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16 Delicious Ways To Upgrade Store-Bought Pancake Mix

Pancake batter and ingredients
Pancake batter and ingredients - Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

It's not wrong to use a boxed pancake mix, but it's certainly a mistake not to improve its quality. Although you can make decent pancakes with it, they might have a bland flavor or a not-so-fluffy texture. Don't think that convenience means you have to sacrifice excellence, though. There are several ways to give the illusion that you spent time crafting a batter from scratch.

For instance, making easy substitutions, like swapping out the liquid, provides the flapjacks with a more complex flavor. Or, you can also add mix-ins that assist with leavening, moisture, or texture. When you view the store-bought product as a base to build upon and customize to your liking, your pancake game changes significantly. Follow these easy tips to elevate boxed pancake mix into a delectable breakfast treat that will compete with the best homemade pancakes, even your grandmother's renowned recipe.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Sift The Dry Mix

Sifting dry ingredients
Sifting dry ingredients - Evgeniy Skripnichenko/Getty Images

Pancake mix can sometimes become compacted during transportation and storage. If you use it straight out of the box like that, the flapjacks might still have lumps after cooking, or worse, they might turn out unpleasantly dense. It's also quite difficult to measure how much you need when it's not smooth. Luckily, it's a quick fix because you can make cloud-like pancakes by simply sifting the premade mix.

When you break out a fine mesh sieve and work the dry ingredients through it, it aerates the mixture, making it easier for you to work with. If you don't have a sifter, the next best option is to use a tool, like a whisk or potato masher, to get the job done. Then, you can add the other components and easily form the batter. This simple step can even prevent you from overmixing since people tend to keep stirring the mixture if it has many chunks of flour.

Add Some Type Of Cheese

Wooden spoon with mascarpone
Wooden spoon with mascarpone - Ivanna Pavliuk/Shutterstock

Make your pancakes more moisture-rich by adding creamy cheeses. For example, you can include cottage cheese, mascarpone, or ricotta in the batter, which results in a flapjack with a softer mouthfeel. These types of cheese are relatively mild in flavor and won't overpower the taste of the flapjacks. You might get a slight tanginess from the cottage cheese or mascarpone, but it's more enjoyable than anything and balances any sweet toppings you add.

For every 2 cups of dry mix, add roughly ¼ cup of your preferred cheese. If it is any more than that, you might have to modify the ratios of the other ingredients because the consistency might be off. Plus, you don't want to add so much that it weighs the pancakes down and prevents them from rising. But with just the right amount, they'll be nice and tender. Moreover, you can add cheddar or another shredded cheese to change it up and make savory pancakes instead of sweet.

Season The Dry Mix With Spices

Assorted whole baking spices
Assorted whole baking spices - Kstork/Getty Images

If your pancake mix doesn't need any more sweetness but could benefit from a deeper flavor, consider taking a look at your spice cabinet. Plenty of baking spices with a warm flavor complement usual pancake toppings like jam, maple syrup, or fresh fruit. You can use a blend, such as apple pie spice, or make your own with what you have on hand.

The most obvious choice is cinnamon, but you can also include nutmeg, which has delicate, woody notes. Meanwhile, allspice tastes like a fusion of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, so it's also an excellent option. If you want something with more of a kick, use cardamom or ginger, which are both quite peppery in their own ways.

When you add extra spices to the mix, don't make the mistake of adding them last because the liquid can make them clump. Instead, either sift or use a whisk to incorporate them into the dry mix before introducing any fluids to the batter.

Mix An Instant Oatmeal Packet Into The Batter

Instant oatmeal packets
Instant oatmeal packets - Eudaimonic Traveler/Shutterstock

Make hearty flapjacks when you add instant oatmeal to your batter. Rather than having to measure cooked oats, all you need to do is use a single-serving pack. It's just the right amount for a batch of about four medium pancakes. Combine the dry oatmeal, liquid, and store-bought mix, folding the ingredients until they form a batter. Once the majority of the lumps are gone, you don't need to mix any further. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to hydrate the oats.

Before cooking it, you can examine its texture. If it isn't thin enough to pour, add a tad more liquid to fine-tune the consistency. Since these packs typically contain sugar, the pancakes also become sweeter. You can use various flavors, such as strawberries (or peaches) and cream, maple and brown sugar, or apples and cinnamon. The oats alone provide a pleasant yet chewy texture, and the packets that contain fruit are just a bonus.

Add Crushed Cereal To The Batter

Cinnamon cereal pieces
Cinnamon cereal pieces - Olga Popova/Shutterstock

Depending on the brand, you might feel your store-bought pancake mix lacks pizzazz. Luckily, you can change that with the help of another breakfast favorite. Open your pantry and grab some of your favorite cereal to use as an add-in. In particular, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a terrific option because of its sugary taste and crisp texture. Smash the pieces with a rolling pin or use a food processor to break them down. Then, gently fold them into the batter last, being careful not to overmix. You can use extra cereal pieces as a garnish and drizzle on some icing or a dollop of whipped cream when they're done.

A different concept that works is Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Pebbles, which are convenient because you don't need to crush them since the pieces are already tiny. The Fruity Pebbles are pretty colorful and almost make the pancakes look like confetti cakes. Meanwhile, the cocoa-flavored cereal imparts a delicate chocolaty flavor that you can enhance with Nutella or complement with fresh strawberries.

Use Dairy Instead Of Water

Pouring milk into yellow bowl
Pouring milk into yellow bowl - Dragonimages/Getty Images

You miss out on a rich flavor if you only add water to your premade pancake mix. Instead, swap it out with a dairy, such as milk or buttermilk. You don't have to adjust the amounts at all; just use them in place of the required amount of water. Buttermilk is slightly thicker, so the batter will be too, but not so much that you need to worry about it.

Another option is to use flavored coffee creamer. With this method, use half water and half creamer; otherwise, it can easily become too sweet for enjoyment. Nevertheless, with the right amount, you can impart the pancakes with hints of caramel, French vanilla, or other decadent flavors.

Lastly, you can make mind-blowing pancakes by using eggnog. With this ingredient, it's more about using your best judgment. Utilize it as the entire liquid or a portion of it, depending on your preference.

Add Melted Fat

Spoonful of melted butter
Spoonful of melted butter - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

Fat is essential when making doughs and batters, whether you plan to make pie crust, bread, or breakfast hotcakes. The fat can make for a better crumb because it prevents gluten from overdeveloping. Especially with pancakes, this is crucial because batter with too much gluten development results in a tough final product that is difficult to chew. It's also beneficial because it gives them a deeper flavor.

You can use many types of fat to improve the boxed mix. Butter is always an excellent option; it tastes rich, and you likely have some in your refrigerator. Another option is coconut oil, which gives the flapjacks a mild coconut undertone and crispy edges. Lastly, if you just cooked some bacon, add some of the grease for delicious smoky hints. No matter your choice, 1 tablespoon of melted fat per 1 cup of dry pancake mix is sufficient. When you try this hack, you'll be impressed by the soft mouthfeel of the pancakes.

Moisten The Pancakes With Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin puree in measuring cup
Pumpkin puree in measuring cup - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

Including some pumpkin puree with your premade mix instantly transforms the pancakes into a flavorsome treat. Although people might usually associate pumpkiny foods with autumn, the canned stuff is available year-round in major grocery stores. And you might even have a can leftover from the holidays that you can utilize. The process is straightforward: Add 1 cup of puree for every 2 cups of pancake mix. The pumpkin doesn't replace liquid or other ingredients in the mix. It is an extra addition.

This is good news because the hotcakes receive additional moisture while also turning a charming light orange color. Although the flavor is a gentle earthiness and sweetness, you can intensify it by sprinkling some pumpkin pie spice over the finished pancakes. Or, if you have extra puree left over, mix some of it into whipped cream, which you can also use as a garnish.

Include An Egg Or Two

Cracking an egg
Cracking an egg - Skynesher/Getty Images

Some pancake mixes only require liquid, likely because companies make them with the convenience of home cooks in mind. However, eggs are highly beneficial to pancakes because of their richness and ability to provide the crumb structure. Due to the high fat content in the yolks, eggs help the dry and wet ingredients to bind. If you are uncertain about what that means for you, it indicates that the pancakes are less likely to crumble when you flip or serve them.

Another reason to add eggs to your pancake mix is that they can help you achieve fluffiness. The added structure allows air bubbles to stay in place and rise. This is especially true if you separate the eggs and yolks. Mix the yolks into the batter and separately whip the whites until they're airy. Then, gently fold them into the mixture. Nevertheless, if you don't have time for that and just want to crack the egg straight into the batter, it still positively affects the final product.

Give The Batter A Touch Of Citrus

Whole lemons and fresh zest
Whole lemons and fresh zest - sweet marshmallow/Shutterstock

One way to make boxed mix taste fresher is by adding some citrus, ideally orange or lemon. You can add baking extract, fresh juice, or zest. Not only do these components improve the flavor, but they also have an excellent aroma. Citrus baking extracts are typically concentrated and pack a punch, so you must use them sparingly to get the best results -- think 1 to 2 teaspoons per batch, and you can adjust if needed.

Regarding fresh lemon or orange juice, you can add slightly more, about 2 to 4 tablespoons, but adding too much can make the batter loose. If you want the flavor to be more intense, consider swapping the juice for a portion of the liquid amount the recipe calls for. But don't worry if the taste is subtle; adding fresh zest provides a perfect tart touch, and the good news is that you can include as much as you see fit.

With these recommendations in mind, you can experiment with flavor combinations. For instance, make lemon poppyseed pancakes to make the hotcakes look speckled. Or craft wonderfully delicious orange chocolate pancakes by adding fresh juice and chocolate chips.

Make Espresso Pancakes

Espresso powder and whole beans
Espresso powder and whole beans - j.chizhe/Shutterstock

Make incredibly unique pancakes when you include coffee in the batter. Use instant espresso powder (about 1 tablespoon per 1 cup of dry mix) or a shot of cooled espresso for optimal results. You can also add brewed coffee, but it doesn't have as robust of a flavor. Meanwhile, even with small portions of espresso, the flavor still shines.

Even though java-flavored flapjacks sound amazing as is, they also hold another benefit. Did you know that coffee can enhance the flavor of sweets, particularly chocolate? According to a 2020 study on MDPI, consuming coffee can make your palate more perceptive to saccharine foods. The study mentions that dark chocolate and coffee are a perfect example of a food pairing where this occurs.

So, if you're making chocolate chip pancakes, adding a dash of espresso will highlight the chocolaty flavor and make the overall taste more intricate. But, even if you don't include a chocolate component and just enjoy the hotcakes with some syrup, it can still make them taste especially scrumptious because of the espresso's effect.

Cook The Pancakes In A Cast Iron Skillet

Pancakes in cast-iron pan
Pancakes in cast-iron pan - SedovaY/Shutterstock

If you typically use a regular old sauté pan for making pancakes, then using a cast iron skillet might be the trick you need. Cast iron is generally nonstick, especially a well-seasoned pan with a thick coating. This means it's not a hassle to loosen the edges of the hotcakes when cooking them. They release much more effortlessly.

Furthermore, this type of cookware is known for its impressive heat retention. These skillets cook food more evenly than other types, which is beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, you don't have to deal with hot spots that heat one side of the pancake faster than the other. It's nice that the center and edges cook on the same timeline, so you don't have to wonder when to flip it. Secondly, the presentation of pancakes significantly improves as they cook with a beautiful, even browning.

Add Malted Milk Powder

Wooden bowl with milk powder
Wooden bowl with milk powder - NIKCOA/Shutterstock

Malted milk powder is the ingredient you need to elevate your pancake mix. If you've ever wondered how to make hotcakes taste like they came straight out of a retro diner, this product is your answer. In fact, pancakes aren't the only thing that restaurants add it to; you might also recognize its flavor in malted milkshakes.

Manufacturers make this product with wheat, barley malt, and milk. Sometimes, it has other inclusions, such as a touch of salt or sugar. You can buy it at the supermarket, in the baking section, or online.

In any case, it gives pancakes a delightful flavor that combines toastiness with nuttiness. Better yet, it is a breeze to include in your batter. Add between 1 and 4 tablespoons of it to a small batch of pancakes, depending on how prominent you want the flavor. With this amount, it doesn't drastically change the thickness of the batter.

Add Baking Powder

Baking powder container
Baking powder container - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Although pancake mix already contains leavening agents to help the pancakes rise, sometimes you don't get the amount of lift that you want. You may have also had the box in your pantry for a while; the effectiveness of baking powder reduces over time, especially if you've already opened the package it's in. So, even if the dry mix still has a good flavor, it might need an extra boost of baking powder. In this case, less is more because adding too much can cause the hotcakes to have an unpleasant, bitter taste.

For instance, if you're making a batch with 2 cups of dry mix, you can throw in 2 teaspoons of the leavening agent, which does the trick. This method is much easier than adding baking soda since it already contains acidic components and doesn't need to be mixed with an acid to activate.

Replace The Water With Sprite

Can of sprite with limes
Can of sprite with limes - AtlasStudio/Shutterstock

Some folks might frown upon the idea of putting soda pop into a breakfast dish, but there's a valid reason it's a good idea. Believe it or not, you can use Sprite in your pancakes to make them rise significantly. Think about it this way: Sprite is extremely fizzy because of the carbonation. By using it, you introduce tons of air bubbles into the batter. The more air there is, the lighter the mixture is. In turn, you give pancakes the power to rise more than they usually would.

The nice thing about this trick is that you don't need to guess how much to include. Follow the directions on the package and simply swap the recommended amount of water with Sprite (no need to worry about including dairy here, except maybe some melted butter). Moreover, the soda has a relatively mild flavor after it cooks into food. And its clear appearance means that your pancakes will be the same color as always.

Cook Bacon Pieces Into The Pancakes

Tongs holding bacon piece
Tongs holding bacon piece - Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Give your boxed mix a savory upgrade when you cook bacon into the pancakes. First, start by cooking the bacon and having it ready to go. Pour the mix into the pan and allow it to start cooking. When the edges begin to set, but the top is still wet, take a piece of bacon or two and gently press them into the top. If you want them completely hidden, take a spoon and carefully pour some batter over top. Cover the pan for a minute while the pancake cooks. Once the bubbles pop and the flapjacks are ready to flip, you can turn them to finish cooking the other side and fully seal the meat.

If you just cooked your bacon and still have it in the pan, another option is to pour the batter right over the pieces. If you wish, you can use a tool to fold the slices in half first so the ends of the bacon don't protrude. With this method, keep an eye on how much grease is in the pan. If it is excessive, the batter soaks it up like a sponge. On the other hand, a small amount can benefit the flavor.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.