Chain Restaurant Pancakes Ranked Worst To Best

If there's one thing frequently ordered at a local diner or breakfast chain restaurant, it might just be pancakes, second only to coffee. Call them pancakes, flapjacks, hotcakes, griddle cakes, or (if you're using cornmeal instead of flour) johnny cakes, but their sweet, fluffy, dripping with butter and syrup goodness makes them part of the US's beloved breakfast. It's also one of those recipes that any short order cook would need to try to mess up, as pancakes are one of the few safe orders to make no matter the quality of the restaurant.

But as safe as they are, not every pancake recipe tends to pan out the way they're envisioned. While a flat circle of griddle fried sweet dough can become a blank canvas for a wide palette of experimental ingredients, and while they oftentimes become real masterpieces to the taste buds, sometimes there's a much wider difference between what happens in the kitchen and with a customer's palette.

15. Bob Evans' Double Blueberry Pancakes

Even by the standards of restaurant pancakes, which have the habit of dancing on the line between breakfast and dessert, Bob Evans Double Blueberry Pancakes are overloaded with sugar and sodium (via MyFoodDiary). For one Cincinnati Yelp reviewer, it also looked like the restaurant changed their recipe with more, albeit smaller pancakes, and with only a smattering of blueberries. Whether it was just this one restaurant or a chain-wide decision is uncertain, but either way, it didn't make for a satisfied customer.

The Yelp review had a side-by-side comparison between the old recipe vs. the new. The old was a stack of three pancakes topped with blueberries, syrup, and whip cream. Compared to the new formula with four smaller pancakes arranged across a plate with no syrup, less whip cream, and a light sprinkle of blueberries. Not exactly the treat to be looking for if you've got a cheat day in mind. And if you're got a hankering to indulge, you could easily do better.

14. IHOP's Double Blueberry Pancakes

What's up with chain restaurants struggling with their double blueberry pancakes? Whatever the issue, it seems to have gravitated to the International House of Pancakes. A massive Insider review of every pancake served by IHOP puts this one firmly at the bottom.

In the culinary arts of blueberry pancakes, some will incorporate the berries into the batter in some way, usually right onto the raw side of the pancake as it's frying. However, when you're part of a national chain, sometimes speed wins out over quality. According to the review, IHOP's version of "double blueberry" translates to a big ol' dollop of cold blueberry compote on a hot stack of pancakes with little blueberry in the batter. Not only was there blueberry overload, but the compote itself was served cold, quickly rendering the hotcakes to more lukewarm cakes. Room temperature pancakes are always a no-go.

13. IHOP's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

When you call yourself the International House of Pancakes and tout the kind of menu they have, they can't all be real winners, can they? Right on the tin, the recipe sounds like a sure-fire hit. You rarely go wrong with chocolate chip pancakes, especially with the kids, so adding even more chocolate seems to make sense in a "more is more" way. Cocoa added to the batter, two chocolate chip pancakes layered between whip cream with chocolate chips inside, even more chips on top, and slathered with (you guessed it) chocolate syrup. How can a national restaurant chain screw that up? Well, they found a way.

A Mashed article on IHOP's best and worst dishes called their chocolate chocolate pancakes challenging to eat and even "chalky." This usually means that the pancakes were so dry that the review probably needed either a tall glass of milk or some very black coffee to wash it down. Moreover, while chocolate chip pancakes are usually sweet, IHOP's take created an overbearing amount of sweetness. The kind of sweetness that makes you grab for the nearest toothbrush.

12. IHOP's Harvest Grain and Nut Pancakes

Seems as though Mashed has got a grudge against the poor International House, doesn't it? While not served lukewarm and not as cloyingly sweet, IHOP's Harvest Grain N' Nut Pancakes' only real crimes came from its general unpopularity with the pancake-eating public, not to mention a slight misrepresentation as a more health-conscious breakfast food.

Mashed looked at a survey of IHOP customers to see what their most unpopular dishes were, and a sizable 32.02% gave it to the Harvest Grain N' Nut Pancakes. The reason for the disdain, aside from its less than appealing texture and dryness, was the misplaced idea that the pancakes were a healthier breakfast option. Considering they're made with a combination of oats and whole wheat flour, with nuts both in the batter and on top, it does give the image of a heart-healthier form of pancake. The reality however was not just untrue but also swinging in the opposite direction, as a stack of Harvest pancakes has more calories than their classic buttermilk.

11. Huddle House's Oreo Cookie Crush Pancakes

One issue that arises again and again when it comes to ill-fated pancake recipes is the copious amount of sugar. Whether it's by compotes, mixed in candy or cookies, or extra toppings, it quickly tips the balance of breakfast food that's already sweet enough through the dough and the typical addition of syrup. Case in point is the Huddle House's Oreo Cookie Crush Pancakes, which contain crumbles of Oreo cookies (filling and all) added to the batter, with whipped cream and crumbles as a topping.

As you can imagine, the pancakes are sickeningly sweet, topping at 58 grams worth of sugar alone (via MyFitnessPal). For reference, their original buttermilk pancakes contain around 14 grams of sugar. The sodium count is even worse at 1120 milligrams, meaning this one dish contains 47% of your daily sodium intake! According to Nutritionix, to burn off all that sugar, carbs, and calories, it would take you well over an hour whether you're walking, running, or biking. But if you've just finished these pancakes, it sounds like you'll be lucky to move, much less walk.

10. Cracker Barrel's Pecan Pancakes

Another well-regarded, internationally beloved pancake house is Cracker Barrel, and much like IHOP, not all of their recipes are a sure-fire hit. While one can't argue with the flavor, it can't be overstated just how almost ridiculously unhealthy a misguided pancake recipe can be. Cracker Barrel's most notorious offender is their Pecan Pancakes, a platter that might have places like IHOP and Huddle House beat for most unhealthy pancakes.

A Mashed article laid it all out on a numerical level just how harsh this particular item can be. Pancakes are typically carb-heavy, so they'll give you a boost of energy but aren't much for staying in your stomach for long. Just three of these pancakes are loaded not just with calories but also contain massive amounts of sodium. About 2,720 milligrams of sodium, to be precise. In addition to 70 grams worth of fat, you're getting more than your daily intake with a dish that'll most likely burn out of your body in only a few hours.

9. Marie Callender's Banana Cream Pie Pancakes

Marie Callender's does to its banana cream pie pancakes what it does to its famous pies: dollops them with whipped cream and pudding. There are also bananas and almonds in the mix, which are healthy elements served on their own. But added to flapjacks that also contain a pudding filling, their nutritional value is overtaken, and they become just another layer in what amounts to ... a Marie Callender's pie ... for breakfast — with a side of bacon. Breakfast doesn't need to prove itself as a superfood every time, but it should probably try a little harder to be somewhat of a nutritious meal.

When it comes to nutritional value, the numbers on these pancakes stack up pretty much as you'd imagine. This deconstructed dessert has 800 calories and 28 grams of fat, half of which is saturated. There are 64 grams of sugar and only 5 grams of fiber, which almost fits within the upper end of the recognized sugar to fiber ratio range. Such high numbers make these griddle cakes a better fit for the dessert menu. Not everything has to be pie, Marie.

8. Bob Evans Double Chocolate Hotcakes

Standard chocolate hotcakes are enough of a sugary prospect to give breakfast lovers pause. But Bob Evans' double chocolate hotcakes literally double down on the cocoa with chocolate sauce drizzle and chocolate chips sprinkled over four relatively innocent-looking pancakes. Not to mention, the stack is topped with a decorative shot of whipped cream to make it Instagram-worthy. There are birthday cakes that never see this much chocolate action, and those are shared by a whole party of people. This is an order for a single diner. Sugar much, Bob?

As for the nutritional facts on this super sweet pancake platter, it's worth noting that the range from 1210 to 1440 calories easily covers more than half of the average human's intake, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Half of the 27 grams of fat are saturated and the sugar content comes in at a whopping 74 grams (via Fast Food Nutrition), which is double to triple what the American Heart Association suggests for adult men and women. Chain diners may be pushing comfort food, but the moment is fleeting and the aftereffects on the human body are lasting. No amount of comfort can compensate for that. Are they delicious? Undoubtedly. So are ice cream sundaes, but you don't see those on the breakfast menu.

7. Denny's Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

The trend in sticky-sweet pancakes lies closer to breakfast with Denny's cinnamon roll pancakes. At least this sugary concoction is related to morning pastries. While Cinnabon may have spoiled diners with the idea that cinnamon rolls should be the size of a cabbage head, it doesn't mean everything cinnamon roll-related should be ginormous. Nonetheless, Denny's has rolled out these heartstoppers with a spread of cinnamon and sugar topped with a lacy drizzle of cream cheese icing, because too much of a good thing must be even better, right? 

Not when it comes to watching what you eat. This breakfast combo comes with the option of adding eggs, hash browns, and bacon if that weren't enough. Even if you stick to two pancakes with cream cheese icing, you're looking at consuming 990 calories, not to mention a mandatory nap. With 21 grams of fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, and a blood-curdling 1,660 milligrams of sodium along for the ride (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends no more than 2,300 mg per day), you're staring down a health catastrophe when you order these pancakes. To add to the total, a bonus 125 grams of sugar puts you wildly over the recommended allowance. But hey, at least you get a meager 10 grams of protein mixed in with the bad stuff. You're best off ordering something else. 

6. McDonald's Pancakes

For many, including some of the writers at Mashed, the first introduction to diner pancakes came courtesy of none other than the golden arches. McDonald's Hotcakes were almost transcendent for young taste buds as they changed the way just how good pancakes could actually be. But after a couple of decades, with more mature taste buds, and a few changes to the recipe, do McDonald's pancakes still hold up not just for kids but adults?

Freezyboys' review based on taste, look, and even how your stomach feels afterward gave McDonald's Hotcakes the prized title of "above average." Which doesn't sound too bad as far as fast food pancakes go. While they're smaller than what you'd get at a diner, McDonald's has that same appetizing golden brown hue. Taste-wise, they're not strong on flavor in one direction or the other, though that can be remedied a bit with the application of butter and syrup. These days McDonald's pancakes might seem more mediocre, but if you're looking for simple pancakes served quickly, you could do worse.

5. Perkins Potato Pancakes

Finding good potato pancakes in any diner or restaurant can be tricky. Often when a place says they serve potato pancakes, what they mean are hash browns. When potato pancakes are actually on the menu, they typically are served in very small portions at a jacked-up price due to work in making them. So imagine the joy of finding a popular restaurant chain that serves potato pancakes, not as hash browns, but with the right ingredients and better priced to boot.

One Tripadvisor review had nothing but praise for Perkins and their potato pancakes. One reviewer highly recommends them and adds that the price is low. Considering how much of a sheer hassle it can be if you've got a serious appetite for potato pancakes, having a widespread chain that serves them well made, in abundance, and at a fair price is practically a miracle in its own right.

4. IHOP's Original Buttermilk Pancakes

The stack of pancakes that became the cornerstone of a restaurant empire. Some days you can lay off the fruit, sprinkles, or whatever else is used to dress up a pancake breakfast. Instead all you need to do is order yourself a simple yet nonetheless delicious stack of IHOP's original buttermilk pancakes.

Restaurant Clicks placed the Original Buttermilk Pancakes on their list of IHOP's best menu items, and with good reason. IHOP may be known for its different toppings or additions to its pancake lineup, but it wouldn't be possible without such a solid (or fluffy, in their case) foundation. Every pancake dish would not be possible without IHOP having perfected its original recipe, so you might owe it to yourself to taste where it all began. And when it comes to their buttermilk pancakes, the choices couldn't be any easier. Ask yourself if you're looking for a short stack or more, and then choose just how much syrup you'd like to add.

3. Denny's Choconana Pancake Breakfast

Denny's is a longstanding staple of "breakfast anytime" diners, as breakfast is the one area where they most shine. Most significantly, they've reached a kind of symmetrical balance of sweetness with their Choconana Pancake Breakfast. Unlike IHOP, which made the misstep in adding way too much extra chocolate, Denny's keeps the chocolate chips just in the batter while topping it off with a sliced banana. It almost sounds way too simple, yet it completely works in their favor.

In Mashed's review of popular menu items of Denny's, the Choconana Pancake Breakfast doesn't sound particularly sophisticated, but from the taste alone, it doesn't need to. It's easily one of the best kinds of dessert pancakes you could ask for, and since it's a breakfast, you'll also get a side of hash browns, eggs, and sausage. In fact, the article mentions that there might be a bit too much food as the pancakes themselves are pretty big. So remember to take a to-go box or split it with a mutual friend.

2. IHOP's English Sticky Toffee Pancakes

If you're looking for something that leans even harder into dessert for breakfast, then here comes IHOP with a come from behind victory. The International House of Pancakes has you covered with their English Sticky Toffee Pancakes. Much like their original buttermilk pancakes, making a dessert version is all a matter of striking that right amount of balance when it comes to sweetness. It's because the particular brand of English-inspired sweetness is "just right," that Thrillist ranked the English Sticky Toffee Pancakes right at the top as the best of IHOP's breakfast menu.

Topped with bits of English toffee, a swirl of whipped cream, powdered sugar, and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce, IHOP's dessert pancake is sweet but not overbearingly so. The fact that they've added this many toppings and yet are able to maintain a level of balanced sweetness is nothing short of a culinary miracle.

1. The Original Pancake House Apple Pancake

If IHOP built its foundation on its buttermilk pancakes, then the Original Pancake House made its claim to diner food fame with its star attraction, the Apple Pancake. What makes their apple pancake so unique is that it's not the kind of pancake you fry on a griddle; it's one you bake in a Dutch oven. And while it takes a while compared to other pancake recipes (at least a 20-minute prep time), what comes out is something sweet, syrupy, eggy, and covered with slices of baked apples. Granted, if you're eating this at breakfast, you'll be full until dinnertime.

According to the Female Foodie Blog, the Apple Pancake is made using Granny Smith apples and butter cinnamon glaze. It's also easily the best reason to visit the Original Pancake House. With how dense and sweet it is, it might not be the best to have weekly or bi-weekly. But the Apple Pancakes is one of those treats you'll never forget.