Crêpes seem like fancy French food, yet they’re surprisingly simple to make. Bring Paris to your kitchen with this easy crêpe recipe and a few French songs. Read on to get ideas for sweet and savory fillings plus tips on how to fold your crêpes.
Not long after I descended on the famous Boulevard Saint-Michel I happened upon street food that was calling my name. In a majestic city like Paris, you can’t miss it: the humble and inviting crêpe stand sprinkled on every street corner.
On our first-ever trip to Paris, I was giddy with joy and excitement, as were my two dozen high school friends. We had read about these toasty crêpes in our textbooks, eaten one at our local French bistro back home, but none of us had ever tenderly cradled a Parisian crêpe in our hands as we tried (and failed) to avoid smearing Nutella over our faces.
And these jars of Nutella were no joke. I’d never seen such colossal jars of hazelnut spread stacked like a barricade to protect the commercial crêpe pans. The bearded Parisian man with wire-framed glasses dropped a large dollop of batter on his sizzling pan and patiently spread it with the T-shaped wooden crêpe spatula. “So French!” I thought.
Once the crêpe bubbled and pulled away at the edges, he wiggled the straight spreader underneath and flipped the crêpe over with a flick of his wrist. He folded it in half and scooped Nutella on top. The straight spreader came in handy 30 seconds later to slice bananas over the gooey chocolate. After folding the crêpe into thirds and slipping it into a triangular envelope, he handed it to me by saying, “Voilà.”
While not everybody can travel to Paris right now to enjoy the splendor of Nutella and banana crêpes, what we have is a kitchen and an imagination. Let’s bring Paris into our homes by making crêpes from scratch with a couple of French flourishes.
RELATED: Check out all my French recipes.
Tips for success
The first thing to remember about crêpes is that you can do it! They are much simpler to make than muffins, American-style fluffy pancakes, or even scones (no baking powder).
Crêpes sound fancy, like upscale bistro food. And while they are special — they work with so many fillings, are delicious savory or sweet, and freeze well — they’re also one of the simplest French foods you can recreate in your kitchen. Let’s dive into a few tips to increase your chances of success when you’re making crêpes. Keep reading to the end of the recipe for instructions on how to fold your crêpes.
Sweet versus savory crêpes
Here’s a secret between you and me. Shhhhh, promise you won’t tell? Because buckwheat is harder to find, I often make savory crêpes with ham, cheese, and egg (une galette complète) using the same batter for sweet crêpes (I skip the vanilla sugar in the recipe). You can do the same, just don’t tell Benjamin. 😉
A savoury crepe really should be with buckwheat. This would be considered an abomination by most French peopleMy friend Benjamin Houy
As long as we’re on the top of abominations, check out this scandalous Poutine recipe that contains no cheese curds (they’re hard to find!) and tofu.
Taste Test: Rest or not rest the crêpe batter?
I made 2 batches of crêpe batter. The first rested for over 2 hours. The second batch didn’t rest before I started cooking. Although the batter that rested longer tasted slightly chewier, we couldn’t tell the difference much. We concluded that it was wonderful to rest the batter, even overnight, if you have the luxury of time. But don’t worry about resting it because the crêpes still taste wonderful if you don’t. Besides, most of the batter will rest for 30 to 60 minutes anyway while you cook the first few crêpes.
Accept your first and last will be ugly
The first crêpe is always ugly. You’re getting the hang of it. Maybe your first 5 will be misshapen and unevenly thick. That’s OK. My recipe gives you a margin for error. Ugly crêpes still taste delicious!
Cook on medium-high heat
While medium-high heat seems too hot, when the pan is too cool, it takes forever for the crêpe to form bubbles. You end up with a soggy and thick crêpe. To test whether your pan is ready, put a pat of butter on it. If it sizzles cheerfully, then your pan is ready for the batter.
TIP: If you’re scared about burning your crêpes, start with medium heat. Once you’ve made 1 to 2 crêpes, you can bump up the heat to medium-high to cook faster. Since stoves vary in strength, it could be a good idea to start at medium heat and increase to medium-heat in case you have a very powerful stove.
Pour the batter in a circle
I like to pour the batter with a ladle because it gives me control. I make a rough circle about 2 inches from the edge of the pan. Then I pick up the pan and swirl it with my wrist to get the batter to form an even circle. The batter is thin so it should spread easily. When it is resistant, I use a spatula to spread pools of batter or to cover up holes.
How to make thin crêpes
Tilt, tilt, swirl. You’ll get faster as you go.
You can put in extra batter and pour out the excess back into your mixing bowl. This makes very thin crêpes with a cute lip.
The real trick to making thin crêpes is to strain the batter with a fine sieve. It’s the fastest way to eliminating lumps, which cause an uneven surface or increase the chances of your spatula catching on snags and tearing the crêpe.
Crêpe batter spreader
When I went to a kitchenware store in Paris, I stumbled upon the crêpe spreader. I couldn’t believe my luck. What a meaningful souvenir. You’d think it makes the most amazing crêpes.
Honestly, it doesn’t work well in a shallow pan.
My friend has an electric crêpe pan that a group of friends and I gifted her. The crêpe spreader works very well with her crêpe pan because it’s wide enough to benefit from this squeegee-shaped spatula. But I stick to a thin rubber or plastic spatula (no metal on the nonstick!).
How to tell when the crêpes are ready to flip
French children love making crepes. Not only during la Chandeleur (Candlemas), but anytime they get the chance because they love flipping the crêpe in the air. It’s a fun tradition for kids to launch the half-cooked crêpe into the air, turn around quickly, and try to catch the crêpe in the pan.
While such culinary acrobatics aren’t required, you’ll need to flip the crêpe to cook both sides. You can detect when the crêpe is ready for flipping by looking for bubbles in the center of the crêpe and edges that pull away from the pan. These bubbles produce a beautiful lacy pattern which adds nooks and crannies for your delicious fillings to hide in.
When you slip your spatula between the crêpe and the pan, the crêpe should lift with a gentle tug. That tells you it’s ready to flip.
Dedicated crêpe pan
When I laid eyes on this second-hand 12 inch/30cm nonstick pan, I knew it would be my dedicated crêpe pan. I’ve hidden it from roommates who liked to use a fork on my pans. Even Alex doesn’t know where this pan lives. It’s guarded as if it were under the witness protection program.
I don’t use butter when I make my crêpes because the nonstick coating doesn’t need it. But you’re welcome to add a dab of butter if you want to test whether your pan is ready and if you like the flavor of extra buttery crêpes.
Crêpe filling ideas
Crêpes can handle just about any filling. Here are the typical sweet fillings you’ll find as you stroll down Les Champs-Élysées browsing les crêperies.
Crêpes sucrées (sweet crêpes)
- Beurre (butter): Salted butter, butter with brown sugar
- Sucre (sugar): Sugar with cinnamon, sugar with lemon juice, sugar with sliced and toasted almonds
- Confiture (jam): Raspberry jam, apricot jam, blueberry jam
- Crème de marron (chestnut purée)
- Miel (honey): Just honey, honey with sliced and toasted almonds, honey with walnuts
- Caramel beurre salé (salted caramel butter)
- Nutella: Just Nutella, Nutella with bananas, Nutella with sliced and toasted almonds, Nutella with raspberries, Nutella with strawberries, Nutella with coconut flakes, Nutella with strawberries, Nutella with Grand Marnier, and many more
- Nature (plain)
These sweet fillings aren’t common at street crêpe stands. But you’ll find them in crêperies around Paris. If you’re feeling ambitious and want the recipe for these fancy crêpe dishes, leave a comment below to let me know.
- Crêpes Suzette
- Crêpes à la banane flambée
Beyond French fillings, you can add your favorite spreads, dessert toppings, and fruits. Here are ideas from me and Garlic Delighters to give you inspiration:
- Nut butters: Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter
- Spreads: Speculoos, kaya, maple butter
- Dark chocolate
- Whipped cream
- Ice cream
Crêpes salées (savory crêpes)
Uh-oh, controversy time. These savory fillings can be combined, such as ham, egg, and grated cheese.
- Œuf (egg)
- Fromage (cheese)
- Jambon (ham)
- Champignon (mushroom)
- Poulet (chicken)
- Thon (tuna)
Simple French crêpes for sweet and savory fillings
- Mixing Bowl
- non-stick pan
- 2 cup (250 g) Flour, all-purpose wheat flour
- 4 large (4 large) Eggs
- 2 1/8 cup (500 ml) Milk, whole milk
- 4 tablespoon (50 g) Butter, salted butter, divided in half for the crêpe batter and the pan
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) Salt, optional, if not using unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) vanilla sugar, you can substitute with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- Gather the ingredients.
Prepare the crêpe batter
- In a mixing bowl, sift the flour using a fine-mesh sieve.
- Make a well in the flour. Crack and add the eggs into the flour well.
- Slowly add the milk while mixing the eggs, flour, and milk with a fork. You can also use a whisk if you have one. Avoid mixing the flour and eggs before adding the milk because this will create a paste with a lot of clumps.
- Melt half of the butter (2 tablespoons/25g) in the microwave. You can zap it for 15 seconds on high (but watch it to avoid it boiling over). Add the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla sugar into the crêpe batter. Mix well with the fork until combined.
- Pour the crêpe batter through the fine-mesh sieve again. Push the clumps through the sieve using a spoon or a spatula. If you have the luxury of time, allow the batter to rest for an hour in the fridge. Overnight if you can is better. If you're in a rush to make crêpes, don’t worry about resting. Dive into the next step: Cooking!
Cook the crêpes
- Heat your nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is ready, add a quarter-sized pat of butter to test the pan. If the butter sizzles, the pan is hot enough. If it doesn't, give the pan another minute to warm up. Swirl the butter around the pan. Add a ladle of batter into the pan in a circular shape. Tilt and swirl the pan to evenly spread the crêpe batter. Your first crêpe will look ugly so don't worry too much about how the first few turn out. You're learning how to control the heat and the motion of spreading the batter.
- If you have extra batter, pour the excess back into your mixing bowl. If you have holes or areas of missing batter, you can pour in a tablespoon of extra batter to patch it up, using your spatula to smooth out the surface.Your crêpe will cook for about 3 to 5 minutes on the first side. Once the edges of the crêpe appear to be pulling away from your pan and the middle of the crêpe is bubbling, it is ready to flip. Slide your spatula between the crêpe and the pan. Gently lift the crêpe from the pan. Flip it over. It's ok if it tears. You'll get better as you make more.
- Once the crêpe has flipped over, it takes about 2 minutes to cook the other side. Lift the underside to check if it's brown. If so, it's ready to remove from the pan and serve. If it's still looking pale, give it 30 seconds more to cook.
- This is what the underside of the crêpe should look like when it's done.
- Follow the "Cook the crêpes" step to repeat for the remaining batter.
- Your crêpe is ready to fill and enjoy!
How to fold sweet crêpes
There are many different ways to serve crêpes. You can roll them into a cylinder like a spring roll. I like to fold them into half and then thirds to create a triangle shape. I think it looks the nicest and makes it easy to eat with a knife and fork.
- Spread the filling on half of the crêpe: Avoid overfilling the crêpe. You can always have another crêpe. I like to focus on filling a quarter of the crêpe to make it easier to fold up.
- Fold the unfilled side over: I like to leave a peek of the filled side because the presentation looks nice when serving the crêpe.
- Fold the 2 edges towards each other: Create a secure envelope that keeps the filling from falling out.