Pancakes, Crêpes, and Galettes – Similar but Very Different

A common term is ‘same same but different’ and this saying certainly can be applied to pancakes, crêpes, and galettes as they are quite similar, yet very different! All are prepared with a flour-based batter and vary in thickness, size, and shape. Served plain, with fillings or toppings, is one of the aspects that adds to the difference from one another.  

french crepes, pancakes


These are a well loved breakfast dish that can put everyone in a good mood and kick off any school day, Sunday, or holiday. Pancakes are essentially fluffy-flat circular discs of batter cooked on a sheet pan or a non-stick pan. Served warm in a stack, with toppings of berries, chocolate chips, whipped cream, chocolate or caramel sauce, or any other fancy topping. Traditionally though, pancakes are served with a dollop of butter and some rich thick maple syrup, or honey. 

Also known as hotcakes, griddle cakes, and flapjacks in the US, variations abound from thin pancakes to slightly thicker spongy ones to the jiggly ultra-thick but ultra-soft pancakes made with the egg whites whipped separately and folded into the batter. As per the basic recipe, pancakes are made with plain all-purpose flour and baking powder as the raising agent. The batter mix is of thick ribbon consistency (not pourable but not cake batter thickness either.) 

Though easy to make, the trick to ensure that the pancakes are soft and spongy is to keep an eye on when to flip them in the pan. Heat the pan over a low to medium heat and grease lightly with butter or oil before adding a spoonful of pancake batter. The pancakes develop bubbles and when the sides look firm this is the perfect time to flip them over and cook for a few minutes on the other side until golden brown. 

Some versions of pancakes are thin wherein a filling of jam or cream is placed down the middle and the pancake is rolled over in a cigar shape and optionally dusted with caster sugar. Healthy versions might substitute plain flour with buckwheat, sugar is replaced with agave or honey, or the whole milk is swapped with buttermilk. 

Additionally, a mix of raisins, cranberries, or chocolate chips can be added into the batter.


The batter used for crêpes is thinner than pancake batter. Due to a more pourable consistency, the batter for crêpes is ladled onto the pan and spread out over the whole pan into a thin layer. Crêpes can also be cooked on a large round flat surface without edges. This requires a bit more practice and technique but looks very professional once mastered! Crêpes, being thinner, cook faster and are flipped over once. They are usually filled with sweet fillings and then folded over into rolls or triangles (cone-shaped) with one side open. However, creativity can be used to fold over in any shape. 


While crêpes are made with plain flour, galettes are usually made from buckwheat flour. Prepared similarly to crêpes on a skillet, the galettes are topped with savoury items such as meats, fish, cheese, greens, egg, etc. The sides of the galette are then folded over an inch converting it into a squarish looking dish like a frame with the toppings peeking out from the centre. Galettes are gluten-free and can be easily made vegan by choosing suitable  toppings.  

French galettes

The term galette is French and is also used for other baked items that don’t look or taste like the ones described above. The most popular is the French ‘galette des rois’ consisting of flaky pastry dough folded over and revealing a delicious creamy frangipane in the centre. 

Other versions from around the world

What’s traditional in one part of the world is different in another! Some versions of a pancake or crêpe exist in most cuisines. 

North Africa – a msemen is a flaky crêpe not made from a batter, but from stretchy dough. 

Eastern Europe – a blintz (also called blini) is made from a wheat or buckwheat batter, yeast, and milk/water. Once cooked it is topped with jam and/or cheese. 

Sweden – plättar are thin pancakes containing flour, butter, milk, salt and sugar. The batter is more fluid and tends to spread out during cooking. Plättar are traditionally served with lingonberry jam, or cream. 

India – a potato-filled dosa is made from a batter of lentil and rice that is stone-ground and fermented overnight. The chilla is made from a batter of yellow moong lentils and flavoured with herbs and spices. 

China – scallion pancakes, also named bing, are traditional breakfast food made from flour dough, filled with pork lard and scallions, then rolled into a spiral, and flattened. The jianbing is the Chinese crêpe, lined with egg and chilli oil and stuffed with a crunchy fritter and sausage. 

Indonesia – serabi are tiny pancakes made from rice flour and coconut (either coconut milk or shredded coconut) and topped with sprinklings of chocolate or cheese, or coloured green with pandan leaf extract. 

Korea – the term jeon is used for pancakes that are usually egg-based and contain different herbs or meats. 

Japan – okonomiyaki is a flavoured pancake that looks like a large fritter cooked with eggs, cabbage, and meats, including octopus. 

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