What Are Buttermilk Pancakes?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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Buttermilk pancakes are a breakfast food made from a batter which is cooked on the stovetop and which contains, among other ingredients, a type of fermented milk known as buttermilk. In addition to imparting a subtle, tangy flavor, this buttermilk also creates bubbles of gas in the batter, resulting in a pancake that is light and fluffy. While recipes for buttermilk pancakes can vary depending on the cook’s preferences, most call for a combination of a few staple ingredients which are mixed together and then poured in ladlefuls onto a hot griddle. Generally, buttermilk pancakes are associated with North American cuisine, where they may be served with a number of toppings.

As their name suggests, buttermilk pancakes differ from other types of pancakes due to the fact that they contain buttermilk, a thick, acidic liquid which is made by adding bacteria to milk. When added to pancakes, buttermilk performs two important roles. First of all, it lends the pancakes a subtle tartness. Secondly, it reacts with baking soda, another key ingredient in pancake batter, producing bubbles of gas which ultimately help create fluffy, airy pancakes.


Exact recipes for buttermilk pancakes vary, but most call for a few basic ingredients, including flour, butter, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and of course, buttermilk. In addition to these items, some cooks may add salt, vanilla, or spices such as cinnamon or ginger to enhance the flavor of their pancakes. To prepare pancakes, these ingredients are mixed together until just combined and then poured, often using a ladle, in circular shapes onto a preheated frying pan or griddle. Once their undersides have cooked, they are turned over with a spatula so that their reverse sides can brown. Those who wish to prepare buttermilk pancakes quickly might consider purchasing a dry mix, which usually requires only the addition of water, or pre-made batter, which can be ladled directly onto a hot griddle.

While varying forms of pancakes are eaten in many countries around the world, buttermilk pancakes are most often associated with the breakfast cuisine of the United States and Canada. In these countries, pancakes are typically served with butter and maple syrup. Some households and restaurants may serve buttermilk pancakes with additional toppings, such as fresh or stewed fruit, confectioner’s sugar, or whipped cream. Cooks may also alter the traditional buttermilk pancake recipe by adding ingredients like blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter. These ingredients are thus cooked into the pancakes, resulting in bursts of flavor with each bite.


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