Make fluffy, flavorful pancakes without buttermilk if you don’t have it on hand. We tested this recipe with water, milk, and cream and will give you plenty of alternatives you can use whenever a craving for pancakes hits.Jump to Recipe
Buttermilk can feel like a specialty ingredient if you live where it isn’t readily available. While there are tons of buttermilk substitutes on the internet that you can use in a pinch (I don’t like any of them), sometimes you just want to keep it simple.
So fear not, you’re covered. I tested this recipe with water, cream, and regular milk and have suggestions for using any of them–plus some ideas if you’re dairy free, too.
How to make the best pancakes without buttermilk
- Don’t over mix the batter. Pancakes are meant to be tender, not rubbery and too much mixing can make them super tough. Stir wet ingredients together in one bowl or a large wet mixing cup, and dry ingredients in a separate bowl then mix them together until dry flour disappears and stop.
- Let the batter rest. Your pancake batter needs to sit at least 10 minutes before cooking so things can hydrate and relax. The batter can go in the fridge overnight too. The batter will thicken as it stands and that’s okay.
- For a diner style pancake, consider adding a 1/4 cup of malted milk to your batter. You can find this in the baking aisle with the powdered milk.
Swaps and substitutes for buttermilk
In the south we keep buttermilk on hand by the gallon but I realize that’s not the way for most of America. To substitute this ingredient, here are your best options:
Whole or 2% milk
The fat in dairy tenderizes the gluten strands and ensures a tender, light pancake. Whole or 2% milk is best here. Skim is useless–might as well use water instead.
Cream diluted with water
Heavy whipping cream diluted with water works wonderfully. This recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of milk, so 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of each will do the job.
Sour cream or plain yogurt
The acid of sour cream or yogurt will interact with the baking powder in your pancakes and give you a lighter result. You may need to thin these with a bit of water or milk as well to get your pancakes to a pourable consistency.
Using water alone is a last resort. I found pancakes made with water to be tougher, harder to get golden brown and lacking in both flavor and richness. The texture was flatter as well, but if you want something you can skimp by on, water will work okay.
Ideas for dairy free pancakes without buttermilk
Dairy free milks are not milk of course–they are crushed nuts or grains and water. I’d recommend goat’s milk if you can tolerate it, or using almond or oat milk in your pancakes. You’ll get a similar result to the pancakes made with water though.
How to make buttermilk substitute if you want it
Let’s be super clear: These knock-off buttermilk substitutes are equivalent in quality to those imposter purses sold on city street corners. It’s not the real deal and it’s not the same. It doesn’t taste right or act right but you can check out the options for using vinegar, lemon juice or another acid/dairy combo here.
I hope my bitterness for the idea is translating fully.
What toppings go best on pancakes
You can make your next batch of pancakes without buttermilk delicious with great top-offs.
- I highly recommend real butter. It’s all we eat and sometimes I make butter homemade.
- Using real maple syrup is a given. Aunt Jemima, Log Cabin, etc are corn syrup and flavoring. There’s no maple syrup in them at all. This container is pretty big, but will last for ages and tastes like it’s meant to.
- Feel free to top your pancakes with fresh fruit, whipped cream, or a fruit puree or glaze.
Freeze pancakes for later
Pancakes freeze like a dream. Cook them up then cool them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Move the sheet to the freezer and once the pancakes are frozen transfer them to an air tight container or zip top bag. They will reheat in less than a minute in the microwave or the toaster.
Perfect pancake recipe without buttermilk
- In a medium bowl beat the eggs, milk, vanilla and butter. Set aside.
- In a small bowl mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar (or malted milk) and whisk together.
- Pour the flour mixture in to the egg mixture and whisk gently a few times to combine. Stop as soon as no pockets of flour remain. Let batter rest a minimum of 10 minutes or up to overnight in the fridge before cooking.
- While the batter rests, pre heat a griddle or non stick pan over medium heat until warm. Grease with butter or flavorless oil and use a test drop of batter to see if the pan is ready. It should sizzle gently.
- Using a 1/4 cup of batter, make circles on the pan but don't mash or spread out the batter. It will spread as it cooks.
- Reduce heat to medium low and cook pancakes until the edges begin to try and bubbles forming on the surface begin to pop–about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Flip the pancakes and cook 1 to 2 more minutes or until the pancakes spring back when pressed in the center.
- Serve warm with maple syrup, butter and fruit.