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11 May 2021

This johnny cakes recipe, aka hoe cakes, makes fluffy, flavorful cornmeal pancakes that are perfect for breakfast or for topping with savory ingredients. So delicious!

We’re cooking up southern Johnny Cakes in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. Would you care for one? If you’ve never tried Johnny Cakes, you’re in for a special treat.

These cornmeal pancakes are absolutely delicious, and I think you’re going to love them.

Johnny Cakes are basically pancakes made with cornmeal, giving them a distinctive corn flavor. They go by different names depending on where you find them, such as hoe cakes, journey cakes, Shawnee cakes, johnny bread, cornmeal flatbread and others.

They originate in early America with native Americans and are served in different parts of the world, from the American south to Jamaica.

I see johnny cakes on menus all over the south, where they are widely popular. They’re often served as a side, though many enjoy them for breakfast. Recipes in my Jamaican cookbooks use only flour and skip the cornmeal. I particularly love the cornmeal version, as it makes the flavor more distinctive.

Patty and I love to use them as a base and top them with meats, like pulled pork or pulled chicken. Pour over a bit of sauce or gravy and boom! Big flavor right there. They’re a blank slate for the spicy food lover.

As with any recipe, you’ll find variations from place to place and cook to cook, with different ingredients added in, different thickness of batter and more. Consider this as a base recipe that you can easily vary up in creative ways.

Let’s talk about how we make Johnny Cakes, shall we?

A stack of Johnny Cakes on a serving plate with melted butter

Johnny Cakes Ingredients

  • Flour. All-purpose flour is best for this recipe.
  • Cornmeal.
  • Baking Powder.
  • Salt.
  • Eggs.
  • Buttermilk. You can use milk instead. Whole milk is great.
  • Water. 
  • Oil. For cooking. You can use any fat, like bacon fat, lard, melted butter. Use your preference.

Johnny Cakes Ingredients

How to Make Johnny Cakes – the Recipe Method

Mix Dry Ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder until combined.

Make the Johnny Cake Batter. Stir in the beaten eggs, buttermilk or milk and water. Mix until you have a thick batter. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes to hydrate the dry ingredients.

Johnny Cakes batter in a bowl

Cook the Johnny Cakes. Heat a bit of oil in a large cast iron skillet or frying pan to medium heat. Add 1/4 cup johnny cake batter to the pan and cook 5 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown.

Johnny Cakes cooking in a hot pan

Repeat! Remove the johnny cakes from the pan and set them onto a baking sheet or plate. Repeat with the remaining batter until all the batter is used up. Add more oil to the pan as needed. Serve hot!

Makes about 10 thick johnny cakes.

Boom! Done! Johnny cakes are ready to serve. What do you think? They look so inviting, don’t they? I just want to eat them all up again. So delicious with their distinctive corn flavor.

Mike taking a bit of his buttery Johnny Cakes

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Thinner Johnny Cakes. This recipe makes thick, fluffy johnny cakes. You can make them thinner by thinning out the batter with a bit more milk or water, up to 1/2 cup or more. This makes them more like corn crepes.
  • Recipe Variations. You can easily include other ingredients to change the flavor of your johnny cakes. Add vanilla, sugar or honey for sweetness, spices like nutmeg or chili powder, melted butter for richness. Make an extra spicy version, my chilihead friends. I know you want to!
  • Cheesy Johnny Cakes. Try adding shredded cheese to the batter before cooking for cheesy johnny cakes. They’re so good! I love these as appetizers or snacks. You can easily add in 1 cup of shredded cheese or more. They’re a bit like cheesy cornbread waffles this way.
  • Serving Ideas. Most people serve their johnny cakes with butter and maple syrup. This is great for breakfast, but we love to use them as a base. Top them with pulled pork or a spicy curry, or serve them alongside soups or stews to sop up the gravy. Make small johnny cakes and top them creatively for easy appetizers or party treats.
  • Storing. You can make johnny cakes ahead of time and keep them covered in the refrigerator for a couple days. Easily reheat them in a hot pan or in the oven to serve. You can also freeze them in an airtight container for a month or longer. Reheat and you’re good to go.
  • Can I Make Johnny Cakes without Masarepa? Yes, you can, though the flavor may be different. Try using the following recipe, given to me by an avid visitor here. Thanks, Jérémie!

Masarepa Substitute

  • 1 1/2 cups masa harina
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour or almond flour
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour or arrowroot starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Johnny Cakes on a plate

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this johnny cakes recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Johnny Cakes with melted butter

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Mike taking a bit of his buttery Johnny Cakes
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Johnny Cakes Recipe

This johnny cakes recipe, aka hoe cakes, makes fluffy, flavorful cornmeal pancakes that are perfect for breakfast or for topping with savory ingredients. So delicious!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: breakfast, cornmeal, southern
Servings: 10 johnny cakes
Calories: 160kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour use all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Salt to taste I use 1/2 teaspoon
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk or use milk - use more for thinner johnny cakes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons oil or use butter or lard

Instructions

  • Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  • Stir in the beaten eggs, buttermilk or milk and water. Mix until you have a thick batter. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes to hydrate the dry ingredients.
  • Heat a bit of oil in a large pan to medium heat. Add 1/4 cup johnny cake batter to the pan and cook 5 minutes per side, or until they are nicely browned.
  • Remove the johnny cakes from the pan and repeat until all the batter is used up. Add more oil to the pan as needed. Serve.

Notes

Makes about 10 thick johnny cakes.
Add more milk or water to your batter for thinner johnny cakes, about 1/4 cup or more, to your preference.

Nutrition

Calories: 160kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 40mg | Potassium: 230mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 87IU | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 1mg