The best 3-ingredient pancake recipe

Pancake recipes can get a little fussy, and people love to talk about all the mistakes you might be making when you whip up a batch of pancakes: Don't overmix the batter, but don't undermix it either. And be sure to let the batter rest, but you can't let it sit for too long. So many rules for such a simple dish! So we were pleasantly surprised when these super simple, 3-ingredient pancakes created some of the best pancakes we've ever had.

The ingredients list is short, and the directions are brief. Simply mix it all together and cook the batter in a preheated non-stick pan or griddle. When they're finished cooking, you'll end up with extra fluffy, light, airy pancakes that taste better than what you'll get at most breakfast restaurants. All without creating an excessive mess in the kitchen, either. But don't take our word for it; try our easy recipe for yourself, and you just might find that you're hooked on making pancakes at home.

Gather the ingredients for 3-ingredient pancakes

The ingredients list for our 3-ingredient pancakes couldn't be more straightforward: self-rising flour, egg, and milk. If you don't have self-rising flour in your pantry, don't fret; you can make your own at home, and you'll still only be slightly above the three-ingredient rule. Simply add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder to every cup of all-purpose flour. 

Once you've mixed the ingredients together, you can fancy up the pancakes by adding a few optional additions. Try using a splash of vanilla extract or fruit like blueberries, chopped strawberries, or bananas. Tossing in a handful of mini chocolate chips is never a bad idea, either, or you can go all-in and add the ultimate secret ingredient: Nutella.

If you want to make things even easier for yourself, pick up a container of nonfat powdered milk. It's shelf-stable and you can store it in the pantry. When you're ready to bake, add a little water to the powder to rehydrate it. The best part is that it practically lasts forever, so you'll always have milk on hand when you need it.

You'll find a full list of the ingredients — including the quantities and step-by-step directions — at the end of this article.

Why do so many 3-ingredient pancake recipes have bananas?

If you search for "3-ingredient pancakes," you'll find that most of the recipes you encounter will include bananas. It's true that mashed bananas combined with eggs does create a gluten-free pancake that's so low-carb that it's essentially guilt-free. But we didn't find that these recipes created an actual pancake. Our test batch of 3-ingredient pancakes that used bananas ended up being softer and more custard-like when compared to a traditional pancake. It's great that they're gluten-free, but we wanted a light and fluffy pancake, not one tasting like an eggy banana.

Unless you want to make a pancake that tastes very strongly like bananas, we suggest skipping the banana pancakes. If you're following a gluten-free diet, try making this recipe with gluten-free all-purpose flour, which is designed to work just like regular flour. The one made by Bob's Red Mill is a good one, although there are others on the market, too. Then, add the salt and baking powder as recommended to turn the gluten-free flour into self-rising flour. You'll thank us when your 3-ingredient pancakes actually turn out tasting like pancakes.

It's important to use a non-stick pan for 3-ingredient pancakes

We often suggest alternative cooking methods for our recipes, but we really must insist on using a non-stick pan when making this 3-ingredient pancake recipe. There's nothing more frustrating than a pancake that sticks to the pan. It makes the process a whole lot more difficult, and it also destroys the texture of the pancake. The reason pancakes are so tasty is because the baking powder in the batter releases little air bubbles when it's exposed to heat, helping the center of the pancake rise and become fluffy. If the pancake sticks, those air bubbles will be torn apart, flattening the cake.

That's what makes non-stick pans perfect for pancakes. These pans have been treated with a coating that helps keep food from sticking, so the pancakes should flip without an issue. To add an extra layer of protection, we also recommend spraying your non-stick pan or griddle with cooking spray. You can also use butter, but it will brown at higher temperatures, creating a caramelized patterned effect on the pancake.

Combine the ingredients for 3-ingredient pancakes

Now that you know what you need to make the perfect pancake, it's time to get cooking. We'll start by combining the ingredients in a large bowl. If you are making your own self-rising flour, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together first to make sure the baking powder is fully dispersed within the flour. Then, add the eggs and milk and whisk until the batter is nice and smooth. It's your choice whether you want to pull out the whisk or use a simple fork. Whip the batter until most of the clumps are removed so you don't end up with any pockets of dry flour from the batter.

If you're adding any of the optional add-ins, like vanilla extract, chopped fruit, or chocolate chips, go ahead and add them now. It's much easier to fold these ingredients in with a silicone spatula, but you can use the whisk if you don't want to dirty a second utensil. From here, grab a 1/3 cup measuring cup and get ready to cook your pancakes.

Spray the pan and cook your 3-ingredient pancakes

It's really important to preheat the pan before making these 3-ingredient pancakes. The Kitchn suggests giving the pan a few minutes to get hot before adding the batter. This ensures that the pancakes will be slightly crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy inside. They also caution against setting the pan over excessively high heat, which can burn the bottom of the pancake. We found that a medium-low heat was just about perfect.

While the pan is preheating, spray the pan with cooking oil spray or melt a pat of butter in the pan. When it's hot but not smoking, add 1/3 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. You can use the bottom of the measuring cup to smooth out the pancake and make it rounder, if you need. After one to two minutes, you'll see bubbles start to form and pop on the top of the pancake. Flip the pancake over using a wide spatula and cook it for an additional one to two minutes, until it's golden brown on the bottom.

From there, transfer the pancake to a plate covered with a clean towel, or a baking sheet in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven, to keep the cakes warm. Continue cooking until all the batter is gone.

The 3-ingredient pancake will tell you when it's ready to flip

The perfect pancakes are flipped at the exact right moment — when the bottom is golden brown and lightly crispy. But you don't have to peek under the pancake to know when it's time: You'll receive a visual indicator via the bubbles. Apparently, this is not just sound advice passed down from generation to generation. It turns out the bubble theory is based on some pretty solid science.

According to Physics Central, the baking powder goes through a chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide — and air bubbles — inside the batter. At the same time, the flour's starches start to gelatinize, turning the pancake from a liquid batter into a solid cake. When you see the bubbles rise to the surface and start to burst, you're witnessing the exact moment when the 3-ingredient pancake has enough structure to trap the bubbles, making the inside of the pancake perfectly fluffy.

Top the 3-ingredient pancakes with maple syrup or compote

When all the 3-ingredient pancakes are cooked, it's time to serve 'em up. The classic preparation for serving pancakes is a pat of butter and a generous drizzle of maple syrup. If you're going this route, be sure to use 100 percent real maple syrup. You went through so much trouble to create the perfect pancake, it would be a huge mistake to serve it with a fake syrup made with artificial sweeteners. But that doesn't mean you have to use maple syrup at all.

Pancakes are equally good when served with honey, jam, or fruit compote. For a different spin, serve them with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Or, to really make them unique, slather them with peanut butter, Nutella, chocolate syrup and sprinkles, a dollop of cinnamon-spiced applesauce, or caramel sauce. Going this route might take pancakes away from breakfast and shove it into the dessert-for-breakfast category, but whoever said there's anything wrong with that?

How did our 3-ingredient pancakes taste?

These pancakes were so good and easy — we're positive they'll make a regular appearance in our kitchen from here on out. They only dirtied one bowl and a single pan, so they didn't make the mess we were expecting from homemade pancakes, either. Not only that, but each pancake only took a few minutes to make, so we were able to make the entire batch in less than 30 minutes.

The best part: Our homemade pancakes were every bit as good as the ones we get at a restaurant. This recipe created fluffy, light, and airy pancakes, and their flavor was perfect when paired with a sweet topping like maple syrup. They might not be as large as dinner plate-sized diner pancakes, but they don't have to be bit to taste delicious. They were the perfect size to feed two to three people, and you could easily double (or triple) the recipe to serve more. And if silver dollar pancakes are more your thing, use a 1/4 cup measurer instead of the 1/3 cup to make the pancakes a touch smaller.

3-ingredient pancake directions

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 to 25 minutes

Serves: 6 pancakes

Ingredients:

(For the pancakes)

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • Cooking spray or butter (for the pan)

(Optional additions)

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, or bananas
  • Butter (for serving)
  • Maple syrup or fruit compote (for serving)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the self-rising flour, egg, and milk. If you don't have self-rising flour, you can use 1 cup of regular flour and add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  2. Whisk until the batter is smooth and lump-free. If you're adding any optional add-ins, fold them in now.
  3. Heat a 10-inch non-stick pan or a large non-stick griddle over medium-low heat. Spray the pan with cooking oil spray or melt a pat of butter in the pan.
  4. Pour 1/3 cup of the pancake batter into the pan, smoothing it out with the bottom of the measuring cup if needed to make it round. Cook the pancake for 1 to 2 minutes, until bubbles appear and pop on the surface.
  5. Using a wide spatula, flip the pancake and cook it for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until it's golden brown on the outside and cooked all the way through. Transfer the pancake to a plate and cover it with a clean towel while you cook the remaining pancakes, spraying the pan in between every pancake or as needed. Alternatively, you can hot hold the pancakes on a baking sheet in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven.
  6. Serve the pancakes with butter, maple syrup, whipped cream, berry compote, or any other toppings of your choice.