German Pancakes
Basics, Sides, Swabian, Vegetarian

German Pancakes (‘Pfannkuchen’)

10 comments

Last Updated on 5 months by Tim

Pancakes are a food that is commonly considered by many Americans to be basic breakfast fare whereas in many European countries pancakes aren’t considered a breakfast item at all. German pancakes are commonly served either with a savory filling or in their sweet version as a dessert after a light dinner.

The German pancake has a lot of similarities with the French crêpe albeit being a bit thicker and less refined. A lot of people nowadays use premade pancake batters but there’s hardly anything simpler and quicker to make from scratch at home than German pancakes.

The Building Blocks of German Cusine Series
This article is part of my basics series, which will introduce you to key ingredients and preparation methods. You can find all these articles in the ‘Basics’ category of this blog. Listed below are the articles that have yet been published in this series:

How to achieve a fluffy-smooth German pancake batter

As indicated in the introduction, the German pancake is closely related to the French crêpe. There’s usually no leavening agent used so that the pancakes stay flat and thin. German pancakes aren’t as paper-thin as French crêpes and are usually made at home in a non-stick frying pan so that no extra equipment like a crêpe maker is needed.

To improve the pancake texture, carbonated water is added to the pancake batter which introduces a light acidity and makes the pancakes pillowy. It’s not possible to substitute the carbonated water with anything else. If you don’t have any carbonated water on hand skip this step and add more milk instead.

Mixing the pancake batter

When mixing the batter, don’t worry about its consistency. The dough will be much thinner than typical American pancake batter. This thin consistency is needed so that the dough is spreadable in a thin layer across the entire diameter of your frying pan.

For the best results, make sure your batter is absolutely lump-free by whisking it until completely smooth. Let the batter rest for at least 10-15 minutes before frying the pancakes. The flour will hydrate during this resting period and you will see that the batter will thicken slightly.

How to fry the perfect pancake

Once you are ready to fry the pancakes, heat your oven to about 180 °F (80 °C). That way you are able to keep your pancakes warm until you are ready to serve them.

Heat an 8-inch non-stick saute pan over medium heat and add only about 1 teaspoon of clarified butter to it. The clarified butter should only lightly coat the bottom of the pan. You don’t want any greasy pancakes. If you don’t have any clarified butter on hand, use vegetable oil. Butter is not suitable, as it will burn over time resulting in burnt pancakes.

Always make sure your pan doesn’t get too hot, as German pancakes should be golden in appearance with only a few light brown spots on the surface.

This pancake is ready to be turned
Fried pancake, golden brown on the surface

It’s best to use a soup ladle to spread the pancake batter evenly inside your pan. One ladle is enough for one pancake. Spread it out quickly, so the batter doesn’t set before you’ve had enough time to spread it out completely. The easiest way to spread the batter out evenly is to swirl your pan around, tilting it lightly to the sides until the pancake has an even thickness all around.

Let the pancake cook on the first side until it is completely set. Then you can turn it over and fry it on the other side for about 30 more seconds to one minute. Take the finished pancake out of the pan and keep it warm in the oven until ready to serve.

What to serve German pancakes with

German pancakes are just like tortillas a very versatile food. They can be filled with all kinds of savory fillings, wrapped, and eaten like a taco. Some people also like to fill them, put them in a casserole, sauce them, sprinkle with cheese, and then bake them until the cheese is golden brown. I have a recipe for asparagus pancake casserole on my blog in case you’re interested.

If you have any leftovers, you could also slice the pancakes into slivers and serve them inside a hot beef broth as an entree. This pancake soup is called ‘Flädlesuppe’ in the Southern German dialect.

German Pancake Soup (Flädlesuppe)

For the sweet variation, all kinds of fillings are possible. The most common sweet fillings are Nutella, fruit jams, yogurt with berries, and apple sauce. If you want to eat sweet pancakes, it’s best to omit the herbs unless you like them paired with sweet fillings.

German pancakes are great if you enjoy eating with your hands. Maybe you’d enjoy them to soak up some rich gravy as well. Pancakes are commonly eaten as a side dish for asparagus with Sauce Hollandaise.

10 Comments

  1. Great post ?! Pancakes are versatile and so yummy ?. Have you ever tried to fill them with minced meat and spinach? We serve this dish with a tomato sauce, it‘s so filling and the kids love it as well. I‘m definitely going to try your asparagus-version before the season is over ?.
    Have a nice evening!
    Silvia

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Silvia. I have had pancakes with minced meat and mushrooms but never with spinach. Sounds very delicious though. I’m all in for the tomato sauce as well. I think I will give this filling a go when making pancakes the next time. When I was a child my favorite dessert was pancakes baked with quark and fruit. So yummy ?.
      Tim

  2. Can’t wait to try this at dinner! Thank you for sharing!

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