South African Pannekoek

South African Pannekoek are a traditional Afrikaans breakfast treat or dessert. Enjoy these thin pancakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of lemon juice. 

a white ceramic tray with rolled up south african pannekoek adorned with cinnamon sugar

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With Mother’s Day on Sunday, it seems like a fitting time to introduce to you my mom, Andrea!

She was born and raised in sunny South Africa. Before moving to the U.S., she attended a cordon bleu cooking school in Cape Town.

I owe so much of my love for the kitchen to her, so I’m inviting her to share a South African recipe and a story with us every so often.

Today we will be learning how to make pannekoek, AKA South African pancakes.

Please join me in welcoming her to Feast + West!


Hello there! I’m so excited Susannah asked me to share some stories and recipes from my native South Africa with you.

I recently returned from a trip “home” to see my family. While I was there, I made my mom one of our family’s favorite dishes, South African pannekoek.

Fresh on my mind, I decided to make a batch for my first guest post!

Growing up in South Africa, my first memories of pannekoek were at church bazaars.

To raise money, the ladies of the church would stand over hot, one-burner gas stoves and flip the thin pancakes.

They’d place one pannekoek on a paper plate, cover it in cinnamon sugar, roll it up and serve it with a lemon wedge.

My dad’s mother used to make them for him, so they were his favorite. He loved it when, at an early age, I learned to make them for him.

And so continues a family tradition!

two plates with south african pannekoek pancakes and garnished with lemon wedges and fresh strawberries

How to pronounce pannekoek

Pannekoek is pronounced PUN-uh-cook. It means pancake in Afrikaans, which is one of the 11 national languages in South Africa.

Afrikaans is a derivative of Dutch spoken by about 13.5% of South Africans, according to Wikipedia. It’s the third most common language, after Zulu and Xhosa. (English is fourth in the list!)

As descendants of the Dutch, Afrikaans folks are still making Dutch-derived recipes today in South Africa, and one of them is this pannekoek resep (recipe, pronounced reh-sep — with a rolled “r” sound) that I’m sharing with you today.

The Dutch have a similar recipe called pannenkoeken, so in that sense — these are also Dutch pancakes!

Whatever you call these, they are not like an American pancake. At all. In fact, it might be better! Pour yourself a cup of tea and let’s decide.

south african pannekoek on a white plate with a lemon wedge and a sliced strawberry

PANNEKOEK: SOUTH AFRICAN PANCAKES

Flat and thin, a pannekoek is more like a slightly thicker version of a French crêpe than the fluffy stacks of buttermilk pancakes we eat in America.

The pannekoek batter is runny and not sweetened — one pancake generally fills up the whole pan.

It is cooked on both sides and then it can be filled with savory or sweet fillings for either entrées or desserts. (I have a few suggestions for you below!)

With their crêpe-like texture, South African pannekoek are a lot different than other pancakes you might have tried.

For example, poffertjes are Dutch mini pancakes formed by pouring a yeast-based batter into a special pan — almost like a little donut.

And then there are Dutch baby pancakes, which are made in a skillet. Sometimes those are called German pancakes, though the batter is really more similar to a Yorkshire pudding or popovers.

In other words: There are lots of ways to make pancakes out there and we must embark on a mission together to try them all. Who is with me?

How to eat pannekoek

In South Africa, we usually eat pannekoek as a treat after a meal or as a savory Sunday supper.

But now that I’m in the U.S., I’ve adapted my pannekoek recipe into a breakfast dish for our family, sometimes serving them with blueberry compote or another fruit topping.

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend, and South African pancakes would be a perfect breakfast or brunch idea for your mother.

(And maybe serve it to her as breakfast-in-bed?)

a square white plate with three south african pannekoek, a fresh strawberry and a fork

HOW TO MAKE PANNEKOEK

Thank you so much for sharing, Mom!

I’ve watched my mom make pannekoek enough times to have picked up on a few of her tricks for making these South African pancakes.

First, make sure to let the batter rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking the pancakes.

It is also important to “season” your skillet before adding the pannekoek batter. This will help keep the pancakes from sticking.

Make sure not to add too much batter into the pan at once. Remember, pannekoek are very thin, so you want a very thin layer of batter for each pancake.

Lastly, you’ll know the pannekoek are ready to flip when bubbles form on top and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Using a long, thin spatula will make flipping the pannekoek easier.

Toppings for Pannekoek

Traditional South African pannekoek are generously doused with cinnamon sugar and a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice.

But the beauty of these pancakes is that you can dress them up however you want! Try one of these toppings instead:

Any of these would make an excellent addition to South African pannekoek!

You can even try savory fillings, like mushrooms, asparagus, spinach or bacon. (Take a hint from these spring vegetable potato crêpes.)

I hope you love them as much as we do! They’re so lekker, as South Africans say. (Pronounced LECK-uh — it means superb or fantastic.)

Looking for more of my mom’s recipes? Try her South African Milk Tart recipe or her Cherry Clafoutis!

And don’t miss this Amarula Brandy Alexander if you’d like to try a South African cocktail! Enjoy! // susannah

South African Pannekoek // Feast + West

South African Pannekoek

Yield: 10-12 pannekoek
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

South African Pannekoek are a traditional Afrikaans breakfast treat or dessert. Enjoy these thin pancakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of lemon juice.

Ingredients

FOR THE CINNAMON SUGAR

  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

FOR THE PANNEKOEK

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups ice cold water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus another 2 tablespoons for pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cinnamon sugar (recipe follows)
  • Lemon cut into wedges for squeezing

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. With a small whisk or fork, mix together until evenly distributed. Set aside, or store in a jar or other airtight container for later use.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, water and 1/2 cup oil.
  3. In a large bowl, sift flour and salt to get out any clumps. Make a well (a hole) in the center of the flour mixture. Pour egg mixture into the well in a steady stream, whisking together as you pour. Mix until well combined; batter will be very runny. Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil on high heat. Do not leave pan unattended. When the oil starts to smoke, remove immediately from the burner and cool down. Pour off the excess oil and use a paper towel to wipe out the pan. This "seasons" your pan and keeps the pannekoek from sticking.
  5. Reheat the frying pan on medium-high heat. Spoon in the batter, allowing a thin layer to coat the bottom of the pan. When bubbles form on top and the pancake pulls away from the sides of the pan, use a spatula and flip the pancake. It is done when the pancake firms up and has browned slightly. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Sprinkle cinnamon over the center of a pannekoek, then roll into a narrow roll. Place on a serving dish, lining up the pancakes as you go.
  7. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you're out of batter. If needed, keep pancakes warm under some foil in a 175-degree preheated oven until serving.
  8. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar over the rolled pannekoek. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice just before serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 pannekoek
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 509Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 228mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 5gSugar: 34gProtein: 9g

Did you make this recipe?

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Comments

  1. Jan Schiebout says

    This recipe reads luscious and lovely! When I first married, I became an instant (and young) stepmother to a nine-year-old boy. His maternal grampiere from France taught my husband to make similar pancakes for my stepson. The task of making “French pancakes” soon fell to me. I purchased and seasoned a dedicated wide crepe pan, as I found heavier skillets too difficult for my skinny arms. The grandfather was French, my husband is Dutch, and your lovely recipe makes me feel as if this is a global, European inspired dish. American pancakes have levening, probably inspired by biscuits (?) but these lovely simple ones sound heavenly! Love the blueberry compote idea, Andy – I usually served mine wrapped around sliced strawberries and dusted with powdered sugar, or a seedless raspberry puree made the day before and drizzled with a honey – lemon juice syrup also made the day before. For dessert once, I used my favorite fresh lime mousse as a filling with grated chocolate instead of powdered sugar. I cannot wait to try this out on my soon-to-be-home brood, and tell them of the history of this delicacy all the way from South Africa! Thank you for the gift from your heritage –

    • Andrea says

      Jan,

      Good to hear from you and to read your story and experience with “pannekoek”. Since South Africa had European settlers [French Huguenot and Dutch], these are very likely to be a similar recipe. The fillings and toppings you describe sound luscious and make my mouth water! Please let us know if you make pannekoek for your family!

      Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      Andy

    • Susannah says

      Jan, that is a very cool story. Thank you for sharing it with us! I love the idea of raspberry puree or honey-lemon syrup on these. Since there’s no sugar in the pannekoek batter, I like that you can sweeten them to your taste!

  2. Dooverdog says

    Thanks Andrea for a great post! My family is Dutch and a trip to a Pannekoek house was always an essential part of any visit to Holland. I am going to share this post with my kids as a not-so-subtle suggestion for Mother’s day — even though I know they have a gourmet dinner already planned for me!

    • ANDREA says

      Thanks for writing, Dooverdog! If you weren’t treated to pannekoek this weekend, I hope you soon will be! I also hope your Mother’s Day was wonderful.

  3. Aletta Vermaak says

    Thanks for this recipe. Have recently moved to the UK without my own recipe books, and the cold of this day has driven me to have exactly that with my tea.
    Your recipe is exactly like the one I have always used.
    Well done!

  4. Kevin says

    Thank you for the recipe. You can use the same pannekoek mixture and make a savoury pannekoek with a mince, onion, mushroom and corn filling just make sure to reduce the oil and liquid in your mince filling. We have that for dinner instead of having pannekoek for breakfast or as a desert. At the end of the day pannekoek is a great comfort food.

    • Susannah says

      Totally agree, Kevin! Pannekoek for breakfast or dinner is the absolute best. So glad to hear you enjoyed and I love your idea for a mince, onion, mushroom and corn filling.

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