They both usually start as flour-based batters enriched with milk and eggs that’s poured onto a skillet, griddle, or pan and cooked until firm enough to roll or flip, but American-style pancakes are thick and fluffy, while French crêpes are wafer-thin and delicate.
One of the oldest forms of bread, pancakes have hundreds of variations and uses. They can be savory or sweet. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They can be appetizers, entrees, or desserts.
The American version is also called a hotcake, griddlecake, or flapjack (then there are cornmeal johnny cakes). In Korea, they’re jeon, in Hungary, they’re called palacsinta, and in Russia, blini (of sour cream and caviar fame), which also includes blintzes. Jews have potato pancakes called latkes, and the Irish, boxties.
Chefs at The Little Pancake Company, an England-based maker of pancake and crêpe mixes and toppings, use the words pancake and crêpe interchangeably but acknowledge they’re actually very different. The main difference is that pancake batter has a raising agent in it, such as baking powder or baking soda, and crepe batter does not. This means that pancakes are thicker and fluffy while crêpes are thin and flat.
“Crêpes also tend to be large in diameter compared to pancakes, and are often rolled or folded with a filling,” according to The Little Pancake Company’s “Tips and Flips” online resource. “Pancakes, on the other hand, tend to have a filling (such as blueberries) mixed into the batter and cooked within the pancake itself. ”
But if you’re in the United States rather than the United Kingdom, you might be well aware that some of us love our blueberries or blueberry sauce on top of the pancake too, along with maple syrup (and lots of other things, from bananas to chocolate chips—and whipped cream, or even ice cream).
Crêperies sell many versions, with both sweet and savory fillings—some are almost like a delicate burrito or taco, what with all the options for meat, cheese, egg, and vegetable fillings, so while they may not be thick enough to mix heftier ingredients straight into the batter, crêpes are still full meal-worthy for sure.
Trying to decide which you like best? Try these recipes for pancakes and crêpes. (Then move on to the question of pancakes vs waffles…)
These taste and feel heavenly when the weather warms. Whisking the egg whites separately into whipped peaks and then adding it to the batter, which includes the yolks, makes these pancakes airy. They’re light and bright, just how we like it. Get our Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes recipe.
While often sprinkled with a simple dusting of powdered sugar, chocolate-hazelnut spread is the filling of the gods for crêpes. You can use store-bought Nutella or homemade; either way, bananas are a natural pairing. Get our Chocolate-Hazelnut Crêpe recipe.
If making a batch of crêpes is no big deal, then this recipe is a cinch and can be an elegant brunch, nice lunch, or light dinner. Get our Mushroom, Spinach, and Parmesan Crêpes recipe.
Want to enjoy your pancakes or crepes gluten-free and low-carb? Try this version of crepes from Nice, made with chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour. Get our Socca recipe.
OK, this one isn’t as fun as the others, but it’s the basis for all that playfulness that crêpes allow. Master this, and you’re on your way to endless possibilities. Get our Basic Crêpes recipe.
If you want fun, we’ll give you fun. These flapjacks are all up in the festivities, stealing everything we love about carrot cake, from the sweet orange shavings to the cream cheese icing, used as a syrup-sauce here. Call it breakfast or dessert — who cares? This is a crazy cool idea. Get our Carrot Cake Pancakes recipe.
We have dozens of pancake recipes, so it’s really hard to use this one, but you gotta learn the basics before you go all crazy. Or so the wisdom goes. Get our Basic Pancakes recipe.
Using almond flour helps make these both keto-friendly and gluten-free. (Almond flour also works for keto and gluten-free crêpes, though you’re a bit more limited when it comes to filling them.) Get the Keto Almond Flour Pancakes recipe.
Savory crêpes are often made with buckwheat, which happens to also be naturally gluten-free. Their stronger flavor pairs well with ham, cheese, and eggs. Get the Buckwheat Crêpes recipe.
Swapping out some of the white flour with whole wheat flour and old-fashioned oats gives you more fiber in this version. Plus, you’re using cake flour to compensate for the density of these heavier grains and using only one egg, and oil instead of butter. Get our Whole Wheat-Oat Pancakes recipe.