How To Make the Lightest, Fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes

How To Make the Lightest, Fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes

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Emma Christensen
Dec 2, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

With a million and one recipes out there, a pancake really has to be something special to make it stand out from the crowd. Friends, today I give you just such a pancake. A whole plate of them, actually. The lightest, fluffiest pancakes any of us here at Kitchn have ever had the pleasure of either making or eating. Every time I make them, I wonder why I ever bother making anything else.

Is that enough of a hook? I sure hope so, because these pancakes deserve to be made far and wide. Here's how you, too, can have a piping-hot plate of lofty buttermilk pancakes for your next breakfast.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The History of the Lofty Buttermilk Pancake

When Dana Velden first shared her favorite recipe for Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes here on Kitchn in 2010, it immediately drew its fair share of both ardent supporters and dubious skeptics. What could possibly be so controversial? Two simple egg whites.

Rather than mixing the whole egg into the batter or even whipping the whites into lofty clouds before folding them in, Dana simply separates the egg, mixes the yolk into the batter, and then stirs in the egg whites — un-whipped — at the very end.

Get the original recipe: Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Secret to the Loftiest Pancakes

It doesn't seem like mixing egg whites into the batter would make any difference to the texture of the pancakes, but it does. We all had to try these pancakes for ourselves, and we were so impressed and smitten that these pancakes eventually made their way into our Kitchn Cookbook. Batch after batch, these pancakes deliver. They are always perfectly light and tender, delicately custard-like on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside; they are never heavy or dense, never dry or floury.

Separating the eggs might feel needlessly fussy for simple Saturday pancakes, but I feel that it's a worthy compromise for consistently fluffy pancakes over the recipes that require dragging out the mixer and beating the whites into stiff peaks.

A Few Other Tricks for Great Pancakes

Letting the batter rest for a few minutes before cooking the pancakes is almost as important as mixing in the egg whites on their own. This gives the flour in the batter time to absorb some liquid, which gives the pancakes a better texture. The baking powder also gets to work, making bubbles and lightening the batter even more.

The resting time also gives you time to warm up the pan. You want it warm enough so that your butter foams a little, but doesn't brown or start smoking. (Or if you're using oil, the oil should shimmer and glide over the surface of the pan.)

More great pancake tips! 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pancakes

The trouble with calling anything "the best" is that not everyone will agree with you. I'm OK with that! Even if you don't place these pancakes on the top tier of awesomeness like I do, I'm still pretty confident you'll enjoy them topped with butter and maple syrup.

Tester's Note

The perfect pancakes are light, fluffy, tender, and golden-brown, and this recipe does not disappoint. It even stands up to slight modifications, including substituting more buttermilk in place of the milk called for — in case you run out or just want one less measuring cup to wash. Buttermilk combined with the baking soda is a major part of what gives these pancakes their lift, plus we can't get enough of the subtle tang.

We've also added a note of when to add blueberries. Not everyone wants a fruit-filled stack of pancakes, so rather than stirring a pint into the entire batter mixture (and inevitably turning it green from burst berries), we suggest you sprinkle them on top of individual pancakes just as they hit the pan, giving them time to sink into the batter before it is time to flip. The rest of the steps are streamlined so that you can get to the breakfast table faster.

Patty, October 2017

How To Make the Lightest, Fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes 18 to 24 (3-inch) pancakes

What You Need

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for the pan

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 2 cups

    buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup

    milk (or buttermilk)

  • 2 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 6 ounces

    fresh blueberries (optional)

  • Equipment
  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Baking sheet, for keeping the pancakes warm in the oven

  • Cooling rack

  • Mixing bowls

  • Whisk

  • Wooden spoon or spatula

  • Cast-iron or nonstick skillet

  • 1/4-cup measure, or a big soup spoon

  • Thin spatula

Instructions

  1. Warm the oven. Fit a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and set the temperature to 225°F. This is for keeping the batches of pancakes warm until you're ready to serve.

  2. Separate the eggs. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in a small bowl.

  3. Whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, and milk. Add the buttermilk and milk to the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add the melted, cooled butter and whisk to combine; set aside.

  4. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  5. Make the batter. Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture. Stir gently just until you no longer see any dry flour.

  6. Stir in the egg whites. Add the egg whites to the batter and stir until you no longer see any unmixed whites.

  7. Rest the batter. Set the bowl aside and rest the batter for at least 5 minutes, or up to 1 hour. After resting, the batter should look thick and slightly foamy.

  8. Warm the skillet. Place a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add a pat of butter or a teaspoon of cooking oil. Warm until the butter foams but doesn't brown, or until the oil shimmers and moves smoothly across the skillet.

  9. Begin cooking the pancakes. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or a big soup spoon, drop the pancake batter into the skillet. The batter should spread to about 3 inches wide. Sprinkle each pancake with 5 to 6 blueberries, if desired

  10. Cook the first side until you see bubbles. Watch for bubbles to start forming on the surface of the pancake. When those bubbles burst and when the edge of the pancake looks set, flip the pancake. This should take about 2 1/2 minutes; adjust the heat as needed if it seems like the pancakes are cooking too quickly or slowly.

  11. Cook the second side until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the pancakes. Again, adjust the heat as needed if it seems like the pancakes are cooking to quickly or slowly.

  12. Transfer the cooked pancakes to the oven. Once cooked, transfer all of the pancakes to the oven to keep them warm until you're ready to serve. (Or serve the pancakes in batches!)

  13. Continue cooking the pancakes in batches. I always find that the first batch is a "sacrificial batch" for getting the pan to the right temperature and getting into the pancake-making groove. Subsequent batches go much more smoothly! Add more butter or oil to the pan as needed to keep the pancakes from sticking. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the pancakes cooking evenly.

  14. Serve pancakes right away! When all the pancakes are ready, serve with butter and maple syrup.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover pancakes will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or can be kept frozen for up to three months; reheat in the toaster until warmed through and crispy.

No buttermilk? Try one of these buttermilk substitutes.

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