Hungarian crepes (Palacsinta)

No doubt, the number one dessert food in Hungary is palacsinta, wonderfully thin, unyeasted pancakes similar to French crepes. They're usually rolled with sweet fillings like apricot jam or sugary cottage cheese (túró), but savory stuffings also exist, most famously in the veal-stew filled Hortobágyi palacsinta. Getting the right batter consistency involves a bit of trial and error, but once you nail it palacsinta becomes a quick and easy go-to dessert food.

Ingredients

Yield: makes about 12 pieces; Total time: 25 minutes

For the palacsinta

  • 150 grams (1 ¼ cup) all-purpose flour

  • 2 eggs

  • 175 ml (¾ cup) whole milk

  • 175 ml (¾ cup) water

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted (for the batter)

  • 2 tablespoons butter (for the pan)

  • Pinch of salt

Fillings

  • Common fillings in Hungary include fruit preserves (apricot, raspberry, plum, blueberry), sweetened túró, lemon mixed with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, and Nutella.

For the sweetened túró, mix together: 

  • 400 grams (2 cups) cottage cheese, mashed with a fork to a paste

  • 4 tablespoons sour cream

  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

  • Freshly grated lemon zest and juice using 1 small lemon

  • 2 tablespoons raisins

Directions

  • Step 1: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a pan. Then using a blender or a whisk, mix together the flour, liquid (milk and water), eggs, sugar, vanilla sugar, melted butter, and salt in a small pot. At this point, if you put aside the batter for half an hour — for it to absorb all the flour — the palacsinta will be extra smooth, but many people forego this step, including myself.

  • Step 2: With a teaspoon of butter, lightly coat the surface of a regular-sized (10-inch) non-stick pan on medium-high. Once butter is bubbling, using a ladle, pour a quarter of a cup (about half a ladle) of batter onto the hot pan and spread it evenly across the surface so it forms a thin layer. Cook the first side until splotches of brown appear, about a minute, then flip it over with a spatula and do the other side for half a minute. Transfer the palacsinta to a plate and cover the pile with another plate so they keep warm.

  • Step 3: Repeat for the remaining batter. After each palacsinta, re-butter the pan with a touch of butter so the batter doesn’t stick to the bottom and palacsinta gets extra tasty.

  • Step 4: Fill the palacsintas as desired, roll them into logs, and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Alternatively, serve them unfilled piled on a serving plate and let people finish it themselves.

Words of advice

The first palacsinta often turns out less than optimal because the pan isn’t hot enough or evenly buttered. If that’s the case, don’t feel discouraged — gobble it down and move on to the next one.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.