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I’ve never understood how pancakes became relegated to the status of breakfast-only food (at least in North America – many other places around the world seem to be rightfully embracing pancakes at any time of day). I mean, as a self-confessed carb fanatic, I totally get their breakfast appeal – fluffy, North American style pancakes are wonderfully satisfying on their own while simultaneously acting like perfect little round canvases, ready to soak up whatever flavours are thrown their way. They’re also easy enough to make in the morning (even before coffee, I dare say), yet fancy enough to make the start of the day special. But why, oh why have we forsaken the pancake at other times of the day? And why are we obsessed with making them so sweet? I like dessert as much as the next guy, but I don’t need a towering mound of whipped cream on my pancakes. Sweet is fine, but savory is where it’s at as far as I’m concerned. To that end, I say it’s time to free ourselves from the saccharine shackles of sugary pancakes. Moreover, it’s time to take the savory pancake and embrace it at any time of the day. No pancakes after noon? Nuts to that, I say. Pancakes deserve more, and you deserve more pancakes.
This recipe is all about freedom. Freedom from boxed mixes, freedom from mealtime conformity. The basic recipe is a simple, easily mastered pancake batter, while the variations give you four different options that completely change up the character of the final dish. There’s no reason to stop there though; you can take this recipe and roll with it, trying out any number of sweet and/or savory options. Keep reading in the Recipe Notes below for more on that.
Nothing Compares to U
I’d like to have a very Canadian moment here. Like many Canadian food writers, I have a very large audience in the USA. That’s great (hi Americans!), but it comes with one little problem: the letter u. We Canadians like our u’s. Colour, flavour, armour – the squiggly red spellcheck lines constantly remind me of their un-American-ness, but it’s how we roll up here, eh. Now, I also have readers in the UK and Australia (hello, and ollǝɥ!), so you might think think I should just stick with UK spelling. But here’s the thing – Canada’s close connection to our influential neighbo(u)rs to the south means that a lot of their habits have sort of rubbed off on us. For example, we tend to spell words like realize with a z, not an s (i.e. realise). That being said, we pronounce that ‘z’ as zed, not zee. Still with me? Now some will argue with me, and say that Canadian spelling and UK spelling should be more-or-less identical, but I’ve simply never found that to be the case. Canadian English is its own thing. We do not, for example, call round rubber things on our cars ‘tyres.’ Plus we have our own distinctly Canadian words to worry about (i.e. toque and poutine). Now if you’re asking yourself what on Earth any of this has to do with food blogging, let me tell you two things: 1) I have a Jump to Recipe link right up at the top, and any complaining will be summarily ignored, and 2) all of this stuff actually matters when it comes to helping your readers actually find your recipes online. My first instinct when writing this recipe was to use the word ‘savoury’ – with a u. But because these are North American style pancakes, using British spelling means that my recipe is more likely to be found by a) Canadians, and b) Europeans searching for a variation on American style pancakes. The choice, while it breaks my maple-syrup filled heart, is obvious – savory is searched for more often, and using that spelling is more likely to a recipe noticed by the all-powerful and oft-mysterious search engine algorithms.
I thought it a little ironic to deal with these issues in a recipe that’s all about variation, because it is precisely the variation in our language, culture, and cuisine that can make the spreading of information a little complex. We Canadians frequently use a bizarre mishmash of measurements in our cooking, for example. I will often use cups and tablespoons while simultaneously using grams and milliliters. We always talk about the temperature outside in degrees Celsius, yet I’ve never once seen a Canadian oven that uses anything but Fahrenheit by default (probably because they’re made for the US market). I grumble quietly to myself every time a recipe calls for x ounces of tomatoes, but I also have to head to internet to deal with a 200°C baking temperature. We’re a mess, folks, but we’re ok with it. Our metric/imperial flexibility (some might call it confusion) is a product of history and, once again, the influence of our powerful border buddies. It suits most of us fine, but it does mean that I frequently have to stop myself and adjust my recipes so that they’re going to be broadly understood.
At the end of the day, I try my best to make sure that there are multiple units, instructions, and notes so that any English speaker (or Google translator) can get by. I hope it works, and I hope you like it. If you ever need help, or have a question about a recipe, I hope you’ll reach out. I’d be happy to help. Perhaps that’s the most Canadian approach of all.
The basic pancake batter used in this recipe is a low-sugar, slightly tweaked variation of the scratch-based batter I’ve been making for years. The original recipe is from Donna Hay‘s book New Food Fast. I’ve made pancakes more times than I can remember and it’s interesting to note that the exact same recipe can seem to vary a little in terms of the thickness of the batter from one batch to the next. To that end, I’ve got a few little notes about working with the basic batter.
As you might expect, I’ve also got some notes on the various savory mix-in possibilities, and a few ideas for those of you looking to extend this recipe and take it in new directions.
If the word ‘troubleshooting’ is making you nervous, don’t be; scratch-made pancake batter is ridiculously easy to put together and requires only the most basic of culinary skills. That being said, there are a number of little factors that can play into whether or not your pancakes turn out the way you want them to.
Got lumps? Stir stir stir, and (next time) consider sifting your flour. If you’ve got a hand-mixer it’ll make short work of any lumps, but I’ve personally always found that a big whisk (and strong forearms) makes for quick work and a fairly lump-free batter.
Too thick? Add a little more milk and stir well to combine. The batter will actually thicken more as it stands longer, so keep this in mind if you’re working in batches.
Too flat? (This is starting to sound personal, isn’t it?) If your pancakes aren’t coming out airy enough it could be for a couple of reasons. The most likely culprit is your baking soda. If it’s too old, or you haven’t mixed it into the batter thoroughly, you might not be getting the bubbly CO2-driven aeration you want. Old baking soda can degrade and become inactive, so try checking it by tossing a teaspoon of it into a cup with some vinegar. If it bubbles vigorously you’re good to go, but if it barely fizzles you’ll want to get new stuff. If your baking soda is fine but the pancakes are still flat, it could be that your flour is too low in protein. Low protein flours won’t form as much gluten, which means less air is trapped inside. High protein flours make lots of gluten and trap lots of air, but they can make for tough and chewy pancakes. Good, fresh all-purpose flour is the way to go here, as it’s generally in the middle of the road in terms of protein. Cake flours are probably too low in protein, while bread flours are going to be too high.
Dairy & Gluten
Wheat flour is essential to this particular recipe because gluten allows the cooking pancakes to trap air and become fluffy while still remaining light and soft. There are good gluten-free pancake recipes out there in the world, but I’m afraid I haven’t tested any gluten-free variations of this particular recipe. If you make these with a good gluten-free flour (or other variation) I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve used good whole wheat flour in these pancakes before and they’ve turned out fairly well. I do find that whole wheat flour gives you a somewhat dryer, firmer pancake, but it does have the potential to work nicely with certain savory combinations (nuts, brown butter, browned meats, beer and wine sauces, nutty cheese, etc.).
If you can’t have dairy, you do can substitute a non-dairy ‘milk’ product fairly easily. I’ve made these with soy milk and almond milk before and had good results, though there is a bit of a tendency for the batter to thicken up a little bit more for some reason. To combat this, try adding a bit more liquid to the batter. If you also need to sub out the butter you can substitute about 65 grams of light vegetable oil (a little over 1/4 cup). Butter is about 15% water, so you want to use slightly less oil (which has no water) to account for this. I haven’t tried a using a non-dairy butter before, but if it melts well I would imagine that it would work fairly well.
I’ve come up with four basic savory pancake variations for you to try, each with a very different character. They’re all quite easy, though there are a few little differences you’ll want to take note of before you start cooking. I’ll go into these very briefly here, but I encourage you to check out the links to the longer, dedicated recipes for each variation if you’re looking for more instruction, substitutions, etc.
These are, to be 100% clear, definitely not traditional Korean pancakes; they’re a Korean/Western fusion. But they are 100% delicious, and very easy to make even if you’re not terribly familiar with Korean cooking.
This variation also involves a pre-cooking step, in this case for the seafood. I used fresh squid, which cooks very quickly. You can also use small or diced shrimp, or even clams. Check out the detailed recipe for more ideas. Squid will tend to give up some extra water as it cooks, but don’t discard this. It will mix with the gochujang in the pan to make a nice spicy seafood ‘sauce’ of sorts that you can stir into the pancake batter.
This variation might sound a little strange to some, but it’s actually my favourite of the four.
One of the internet’s favourite flavour trios for good reason. The biggest thing to note is that you’re pre-cooking the cut bacon. You could precook whole slices and crumble them up, but I personally think it’s easier this way (plus more surface area means more browning, which means more flavour). Don’t try to cook the bacon along with the pancake batter! Even if you manage to cook it through (which is questionable), the bacon will give up too much water and fat in the batter.
You can use any cheddar you like, but I suggest you use something sharper and stronger. I’ve had no compunction in the past about my dislike for mild cheese, and that goes double here. You want a cheddar you’ll actually taste. As for the quantity, the recipe specifies a relatively small amount that lets you enjoy the flavour with reducing the pancakes to a gooey (and fatty) mess. If you do want to experiment with a bit more cheese I’ve got some ideas in the post on this variation (click here).
First off, let me clarify that when I say kielbasa, I’m referring to fully-cooked Polish-style pork sausage. I actually grew up calling this stuff kubasa, which is a rather Canadian (and specifically Albertan) pronunciation of the Ukrainian kovbasa (ковбаса). You can use Polish, Ukrainian, German, farmer, Mennonite, or any other smoked/fully cooked pork sausage here. The key is to use something firm and relatively mild to go along with the corn. Speaking of corn, fresh is best here, but frozen (and fully thawed/drained) will work as well. There is pre-cooking involved in this step, but it’s mainly to bring out the flavour in the onions and to brown the meat a little. Because the sausage is fully cooked, you don’t need to fuss too much about cooking times.
This combo is quite tasty, but it really pops with a little extra butter and a bit of Dijon mustard & sour cream to finish things off. Lean into those pan-European flavours hard, folks.
The perfect pancake for confusing any stuffy food purists in your life. Salty, rich prosciutto pairs wonderfully with all kinds of fruits, though I have to say that apples are a bit underappreciated in this respect. Arugula adds a wonderful peppery green punch that cuts through very nicely. And the maple syrup? What can I say – it just happens to be a perfect, sweet-yet-bold partner to the other ingredients in these pancakes. After all, maple is used to accompany all kinds of pork products (bacon, sausage, etc.) for a reason!
This particular variation has a lot of potential to go in different directions depending on the type of cured meats and/or fruits you have, so check out the full post for more ideas.
Hey there pancake pro. I see the time has come to take the reins and become the master of your own flapjack destiny. I’m so proud of you.
You can easily take savory pancakes in any number of directions based on ingredients and flavours you like working with. The biggest key is to find ingredients that deliver a fairly high-impact flavour without needing to be included in very large quantities; anything too mild will be lost in the batter, or need to be included in too large a quantity. Corn is a great vegetable because it’s sweet, packed with flavour, and easily worked into a batter. Something like potato, on the other hand, is harder to work with, as it’s milder tasting and will more-or-less disappear (unless you make the whole pancake out of potatoes, but that’s a whole other thing). Cured meats work nicely and pair with a wealth of other flavours. Cheese is wonderful, but you want to be careful about the cheese you use, as milder, softer cheeses are more likely to impact the texture of the pancakes and/or get a little lost. Fruits and nuts are fantastic options, as well as being a nice transition between sweet and savory pancake styles. Spice blends are an option that I didn’t go into here, but that you could definitely consider trying. Garam masala, five-spice powder, panch phoron, and many other spice blends can be used (with or without other ingredients) to give the batter a distinctive regional fusion flare. Likewise, herbs can be used to great effect (consider French fines herbes blends for example). Consider making spice- or herb-based pancakes as a carbohydrate base for another recipe as a break from the usual rice, potatoes, or bread.
Consider texture when you’re choosing new options too. Will your ingredients sort of disappear into the batter, or will they provide a distinctive textural punch? Both options can be great depending on what you’re going for, but (in my opinion) you want to make sure that your pancake itself still feels like a pancake.
In terms of cooking times, I wouldn’t rely too heavily on the time spent on the griddle to cook your add-in ingredients too much. Most fruits cook quite nicely in the pancakes, and cured (or cooked) meats can be added without an initial cooking step, but you’d do well to get many other ingredients cooked before adding them to the batter. If you’re looking for ideas a little more specifically related to the individual recipe variations shown here, be sure to check out the links below. Each variation has additional tips, tricks, and substitutions.
I always cook my pancakes on an electric griddle. It’s got a big surface for lots of pancakes, it’s easy to keep the temperature steady, and the surface is nicely seasoned so things don’t stick much. Given that pancakes are also called griddle cakes, I’m sure my choice is hardly surprising. But if you don’t have a griddle you can still make these pancakes very easily.
First of all, I will note that the butter in the batter helps to keep these from sticking in a big way, but you’re still best of using a very well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick pan. I don’t like using non-stick much myself, but nobody wants to fight with sticky pancakes. Keep the temperature as steady as you can – I would characterize it as ‘medium’ heat, but you can figure it out for yourself. If a pancake is too pale when it’s time to flip it, bring the heat up. If it’s too dark, turn the heat down.
Lastly, a quick note about the size of the pancakes. You can go quite big with these, or keep them relatively small depending on your taste. While I enjoy little ‘silver dollar’ style pancakes, the thicker batter and added savory ingredients make it difficult to make these too small. That being said, if you’re into really big pancakes that can be cut up or shared, this is a good recipe to do it with. In either case, the cooking methods and times don’t change a whole lot; smaller pancakes will cook a bit faster, but you’re ultimately judging when to flip the pancakes by the way they look, and not how long they’ve been on the griddle.
I Want Sweet Pancakes!
Wait, how did you get here?
No worries, you only need a tiny tweak to make these into sweet pancakes. Simply increase the sugar in the recipe to 1/3 cup, but keep everything else the same. This makes for a nice, slightly-sweet, but not overwhelming basic pancake. The basic sweet recipe is also an excellent one for adding blueberries, chocolate chips, or other sweet ingredients.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving of the BASE PANCAKE RECIPE ONLY (1/6th portion of the total recipe). For nutritional information for each variation, please check out the links below.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Savory Pancakes (with Variations!)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1/3 cup melted butter (about 75 grams)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp baking powder
Cheese & Chive
- 3/4 cup cheddar cheese shredded (about 85 grams)
- 1 bunch chives or about 6 scallions
- 6 strips bacon chopped
- sour cream to serve
Kimchi & Seafood
- 1/2 cup kimchi finely chopped, plus extra to serve
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 1/2 lb squid chopped (see note)
- 1/2 tsp gochujang
Corn & Kielbasa
- 1 tsp butter plus a bit extra to serve
- 1/2 cup white onion (75 g) chopped
- 85 g kielbasa (3 oz) diced, plus extra for serving
- 1/2 cup fresh corn plus extra for serving
- Dijon mustard to serve (optional)
- sour cream to serve (optional)
Prosciutto, Apple, & Arugula
- 1.75 oz prosciutto chopped, plus extra to serve
- 1 medium apple diced, plus extra to serve
- 2 cups arugula loosely packed
- maple syrup to serve (optional)
Basic Pancake Mix
- Preheat a griddle (if using) or skillet over medium heat. Before you start cooking, read the instructions below for the variation you want to do, as some require more preparation than others. If you're using a skillet or pan you may want to have a little extra butter (see notes).
- Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, and melted butter and mix thoroughly until well combined.
- Stir in baking powder, taking care to get it thoroughly mixed into the batter. Let the batter stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir in the variation ingredients after the 5 minutes.
- Pour the batter (including savory mix-in choice from below) onto the preheated griddle/pan (see note below about adding butter); I like to use about 1/2 cup of batter per pancake, but you can go bigger or smaller depending on your personal preferences. Cook until the bottom is browned, the edges are looking solid, and bubbles are coming up through the center of the pancake. Flip over and cook for an additional 2 minutes or so, then set aside to cool.
Bacon, Cheddar & Chive variation
- Before making the basic batter, cook the chopped bacon in a skillet until crispy. Drain the fat and set the bacon aside.
- Add the cheese, cooked bacon, and chives into the finished basic batter, stirring until just combined, then proceed with the cooking steps above. Garnish with additional cheddar, chives, and sour cream.
Kimchi & Seafood variation
- Before making the basic batter, preheat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the squid (or shrimp) and gochujang and cook until the seafood is cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- Add the semi-cooled mixture and the chopped kimchi to the basic batter, stirring until just combined, then proceed with the cooking steps above. Serve with extra kimchi.
Corn & Kielbasa variation
- Before making the basic batter, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant and translucent. Stir in the diced kielbasa and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Add the cooked onion & kielbasa along with the corn to the basic batter, stirring until just combined, then proceed with the cooking steps above. Serve with extra corn and sausage along with some Dijon mustard, sour cream, and melted butter.
Prosciutto, Apple, & Arugula variation
- Add the chopped prosciutto and apple to the basic batter, stirring until just combined, then proceed with the cooking steps above. Serve with extra prosciutto and apple and a handful of arugula, then top off with a little maple syrup.