Unless you live in a remote Amazonian jungle tribe, the chances are good that you know what a pancake is. However, it gets confusing when the term “flapjack” pops up in conversation (or on a restaurant menu). Are they both the same delicious food? If you want to know the difference between flapjacks and pancakes then read on; we’ll uncover their differences and similarities.
Summary: flapjacks vs. pancakes
|In the U.S. and Canada||Another name for pancake, often used in the South and South East regions of the United States.||A flat round cake that’s fried on both sides. Often served flat on a plate or in a stack topped with fruit, sauces and other sweet (or savory) ingredients.|
|In the U.K.||An oat-filled, sweet granola bar that’s tray-baked.||A flat round cake that’s fried on both sides. Pancakes in the U.K. are often thinner than the U.S. version and are rolled up with sweet or savory fillings inside.|
In the United States and Canada
Flapjacks and pancakes are, for the most part, used interchangeably in the United States. They are both a type of round, thin, cake fried on both sides. Common ingredients include milk, flour, and sugar; a leavening agent such as baking powder can be added to create a taller pancake.
Flapjacks and pancakes are usually served as breakfast or dessert, covered honey, maple syrup, cream, sugar, lemon juice, fruit or jam. They can also be eaten as a savory dish, filled with ingredients like ground beef, chicken, or cheese.
In the South and Southeast regions of the United States, the term flapjack gets used more often. In the West and North of the U.S., pancakes are the preferred choice.
Pancakes and flapjacks are also known as griddlecakes and hotcakes.
In the United Kingdom
Pancakes in the U.K. are essentially the equivalent of the U.S. version; however, they tend to be thinner with a slightly crisp edge. Although American pancakes get served laid out flat or in a stack, the U.K. variant is usually served rolled up with fillings inside.
The British bring out their fry pans en masse on Shrove Tuesday to make pancakes. This day is also known as pancake day, and the tradition goes back centuries.
Flapjacks are a completely different food in the U.K. compared to the U.S. The British form of flapjack is a type of oat slice which gets cut into bars. It is similar to a granola bar with common ingredients including rolled oats, brown sugar, and butter. Favorite fillings for these bars include dried fruit, coconut or nuts.
Fun fact: Pancakes are one of the oldest types of cooked food consumed by early society [source].
Flapjack Recipe (U.K. Style)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup butter
- Pinch salt
- 3 cups rolled oats
- Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease and line a 9×13” slice pan.
- Add maple syrup, butter and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan and heat slowly until melted.
- Remove from heat and stir in the rolled oats until well combined. Scoop into the slice pan and spread evenly into all the corners.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Allow the slice to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Once completely cooled, slice into muesli-bar shaped slices and store in an airtight container.
Tips for better flapjacks
- Don’t be tempted to keep cooking these flapjacks too long as they’ll turn dry and unpleasant if overcooked.
- For more flavor, add your favorite dried fruit such as apricots, dates, cranberries or currants.
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- Add egg, vanilla, butter, and milk to a large bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients then pour milk mixture into the hole. Mix until you have a silky batter but avoid over-beating; if there are a few persistent lumps, then leave them.
- Heat a large pan and on a medium heat then add a small knob of butter or oil and allow it to melt. Add a ¼ cup of batter to the pan in a circle shape. Cook until tiny bubbles appear, then flip and cook the other side for around 2 minutes until cooked throughout.
- Serve pancakes individually or in one impressive stack. Top with nuts, berries, and honey or maple syrup.
Tips to improve pancakes
- Heat the milk in a microwave until lukewarm before adding to the bowl. This extra step helps the ingredients combine effortlessly without any persistent lumps of butter.
- Replace milk with buttermilk for a pancake with a slightly tangy flavor, increased lift, and a more tender crumb. Replace buttermilk using an equal ratio as the quantity used above and replace the baking powder with 1 tsp of baking soda.
- For a lighter pancake, sift the dry ingredients into the bowl before mixing.
Difference between flapjack and Johnny cakes
A Johnnycake is a type of flapjack that can be served sweetened as a dessert or unsweetened as a savory dish. The Johnnycake is made using cornmeal instead of flour and is popular in the United States along the Atlantic Coast.
Whether you call them flapjacks or pancakes if you’re in the U.S., you’re likely referring to a round, thin cake that’s fried in the pan. A versatile snack, they’re at home filled with sweet or savory ingredients. It’d be fair to say that most in the U.S. use the term pancake; flapjacks are a more old-fashioned term that still gets used in smaller pockets of the country.
Across the Atlantic you’ll find that while pancakes are similar to the U.S. version, flapjacks are a completely different food in the U.K. If you can imagine an oat-filled granola bar that’s baked in the oven, that’s a flapjack.