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What are Flapjacks?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “flapjack” means different things in different countries. In Britain, flapjack is a dense, chewy bar cookie baked in a large sheet pan, rather like brownies. The ingredients in British flapjack vary widely, and often include fruit and nuts. In the United States, flapjacks are sweet flatbreads cooked on a griddle. They may also be called pancakes, hotcakes, or griddlecakes, and they are a common feature of American cuisine. The humble griddlecake has played quite a role in the history of American breakfast foods, and most Americans are familiar with the simple but satisfying food.

The origins of American-style flapjacks are quite old. Humans have been baking flatbreads for thousands of years, and the concept of a sweet flatbread as a breakfast food has been around for quite some time. Typically, flapjacks include milk, eggs, flour, sugar, and a rising agent, and they are served with syrup, fresh fruit, and other toppings. Ingredients such as rolled oats may also be added for additional texture and flavor. Most of the individual names for these sweet flatbreads are regional variations, and do not actually refer to totally different foods.

In general, flapjacks are larger than more ordinary pancakes, and they are cooked from a slightly runny batter, so they end up thin, chewy, and slightly crispy. They are often served in stacks, with ingredients layered between the individual flapjacks. When stacked, some people call flapjacks hotcakes, and several American slang terms reference hotcakes, as in “selling faster than a stack of hotcakes” for a popular item. While the food is most commonly cooked on an oiled griddle, it is also possible to bake flapjacks for a more low fat version.

To make basic flapjacks, sift together three cups of flour, two tablespoons of sugar, four teaspoons of baking powder, and one teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add two tablespoons of melted butter, two cups of milk, and two eggs. Mix until just combined before adding inclusions of choice such as fresh fruit, cinnamon, applesauce, chocolate chips, or cooked oatmeal, if desired.

Heat a griddle or a large cooking pan on medium heat and melt a small amount of butter on it. When the griddle is hot, use a measuring cup to ladle batter onto the griddle. Generally, a three quarter cup measure works very well for flapjacks. As the bottom layer of the flapjacks on the griddle becomes golden and crispy, flip them to cook the other side. Serve warm, layered with melted butter, syrup, fruit compote, whipped cream, or other ingredients.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Mykol — On Jun 13, 2012

I have never tried a British flapjack, but these sound better to me than a stack of pancakes. I like the idea of adding fruit and nuts and having something that has a chewier texture.

Pancakes never seem to keep me full for very long. I can eat a stack of pancakes and feel stuffed, but am famished after about an hour.

It sounds like British flapjacks have a little bit more substance and would not be as sweet. I know one guy who spreads peanut butter on top of his pancakes.

The warm pancake melts the peanut butter and he is getting more substance this way than just using butter and syrup.

By bagley79 — On Jun 12, 2012

I have always referred to flapjacks, pancakes and hotcakes as the same thing. I think it depends on what area of the country you were raised in. In my family, most of us refer to them as hotcakes.

This is one breakfast meal that I know my whole family will enjoy. When I fix hotcakes, I also make some eggs to go along with them so they get some protein as well.

When everyone is eating breakfast at the same time, I have a hard time keeping up with the hotcakes though. I like to serve them warm right off the griddle, and don't have enough room to make more than two at a time.

It takes a little longer for them to cook than it does for someone to eat one!

By LisaLou — On Jun 12, 2012

One of my sisters favorite foods is pancakes. Whenever we are trying to decide on a restaurant, she will always choose one that serves breakfast all day long so she can order pancakes.

I don't mind eating a pancake with warm syrup on it once in awhile, but I can't imagine making a meal out of them.

I usually stick with traditional maple syrup as well, but like it best if it is warm. My sister likes all kinds of fruity tasting syrups and has even ordered them with whip cream on the top before.

By julies — On Jun 11, 2012

I like to add some cinnamon and oatmeal to my ingredients when I am making flapjacks. I also skip the butter on top, go light on the syrup and add fresh fruit.

This is a much healthier way to eat flapjacks than the traditional way. I have also ground my own flour and have used wheat flour or rice bran flour instead of the traditional white flour.

Not only are these healthier, but they stick with me much longer. If I eat something too sweet first thing in the morning, I get a little bit nauseous and am also hungry again in a couple of hours.

By KaBoom — On Jun 11, 2012

I make flapjacks at home all the time, but I must admit I never cook them on a griddle. I usually just use a non-stick skilled, which works fine for me. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to cooking flapjacks the "traditional" way.

I think I would also like to try to make the British version of flapjacks. They sound like they might be a little less sweet than the average bar cookie, which sounds good to me. I'm not that into eating sweets all the time. I think I would probably add some kind of fruit if I made British flapjacks, just to make them a bit healthier.

By strawCake — On Jun 10, 2012

@starrynight - I bet you could make pumpkin pancakes at home. You could just add some canned pumpkin pie filling to your pancake mix and I'm sure it would be just as good as the ones you get in a restaurant.

I personally prefer my pancakes plain, but I absolutely must have real maple syrup on top, not the synthetic stuff. When I was growing up, my mom always bought real maple syrup and I just never developed a taste for the synthetic kind most people eat on their breakfast foods.

By starrynight — On Jun 09, 2012

It's funny that the term flapjack refers to something fairly different in the United States and Britain. Yes, both American and British flapjacks are grain based, but that's where the similarities end! A bar cookie is very different from a pancake, in my opinion. I definitely wouldn't eat a bar cookie for breakfast.

However, I definitely enjoy eating American flapjacks for breakfast. I like regular pancakes, but my very favorite kind are only served in restaurants in the fall: pumpkin pancakes! I know this sounds a little bit weird, but they are really delicious. They're so good you don't even need to put syrup on them.

By cloudel — On Jun 09, 2012

@OeKc05 - I came across a couple of British flapjack recipes the other day while searching for new ideas. Some of the recipes used brown sugar mixed with fruit, like apricots, while others used oats and corn syrup mixed with butter.

The oat recipe sounds like it would taste most like a granola bar. Some of the other recipes used nuts and seeds, which also reminds me of granola bars.

I’ve never been too fond of granola, so I went with the brown sugar and apricot recipe. It tasted delicious, and you’re right - it did remind me of a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate!

By OeKc05 — On Jun 09, 2012

The British version of flapjacks sounds even better than pancakes. I love the texture of bar cookies much more than that of American flapjacks, which are just too tough for my taste.

Has anyone here ever had a British flapjack? What sort of ingredients are used to make them?

I always think of chocolate chip cookies when I think of chewy cookies, and since brown sugar is used to make them, I would imagine it is used in British flapjacks, as well. Even if a cookie doesn’t have chips in it, it reminds me of a chocolate chip cookie if it is made with brown sugar. Flapjacks that mimic these cookies would be awesome for breakfast!

By Perdido — On Jun 08, 2012

I love flapjacks, but I hate eating that unhealthy sugar and butter, especially so early in the day. My sister-in-law is a health nut, and she let my husband in on a little secret for making healthy flapjacks.

She said that you can use applesauce instead of butter. It will make everything hold together the way that butter does, but it will also serve as a natural sweetener.

My husband made them for me, and I really could not tell that they had no butter in them. I couldn’t taste the applesauce. They just tasted like great, fluffy flapjacks.

By seag47 — On Jun 07, 2012

@summing - There are other types of fruit flapjacks that I prefer over blueberry ones. Banana flapjacks are awesome, because the fruit tends to become sweeter as it cooks. My favorite type is strawberry flapjacks, though.

I chop up strawberries into small bits and stir them right into the batter. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of raw strawberries, but something wonderful happens to them as they are cooked that makes them taste unbelievably good inside the flapjack.

Maple syrup goes well with these, and so does regular old reduced calorie generic syrup. They would probably even taste great with nothing on them.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jun 07, 2012

I know that in certain circles this is going to sound like blasphemy, but for my money the best pancake out there is at IHOP. Honestly, I could eat a short stack of those with butter pecan syrup every morning.

By summing — On Jun 06, 2012

Everyone has heard of chocolate chip pancakes and blueberry pancakes but what other kinds of ingredients can you put into pancakes? I tend to get bored of the standard kind with just maple syrup on top and I am looking for ways to make the recipe more interesting.

By backdraft — On Jun 05, 2012

For me a flapjack will always be a pancake, and they are probably my favorite breakfast food. I like to make big breakfasts for the family on Sunday mornings and pancakes are always a feature, usually with eggs, sausage and fresh fruit.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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