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.
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South African Pannekoek recipe
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 she will be showing us how to make one of my favorite South African recipes, pannekoek, AKA South African pancakes.
Here’s what she has to say about pannekoek:
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!
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.
What are South African Pancakes?
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.
You can eat them with a knife and fork or you can wrap them in a cone of paper (like you’d get crêpes at a food truck) and just bite into them.
My mom adapted her pannekoek recipe into a breakfast dish for our family, sometimes serving them with blueberry compote or another fruit topping. (See the section below on toppings for some more ideas!)
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?)
How to make Pannekoek
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.
Pannekoek can be made gluten-free with almond flour. For tips, see this recipe for gluten-free crêpes.
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:
- cinnamon sugar and lemon juice
- melted butter
- blueberry compote
- lavender sugar
- sliced bananas
- peanut butter
- fresh strawberries
- nutella spread
- sliced apples
- maple syrup
Any of these would make an excellent addition to South African pannekoek! You can add them on top or roll them inside as a filling.
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.)
More South African recipes
- South African Milk Tart
- Cherry Clafoutis
- South African Milk Tart Liqueur (Melktertjies)
- Amarula Brandy Alexander
- Cape Velvet Cream Liqueur
FOR THE CINNAMON SUGAR
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated white sugar
- 1 tablespoon (8g) ground cinnamon
FOR THE PANNEKOEK
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups (715ml) ice cold water
- 1/2 cup (115ml) vegetable oil, plus another 2 tablespoons (30ml) for pan
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.84g) salt
- 2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour
- Cinnamon sugar (recipe follows)
- Lemon cut into wedges for squeezing
- 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.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, water and 1/2 cup oil.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar over the rolled pannekoek. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice just before serving.
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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