Cornmeal Johnnycakes

Cornmeal johnnycakes in a skillet with maple syrup
The Spruce
Prep: 70 mins
Cook: 66 mins
Rest Time: 10 mins
Total: 2 hrs 26 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yields: 22 (3-inch) cakes
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
183 Calories
4g Fat
31g Carbs
6g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 183
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 39mg 13%
Sodium 480mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 31g 11%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 130mg 10%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 173mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

What exactly are johnnycakes? Are they from the North, or are they from the South? They're fluffier than old-fashioned hot water cornbread and very similar to a cornmeal pancake. They happen to be delicious with maple syrup, cane syrup, or Southern sorghum syrup. You can also serve them as a savory bread, along with beans or greens.

So, the answer to the question is complicated. These cornmeal cakes are identified strongly with Jamaica and parts of the Eastern Caribbean, where they are often served with sautéed salt fish, but they can also be found in the American South and throughout New England, too, and have strong ties to Native American foods. Some think these fried cornmeal "johnnycakes" were originally called journey cakes because they could be packed to eat on long journeys, while others believe they were first called Shawnee cakes after the tribe in the Tennessee Valley; the "johnnycake" is a mispronunciation. According to "The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink" by John Mariani, the name "Rhode Island johnnycake" first appeared in print in 1739, going back to the Narragansett people, and an 1835 political cartoon by James Akin called johnnycake "the stamina of the South." 

These are delicious and can be as sweet as you like, or not. There's only a little bit of sugar in this recipe, so feel free to adjust to your liking.

1:20

Click Play to See These Johnnycakes Cornmeal Pancakes Come Together

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups milk

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup cornmeal

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • Cooking spray, for greasing pan

  • Butter and syrup, garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for johnnycakes

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  2. In a small pot on medium-low heat, add the milk with the butter and cook until the mixture begins to simmer.

    Milk and butter heated in a saucepan
    The Spruce
  3. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend. 

    Dry ingredients combined in a glass bowl with a whisk
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  4. Add the hot milk mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk to blend.

    Milk and butter being added to the dry ingredients for johnnycakes
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  5. Whisk in the beaten egg. Let batter sit 10 minutes to hydrate.

    Whisk in egg
     The Spruce
  6. Coat a large nonstick or cast-iron griddle or skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, ladle 2 tablespoons of batter per johnnycake onto the pan and spread to about 3 inches diameter, leaving a few inches of space between. Cook until golden brown on both sides, 11 to 12 minutes total. Spray the pan with a fresh coating of cooking oil between batches.

    Johnnycakes being cooked on a skillet
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  7. Serve hot with butter and syrup as for pancakes, or serve them as bread with butter.

    Johnny Cakes

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What Is the Difference Between a Johnnycake and Cornbread?

Cornbread is a quick bread that is typically made with cornmeal and all-purpose flour, along with some combination of buttermilk, egg, and/or milk. Johnnycakes, on the other hand, are more like a cornmeal flatbread that some liken to pancakes because they are often cooked on a griddle, but some versions are baked in the oven.

Tips

  • If you are making batches, preheat the oven to 200 F before you begin. Put the finished pancakes on a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while you make subsequent batches. 

Recipe Variations

  • Fry the johnnycakes in hot bacon drippings and serve with bacon.
  • Decrease or omit the sugar altogether if you prefer a more savory johnnycake.