gladly eat these again with a drizzling of maple syrup and topped with fruit.

What’s So Great

  • Just-add-water mix
  • Look made from scratch

Good to Know

  • Most expensive
  • A little gummy, for some

Buy: King Arthur Baking Company Buttermilk Pancake Mix, $5.95 for 16 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Alex Lepe

Honorable Mention: Dolly Parton’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix

The country legend has been dutifully building a boxed-mix empire in recent years (try her favorite chocolate cake!), and Dolly Parton’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix is yet another feather in her pink, bejeweled hat. “A visual show,” says Charli, who loves the color, shape, and fluff of these slim pancakes. They also tasted the closest to what she looks for in a pancake.

The thinnest of all, they remind Mara of the “silver-dollar pancakes served at the diners” where she grew up. Several tasters like their sweet and buttery flavor, but took off points because, well, they were a little too chewy. Some would even say stretchy. For fans of thin, yet delightfully dense pancakes, though, Dolly is the one for you.

What’s So Great

  • Thinner pancakes
  • Sweet and butter
  • Just add water 

Good to Know

  • A little too chewy, for some

Buy: Dolly Parton’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix, $4.29 for 26 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Maya Borrero

How We Tested the Pancake Mixes

We held a blind taste test of eight pancake mixes, focusing on original and buttermilk varieties, and recruited half a dozen longtime pancake eaters who work at The Kitchn (so you know they’re qualified) to participate in an afternoon of tasting.

On the day of the taste test, Ola made all eight pancake batters using the same ingredients — a combination of eggs, milk or water, and vegetable oil — with the exception of the pancake mixes, which were swapped in accordingly. The batters were mixed and cooked according to the package instructions, before Maya, our studio assistant, cut them into small triangular pieces and set out on plates (we also had extra on standby). 

Credit: Maya Borrero

Each plate of pancakes was given a letter to conceal the brands’ identities. Tasters were instructed to sample the pancakes in random order to avoid giving any one preferential placement over the others. We also had dairy- and plant-based milks and water, as well as maple syrup on hand for palate cleansing and general dipping.

Tasters rated each of the pancake mixes on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = No, thanks; 2 = Meh; 3 = Pretty good; 4 = Really like; 5 = Yes, Please!) across four criteria — look, smell, texture, and flavor — and included any specific observations, tasting notes, and general opinions worth mentioning. They were also asked to answer, arguably, the most important question of all: Would you buy these pancake mixes?

Credit: Maya Borrero

Why You Should Trust Us

This was a blind taste test, which means tasters had no knowledge of the brands being evaluated ahead of or at the time of the tasting. It was held over one day, and tasters were instructed to sample the pancake mixes in random order (to stave off palate fatigue and not give any one mix an unfair advantage). The group of tasters included a combination of food professionals and pancake lovers who work at The Kitchn. All participated in the taste test voluntarily, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and feedback. 

Speaking of, each taster filled out a score sheet (without discussion or influence) ranking the pancake mixes across several criteria (listed above). The results were also tabulated without any visibility into the brands. Only after the numbers were finalized did we reveal which brands corresponded to the winners.

Did your favorite pancake mix make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.