These Scallion Pancakes Are the Greatest Recipe of All Time (2024)

You know those recipes we hold near and dear to our hearts because they really are the greatest of all time? Well, our Greatest Recipe of All Time series is where we wax poetic about them. Today, food stylist Sue Li shares her recipe for scallion pancakes.

You know that fried disc with a sprinkle of scallions and a not-so-subtle dash of MSG that you often get at the Chinese restaurant? It’s a little soggy from oil but still has that oozy crunch? Well, that’s what most people in America perceive to be scallion pancakes. Sorry dudes, that’s not the real scallion pancake.

In my childhood in Taiwan in the late 80s, scallion pancakes were as ubiquitous as a slice on New York City street corners. It was a snack my uncle might buy me when he came to pick me from school and I’d devour them on the ride home. It’s usually flaky and crunchy and doughy all at the same time but never greasy. Ordered from street carts that dotted the alleys, for roughly $1 apiece, they come in plastic bags. You can get the chili sauce directly on them or on the side in a separate small baggie. Or if you’re an old-timer (aka traditionalist) like my grandpa, you get it with several squirts of black vinegar. You can’t go wrong with either sauces, and I’ve since put the two together with some minor tweaks and made a vinegary chili sauce for the recipe.

When my family and I moved to small town Texas when I was seven years old, one thing I craved the most was scallion pancakes. My mom, more of a career woman than a housewife in her past life in Taiwan, had to teach herself how to make them. This was pre-internet, so she went with her “instincts.”

(A little background: My mother thinks she can make anything. She’ll go into Macy’s, study a sweater inside and out, turn to me and say, “I can knit that,” drop the mic, and walk away.) So, she made some kind of dough with just all-purpose flour and water, rolled it out, sprinkled scallions and mimicked the shape of a scallion pancake and fried it. It was not good. The dough was fried on the outside, the layers inside were thick and tacky. My brother and I ate them because we’re good, obedient kids, but whoa, it was hard.

My mom didn’t give up on The Scallion Pancake because she wanted to eat them, too. Many long distance calls were placed to my grandmother. How is the dough made? What’s the ratio of scallions to dough? What kind of fat is used? What’s the technique when you fry them?

The big reveal was: The dough is a mixture of all-purpose flour and boiling water and it needs to be soft and slightly yielding like your thighs. (Grandma said soft like an earlobe but, honestly, I never felt that to be true. I compared my dough to many fleshy parts of my body and I found that the softness is more like my thighs.) The dough should be brushed with lard, but lard wasn’t easy to find in our suburban grocery store, so my mom used vegetable oil. A few large pinches of scallions are enough because too much would make the dough soggy. When frying the pancakes, flip them constantly and try to hit the edges of the pancakes against the pan to help the layers separate. My mom followed her mother’s advice and finally got it.

The ideal scallion pancake: About the size of a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut, crunchy on the outside, multi-layered and doughy on the inside with the perfect ratio of scallions. Traditionally, the recipe uses lard but as I mentioned, my mom used vegetable oil. I met the two versions in the middle and substituted the oil with schmaltz—it practically runs in my veins after almost two decades in New York. The schmaltz also adds that bit of flavor that’s akin to MSG without that puckered, dry-mouth feel.

So, I recommend you make these pancakes. They're the "greatest recipe of all time," after all. You don’t have to eat them entirely in one-sitting, but you won’t be judged if you do. Wrap any uncooked pancakes individually in plastic wrap and freeze them. The next time you really crave an appetizer with your Chinese take-out, just grab one from the freezer, thaw, and fry in the time it takes the delivery to get to your door.

Get the recipe: Scallion Pancakes and Dipping Sauce

These Scallion Pancakes Are the Greatest Recipe of All Time (2024)


What is a fun fact about scallion pancakes? ›

Here's a fun fact about the scallion pancake: according to legend, Marco Polo loved these pancakes. When he returned home to Italy, he had some chefs make a different type of pancake so he could have some more. But what he got was the ancestor of another dish we all know and love her in modern day America: pizza.

What is the history of scallion pancakes? ›

Some have speculated that cong you bin may have been inspired by paratha, the Indian flatbread with a visibly similar construction; chopped scallions, a typical Chinese garnish, were possibly added to the dough along the way. By that theory, a busy international port city like Shanghai may have birthed them.

What are scallion pancakes called in Chinese? ›

Cong you bing (cōngyóubǐng) (Chinese: 蔥油餅; pinyin: cōngyóubǐng; Wade–Giles: Ts'ung1-yu2-ping3; lit. 'scallion oil pancake'; Mandarin pronunciation [tsʰʊ́ŋjǒʊpìŋ]), also known as scallion pancake or "green onion pancake", is a Chinese savory, unleavened flatbread folded with oil and minced scallions (green onions).

Why are my scallion pancakes tough? ›

It's not okay: To use hot water because it'll make the dough tougher. To not rest the dough in Step 1 because it'll make the dough harder to roll. To skip the slamming in Step 5 because the pancake will be dense rather than fluffy.

How are you supposed to eat scallion pancakes? ›

They're served with a sweet soy-ginger-Sriracha dipping sauce and paired with a lightly dressed red cabbage-cucumber salad for a classic Chinese treat you won't be able to get enough of.

Why are scallion pancakes so good? ›

It's not as complicated as it sounds, and all the layers of oil create a laminated dough that retains the layers after it's been cooked. If youve never had a chewy, crispy, flaky scallion pancake, you owe it to yourself to find a place that does them justice, and order up a plateful of them.

What are other names for scallion pancakes? ›

A scallion pancake, also known as a green onion pancake or spring onion pancake is a kind of pancake made with scallions. It is usually chewy, flaky, and savory. Examples include: Cōng yóu bǐng, a Chinese pancake made with scallions.

How to eat scallion pancakes for breakfast? ›

Place the scallion pancake on top (the golden brown side facing down. Once the eggs have set, flip to the other side and add toppings. Let cook for 1-2 minutes then slide it onto a plate. Let cool a bit, cut in half and enjoy!

Are scallion pancakes unhealthy? ›

Are scallion pancakes healthy. Scallion pancakes that are served at restaurants arent as healthy as what you would make at home. They tend to be a bit greasy at restaurants and loaded with oil and butter. Making them at home would be a much healthier option for you.

Is Chinese pizza the same as scallion pancakes? ›

Scallion pancakes, also known as Chinese pizza, is one of my favorite foods. In mandarin it is 蔥油餅 which directly translates to: onion oil cake. Not only are the ingredients simple, but also the texture is flaky and crispy.

What is scallion pancake called in Taiwan? ›

Another version popular in Taiwan and Shandong is the Flaky Scallion Pancake, also known as 蔥抓餅 (Cong Zhua Bing).

How many calories in a scallion pancake? ›

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Are scallions and green onions the same? ›

Scallions and green onions are literally the same thing.

The only difference is how they're chosen to be labeled at the store. Spring onions, on the other hand, are a different thing. The bulb of a spring onion is much larger, compared to the small, not-so-bulbous scallion.

What does scallion pancake taste like? ›

Scallion pancakes aren't sweet. I'm not sure if they qualify as breakfast food. What they are is savory, fatty, and flavorful. The best way to describe the taste is to imagine a thick sour cream and onion potato chip, and that's about as close as I can think of.

What are some fun facts about pancakes? ›

Here are some interesting historical and cultural facts about pancakes that you may not have known before:
  • The oldest written record we have of pancakes is from ancient Greece. ...
  • Pancakes were Ötzi the Iceman's last meal. ...
  • Pancake Day and Shrove Tuesday fall on the same day.
Jan 5, 2023

What is special about pancakes? ›

“What links pancakes from different ingredients and different cultures … is their flat shape, which helps them cook through quickly,” says food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark. “They're relatively simple, and their smallish size makes them easy to eat.”

Who invented scallion pancakes? ›

Many believe Cong You Bing originated in Shanghai, where many Indians had once lived. This makes sense due to the scallion pancake's similarity to Indian naan bread.

What are the unique features of pancake? ›

Characteristics. Common pancake characteristics include a crisp exterior and a soft, airy interior. They are made from thinner batter than actual cakes, and a little hot grease sets the outer surface quickly; this allows the inside to remain fluffy and light.

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