Boxed batter mixes like Bisquick can be a godsend. You just rehydrate the Bisquick with milk and eggs, and you’re (literally) cooking. While any pancake or waffle recipe will tell you the minimum ingredients needed for a batter—flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, an egg—Bisquick’s ingredient list contains a few more unpronounceables. So what’s really in Bisquick? Turns out, there’s nothing too sinister lurking in that yellow box, but there are a few things you should know about Bisquick before you make those pancakes.
The ingredients list on a box Bisquick Original Pancake & Baking Mix currently reads “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.” While some of these ingredients may raise a red flag in your brain—seriously, what is riboflavin?—they’re all mostly emulsifiers and nutrients added back into the flour after processing. But let me break it down for you: Niacin and thiamin mononitrate are both forms of Vitamin B, typically found in yeast or cereal grains. Riboflavin is another form of Vitamin B found in dairy, lean meats, legumes, and leafy greens. Because they add these ingredients to standard wheat flour, Bisquick has to call it “enriched.”
Sodium aluminum phosphate and monocalcium phosphate are both chemical leavening acids typically found in baking powder, and dextrose is a simple sugar synonymous with glucose.
The only truly questionable ingredient in Bisquick is the partially hydrogenated oil. An extremely common ingredient in processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fat, which contribute greatly to heart disease. Though for years the FDA maintained that partially hydrogenated oils were safe to consume, in 2013 the organization determined partially hydrogenated oils were no longer "generally recognized as safe." It’s clear that Bisquick caught on to this fact, as their Bisquick Heart Smart baking mix contains canola oil as opposed to partially hydrogenated oil. Interestingly enough, Bisquick Heart Smart ingredients list sugar (3 grams per serving) while Bisquick original does not.
So there you have it: Bisquick isn’t full of scary chemicals, but if the American Heart Association recommends avoiding trans fats, I’m inclined to do so. I won’t suggest tossing your Bisquick in the trash—I know cooking from scratch isn’t always an option. However I might offer a compromise in the form of homemade Bisquick.