When going to a restaurant for brunch, most of the kitchen’s creativity is devoted to savory breakfast items. You’ll see every imaginable variation of eggs Benedict, but pancakes don’t get the same sort of attention. It’s usually just a stack of three flapjacks slathered with maple syrup. While you sometimes see a blueberry or banana variation, that’s about as crazy as things get.
It’s time to devote a little more love to the humble pancake, and there’s no better place to do it than in your own kitchen. Thankfully, giving flapjacks some new life is no more difficult than switching up the standard topping. These seven sauce recipes are tasty enough to make your pancakes feel special but easy enough to throw together whenever you want a tall stack.
1. 1-Minute Peanut Butter Syrup
Some folks think peanut butter tastes great on everything, and we tend to agree. Bring the creamy spread to the breakfast table with this two-ingredient recipe from Southern Plate. All you need is peanut butter, honey, and a microwave. This sauce tastes great right from a spoon, but try to save a little bit for the flapjacks.
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
Directions: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine honey and peanut butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove from microwave, and stir. Microwave 30 seconds longer, and stir until completely combined. Serve.
2. Peach Pancake Syrup
Make your breakfast taste like summer any time of year with MrBreakfast.com’s peach pancake topping. With just five ingredients, this syrup is open to tons of variations. We like to add a bit of freshly grated ginger. Cinnamon would also be a welcome addition. Though this recipe calls for fresh peaches, frozen ones will work just as well.
- 4 medium peaches
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 pinch allspice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¾ cup water
Directions: Peel peaches. The easiest method is to cut an “X” through the skin on the bottom of each, submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, the skins will slip off easily. Halve and pit peaches. Either chop into small pieces for a chunky sauce or purée for a smooth sauce.
In a saucepean set over medium-high heat, combine peaches, sugar, allspice, butter, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until syrup has thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and serve.
3. Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce
There isn’t much separating sweet breakfasts from dessert, so we think caramel is perfectly at home on a stack of pancakes. Any basic version would be delicious, but this bourbon-spiked sauce from Closet Cooking might be one of the best. If you can’t get your hands on a vanilla bean, try using vanilla extract instead. Just be sure to wait until the syrup has cooked before adding it. Because vanilla extract is made with alcohol, cooking the liquid will cause most of the flavor to dissipate.
If you’re nervous about making caramel, it’s not as hard as you might think. The most important step is letting all the sugar dissolve before the mixture boils, otherwise you’ll end up with a gritty sauce. Once the sugar is completely melted, you can crank up the heat. Let the mixture reach a deep amber, then add the cream all at once. Stand back for this part because it will bubble and steam like crazy. Then, just stir until the sauce is smooth. Food Network shared a simple tutorial to help you out.
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half, with seeds scraped out
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
Directions: In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Let simmer until sugar dissolves, then cook over medium heat until mixture turns amber in color, 15 to 20 minutes total.
Immediately add cream, and stir over medium-low heat until sauce is smooth. Stir in butter, vanilla seeds, and bourbon until fully incorporated. Let cool, and serve.
4. Aunt Bonnie’s Chocolate Syrup for Pancakes
You can certainly top your pancakes with purchased chocolate syrup, but you’ll be surprised at how much more flavor Just a Pinch’s recipe has. A hint of vanilla gives the sauce depth, and a sprinkle of salt helps keep the sweetness in check. If you’re a java lover, try adding a sprinkle of instant espresso powder. Or go south of the border with a little bit of cinnamon and chipotle chile powder.
- 1½ cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ cup water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Serve warm or cool.
5. Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Syrup
Even if you’re devoted to maple syrup, it’s an obscure enough ingredient to accidentally leave off your grocery list. Give your pancakes a similar feel when you forget to stock up with Liz Gunnison’s substitute syrup, which she shared with Bon Appétit. Brown sugar gives this sauce a caramel-like flavor that’s similar to maple, and the cinnamon adds to the breakfast feel. Leftovers would be great drizzled on yogurt or some fresh fruit.
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Directions: Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and lemon juice. Serve warm.
6. Warm Apple Pancake Topping
While pancakes can be rather indulgent, they don’t have to be a diet disaster. This apple-packed topping from Fine Cooking is sweet and comforting but still manages to be pretty healthy. Add a generous scoop on top of your next batch of flapjacks, and you’ll get the taste of apple pie without the calorie count.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider, divided
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Combine 1 cup cider and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Add apples, and bring to a simmer. Cook apples, stirring, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons cider and cornstarch in a small bowl to make a slurry. Add mixture to apples, and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from heat, then stir in vanilla. Serve.
7. Easy Homemade Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry pancakes don’t often deliver the flavor they promise. If you’re lucky, you might get about 10 of the tiny fruits in each flapjack. When you want bold blueberry flavor, try making a batch of this quick sauce from Pinch of Yum. Though you can use fresh or frozen berries for this recipe, frozen will probably be the better choice. Unless it’s peak blueberry season, the fresh ones from the store don’t have much flavor. Frozen berries get the chilly treatment when they’re at peak ripeness, so they usually taste the best.
- 3 cups blueberries
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1½ tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Place 1½ cups berries in a small saucepan. Add water and sugar, then set over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a low boil, and cook until berries just begin to break down.
Stirring constantly, add cornstarch mixture to pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Add additional water to thin, one tablespoon at a time, if needed. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining berries. Serve hot or chilled.