We take pancakes very, very seriously at Serious Eats—whatever form they may assume. Though we love a stack of classic American pancakes drenched in maple syrup as much as anyone, it's just one of many versions out there, and not the type of pancake we're talking about today.
Our idea of what makes a pancake spans the globe, encompassing, crucially, a number of options that aren't sweet at all. There's a whole world of savory pancakes out there: thin and crisp or thick and fluffy; made of potato, wheat, buckwheat, rice, or even cabbage; enjoyed plain or laden with mountains of toppings and used to sop up a flood of sauce. These 14 recipes celebrate some of the very best members of the savory-pancake family, from parathas and okonomiyaki to farinata and latkes.
Latkes—crisp pan-fried pancakes of wispy shredded potato—are most commonly associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, when it's traditional to eat fried foods. But there's not a single reason we can think of that you shouldn't be dipping latkes in sour cream and homemade applesauce all year long. We achieve a satisfyingly crisp and crunchy texture in our latkes by squeezing out excess moisture from the potato shreds, while the starch left behind from this process gets reincorporated into the pancakes as a binder. Want to branch out from the classic? Try your hand at beautiful, bright-red beet-and-walnut latkes; fresh and green zucchini-Parmesan latkes; or just-slightly-sweet spiced sweet potato, carrot, and acorn squash latkes.
Dosa are paper-thin crepes made from a batter of fermented lentils and rice. The batter cooks on a hot griddle until the edges are crisp and lacy and the entire exterior is lightly browned. You can easily swap out and recombine the grains and pulses used in the batter (try a combination of rice and semolina for rava dosa, or rice alone for neer dosa), and fill the thin wraps however you see fit—we've got a recipe for a spiced-potato masala dosa if you want to go the traditional route.
What if leftover risotto could actually rival a dish of just-made, piping-hot risotto in both taste and texture? In the case of risotto al salto, it does—all you have to do is fry a disk of yesterday's risotto in ample butter until the center is steaming-hot and the exterior is crisp and golden brown. Serve the finished rice pancake with a generous showering of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano.
Light and thin French-style crepes should be made at home far more often than they are in this country—they're simple, quick, and completely customizable. They can also easily be made either sweet or savory; our basic recipe, which otherwise requires nothing more than all-purpose flour, milk, eggs, salt, and butter, gives you the option of adding a tablespoon of sugar for dessert crepes. To keep them dinner-appropriate, omit the sugar and stuff them with feta and sautéed spinach; ham, egg, and Gruyère; or whatever you like, really.
While the wheat-flour-only crepes above can switch between sweet and savory, the nutty, slightly grassy flavor of buckwheat crepes (galettes bretonnes) places them firmly in the savory camp. That flavor pairs wonderfully with a fried egg (yolk still runny), cheese, and a slice of high-quality ham. We find that a mix of both buckwheat and all-purpose flours creates a batter with enough gluten to handle easily, while maintaining a strong buckwheat presence.
If you're a fan of classic scallion pancakes, there's a very good chance you'll love this dish, which raises scallion pancakes to the nth power by combining them with Korean-style beef bulgogi in a form resembling a quesadilla. The dough is crisp and flaky, the shredded cheddar gets melty and stringy, and the sweet and salty beef adds both flavor and a tender bite of texture.
Okonomi means "how you want it," and it's true—you can enjoy okonomiyaki in about as many ways as you can imagine. The shredded or chopped cabbage in the batter is a necessity, but otherwise, this recipe offers a lot of wiggle room to adapt to your tastes. For a traditional experience, top off the custardy, tender pancake with okonomiyaki sauce; Kewpie mayonnaise; ao-nori (green Japanese sea laver); beni-shoga (Japanese pickled red ginger); katsuobushi (dried, smoked, and shaved bonito); and scallion greens.
These are essentially classic American-style pancakes, but steered over to the savory side with salty slabs of halloumi cheese and crisp bits of chorizo mixed in. Topping them off with a sunny-side up fried egg turns them into a meal, whether for an elegant Sunday-morning brunch or a 2 a.m. drunken feast.
As in the above recipe, these pancakes start with a fairly classic American batter, though it features equal parts cornmeal and all-purpose flour for a corn-centric profile. That batter gets savory flavor and crisp texture from diced bacon, sautéed fresh corn kernels, jalapeño peppers, scallions, and creamy pockets of gooey melted cheddar cheese. A final drizzle of honey provides a sweet touch to offset all those savory ingredients.
A good farinata, or Italian chickpea pancake, is made up of little more than earthy chickpea flour, water, and oil, but it's impressively flavorful, eminently satisfying, and incredibly easy to make. Success depends on using the proper ratio of water to chickpea flour, for a thin batter that produces a custardy, chewy, and moist pancake interior when baked. Resting the batter for between four and eight hours before baking also helps the flour fully hydrate.
This buttery South Asian flatbread is good with pretty much everything, but is most often used to scoop up curries and dip in raita. A double-roll procedure interweaves layers of ghee, or clarified butter, for a flaky and crisp bread. It's a bit of a time-consuming process up front, but our recipe allows you to make a big stack and freeze them, to be re-crisped and served later.
These little handheld Russian pancakes are the perfect vehicle for crème fraîche and caviar, whether you're hosting a cocktail party on New Year's Eve or a weekend brunch any time of the year. A yeast-raised batter lends a nice tang to the pancakes, even with a single round of fermentation. For a quicker, simpler version with a more assertive flavor, try our baking soda– and baking powder–leavened buckwheat blini instead.
Whipping up these tender South American corn cakes is easy enough with masarepa, the dehydrated cooked cornmeal that's designed for making arepas; look for it in Latin American groceries or the international aisle at your supermarket. After cooking them in a pan with butter, split open the hot cakes and cram whatever you like inside—here, we're using a combination of pulled pork, crumbled Cotija cheese, and cilantro leaves. Colombian-style arepas are made using a similar process, but tend to be larger, floppier, and folded around the fillings, instead of split.
These pancakes are very similar to kimchijeon, incorporating both chopped kimchi and kimchi brine in the batter for extra tangy flavor. Instead of the more traditional pork, we add chopped shrimp, which gives the pancakes a pleasant texture. Serve them as an appetizer for a group, or add Quick-Pickled Watermelon Radishes on the side and eat them as a main course.
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