Sourdough Pancakes

For many years, I used the buttermilk pancake recipe from Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe (a must-have cookbook). If you don't have a sourdough starter, I highly recommend the CI version with the addition of a scant 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract. That being said, my recent bread baking obsession inspired me to develop a pancake recipe that incorporated sourdough starter (aka levain).

Turns out sourdough pancakes are really excellent. They have an airy and tender center, slightly crisped exterior, and the flavor is much more cohesive than their ordinary cousins. I explain how to make and manage a levain in this post. In terms of preparing the pancakes ahead of time, freezing works beautifully and I've included those notes below. Now you can have delicious pancakes everyday, the way nature intended.


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Recipe Tips

Resist Overmixing

A lumpy batter is essential for fluffy pancakes. If overmixed, the chemistry at play won't be able to achieve maximum airiness. That's the simple explanation or you can read this food geek article on the subject.

Pan Temperature

This is another important element for texture. Finding the sweet spot took me a few weekends so I'm including my technique below under Instructions.

Why Two Days?

This recipe begins the night before you want to have pancakes. Similar to sourdough bread, the cold-fermentation gives the batter time to develop both structure and flavor. There's a noticeable difference between mixing and making these pancakes same day and giving the batter time. All of that being said, same day pancakes are better than no pancakes so in a pinch this recipe can be made the morning of. I recommend extending the resting period by at least an hour.


Day 1

  • 9 oz 100% hydration sourdough starter, mature or at the floating stage
  • 9 oz whole milk
  • 5 oz all-purpose flour Note: Use low-protein brands like Gold Medal or Pillsbury if possible.
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar

Day 2

  • 1 tsp flake-style salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Handful of blueberries, washed and dried
  • 100% maple syrup Note: Lately I've been enjoying syrup from Butternut Mountain Farm (smaller size available here).


Day 1

  • The evening before you want to make pancakes, dissolve the 100% hydration sourdough starter in the milk so that it's evenly distributed. Note: This takes several minutes and you will need to stir the mixture a few times.
  • Add the sugars and stir.
  • Add the flour and stir until just barely combined so that the flour is "wet". Note: The batter will be very lumpy and seem somewhat thin which is fine. Things will smooth out a bit when you mix in the remaining ingredients on Day 2 and the texture thickens overnight.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate.

Day 2


  • Remove the batter from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour.
  • Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  • Whisk together the salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg lightly and then add the cooled butter and vanilla.
  • Add the egg mixture and baking powder mixture to the wet batter. Stir to combine but make sure to leave lumps as discussed above in Recipe Tips.
  • Preheat a griddle or large non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat.
  • While the griddle preheats, let the batter rest for another 30 minutes.
  • Warm your syrup.


  • If you're making a large batch of pancakes and need to keep them warm, put a wire rack on the middle oven shelf and heat to 200 degrees. Place your plates on a lower rack to heat those up as well.
  • Test a generous tablespoon of batter on the griddle (do this for the front and back if your pan covers two burners). If in less than a minute the cake is dark brown, the pan is too hot. Lower the heat, wait a few minutes, and then test again. My griddle is ready when the baby cake is light brown after about a minute.
  • Give the batter a final stir.
  • Using a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measuring cup, ladle batter on to the griddle and then gently drop about 5 blueberries on each cake. Cook for 2 minutes. Note: Bubbles should appear and then start to pop on the top of the pancakes.
  • Flip and cook for an additional 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, checking to ensure the pancakes aren't getting too brown.
  • Serve immediately or transfer the pancakes to the wire rack in the oven to keep warm.

Freezing and Reheating

Since this pancake recipe is a 2-day affair, I froze some extras to see if they could be made ahead. Very happy to say that they freeze beautifully. Granted, pancakes are always best right off the griddle, but you won't find anything in the frozen food section that tastes this good.

  • Cook per the instructions above.
  • Cool completely at room temperature on a wire rack. Note: The rack is important since it circulates air around the warm cakes and prevents condensation.
  • Tear some parchment or wax paper into squares that are slightly bigger than the pancakes.
  • Stack 2 to 3 pancakes, adding a layer of paper between each cake.
  • Double bag and freeze.
  • To reheat, defrost in the microwave, turning once during the cooking cycle. I find the pancakes are plenty warm once defrosted. If your cakes are still cold inside, use the reheat or 50% power setting and continue cooking. It should take less than a minute at that point. Note: I tried toasting the defrosted cakes and found the texture to be rubbery. Haven't yet tried using a non-stick pan to crisp up the exterior. I suspect it may dry the pancakes out.

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