Made with basic ingredients, these English pancakes take minutes to prepare, and are delicious served savoury or sweet! Make them into a kid friendly dinner, or a quick and simple dessert.
For a recipe that is sure to please everyone in the family from young and old, it has to be pancakes! Made with simple ingredients, pancakes and their cousins drop scones and blinis, never fail to delight.
Although we tend to think of pancakes around Shrove Tuesday, aka ‘pancake day’ they are a great recipe for making throughout the year. This basic pancake recipe can be served for brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as dessert and even a snack. They can turn leftovers into a delicious meal too!
What are English pancakes?
Also known as British pancakes, these thin pancakes are more similar to the French crepe rather than American style pancakes. Made without baking powder, these pancakes are often served rolled or folded over a filling. As the pancakes contain no sugar, you can enjoy them as a savoury meal like these ham and cheese French buckwheat crepes, or fill with cooked vegetables, spinach and ricotta, garlic mushrooms…pretty much anything!
Why we love this recipe
- These kid friendly pancakes are easy to make from scratch.
- Can make ahead and freeze. I find it useful to make a batch and store in the freezer for last minute meals!
- Budget friendly and made from basic ingredients – these homemade pancakes are a pancake recipe without baking powder, are made without butter, and without sugar (that’s for you to sprinkle over them later if you want them sweet!)
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Plain flour – all purpose flour.
- Eggs – size large eggs (approx. 60g).
- Milk – you can use full fat / full cream milk, or semi-skimmed / half fat milk when making these pancakes.
- Water – I find adding water makes a lighter pancake batter. It is a technique I also use when making cheese scones for a lighter, fluffier scone.
- Oil – vegetable oil or other neutral oil. This is optional, however after testing making pancakes with and without oil, I find that adding oil to the batter makes the pancakes slightly softer in texture, and less likely to break in the pan.
How to make English pancakes from scratch
- Mix the flour with the salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the flour and add the eggs, then whisk in using a balloon whisk.
- Add a little milk and whisk to combine, gradually incorporating more flour from the sides of the bowl as you do so.
- Keep adding more milk, whisking in between each addition – it will look lumpy at first (see the second image below) but give it a good whisk, until you have a smooth batter.
- Whisk in the rest of the milk, the water and vegetable oil and whisk until smooth. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat a non stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once it’s hot – a drop of batter should sizzle when it hits the pan – pour a small ladle spoon of batter in to the centre of the pan and swirl to spread the batter all around the base of the pan.
- Cook until the top of the pancake starts to set (this can take a minute or so), then try lifting it with a spatula. Once it comes away from the pan easily, flip over with a spatula and cook for another 30 seconds or until cooked.
- Slide out on to a large plate and repeat with the remaining batter.
English pancakes are very similar to sweet French crepes, however savoury crepes are often made with a different flour such as buckwheat flour. Crepes traditionally have a thinner batter that is spread around the pan with a t-shaped batter spreader.
It’s best to reheat a stack of pancakes at a time, in the oven at 160˚C / 320˚F covered with foil, for 10-15 minutes until warmed through. I find they easily go rubbery when heated in the microwave. If you are filling the pancakes, heat in a dry non stick frying pan, fill with cheese or your chosen filling, fold over the pancake then cook until the filling and pancake are warmed through.
My recipe tips
- To avoid a lumpy batter – add the liquid a little at a time, whisking in between each addition.
- Resting time – allowing the batter to rest for 30 minutes to half an hour produces a slightly better texture in the pancakes. However if you don’t have time to let it rest, that’s fine!
- Spread the batter thinly, use the frying pan to swirl it around.
- You may need to turn the heat down by a little (on my hob it’s by 1) once you are half way through cooking the pancakes if they are starting to go a darker brown before the top is set.
- Pancakes do taste the best when freshly made, if you are cooking them for your family to eat straight away (rather than filling and placing under the grill or in the oven), use two frying pans.
What to serve with pancakes
You can serve these pancakes as a savoury or sweet dish. Here are some ideas for both:
Serving Ideas for Savoury Pancakes:
- Fill with ham and grated cheese
- Grated cheese and tomato (like the image below)
- Filled with leftover curried chicken salad, reheated sausage stew or savoury mince.
- Enchiladas – fill with Mexican mince, top with cheese and bake in the oven.
Serving Ideas for Sweet Pancakes:
- With caster sugar and lemon juice – a classic!
- Spread with jam (great for using up any leftover jam in the bottom of the jar)
- Serve with yogurt and strawberry compote.
- Stewed pears and yogurt, cream or ice cream.
Fridge – keep cooked pancakes covered in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. To reheat pancakes: it’s best to reheat a stack of pancakes at a time, in the oven at 160˚C / 320˚F covered with foil, for 10-15 minutes until warmed through. I find they easily go rubbery when heated in the microwave.
You can make the pancake batter up to 2 days ahead and store, covered, in the fridge. Give it a whisk before cooking as it may have seperated a little.
Freezer – cool the cooked pancakes completely, then wrap well in cling film / cling wrap and greaseproof paper. Freeze for up to 1 month.
Ideas for leftover pancakes
- Slice into pancake ribbons and top rice bowls or fried rice.
- Stuff with leftover chicken, ham and cheese and make into a quesadilla.
- Make into cannelloni – fill with ricotta and spinach, top with homemade tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese and bake.
Why not try…
You may also like these other family friendly British recipes
- 100g (⅔ c) plain flour ($0.12/ £0.06)
- 2 eggs, size large ($0.70 / £0.36)
- 240ml (1 c) milk ($0.33 / £0.17)
- 60ml (¼ c) water ($0 / £0)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or other neutral oil ($0.08 / £0.03)
- pinch salt ($0.02 / £0.02)
- oil, for greasing the pan.
- Whisk the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs.
- Whisk with a balloon whisk to just combine, then add a little of the milk and whisk to combine, gradually incorporating more flour from the sides of the bowl as you do so.
- Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking in between, (it will look lumpy at first), then add the water and oil and whisk to until you have a smooth batter (a few lumps are better than over whisking).
- Cover with a tea towel or cling film / cling wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- (This is if you have time, you don't need to rest it. Or if you want to make ahead you can place in the fridge overnight.)
- Drizzle a little oil in a frying pan and wipe with kitchen towel – you don't want too much oil.
- Heat the pan on a high-medium heat.
- Once the pan is hot add a ladle of the pancake batter, lifting the pan and tilting as you do so the batter coats the base of the pan.
- Cook for a minute or so, until the pancake starts to set on the top. Carefully lift an edge with a spatula or palette knife and if it comes away from the pan, flip it over. If it rips a little, leave it to cook a few seconds more before trying again.
- Using a spatula, flip over and cook the other side for 30 seconds.
- Slide out on to a plate and repeat with the remaining pancakes. (I find I need to turn the heat down slightly after 4 pancakes.)
- Eat straight away, store in the fridge, covered for up to 2 days, or cool completely and freeze.