There is nothing like the scent of fresh German pancakes in the kitchen! Here is how countless German moms made them… not even using a recipe but I have one I can share with you.
A very un-German recipe
Recently someone asked me for a recipe to make German pancakes … in a Geman online community. Every answer to that question was like “I do not have a recipe, I just mix the ingredients without measurement but by feeling”. This seems to be very uncommon for Germans since we are so obsessed with precise measurements, right? Well, German pancakes seem to be an exception. They are made by feeling and therefore all pancakes are kind of different. So no child has ever watched their mother measuring flour or milk in order to make pancakes and once one moves out, one has to figures it out by themselves. What you need to know is this: There can be too much flour in the dough but probably not too much milk, and it doesn’t work without eggs!
However, don’t worry, I will not leave you to the science without proper advice about how much of what you need!
I have a cookbook and I am not afraid to use it – with measurements! I tried it out and it works!
How to make German Pancakes
Making pancakes fluffy and light
Now I will also reveal my secret pancake ingredient: baking soda! OK, that is not surprising to you, since everyone here has baking soda in the pantry. In Germany, most people don’t even know what the package of baking soda looks like and where they can find it at the grocery … and what is baking soda anyway?
Yet soda is in my pancakes since so many years that it goes even back to my time in Germany. It makes the pancakes really fluffy and easier to digest. Otherwise, you can feel really heavy after eating a pancake, trust me!
Instead of baking soda, Germans mostly use a little beer or just sparkling water in their pancake dough. Works too, so if you have already a bottle of beer open … at noon … in the kitchen … I am not judging … ;-)
Some people like their pancakes thick, some like them very thin and others like them in between. I suggest you try different styles and come to your own conclusion. We love them thin but sometimes we add apple slices or sugar plums to the pan or banana slices – in that case we need to make them a little thicker.
When to eat German Pancakes
Pancakes are not a breakfast in my country. They are a lunch and therefore a complete (sweet) meal at lunch.
Story Time: The Big Fat Pancake
In my family I have made it a tradition to tell the story of the very big, fat pancakes (no offense) to my little ones while I bake them – and they can never hear enough of that story, because – just like my pancakes – I vary the story every time.
In a nutshell the story is about a pancake, baked by three women. It jumps out of the pan, through the window and runs right into the woods. There he meets different animals like a bear, a wolf, a fox … and they all say “Come here, big fat pancake, I want to eat you” but the pancake answers: ” Oh no, I have already run from three women, the bear and the wolf … and I will run from you, too!”. And this way the story goes on until the pancake meets some really hungry kids (who happen to have the same names as my kids) who are lost in the woods and he feels so sorry for them, that he decides to sacrifice himself. End of story – Bon appetite!Here is a different version of the story. I found it on youtube:
Here is another version of “The Runaway Pancake“.
Syrup is not the common topping on German pancakes, neither is butter. We spread jam on the pancake or a mix of sugar and cinnamon. Some people like it with Nutella. We then roll the pancake and eat it like a wrap.
My personal favorite is the mix of cinnamon and sugar and some apple sauce as a side.
In summer it is a special treat to have a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of your pancake and add some chocolate sauce.
You can also put cooked asparagus and a white sauce on it and fold it in half and eat it. Some like to fill it with mushrooms and bacon … there are endless possibilities!
I share a recipe made with pancakes, salmon, cream cheese, and arugula someday soon …
A pancake specialty is the “Palatschinken” that my Grandmother did: She fille the pancakes with a sweetened Quark and raisins, then rolled them and put them into a casserole. Next it goes into the oven for a bit and the result is delicious like cheesecake! I will post the complete recipe some day soon.
Use butter, not oil
One important thing though: When you fry the pancakes do not use oil! Instead, use butter. It makes a huge difference in the taste and also butter doesn’t get as hot as oil does, so there is less of a danger to burn them.
You might think there is no such thing as leftover pancakes but a smart German mother will always bake more than needed and let the leftover cool on a plate. Then she will cut them into smaller pieces and feed them as a snack – dipped in sugar and cinnamon. Or you can also cut them in stripes and add them to a vegetable fond and tada, there is your “Flädle-Suppe”, another German treat.
German Pancakes – Pfannkuchen
- 250 g flour all purpose
- 4 eggs
- 1 dash salt
- 375 ml milk
- 125 ml water
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ stick Butter to fry
- Mix the eggs and milk in a mixer.
- slowly add the flour, make sure you don’t have lumps.
- Add the salt.
- Add the water.
- Add the soda.
- Your dough should be somewhat liquid.
- Heat a pan (or more than one if you have) to medium hot and melt some butter in it.
- Add some dough to the pan and make sure it spreads out in the entire pan.
- Fry and turn the pancake once it gets golden on the bottom.
- Serve with jam, sugar and cinnamon mix, Nutella, peanutbutter, ice cream, honey or veggies and sauce …
13 thoughts on “German Pancakes – Pfannkuchen”
My family made Palatschinken, with updates by me:
1 egg, 1 c milk, 1 c flour into the blender. Blast till smooth. Refrigerate overnight. Use either butter or coconut butter to fry. Fill with (preferably apricot or raspberry jam), roll and dust with powdered sugar. We’re Austrian, by the way, or were, sometime in the last century. We ate these mainly for dinner. Austrians like having a sweet dinner every once in a while, such as Zwetgenknoedel, Keiserschmarn, etc.
Love your blog! Thankyou for this service! (I already am on your e-mail list.)
I am telling some young children (in England)all about Karneval / Fasching / Fastnacht – can you please tell me if pancakes are actually part of these celebrations or not?
Sorry for the delayed answer, we had a little bit of a “Winter Situation” here in Texas with power outages for days etc.
The Pancake question can be answered with no and with yes because it depends on “how pancakes are defined”. To explain it: Pancakes are usually known as flat round things. But in some German areas, the word pancake also referred to “Krapfen” or “Berliner”. Krapfen or Berliner (basically filled doughnuts, see the pictures and recipe here on the blog) are an important part of the Karneval celebration. So, if someone claims that Germans eat pancakes for Carnival, that person probably comes from a specific area in Germany where Krapfen are called pancakes. Very confusing for a country that insists on always being precise, right?
I have not made these yet but am going to try. I don’t recall my Opa’s looking like these so I am wondering if there is another version or perhaps his were just a variation. He cooked them in a bit of bacon fat and would poor the batter into the pan let it set slightly and then he would cut blue plums in half (fresh ones with pit removed) and put them flat side down in the batter. He would put a lid on and let the pancake steam a little then flip let the plums cook a for a minute or so and the. Flip in a plate plum side up. Then we would eat sprinkled in sugar. I remember the batter being quite eggy and the pancake looking sort of glossy around the plums… thoughts? Does this version ring a bell to anyone? We just called the plum pancakes. I know he was from someone close to the boarder of France maybe Zweinbrucken…
Pflaumenpafannkuchen!!! So delicious. Yes, I know that version very well, it’s one of my favorite. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find these pums here in Texas. Just stick to your grandpas recipe if you have it. As I mention in the video: We usually don’t use a recipe for pancakes but instead make it off our sleeves. If he used more eggs, that’s absolutely fine.
Vielen Dank Barbara,
My mother was from a small town in Southern Germany. As kids she use to make Pfannekuchen for dinner with jam or apple sauce and a sprinkle of icing sugar on top. Yummy! I always say to myself it doesn’t taste quite like my Mom’s but in this case its right on! Wow this brings back happy memories. She would use ( if any left) pancakes for a soup the next day. Haven’t tried the soup yet. Crossing my fingers it comes out like my Mom’s.
Wonderful! The soup is called Pfannkuchensuppe or in Swabia they call it Flädle-Suppe. … but it’s hard to have pancake leftovers to use for it, lol.
I’ve been winging it for few years (probably about 45) with seldom a flop. But a determinative rezep fur deutsche Pfannkuchen, na dass muss mann probieren. Ooops… but I never saw baking soda go in the batter, so I never did it.
I made up a half recipe and tossed in a minuscule amount of baking soda, and held back on the water, the batter was getting runnier than I normally have it. The outcome was consistent with historical data though a bit fluffier.
This evening I made up a full recipe and followed all guidance to the “T”. Without sugar our young surrogate nieces or perhaps grand-nieces would render them to the dust bin, and I found the flavor of baking soda to be present. A little salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar later I had delicious (per the experts) crepes. These were fluffy and light relative to the usual product of my crepe pan.
I will try with a 1/4-tsp of baking soda next time, or will substitute baking powder, or might do an eighth of each. I’ll report back. How much baking soda one can use before popping out as a flavor may depend on the brand, age, origin, fry pan material etc.
This is looking like a lot of Pfannkuchen which will lead to more of me if I am not careful.
Pfannkuchen was a frequent visitor to my lunch plate ( a ran home from school for lunch, then ran back) as well as any meal on the weekend, and the stand-in when the folks ate the only meal I could not bring myself to share in, cooked kale.
These are very close to what my mother (from Erlangen) used to make. Superb!! We would serve with applesauce, any leftovers (Ha-Ha) would be cut in strips to be the “noodles” in chicken soup. Thank-you
Yes, this is what my mother did. She was from Regensburg. For the soul she would boil potato’s, carrots onion and celery and put it through a mesh food mill so it was like mush. Put in pot with homade canned tomato juice and Maggi seasoning. Making some this week.
I never ate a thick flap jack until I left home. My mom would cook stacks of these for us. But, we ate them so fast they never stacked up. You mention left overs?
These look delicious! I know my kids would love them. When you say ‘soda’, you are talking about baking soda, correct?
Thank you, Christine, you are right, I meant baking soda. I forgot that sodas are drinks here in the US while we call those “softdrinks” in Germany … just an other example of english words used differently in Germany. I will add the word to my recipe to make it clear.
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