Icelandic pancakes - Pönnukökur

To me, pancakes always evoke the image of my grandmothers, both of whom are expert pancake makers, and will whip up a batch at a moments' notice. These pancakes are quick and (fairly) easy to make, and how you serve them depends on the occasion. Rolled up with sugar, they make an excellent addition to afternoon tea (or coffee, depending on your preferences). Spread with jam and folded up with whipped cream, they are a delicacy fit for festive occasions. This recipe comes from my maternal grandmother.

This "recipe" is only a guideline to help first time pancake-makers along. As you become more fluent in pancake-making, you will probably develop your own "dash-of-this, a-little-of-that" recipe, as I have.

1 cup flour
1 medium egg (the original calls for two eggs - I prefer to use just one)
dash of baking soda
a dash of baking powder
100 grams margarine/butter, or equivalent amount of cooking oil
milk, as needed.
These are the basic ingredients. I also add about a tsp of one of the following: essence of cardamom, lemon juice/lemon essence, or vanilla essence.

convert measures

Melt the margarine or butter in a skillet or Icelandic pancake pan. Allow to cool slightly. Mix up the dry ingredients and add some milk to make a thin batter. Add the egg(s) and stir well. Add the margarine/butter (don't wipe or wash the skillet after poring off the fat). Cooling the fat is important, because if it is too hot, the egg(s) will curdle and make lumps in the dough. If you are using oil, don't heat it, just pour straight into the batter, and wipe a bit of oil onto the pan to grease it. Experiment with the thickness of the dough.

Heat the skillet over high heat and lower to medium. Pour on a portion of the dough, just enough to cover the pan (this is a skill that will come with practice), and roll the pan around in a circle to spread the dough over it. When the edges begin to lift from the pan and the underside is golden brown, turn over and fry the other side.

A properly seasoned pan should be almost non-stick, but if you are using a freshly seasoned pan, you may need to add a little oil to the pan after every few pancakes, to prevent sticking.

The pancakes should be thin - a proper Icelandic pancake is only about a couple of millimetres thick. Stack the pancakes on a plate and sprinkle some sugar on top of each pancake to prevent them from sticking together. These pancakes can be frozen and re-heated in a microwave oven.

An Icelandic pancake pan, with pancake. This is basically a round skillet with a thick bottom. The thick bottom is necessary, since the pancakes must be fried quickly at a relatively high temperature.

Serving suggestions:
  • Sprinkle with sugar and roll up, eat and enjoy - either warm or cold. Jam or jelly, especially rhubarb jam, blueberry or strawberry jam, is also excellent on rolled pancakes. 
  • Stack the pancakes, spreading jam on top of each one. Cut into wedges and serve like a cake, with whipped cream .
  • Make cream pancakes.

To make cream pancakes:
Cover the centre of each pancake with your favourite jam or jelly, add a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream (pancakes must be cold), fold in half, and again in half. You should now have a big puffy wedge. Especially good served with hot cocoa.


Anonymous said…
i love pancakes hmmm....yummy
Ben Thorwaldson said…
Icelandic pancakes have been a family tradition with us as long as I can remember. I'm a Californian of Icelandic descent, and thought I'd check some authentic recipes to see how close ours were to "real ones"...and it turns out there pretty much the same. Love the blog...gave me some good ideas for the next time I make the pancakes. Thanks!
Bibliophile said…
You're welcome, Ben. Thanks for visiting my blog.
Anonymous said…
I also love these pancakes and make them on all festive occasions (which is usually anytime) I lived in Iceland for 8 years and loved it! One of my daughters was born there. If anyone knows someone who can send me the pans I would appreciate it. I've not found any that were reasonably priced (over $50 us plus postage is just too much for me) since I need 3 of them, one for each daughter. Love your site!
Anonymous said…
My nine year old son selected Iceland for his 3rd grade "country" project. Students are encouraged to bring a dish to we plan on making Ponnukokur tomorrow evening. I'll use one of my grandmothers ancient cast iron pans, carefully follow your recipe and cross my fingers!

You've designed a terrific site. I love the comments and background stories re: these interesting recipes. We've enjoyed learning about the land of Fire and Ice...a place we knew little about before this project. Thank you!

Ann & Ry, Chagrin Falls/Bainbridge, Ohio
Bibliophile said…
Thanks for visiting, Anna & Ry. I hope your pancake-making is successful!
Anonymous said…
I married a first generation American of Icelandic decent in 1973. His Icelandic mother brought me one of the "pancake pans" back from Iceland. I have the Icelandic recipe written with metric measurements! My daughter just got married in May and I am in communication with Icelandic cousins about getting a pan for her as a Christmas present. One must continue the tradition!
*Suzy* said…
I"m going to make these for my co-workers tomorrow, Christmas Eve. I lived in Iceland on the NATO base and learned to make Icelandic pancakes then. Thanks for your blog. I'm excited to read more.

judiabbott said…
Just came back from my second trip to Iceland, but this time I had a friend there to share my time with. She bought Icelandic Flat Bread and we spread butter on it and had a feast! She told me about the pancakes (sounds like the Swedish pancakes) so I came to your site looking for recipes--Thanks so much for your great site. JJ
Tomek said…
This recipe is basically the same we usually use here in Czech republic. I can't imagine what other ways are to make a pancake.. if there are.. are there?
this is really common recipe for pancakes to me.

Thanks for your blog!
Bibliophile said…
Tomek, you'd be surprised. There are thick vs. thin pancakes, crisp vs. soft, sweet vs. savoury, yeast vs. baking powder vs. baking soda vs. eggs vs. sourdough to make them rise, and then there are pancakes with different flours giving different tastes (e.g. dosas, which are made with ground lentils, buckwheat galettes, cornmeal johnnycakes, etc.). You could in fact fill a cookbook with different pancake recipes.
Michael said…
Brand new to your blog. Stumbled on it while reading about Iceland! These pancakes are virtually the same as "rollups" my mother made for me. Looking forward to trying your recipes and enjoying some wonderful meals. One you have a Christmas Pudding recipe? Read about it but only could find Christmas Bread recipe. Thanks. Michael from Wisconsin
Bibliophile said…
Michael, could this be the Christmas pudding you refer to?:

It's originally Danish, but it has become a tradition for many Icelandic families to serve it at Christmas.

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