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I Tried 6 Pancake Mixes & One Blew the Others Away

Store shelves are stocked with all kinds of pancake mixes, but which brand tastes the best?
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Pancakes, hotcakes, flapjacks–whatever you call this fusion of flour, baking powder, and liquid, there's no denying it's an unmatched breakfast food. Nothing is better than waking up on a Sunday morning to the smell of the griddle cooking up magic. And, who doesn't love starting the day with a bit of a sugar rush from all that added syrup?

Pancake mix is also a staple item which is always smart to keep on hand for a rainy day. In fact, if you searched your pantry right now, you will likely find a bag of the powdery ready-to-make blend proudly sitting on the shelf. But, which brand is your family's favorite to keep stocked?

There is certainly a plethora of options to choose from. And, if you're like me, in a fit of decision fatigue, you likely just grab the box you're most familiar with at the grocery store and carry on with your day. But, it's important to note not all mixes are created equal. A few yield thick and dense pancakes while others will fluff up to something more light and airy. Some will be moist, while others are more dry and crisp. And, only a select few will deliver those all-important sweet and buttery notes.

In order to sort out which mixtures crank out the most quintessential flapjacks, I rustled up six of the country's most popular pancake brands to test. I closely followed the instructions on each box, mixing in extra ingredients when necessary, and then got to flipping. Read on to see how each pancake fared, in order of my least to most favorite. You may just discover your family's new breakfast go-to.

Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake & Baking Mix

trader joes pancake mix
Megan Hageman / Eat This, Not That!
PER ½ CUP (~THREE 4" PANCAKES) PREPARED AS DIRECTED: 230 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (1 fiber, 3 g sugar), 7 g protein

In true, quirky Trader Joe's fashion, the store offers an eclectic range of pancake mixes. A few offerings which have cycled in and out include a seasonal Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix, every gym rat's favorite the Buttermilk Protein Pancake Mix, and a very special Ube Mochi Mix which features purple yam–and yes, it does in fact turn your flapjacks a lovely shade of violet.

But, for those looking to enjoy a less out-there breakfast, Trader Joe's Buttermilk Pancake & Baking Mix is also a permanent fixture on the shelf. The flour-based blend cost me $1.99 and also an egg, which I stirred in along with water during the baking process.

The look: On the thinner side with a yellow tinge. Something about its appearance is a little off to me. And, for the sake of full transparency, I actually remade them a second time for fear that I had butchered the measurements. But, the supplemental batch yielded nearly identical results and actually reminded me of naan bread. A sentiment which isn't too far off given this mix's ingredients.

The taste: Dry and eggy like French toast. The water in these TJ's pancakes and oil on my skillet didn't work hard enough, leaving them not only drained of moisture but also a bit tough. The overall flavor was additionally subpar–the reason, I believe, why the egg taste was so prominent. As I make my way through the rest of this mix, I will likely go a little lighter on the egg and throw in some chocolate chips or pecans to make them more inviting.

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Bisquick Original Pancake & Baking Mix

bisquick pancake mix
Megan Hageman / Eat This, Not That!
PER ⅓ CUP MIX: 140 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

Bisquick has been around since the 1930s and is probably one of the most versatile items to have in your kitchen. Just its Original Pancake & Baking Mix alone, which I purchased for $4.89, has the potential to be morphed into biscuits, muffins, waffles, a crust for pot pie, or even a base for cobbler. But, what we really want to know is how it performs when it comes down to a basic, old-school pancake.

Similar to Trader Joe's recipe, this one also comes with multiple steps. You will need to have not only an egg at the ready, but vegetable oil and milk, as well. The box also includes a recipe for "The Ultimate Pancake" which additionally throws in sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract—but I resisted that sweet temptation.

The look: The plumpest of the bunch by far. The batter here was thick and it just kept growing higher and higher during the cooking process. These pancakes are almost dead ringers for what is advertised on the box, give or take some browning on each side. All things considered, Bisquick delivers very homestyle- and old-fashioned-looking hotcakes.

The taste: Dense and mealy on the inside, rubbery on the outside. Chewing through these took some time and dried out my mouth. To make matters worse, the original recipe lacks sweetness or really any personality at all to liven it up. The pancakes don't taste too bad with some syrup drizzled on top. But, does anything really taste bad when paired with syrup?

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Birch Benders Organic Classic Pancake & Waffle Mix

birch benders pancake mix
Megan Hageman / Eat This, Not That!
PER ¼ CUP: 140 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 fiber, 7 g sugar), 3 g protein

Birch Benders is a newer name in pancakes, founded in 2011. But, the brand came in hot and ready to serve up the tastiest organic pancakes on the market. Now the company's mixes have a spot at many major grocery stores, adjacent to some of the largest names in the world of American breakfast.

The brand's pancake and waffle mixes come in a wide range of specialty options like Sweet Potato, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Gluten-Free, Keto, and Pumpkin Spice. And, luckily for me, they are all low maintenance, requiring just good ol' H20 as an add-in. I decided to whip up a stack of the Original Classic pancakes, after acquiring the bag for $5.79 at Whole Foods.

The look: Pale but thick and fluffy. These pancakes refused to get crisp or brown on the skillet, despite a generous spray of cooking oil. But, I could tell from the lumpy batter that each one would rise to the ideal height.

The taste: Sticky and sweet. Despite taking ample time to cook the Birch Benders griddle cakes, they still ended up tacky and slightly underdone in the center—something I didn't necessarily dislike, but may be a turn off for some people. The organic cane sugar adds a lot to the mix and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. For an organic and also dairy-free mix, I would say this is a fine choice that I wouldn't hesitate to cook up again.

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Hungry Jack Complete Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix

hungry jack pancake mix
Megan Hageman / Eat This, Not That!
PER ¼ CUP: 130 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (1 fiber, 6 g sugar), 3 g protein

Hungry Jack is certainly a trustworthy name in the breakfast aisle, and has been combatting morning-time hunger for over 70 years. The brand has remained hyper-focused during that time, staying true to what it knows best: just pancake mixes and syrup. And, its core recipes have remained largely the same.

At my local store, I found Hungry Jack in a couple different varieties, but after some internal debate, I opted for the Complete Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix for $3.59. The brand's Complete line requires just water whereas the more traditional mixes call for milk, oil, and egg.

The look: Flat and rough around the edges. These hotcakes aren't winning any awards for appearance, but their golden edges and crisped-up exterior still made my mouth water. The batter turned out runny upon following the box's proposed ratio of one cup mix to three-fourth cups water, which is what made their shape hard to control and what made flipping them even harder.

The taste: A great balance between dense and light, leaving each bite tender but not too mushy. They also pack plenty of moisture, plus a smidgen of sweetness from the added sugar. After a couple forkfuls, I realized their texture reminded me of what you would grab at a hotel breakfast, but a much more elevated version that is actually fresh.

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Pearl Milling Company Original Pancake & Waffle Mix

pearl milling pancake
Megan Hageman / Eat This, Not That!
PER ¼ CUP (~TWO 4" PANCAKES) PREPARED AS DIRECTED: 190 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 640 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (<1 fiber, 6 g sugar), 6 g protein

Aunt Jemima is now known as Pearl Milling Company—a fact which I momentarily forgot as I stared blankly at the grocery store shelves searching for it. I thought, "what is this new pancake mix dominating the pancake aisle?" But, it is, in fact, the same company with the same recipes, just with different branding. This change was made back in 2020, after Aunt Jemima, among other brands, was criticized for depicting racial stereotypes.

Once I reminded myself of this recent change, I surveyed the red boxes and elected to try out the brand's Original Pancake & Waffle Mix. This one is not considered "complete," so milk, oil, and an egg are required, and it's priced at $3.99.

The look: I couldn't draw up a better looking flapjack. Each one came out perfectly round with lightly crisped edges. They do look lighter and a bit more yellow than the box depicts, but still a handsomely colored pancake. And, when stacked, they look nice and chunky. My only qualm is that this blend is the only one which comes straight out of the box and doesn't include a plastic bag. The problem is with the box's side flap, where you're meant to pour from. I have found that this never works correctly, and this time, it yet again sent powdered mix flying out in unpredictable and uneven amounts.

The taste: Airy and classic. I was hoping for the best from arguably the biggest name in pancakes and these were right on the money. Their firm yet soft texture was perfect for soaking up syrup. And, the outer layer offered a degree of toastiness from the skillet, without tasting burnt. This mix does require some TLC with the added milk, oil, and egg—a process which is even more difficult if you try to half the recipe like I did. But, it was well worth it.

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Krusteaz Buttermilk Complete Pancake Mix

krusteaz pancake mix
Megan Hageman / Eat This, Not That!
PER ½ CUP: 210 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 650 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (<1 fiber, 10 g sugar), 4 g protein

The name Krusteaz is a combination of the words pie "crust" and "ease," as in, easy to make. This came straight from the mind of the company's founder Rose Charters back in 1932. To me, however, it has always sounded like the word "crusty," which isn't at all what you want when it comes to pancakes, or really any baked goods.

But, this certainly hasn't deterred breakfast lovers, and nowadays there are more than enough Krusteaz pancake and waffle mixes to go around. The Blueberry, Sweet Cream, and Cinnamon Churro Waffle flavors all piqued my interest. But, I selected a nostalgic familiar favorite: the Light & Fluffy Buttermilk Complete Pancake Mix. It rang up at $2.79 and certainly does keep things "eazy." All you have to do is add water and you're ready to go.

The look: Bleached and pressed flat. The Krusteaz batter is middle of the road in terms of thickness. So, I was surprised to see these come off the skillet looking so collapsed. If first impressions were everything, I don't think these pancakes would have made it far in this taste test.

The taste: Spongy with air pockets. These really are "light and fluffy," just as the box promises, likely thanks to the added buttermilk. And, I would even use the word smooth to describe them as well. The sweetness is well-pronounced—something that few other brands were able to achieve. And, I picked up on a butter aroma and flavor throughout as well, which was a first.

Paired with a slather of real butter and a small dose of syrup, these blew away the competition—an impressive accomplishment considering this is a simple just-add-water mix and also the second cheapest option I tasted.

Megan Hageman
Megan is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Megan