Flapjacks vs Pancakes: What Is the Difference?

When you hear the sizzle of batter hitting a hot skillet, it might make you wonder: Are we talking about flapjacks or pancakes? Though many use the terms interchangeably, especially in the U.S., they point to quite different delights depending on where you are.

In America, ‘flapjacks’ often refers to pancakes, but travel over to the UK, and you’ll find flapjacks are sweet, chewy oat bars—quite a departure from the fluffy American pancake.

As we delve into the Flapjacks vs Pancakes debate, we’ll uncover the unique characteristics that define these breakfast favorites on either side of the Atlantic. So grab your fork and ready your appetite as we explore the nuances that make each so beloved. Let’s get into the tasty details and find out which one might win a place at your breakfast table!

What Are Flapjacks?

Flapjacks in Britain are quite different from what many might imagine. Unlike American pancakes, British flapjacks are sweet, chewy bars made primarily from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar, and golden syrup. These ingredients combine to create a dense, energy-packed snack perfect for a quick boost.

Traditionally, flapjacks can be jazzed up with additions like nuts or chocolate chips, adding a little extra flavor and texture. Originating in the late 1500s, these oat bars have become a staple of British teatime and a symbol of hearty, British cuisine. With each bite, not only are you enjoying a delicious treat, but you’re also getting a taste of British history.

Flapjacks in tray on a table

What are Pancakes?

Pancakes are a popular breakfast dish in many parts of the world, especially in the United States. They are made from a batter that includes flour, eggs, milk, and a leavening agent like baking powder, which helps them rise and become fluffy. Cooked on a griddle or frying pan, pancakes are often enjoyed with toppings such as syrup, butter, fruit, or whipped cream.

They come in various sizes and thicknesses but are typically light, soft, and slightly sweet. This versatile dish can be adapted to include additional flavors like blueberries, chocolate chips, or bananas, making pancakes a beloved choice for a comforting and customizable breakfast.

Pancake topped with cream and served with egg on a plate.

Global Pancake Varieties

Pancakes are a cherished breakfast dish worldwide, known for their versatility and delightful flavors. Here are some of the diverse ways pancakes are enjoyed across the globe, showcasing how different cultures reimagine this simple yet satisfying meal:

  • Crepes (France): Thin and delicate, French crepes are versatile and can be filled with anything from ham and cheese for a savory meal to strawberries and cream for a sweet treat. They’re typically made with flour, eggs, milk, and butter, resulting in a silky, soft texture.
  • Blinis (Russia): Traditionally made from buckwheat flour, blinis are small, yeasted pancakes that are commonly served with sour cream, caviar, or smoked salmon. These Traditional Russian pancakes are a staple at festive occasions and a delightful way to enjoy a range of toppings.
  • Kutab (Azerbaijan): An Azerbaijani herb-filled wheat pancake that combines fresh greens and sometimes meat for a savory twist. Made with a simple dough and cooked on a griddle, kutab is a popular street food in Azerbaijan.
  • Dutch Baby Pancake (Germany/USA): Baked in a skillet, this pancake puffs up in the oven and falls slightly as it cools. Made with eggs, flour, sugar, and milk, it’s often served with fresh fruit, syrup, or powdered sugar for a spectacular breakfast or brunch presentation.
  • Draniki (Belarus): Known in Belarus, Dranikis are hearty potato pancakes typically stuffed with sausage or other fillings. They’re often served with sour cream or applesauce and are a comforting, savory dish.
  • Okonomiyaki (Japan): Often referred to as “Japanese pizza,” okonomiyaki is a thick, savory pancake filled with a variety of ingredients like cabbage, pork, shrimp, and topped with a tangy sauce and mayonnaise. It’s a hearty dish that’s both flavorful and filling.
  • Poffertjes (Netherlands): These are Dutch mini-pancakes, known for their fluffy texture and typically served with powdered sugar and butter.

Each of these pancakes offers a unique taste experience, reflecting the rich culinary traditions of their respective cultures. Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory, there’s a pancake from around the world to satisfy your craving.

Examining the Differences: Flapjacks vs Pancakes

In the United States, the terms “pancakes” and “flapjacks” usually mean the same thing: those delicious, thin batter cakes we all love. But in the United Kingdom or Ireland, you’ll find that “flapjacks” and “pancakes” are quite different treats listed separately on menus. So, what exactly distinguishes these two beloved dishes? Let’s dive into the delicious details that set them apart.

Texture Differences

When it comes to texture, flapjacks and pancakes couldn’t be more different. British flapjacks are chewy and dense, made primarily from oats which give them a hearty, substantial feel. These are the snacks you reach for a midday boost.

In contrast, American pancakes are light and fluffy, often so soft they can soak up syrup like a sponge, providing a delightful, airy mouthfeel perfect for a leisurely breakfast. In fact, their texture is more akin to Belgian waffles, which are also known for their light and fluffy consistency.

Piece of pancake on a fork.

Main Ingredients

The main ingredients also set these two apart significantly. Flapjacks are oat-based and typically include butter, brown sugar, and golden syrup, which contribute to their sticky, chewy texture. Pancakes, on the other hand, are made from a batter that includes flour, eggs, milk, and a leavening agent like baking powder, creating a smooth and fluffy texture that’s ideal for breakfast.

Typical Use

Flapjacks in the UK are often consumed as a snack or a quick energy booster, suitable for any time of the day but particularly popular in the afternoon. Pancakes in the US are predominantly a breakfast item, served warm with butter, syrup, and sometimes fruits or other sweet toppings to start the day with a satisfying meal.

Cultural Origins

Flapjacks in a tray on table

Culturally, flapjacks hold a firm place in British and Irish snack cuisine, often found in cafés and packed as a sweet treat for hikes or picnics. Pancakes have a broader appeal and are a staple in American breakfast culture, though variations like the French crêpe or Japanese okonomiyaki show how versatile and globally embraced the pancake concept is.

Each country has adapted the basic idea to fit local tastes and ingredients, showcasing the pancake’s versatility across different culinary landscapes.

Toppings Galore: Customizing Your Treats

Say goodbye to the monotonous drizzle of maple syrup on your breakfast canvas. Pancakes and flapjacks are about to get a delightful facelift. Let’s explore how a variety of delicious additions can customize and elevate these popular breakfast choices.

Sweet and Savory Ideas for Pancakes

Transform ordinary pancakes into extraordinary creations with both classic and innovative toppings. Start with a decadent spread of chocolate ganache or a sprinkle of powdered sugar for a sweet treat. Or, for a savory twist, top your pancakes with elements from an eggs Benedict—think a layer of ham topped with a poached egg and a drizzle of hollandaise sauce.

Two pancakes topped with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and honey in tray

Get creative and combine crispy bacon or lush blueberries drizzled with honey to cater to any craving. Whether you’re in the mood for a decadent treat or a healthier option, these toppings turn pancakes into a versatile base for all your culinary experiments.

Creative Twists on Traditional Flapjacks

Not to be outdone, British flapjacks offer a robust base for customization. These oat-based bars pair wonderfully with a variety of syrups such as maple, agave, or rich date syrup, each adding a unique sweetness.

For texture and extra flavor, mix in nuts like almonds and pecans or add dried fruits for a chewy contrast. For those seeking a healthier option, substitute whole wheat flour to boost the fiber content without losing the beloved taste of traditional flapjacks.


As we’ve seen, flapjacks and pancakes each hold a special place in their respective culinary worlds. Flapjacks, with their hearty, oaty texture, are a staple in British teatime, offering a dense, chewy snack that’s perfect with a cup of tea. On the other hand, American pancakes are the star of breakfast, light and fluffy, ready to soak up syrup and start the day with a smile.

Both offer diverse possibilities for customization, from sweet syrups and fruits to savory bacon and eggs. Whether you choose the robust simplicity of a flapjack or the tender fluffiness of a pancake, each offers a delicious way to enjoy traditional recipes that have delighted diners for generations.


Are flapjacks considered a healthy snack?

While flapjacks contain oats which are healthy, they also include high amounts of sugar and butter. For a healthier version, you can reduce the sugar or substitute it with natural sweeteners like honey.

How do you prevent pancakes from becoming too dense?

To keep pancakes light and fluffy, avoid over-mixing the batter. Lumps are okay and ensure that the gluten in the flour doesn’t overdevelop, which can make pancakes tough.

Can pancakes be frozen for later use?

Yes, pancakes freeze well. Layer them between sheets of parchment paper and store them in a freezer-safe bag or container. They can be reheated in a microwave, toaster, or oven.

What type of pan is best for cooking pancakes?

A non-stick skillet or griddle is ideal for cooking pancakes, as it allows for easy flipping and minimal sticking without the need for excessive oil.

Are pancakes strictly a breakfast food?

While pancakes boast the title of the ultimate breakfast classic, do not let that fool you! Pancakes have gone rogue, breaking the chains of breakfast to appear in brunch, lunch, and even dinner settings, often jazzed up with toppings that travel the entire sweet to savory spectrum.

How do I choose between flapjacks and pancakes?

If you’re leaning towards something sweet and chewy for a snack or dessert, flapjacks are your ticket. If you’re in the mood for something fluffy and tender, that’ll soak up maple syrup like a sponge, then pancakes might just be your breakfast soulmate.

What are some other names for pancakes around the world?

In the States, you might hear hotcakes or griddlecakes. In Sweden, enjoy the delicate, wafer-thin splendor of a Swedish pancake. Over in France, you’ve got the crêpe showing off both sweet and savory styles. And let’s not forget about Japan’s okonomiyaki, a pancake that’s not afraid to mix it up with a bold lineup of ingredients!