Here's Exactly What's In That Store-Bought Pancake Mix

What on earth is sodium aluminum phosphate, anyway?

03/08/2016 8:00 PM AEST | Updated 03/08/2016 8:00 PM AEST

If you’ve ever made pancakes from scratch, you know the ingredients are pretty benign. Flour, baking powder, salt and sugar make up the dry ingredients ― butter (or oil), milk (or buttermilk) and eggs get mixed in later; vanilla, too, if you’re feeling fancy. And that’s pretty much it. 

But, when you buy that pancake mix that’s already been made, the list of ingredients can read a little differently. A look at the back of a box of Bisquick reads like this:

  • Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil
  • Leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate)
  • Dextrose
  • Salt

At first glance that list is not as innocuous as you might have hoped. What is sodium aluminum phosphate and why is it in pancake mix, anyway? Not to mention thiamin mononitrate and riboflavin.

While the ingredients in the enriched flour bleached sound scary, they really serve just to give the flour some nutrition back that was lost during processing. Niacin is just vitamin B3. Thiamin mononitrate is the synthetic version of vitamin B1. Riboflavin is vitamin B2. And folic acid is vitamin B9. Nothing scary, but it should be noted that if you just use whole wheat flour, nothing has to be added back in.

The ingredients listed under leavening are equally harmless. Sodium aluminum phosphate is a chemical additive that helps baking powder do its job (it’s also added to baking powder). And monocalcium phosphate is an acidic chemical additive that helps baking powder react (also found in baking powder).

Dextrose is just a form of glucose, which is a simple sugar and carbohydrate. 

The one ingredient that is found in the pancake mix that most of us don’t want served on our morning plates is the partially hydrogenated oil. It’s basically the manufactured form of trans fat, and we all know how bad trans fat is for us. If you don’t, you should know that it raises your bad cholesterol, lowers your good cholesterol, and is generally bad news for your heart.

So make your own pancakes, skip the trans fat in lieu of butter and enjoy a better tasting breakfast. Here are some from-scratch recipes you should try:

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