What’s the Difference Between Hotcakes, Pancakes, and Flapjacks?

What’s batter than sinking your teeth into that first doughy and delicious bite of a pancake drizzled in pure maple syrup? The answer is nothing. There is indeed nothing better than that feeling of the first flapjack.

It’s the reason we celebrate pancakes as a go-to meal in the morning, and why some people make breakfast for dinner. Pancakes are delicious. Plain and simple. At least our crew likes to think so.

It’s also the reason why each year in the US we come together to celebrate the pancake in all its glory — there’s National Pancake Day, which occurs on March 1st this year. And then, of course, there’s National Flapjack Day — which occurs each year on March 7th.

Apparently, there’s even a National Pancake Day sometime in September.  A tasty treat like this deserves to be celebrated on more than one occasion!

So, all of this sweet talk about pancakes has our crew wondering — what’s the story with pancakes? Where did they come from? And why do some people call them flapjacks, while others call them hotcakes and so on and so on? Here’s what we came up with.

Flapjacks vs. Pancakes vs. Hotcakes

First, let’s settle the debate. Flapjacks, pancakes, and hotcakes are all essentially the same thing. Delicious.

The nuance in naming exists depending on where you live and the method in which you prepare it. For instance, folks from the South and Southeast call them flapjacks, while people from the West, North, and even the East tend to call them pancakes. Some states have entirely different names for pancakes altogether. And don’t even get us started on the differences across the pond in the UK.   

Here’s a more thorough explanation of the difference between Hotcakes, Pancakes, and Flapjacks in the US.

  • What is a Pancake? — By definition, a pancake is “a thin, flat cake of batter, usually fried and turned in a pan.” Typically prepared with flour, eggs, milk, butter and sometimes baking soda, pancakes are usually eaten with syrup or rolled up with a filling.
  • What is a Flapjack? Flapjacks are pancakes (unless you live in the UK). The folks at The Kitchen Community do a great job of explaining in more detail the true differences between flapjacks and pancakes across cultures.
  • What is a Hotcake? It’s a pancake. Our crew Googled it and the definition of a hotcake is in fact “a pancake.” There is, however, a subtle difference on how you prepare a hotcake versus a pancake. Generally, pancakes are wide and have a fluffy texture, whereas the hotcakes tend to be thicker and denser.

Our crew fell so far down the rabbit hole of pancakes, that we discovered there are way more names for pancakes than most folks realize.

There are…pancakes, flapjacks, griddle cakes, hotcakes, batter cakes, crepes, galettes, johnnycakes, blintzes, blinis, and our personal favorite…slapjacks. The list actually goes on and on.

Now that we’ve settled the old pancakes vs. flapjacks vs. hotcakes debate, our crew is curious about one very important thing…


Was it the Romans? Or maybe it was a man named Johnny?

Where else to turn for the most accurate info on all things pancakes than National Geographic.

According to Hot Off The Griddle, Here’s the History of Pancakes, our prehistoric ancestors may have in fact indulged in pancakes.

Analyses of starch grains on 30,000-year-old grinding tools suggest that Stone Age cooks were making flour out of cattails and ferns—which, researchers guess, was likely mixed with water and baked on a hot, possibly greased, rock.”

That sure sounds like a pancake to us. While the exact date, time, and person are almost impossible to find, the research from Nat Geo shows pancakes have been around for a very long time.

Whatever the age of the primal pancake, it’s clearly an ancient form of food, as evidenced by its ubiquity in cultural traditions across the globe.”


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