Our easy, family recipe for French pancakes, classic ultra thin sweet crêpes that are best served for breakfast, teatime or dessert.  Either rolled or folded, serve on their own with just a squeeze of lemon. Discover a list of classic crêpe fillings below and the difference between sweet vs savoury pancakes in France.

making thin crepe pancakes

Are French Pancakes the Same as Crêpes?

Crêpes are the same as French pancakes. However, they are much thinner than the fluffy American and British style pancakes which are made with baking powder to make them rise. Instead, French crêpes don’t rise and are extra thin – and are more popular in France. There are two varieties of French pancakes: sweet and savoury.

In short, French crêpes are thin and sweet. 

Savoury thin pancakes are not called crêpes but galettes and traditionally made with buckwheat flour (farine de sarrasin), also known as black wheat (blé noir) in Brittany where they are most popular.

For those of you who prefer thicker pancakes, I’ll make Scotch Pancakes using chestnut flour for my Corsican husband.  These Scotch pancakes are a married mix of Scotland and Corsica so I recommend you also try the recipe. Also known as Drop Scones, they’re perfect for breakfast or teatime. Unlike French crêpes, they are normally spread with both butter and jam.

thick pancake rounds on a hot pan turning out on to a tea towel

Unlike these fluffy Scotch pancakes, French crêpes are wafer thin

What are French Crêpes Made Of?

There are four main ingredients in sweet French crêpes: milk, flour, eggs and butter. A little sugar (not too much) and pinch of salt are added just to add to the flavour.


Sometimes, if we’re feeling fancy, we’ll add a little orange or lemon zest but there’s no need as the toppings or fillings add to their flavour. Likewise, there is no baking powder or any other raising agent needed.

thin pancake with a spoonful of jam

spread on some jam and fold or roll it

What are the Main Pancake Traditions in France?

The French not only celebrate Mardi Gras (Shrove or Fat Tuesday) with these crêpes, but they also traditionally flip them during La Chandeleur (Candlemass). This marks the halfway point between the shortest day and spring Equinox in February.

Tradition has it that if you flip and catch the pancake by holding a coin in your writing hand whilst flipping the pancake with the other, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

That being said, the French flip pancakes (sweet crêpes in particular) at any time of year – we don’t wait to celebrate pancake day to eat them!

thin crepe pancakes stacked on a plate

Do You Eat Crêpes Hot or Cold?

How do we eat crêpes in France? Normally they’re served straight from the hot griddle so they are still warm.

If served in a crêperie in France, warm sweet crêpes are normally served flat or folded and topped with ice cream, Chantilly cream and with any of the toppings or fillings mentioned below. Conversely, at home or at crêpe stalls around Paris, crêpes are normally folded or rolled for ease of enjoying them with the least amount of mess.

Our family normally loves plain and simple sugar sprinkled on them with a squeeze of lemon. The simple is often best.

French Crêpe Fillings

Here are a few more classic topping suggestions. Either roll or fold the crêpes to turn them into fillings:

So what is the most popular crêpe? According to Monsieur Guss (who serves them at our local market in Saint-Germain-en-Laye), his mainly French clients order plain with a sprinkling of sugar (crêpes au sucre).

making thin crepe pancakes from the book, Teatime in Paris

How to Make Authentic Sweet Crêpes (French pancakes)

The full step-by-step recipe for Orange Crêpes, Suzette Style, is in my second recipe book, Teatime in Paris. With many thanks to my publisher, Waverley Books, for permission to share this recipe from the book. With only 4 main ingredients – butter, flour, eggs and milk (with a little sugar), this crêpe recipe is so quick to make.

thin crepe pancakes stacked on a plate
5 from 1 vote

French Pancakes (Crêpes)

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Resting time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course : Breakfast, Dessert, teatime
Cuisine : French
Keyword : crepes, skinny crepes, french crepes recipe
Servings : 4 people
Calories : 423kcal

Description

Easy recipe for French crêpes, best eaten for breakfast or for goûter (teatime) with sugar and lemon or with any of the classic toppings like jam, chestnut or chocolate spread, or salted caramel sauce. For dessert or teatime, serve with cidre.

Ingredients

  • 40 g (1.5oz) butter melted
  • 250 g (9oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 3 medium eggs organic
  • 500 ml (18fl oz) whole milk (or semi-skimmed for skinny crepes)
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon or orange zest optional

Instructions

  • Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the middle and break the eggs into it.
  • Add about a quarter of the milk and, using a hand whisk, beat the mixture well until you have a smooth, thick paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk. (this ensures no lumps).
  • Add the melted butter and zest, if using. Leave to rest for about half an hour at room temperature (this is for the gluten to expand in the mix, making the batter lighter, although it's not essential in this recipe). The mix will look quite runny but this is perfectly normal.
  • Ladle one small quantity of the batter into a very hot crêpe pan that has been wiped with butter on kitchen paper. Swirl the batter around the pan quickly, as thinly as possible, covering the surface of the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes until bubbles form on the surface. Using a spatula or your fingertips, quickly flip the crêpe over and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Turn down the heat slightly (but still at medium) and repeat the process, topping up with wiping of butter in the pan, until you have about 12 crêpes (depending on pan size), stacking them aside on a large plate.

Notes

Flour: if you use farine fluide ('type 45' thinner flour), there is no need to sift the flour.
Keep the crêpes warm by stacking them on a plate and cover with an inverted plate on top. 
Heard that the first crêpe not so good? Not so! Just keep the pan extra hot for the first one, then turn the heat down to medium-high for the rest.
Chocolate Crêpes: for chocolate crêpes, add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the flour in step one.
Makes 12 crêpes, so for 3 each is 423 calories per serving.

This was a blog post originally published on 17 February 2012 but is now completely updated to include the recipe from my cookbook, Teatime in Paris, with kind permission from Waverley Books.

Have you made this recipe?

I’d love to know how it turned out. Please let me know by leaving a rated review below. It means so much to have your support.
On Instagram? Share a photo and tag @JillColonna and hashtag it #madaboutmacarons. À bientôt!

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Comments (46)

These crepes look great. I roll my crepes. I love the Nutella. Great idea. Blessings, Catherine xo

Roll, roll, roll your crêpe, gently…

Crepes are just a wee bit lighter and I always choose them…. with sugar…. with chocolate… with ham and cheese. I eat all. (My daughter could definitely find a peasant costume in my closet).

Aha! Glad to hear you have a sense of humour on that peasant outfit. I’m sure people are scared to comment on that one, Claudia 😉

I’ve yet to make crêpes for my family, but it’s what we ate growing up, having a contest to see who could flip theirs the best (mom always won). We covered ours with sugar or jam and definitely rolled it. Who in their right mind would fold. 🙂

Thanks for the smile!

Thanks for making me smile, too! Your mum always won? My kids just think I’ve flipped.