Johnnycakes Recipe

There’s no mistaking the sweet, pebbly punch of cornmeal. Just don’t tell a Rhode Islander that you’re making johnnycakes with anything other than the state’s signature white cornmeal, ground by a process that leaves the particles flat rather than granular. This recipe comes from Kenyon’s Grist Mill ( in Usquepaug, where they’ve been grinding it properly since 1886. The cakes are lighter and lacier than your typical flapjack, with a slightly crunchy crust that holds up nicely under a slathering of jam or a puddle of warm maple syrup.–Ryan D’Agostino

LC What Folks Are Saying About This Recipe Note

“A classic recipe for johnnycakes.” “Make more than you think you’ll need, these disappear quickly.” “A perfect savory alternative to the sweeter flour pancake type as part of a breakfast-for-dinner meal.” That’s what folks are saying about this johnnycakes recipe. Well, that’s what some folks are saying about this johnnycakes recipe. Others would beg to disagree. The thing is, you have to go in to a plateful of thesewith the proper expectations. These are johnnycakes. These are not pancakes. As such, they’re light and crunchier and, to some, lovelier. But make no mistake, they’re not pillowy or sweet. They’re gritty and sorta bland in a good way and arguably best stacked alongside bacon or sausage and doused with maple syrup or slid beneath something savory and roasted or braised so as to sop up those irresistible pan juices. We also sometimes use them much as we do arepas. Suit yourself.

Johnnycakes Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 45 M
  • Makes about 18 silver-dollar-size


  • 1 cup (115 to 140 grams) finely ground white cornmeal (see LC note above regarding the specific cornmeal that makes or breaks this simple recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 milliliters) water
  • Bacon fat or unsalted butter, for the griddle
  • Warm maple syrup, for serving


  • 1. Heat a well-seasoned griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat or preheat an electric griddle to 380°F (193°C).
  • 2. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  • 3. Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl with high sides. Gradually add some of the boiling water, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and thick enough to plop off the spoon in a blob. Think thick Cream of Wheat. (The goal is to scald the cornmeal with the boiling water, which essentially cooks the cornmeal in the bowl so the only thing you need to achieve in the skillet is crisp the exterior.)
  • 4. Test your griddle or skillet to make sure it’s the right hotness by flicking a drop of water on the griddle or skillet—it should skitter across the cooking surface. When the surface is sufficiently hot, slick it well with bacon fat or unsalted butter. Drop the batter by tablespoonsful onto the griddle or skillet. Using the edge of the spoon, chop across the surface of the blob of batter to release any air. Let the johnnycakes sit, without budging them, until the edges begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes, then flip them and keep frying until the cakes are cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes longer. (The timing will, of course, vary depending on just how hot your cooking surface is and just how big your blobs of johnnycakes batter. Best not to turn your back on the stovetop.)
  • 5. Transfer the johnnycakes to warmed serving plates and serve hot with maple syrup.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Hey, there. Just a reminder that all our content is copyright protected. Like a photo? Please don't use it without our written permission. Like a recipe? Kindly contact the publisher listed above for permission before you post it (that's what we did) and rewrite it in your own words. That's the law, kids. And don't forget to link back to this page, where you found it. Thanks!

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Apr 23, 2012

This is a classic recipe for johnnycakes. The key to success is in the boiling water, which scalds the cornmeal and enables the johnnycake to cook through on the griddle. The right cornmeal is also key. You don't have to use Kenyon's, but you do need to use a stone-ground cornmeal. What you are going to end up with is nothing like a typical pancake. It will have a crunchy crust, and be sturdy enough to pick up and eat with your hands. While these are great with maple syrup or homemade apple butter, they can also be taken in a more savory direction and topped with a salsa or relish. Make more than you think you'll need, these disappear quickly.

Cooking time was fairly accurate. Mine cooked just a little faster at about 5 minutes per side, maybe less for the second side. My yield was lower than specified. I got about 18 johnnycakes. These go down easy, so that just fed 2 of us—and we wouldn't have minded more. The cakes in the photo look more pancake-like than these actually are. And I, for one, can never get my johnnycakes so perfectly round.

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

Apr 23, 2012

I had never had johnnycakes, but I am very fond of a cornmeal pancake that we get at a place we like quite a bit. I thought, perhaps, these would be similar. They weren’t. But they proved to be very good. I halved the recipe because I thought that I had more cornmeal than I had. I made these in a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. I cooked some in butter and some in bacon fat, just as an experiment. We couldn’t tell the difference between the two. I actually did not need much fat in the pan because of how well-seasoned the skillet is from all its years of use. That didn't stop me from spreading some good butter on the hot johnnycakes after they came out of the pan. If you like butter, I do suggest you try that. It was really very good. My half a recipe yielded 12 silver dollar-sized cakes. After spreading them with the butter. they somehow made it into our mouths, no utensils necessary. We actually didn't even make it to the table. I don’t think that a full recipe would feed 4 people, unless you were serving the cakes with something like bacon, ham, or sausage.

Testers Choice
Pat Francis

Apr 23, 2012

These tiny cakes gave me a reason to pull white cornmeal out of the freezer. Out of sight, out of mind. I keep forgetting it’s there. To me, cornmeal cakes are a perfect savory alternative to the sweeter flour pancake type as part of a breakfast-for-dinner meal, and I prefer them. I had been making cornmeal pancakes with yellow cornmeal, but now I have a new option. Just a few ingredients, always on hand in the pantry (and freezer!), and these were on the table within 45 minutes of starting the water to boil.
While these came together pretty well, they probably would be better after more practice with the technique. I’m not sure I mixed in the water gradually enough, and it was difficult to get all of the bottom cornmeal incorporated in my high-sided heatproof bowl. Then I ended up using the edge of my metal spatula for the flattening out of the cakes in the skillet, as there was still too much batter stuck to the tablespoon to wield it effectively for that step. I think I’d go with a little bit more boiling water (maybe 1 1/3 cups) next time to get a slightly looser batter. The recipe made 18 cakes, which I cooked in 3 batches in a seasoned cast-iron skillet. The 6 minutes per side was right for the first batch and first side of the second, but I reduced it to 5 minutes per side after that so they wouldn’t burn. I was a little surprised that the 6 minutes per side did not burn them, given how small they were and how hot the pan was. They came out thin and somewhat crisp. The laciness was mostly around the edges. Again, I think the results would improve with practice, but we enjoyed these and two of us ate almost all of them in one sitting. They were served along with maple syrup, homemade ginger-cinnamon applesauce, bacon, and avocado toasts. I used Anson Mills fine white cornmeal for this. It seems like it should be the Southern equivalent of the Grist Mill, but perhaps not. I got 18 cakes. I would say this recipe would serve 3 people as part of a larger meal; 24 cakes would serve 4. I used unsalted butter to grease the skillet and re-greased it between batches.

Testers Choice
Suzanne Fortier

Apr 23, 2012

I've attempted to make johnnycakes in the past and found them to be underwhelming. For what is considered to be a traditional Rhode Island dish, you would be hard pressed to find johnnycakes on many restaurant menus. They are made with specially ground white corn and I highly recommend that you watch the video on the Kenyon's mill website ( before attempting the recipe. As the video instructs, these are NOT pancakes. They contain no eggs, flour, or leavening. In fact, the name is derived from the term "journey cakes," as they were made to travel. I followed the recipe directions, adding slightly less boiling water than directed, and my batter was the texture of thick Cream of Wheat. In retrospect, I wish I had made it thicker, as my johnnycakes were quite thin. It would be nice to have an electric griddle for this, as it took a couple of batches to get the timing right. I finally got the temp and timing right at 5 minutes each side. The recipe yielded thirteen 2 1/2-inch johnnycakes, although the first few were not really edible. We ate them as a side dish with scrambled eggs and bacon. The cakes were buttered and topped with maple syrup. My forthright taster commented that they were quite bland. She said, “They're like matzoh. No one really likes them, but you eat them anyway." As a taste of tradition, they're worth trying, but don't expect a fluffy stack of flapjacks.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.


Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail