If you’re looking for a new breakfast recipe, I have just the thing for you. These sweet crepes are tender, soft, and pliable with slightly crispy edges. They are also vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, and refined sugar-free. My favorite way to serve them is with fresh berries and coconut whipped cream.
They are known all over Europe. The French call them crêpes, the Dutch pannenkoeken, the Austrians Palatschinken, the Czechs palacinky, and the Brits pancakes. While traditional French crepes are a little thinner than European pancakes, to North Americans European pancakes are crepes. They are large and thin (not small and fluffy), filled (not topped), served folded or rolled (not stacked), and typically eaten for lunch, dinner, or dessert (not for breakfast or brunch). Oh, and never are they eaten together with bacon!
At home (Czech Republic), pancakes are traditionally served for lunch. The most common fillings are apricot jam, sweetened quark cheese, or simple vanilla icing sugar-cinnamon. Not necessarily the healthiest meal, but delicious nonetheless. I grew up eating a lot of pancakes because they are really easy to make and the ingredients are pretty inexpensive. So my mom would make them for my sister and I at least once a week.
You might be wondering what the main difference between European pancakes (including crepes) and American pancakes is. The ingredients are almost identical . . . except for one thing – a rising agent. Without baking powder or baking soda, there’s no leavening, accounting for the thinness of crepes. In addition, there are more of the wet ingredients in crepes than pancakes, which also helps with the thinness.
Besides the difference in thickness, crepes and pancakes actually taste quite different too. While some of this is likely due to the fact that texture alters taste, the lighter batter offers a lighter taste that is often considered to go well with more food options than pancakes do. The lighter flavor adds to the versatility, allowing crepes to be served either as savory or sweet.
That being said, this particular recipe contains a banana and maple syrup so it lends itself better to sweet crepes.
Tips for Making Sweet Crepes
These crepes are naturally sweet from the banana (hence the “sweet crepes”). Bananas are a great substitution for oil, eggs, and a sweetener in baking. They add richness, moisture, and a hint of sweetness. However, they do have a strong flavor so you’ll be able to detect the banana flavor in the crepes. For more neutral-tasting crepes, you could use 1/2 cup (127.5 g) of apple sauce instead of the banana.
To make these sweet crepes gluten-free, I used a mix of oat flour and brown rice flour. Oat flour makes these crepes moist and chewy while brown rice flour provides light and slightly gritty texture. The flavor of both flours is very neutral (although oat flour does have a slightly nutty taste). Since oat flour can be quite pricey, I make it at home by grinding rolled oats in a food processor (a blender or a coffee grinder work too).
For the liquid ingredients. I used almond milk (any plant-based milk will work) and a splash of maple syrup (optional for slightly sweeter crepes).
I was considering calling these sweet crepes “blender crepes” because you can make the batter entirely in a blender. If you don’t have a blender, you’ll need to mash the banana with a fork first and then mix all the ingredients together. Just make sure your batter is completely smooth with no banana chunks in it.
Admittedly, the hard part isn’t making the batter, but flipping the crepes. However, as long as you know a few key tricks, perfectly cooked crepes aren’t all that hard to achieve. So let’s address a few common issues:
- The first crepe always turns out the worst – when you grease your pan before cooking, the oil doesn’t coat the pan evenly. It’s in random drops. As you cook the first crepe, the batter somewhat spreads the oil across the pan into an even layer. However, the areas that were in first contact with the drops of oil still cook unevenly. That’s why the first crepe often has a lacy look on one side and is a little greasier than the rest. To fix this, let the pan warm up first. Then spread a little oil on it, using a paper towel to wipe off most of the excess.
- The batter cooks before you finished swirling it into the corners of the pan – there are two reasons this can happen:
1. Consistency of the batter – crepe batter needs to be very thin so it spreads quickly. If your batter seems too thick and isn’t spreading in the pan, whisk in a few tablespoons of plant-based milk to thin it out.
2. Temperature – in general, lower temperatures are better than high because high temperatures will cook the batter before you have a chance to spread it out.
- The crepes stick to the pan – you don’t necessarily need a crepe pan to make crepes. What you do need, however, is a good pan. Besides nonstick pans coated with teflon (which I don’t recommend for health reasons), the best naturally nonstick surface is cast iron. The advantage of crepe griddle are low sides, which make it easier to get a spatula in there to flip the crepes.
- The crepes tear when you try to flip them – this is the most common frustration when making crepes. Again, there are two reasons this can happen:
1. Temperature – medium-low temperature works best. Heat up the pan slowly. If you try to heat it too quickly you’ll constantly be fiddling with the temperature knob because it will start burning or get too cool. On my gas stove, I put the pan on the largest burner and set the heat slightly below medium.
2. Cooking time – don’t flip the crepes too early. If you do, the crepes will tear (guaranteed!). Wait until you see bubbles forming in the center of the batter and the edges turn brown. At this point, the crepe is about 65% cooked. That’s why you don’t need to give each side equal time before you take it off the pan.
- You don’t feel confident flipping crepes – practice! The best way to learn how to make crepes is to make crepes. If you’ve never made crepes before, you’re most likely going to fail the first time you make them. But I guarantee that by the last of the batter in the bowl, you will be flipping crepes like a pro!
Before storing your crepes, I would recommend cooling them first on a wire rack so that steam can evaporate. If you stack the crepes when they’re still warm, the steam will make the crepes wet (soggy). If you wanna stack them, place a small piece of parchment paper or paper towel between each crepe. Once cooled, store the crepes in an air-tight container in the fridge for a few days. In the freezer, they will last up to a few months.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Griddle (10.5-Inch, Lodge, Cast Iron) | 3. Measuring Cup (2 Cups, Pyrex, Glass) | 4. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 5. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel) | 6. Turner (5-Inch, Stainless Steel)
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- 1/2 cup oat flour
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 banana
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted (optional)*
- pinch fine sea salt
Add all the ingredients into a blender and blend on high until you reach smooth and pourable batter.
Heat a skillet (I used cast iron crepe skillet) to a low-medium heat and add a small amount of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for a minute to get hot.
Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Immediately pick up the pan and swirl it to coax the batter into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
When the crepe has browned slightly on the bottom (it should take about 2 minutes), carefully work a spatula underneath it and flip. Cook the second side briefly, just to set the batter. Remove from the pan.
Continue making crepes with the rest of the batter, adding more oil as needed to keep the crepes from sticking.
If not eating the crepes immediately, cool them on a wire rack first to allow steam to evaporate. If you stack the crepes when they're still warm, the steam will make the crepes wet (soggy). If you wanna stack the crepes, place a small piece of parchment paper between each crepe.
Store leftover (cooled) crepes in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container with a piece of parchment paper in between each crepes (so they don't stick together as they freeze) for up to 1 month.
*I used a little over 1/2 cup (45 g) of rolled oats and ground them in a blender into oat flour.