A simple and delicious recipe for basic crêpes, or thin French pancakes. Recipe with step-by-step photos.
French Crêpes Recipe
My husband hails from the French region of Brittany where crêpes are thought to have originated. And so it goes without saying that, in this part of the world, it is completely acceptable to have pancakes at breakfast every morning, or even as a goûter, the French equivalent of afternoon tea.
I unashamedly take advantage of this opportunity whenever we are in Brittany, and as do my nieces who manage to get away with eating crêpes not just at breakfast, but also for dinner!
At home, when pancakes are in demand, I tend to make my childrens’ favourite pikelets. These were the pancakes that I grew up eating in Australia, and it warms my heart to see that my children adore them as much as I do.
But once in a while, I like to make French crêpes for something a bit more substantial.
What Are French Crêpes?
French crêpes are very thin and delicate pancakes which are typically eaten as a snack in France.
By comparison, American pancakes are much smaller, and are usually thick and fluffy due to the baking powder in the batter.
Easy Crêpe Recipe
Traditionally, the basic crêpe recipe below is used for sweet or dessert crêpes; savoury crêpes follow the same recipe but have buckwheat flour in place of the plain flour, and use water instead of milk.
However, I rather like using this basic crêpe recipe also for savoury crêpes – there is very little sugar in the recipe so they are quite bland on their own (it is the toppings which add the sweetness), and they work really well with creamy sauces like this one from my recipe for Zurich-Style Veal with Mushroom & Cream Sauce.
How to Make Crêpes
Whether you are making sweet or savoury crêpes, what is crucial is that you rest the batter for at least 1 hour to allow it to thicken and for the gluten to relax. This will, in turn, produce soft and paper-thin crêpes.
If you make the crêpes right away, they will still taste good, but they might be a bit chewier.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan with about 1/4 teaspoon butter. Use some kitchen paper to evenly coat the pan with butter, and to also absorb any excess butter.
But it is important that you grease the pan with butter because it is the butter which helps to cook the crêpes and to make them crispy.
Pour some batter into the pan and quickly give the pan a swirl so that the batter can coat the pan in an even layer.
A crêpe batter is very similar to a normal pancake batter, but you will have to experiment with the first few crêpes to get the right consistency.
The crêpe batter should be thin enough to spread evenly across the surface of the pan, but it should also be thick enough to give the pancake some body.
Once the edges start to crisp up and the pancake looks nice and golden, quickly flip the pancake to cook the other side for 1 to 2 minutes.
The resulting crêpe should be very thin (almost see-through) with crisp edges.
Filling for Crêpes
According to my Swedish sister-in-law, it is completely normal in Sweden to eat pancakes for dinner. And so I like to exploit this concept once in a while by making a large batch of French crêpes for dinner, keeping them warm in a low oven as I make them.
Dinner is then all-you-can-eat-crêpes with an assortment of fillings, such as:
- a thin layer of strawberry jam
- a drizzle of homemade salted caramel sauce
- a good spread of Nutella
- a generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar
- a sprinkle of granulated sugar with a squeeze of lemon juice (my favourite)
A simple and delicious recipe for basic crêpes, or thin French pancakes.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: Makes 8-10 crêpes
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Stove Top
- Cuisine: French
- Measure the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl.
- Pour the milk into a large measuring jug and gently whisk in the eggs.
- Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently whisk until everything is incorporated and there are no lumps. Be careful not to over-whisk the mixture.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave the batter to rest for at least 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat with about 1/4 teaspoon butter.
- Swirl the pan so that the butter melts and coats the surface of the pan.
- Scrunch up a piece of kitchen paper and use this to carefully evenly coat the pan with butter and to soak up any excess butter. If there is too much butter in the pan, this might actually prevent the pancake from browning nicely.
- Pour about 60 ml (1/4 cup) of batter into the pan and quickly swirl the pan so that the batter covers the whole surface of the pan.
- Cook the crêpe for a few minutes until it is lightly golden and the edges look firm, before flipping it over to cook the other side for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the cooked crêpe to a plate in a warm oven and continue with the remaining batter.
- Remember to melt some butter each time before adding the batter to the pan – it is the butter which helps the crêpes to cook and brown.
- Serve the crêpes warm with a generous sprinkle of granulated sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, or with whatever topping you prefer. You can either roll up the crêpe like a log, or fold the crêpe in half, and then in half again.
You can make crêpes or pancakes in any non-stick pan, but a special crêpe pan has very low sides which makes sliding the crêpe out of the pan easier. I have an old and trusty T-Fal crêpe pan. I also own a wide pancake spatula which makes flipping crêpes and pancakes a breeze.
As with any pancake recipe, the first pancake usually doesn’t always turn out or look right, often because the pan hasn’t come to the right temperature and/or because there is too much butter in the pan. In my husband’s family, they actually fight over the first pancake because they claim it to be the tastiest from all of the butter it has absorbed!
Depending on the dimensions of your pan, you will have to play around with quantities of butter and batter to find the right balance for the perfect pancakes. You might also have to thin the batter with some milk if the batter is too thick.
It is important to let the batter rest so that the gluten in the flour has time to rest, leading to softer and less chewy crêpes. If you have left the batter to rest overnight, you might need to thin the batter a little with a dash of milk.
Any leftover crêpes can be kept in the fridge, covered in clingfilm, and gently reheated in a non-stick pan before serving.
My sister-in-law freezes her crêpes and thaws them in the microwave for a quick snack or meal for her kids.
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.
- Serving Size: 10
- Calories: 146
- Sugar: 2.8g
- Sodium: 103mg
- Fat: 3.9g
- Carbohydrates: 21.7g
- Fiber: 0.7g
- Protein: 5.4g
- Cholesterol: 45.1mg
This recipe was first published on 9 February 2016. It has been updated with more comprehensive recipe notes.