As social media supplements more and more of our in-person experiences of cooking, creating and eating, content focused on sensory pleasures has inched its way into the mainstream. Foodies, of course, have always been at the forefront of this movement, capturing first cuts, last bites, and hyper-speed transformations from raw ingredient to perfectly plated. Japanese fluffy pancakes, also referred to as Japanese soufflé pancakes, captured the hearts and appetites of food-lovers the world over for their friendly jiggle, dramatic first slice reveals, and endless topping and flavor variations. Add to these delights the texture-rich how-it’s-made video, in which shining egg yolks dance in their shells and the camera zooms in on the micro-bubbly meringue’s first peak: Japanese pancakes have true internet staying power.
By contrast, American-style pancakes are a simple, pantry-to-skillet affair. Eggs, flour, and friends are mixed just enough so as not to lose their rather...humble “fluffiness.” The most theatrical they get is when the chef decides to flip them in the air. Despite their cosmetic and yes, cultural differences, American-style and Japanese soufflé pancakes are made of (roughly) the same ingredients, in pans, with a special attention for bubbles. The real difference? The eggs.
We begin with quantity: Japanese soufflé pancakes require a much higher egg-to-flour ratio. Second, what happens once all those eggs are separated: the whites are whipped into a meringue and carefully folded into a yolk batter. The goal is protecting those tiny bubbles, the invisible heroes who will keep Japanese soufflé pancakes tall and very light. While American-style pancakes (especially the “box mix” variety) are a beginner’s dish, Japanese fluffy pancakes might challenge the novice baker. With that in mind, we’ve put together instructions for absolute kitchen newbies.
How to make your own Japanese fluffy pancakes (makes three):
First, gather your ingredients:
Two eggs (keep refrigerated until you need them)
Whole milk (1 ½ Tbsp)
Flour (¼ cup)
Baking powder (½ tsp)
Salt (¼ tsp)
Vanilla extract (¼ tsp)
Sugar (2 Tbsp)
Cream of Tartar (recommended for easier meringue, but not required)
Water (2-3 Tbsp, as needed)
Toppings: your choice!
Two mixing bowls
12” non-stick pan with lid (ideally clear, so you can watch your Japanese fluffy pancakes rise!)
Electric hand mixer (Substitute: a fork and very strong wrist!)
Thin, flat utensil for flipping
Skills you’ll practice: separating eggs, making meringue, “folding” (enjoy, fans of Schitt’s Creek!), slowly steaming, and gently flipping some rather tall Japanese pancakes! Plus, patience.
- Remove your eggs from the fridge. Separate your whites into a larger bowl (you’ll be whisking here later), and the yolks into another.
- Set aside the egg whites so they can warm a bit.
- Grab your egg yolks: add milk and vanilla, then whisk by hand until combined. Hand-whisk flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Time to make the meringue! Plug in your electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the eggs make soft peaks when you remove your whisk.
- Increase to medium speed. add sugar slowly (if you have it, also add your cream of tartar). Watch the surface: when your peaks get pointy, you’re done!
- Folding time! Spoon ⅓ of your meringue onto your yolk batter and, with your hand whisk, Slowly bring the yolk batter towards you. Gently “fold” it over the egg whites like a blanket, stirring several times with the whisk. Repeat twice until you’ve fully combined the meringue.
- Heat a drop of oil in your pan. Once heated, keep your flame low. This is a slow process!
- Spoon about ⅓ of the batter into your pan (2-3 Tbsp for each pancake). Add 2 Tbsp of water in between the pancakes and immediately cover with the lid. Set your timer for 3 minutes.
- Repeat the previous step: carefully spoon 2 Tbsp onto each pancake, add water and set the timer. When the timer goes off, do it again. Now all the batter should be stacked in your pan!
- Remove the lid and carefully flip each pancake over. The reverse side should be golden. Add two Tbsp of water between the pancakes and keep covered for a full 8 minutes.
- Remove lid and serve immediately with the toppings of your choice! Whipped cream and berries are great, as is the American classic, maple syrup. Itadakimasu! How lucky you are to eat this delicious food.
If you’ve been eyeing Japanese souffle pancakes from afar, we encourage you to exit the mesmerizing world of Japanese pancake videos and try to make your own! They require just a few staple ingredients, so you can always give it another try if your first attempt falls flatter than you’d like. Slip into your aprons and do your best. Ganbatte kudasai! You can do it!