Hearing “pancakes” may trigger visions of syrup-dripping stacks for breakfast, but savory pancakes are just as good, if not better—and you find them all around the globe.
Pancakes and crêpes are truly a universal symbol of deliciousness: Just about every culture has its own take on a flatbread made with batter that’s been griddled until warm and crisp-edged. But while there’ll always be a place for banana pancakes and strawberry blintzes, we think the very best versions turn up in the form of savory variations. From Vietnamese banh xeo to Russian blini, here are some of our favorite recipes.
Perfect banh xeo, or Vietnamese rice crêpes, should be impossibly thin and shatteringly crisp. They’re made with a combination of rice flour, water, and turmeric, filled with shrimp or pork and bean sprouts, and wrapped in lettuce or mustard leaf. Serve them with a sweet-and-sour fish-based sauce for dipping. Get the Banh Xeo recipe.
The French crêpes we’ve come to know well—round sheets of flour, egg, and milk that are filled then folded into quarters—come from the southern part of Brittany. But in the north there’s the galette, made with buckwheat, filled with ham, cheese, spinach, or ratatouille, and folded into a square. For a true galette complete, crack an egg on top. Get the Galettes Bretonnes recipe.
Legend has it that pizza evolved out of the scallion pancake, which was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo. We can’t corroborate this, but we can confirm that the humble flatbread makes for an ideal breakfast alongside soy milk or rice porridge. (Or try it wrapped around Egg and Pork Floss!) Get the Scallion Pancakes recipe.
Take a trip to the Ligurian coast with this humble pancake that’s prepared with nothing more than chickpea flour, water, and olive oil. It’s a fixture in Genoa, Italy, where it’s referred to as farinata and infused with rosemary, as well as in Nice, France, where it’s called socca, and often served on the street in paper cones and washed down with cold rosé. Get our Socca recipe.
If you’ve ever had Ethiopian or Eritrean food, then you’ll know injera, the uniquely spongy and sour flatbread made of teff flour that serves the triple function of plate, utensil, and sustenance. It can be tricky to make because of its obscure ingredients and fermenting process—this illustrated step-by-step injera recipe will help. But you can also make a similar Somalian flatbread called canjeero or lahooh that’s a lot easier and just as tasty. Get the Somali Injera recipe.
Potato pancakes aren’t merely a Hanukkah specialty; in addition to their significance in Jewish culture (where they’re known as latkes), they also hold a historical place in most Central and Eastern European cuisines. Enjoy the grated potato flapjacks simply with sour cream, or gussy them up as hors d’oeuvres with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and caviar. Get the Latkes recipe.
Dosa, the fermented crêpe that’s a specialty of South India, comes in many forms. One of our favorite variations is the rava dosa, which is made with semolina in addition to rice flour, but the standard version is also great. Serve either kind plain alongside chutney, or top it with a variety of vegetables, like potato and chickpea masala. Get the Dosa recipe.
Unlike the standard American pancake, this Japanese food is composed of savory ingredients such as eggs, dashi, and shredded cabbage, and the batter gets mixed with the likes of shrimp, squid, octopus, and/or pork belly before griddling (really, almost any protein you have on hand works, so it’s great for using leftovers). It’s topped with bonito flakes, Kewpie mayonnaise, and a sweet okonomiyaki sauce. Get the Okonomiyaki recipe.
Unlike most pancakes and crêpes, Russian blini are prepared from a batter that’s been leavened with yeast. Although wheat flour is most popular, blini can be made with all kinds of flour, including buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, and our favorite, cornmeal. Caviar is the traditional topper. Get our Cornmeal Blini recipe.
These Korean pancakes can take any veggies you want to throw at them; pajeon with scallions are common, but our executive editor likes zucchini and carrots in the mix. Versions with seafood are also popular—really, anything embedded in a crisp, savory pancake is bound to be delicious, even before you add an addictive dipping sauce. Get the Vegetable Jeon recipe, and try the Gamja Jeon recipe too (made with potato and onion, no flour needed).
Made of a masa harina dough, pupusas up the ante by getting stuffed with a savory filling (like cheese or meat) before being cooked on a griddle. As this recipe proves, you can switch up the stuffing however you like—try beans, leftover chicken, or whatever else you have on hand. Top with salsa and a crunchy curtido or slaw. Get the Pupusas recipe. (And don’t sleep on arepas either.)