Diner Style Buttermilk Pancakes

It’s probably bombastic to refer to any recipe as perfect, considering everyone has their own idea of that, but I can’t imagine these pancakes getting much better. They’re light, tender and fluffy, but also moist and buttery, with just a hint of vanilla. They’re great on their own, or an awesome base for your favorite add-ins, like blueberries or chocolate chips.

Diner Style Buttermilk Pancakes

I started with Cooks Illustrated’s recipe, which I liked, but which didn’t seem to be quite “there” for me. For fluffier cakes, I added an extra dash of baking powder (be careful of going crazy with the baking powder, though, since too much can impart a bitter flavor and actually flatten your recipe). Don’t substitute out the buttermilk; the acidity reacts with the leavening and causes the batter to bubble and rise (sort of like a Fizzy Lifting Drink for your batter), so you won’t get the same result with plain milk. Also, for more of a diner-style outcome, I swapped out the sugar for malted milk powder. Did you know that malt is what sweetens a lot of commercial pancake mixes, not sugar? Yeah, mind blown on that one. And, finally, a splash of vanilla bean paste for taste and also to get those adorable little flecks of vanilla bean without cracking open my expensive whole vanilla.

Diner Style Buttermilk Pancakes

For extra ease, measure and mix the individual wet and dry components the night before, so all you have to do the next morning is stir them together. As Ina always says, “How easy is that?”

Danger eating a Pancake

Even Danger loves a good pancake on Sunday mornings.

I recommend serving these pancakes immediately, hot and fresh from the griddle, but you can also keep them warm in the oven and serve them all at once.

Perfect Pancakes
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated. Makes 12-14 good sized pancakes.

2 cups flour
1/4 cup malted milk powder
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2½ cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract is fine)
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
Vegetable oil

Toppings (optional)
Maple Syrup, Butter, Blueberries, Bananas, Chocolate Chips, Toasted nuts, Powdered Sugar, etc.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Preheat a lightly oiled griddle to 375ºF.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, malted milk powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).
  4. In a large measuring cup, combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and butter).
  5. Keep the ingredients separate until you’re ready to cook. Then stir together the wet and dry ingredients until just combined (lumpy is perfect). If the batter appears a little too thick to pour, thin it slightly with a little more buttermilk.
  6. For each pancake, scoop 1/3 cup of batter onto the prepared griddle, and spread the batter into a round circle. If you’re adding things like blueberries or chocolate chips, now is the time to sprinkle those on each pancake.
  7. Cook until the surface has some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Then flip the pancake carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the other side, another minute.
  8. Transfer the cooked pancakes to the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Continue with more oil as needed and the remaining batter.
  9. Serve immediately.