Crazy for Crepes: Recipes and Tips

This versatile French import works for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

My favorite pan in my kitchen right now, bar none, is my nonstick crepe pan. What does that say about me? It says I probably whip up crepes recipes more often than the average American, that's for sure. They remind me of the thin Dutch pancakes my dad used to make on weekends when I was a child. Childhood food memories can be powerful stuff!

Crepe is literally the French word for pancake. But unlike American pancakes, crepes are light and often paper-thin. Along with quiche and pate, the crepe is one of the better-known French foods around the world.

The crepe has been around for more than a couple hundred years. They were originally said to have been served only to nobility. But after the French Revolution (which my ancestors actually participated in), the art of fine dining became available to ye olde public for the first time.

Probably the most illustrious crepe dish is Crepes Suzette, featuring crepes in an orange-butter sauce doused with just enough liqueur (like Grand Marnier) to burst into flames when ignited. I'm sure many a beard or mustache has been singed making this dish. I myself am willing to try a lot of dishes, but tend to draw the line at recipes that involve exploding flames or blowtorches.

One way the French crepe is different from the American pancake is that they have two culinary sides: They can be savory (filled with meat and topped with a wine sauce, for example), and served as the entree for a lunch or dinner. Or, they can be sweet (filled with jam, chocolate, or fruit and topped with powdered sugar or whipped cream), and served as dessert or as an entree for breakfast. Either way, I'm a happy camper!

If you want to explore your savory crepe options, here are some possible fillings:
  • Cheese (any cheese works well, but gruyere or Parmesan keeps it French).
  • Ham and cheese.
  • Shrimp (or another seafood) with a white or wine sauce.
  • Spinach, bacon and mushroom in a white or wine sauce.
  • Steamed or sauteed vegetables paired with some grated cheese.
If you want to explore sweet crepe options, here are possible fillings:
  • Less-sugar jams or preserves.
  • Chocolate shavings drizzled with hazelnut liqueur.
  • Fresh raspberries (or any fruit), dusted lightly with powdered sugar.
  • Chocolate pudding/mousse or vanilla custard.
  • Caramel (warmed briefly in the microwave so it's pourable) topped with toasted nuts.

8 Things to Know About Crepes

Before you pull out that crepe pan, here are a few things you should know about cooking crepes:
  • Some recipes suggest letting crepe batter rest 1-2 hours before cooking because it allows the flour particles to expand in the liquid and promotes a tender and thin crepe. I've almost never done this (I'm way too impatient). It usually works out just fine if you don't wait at all, or if you just let the batter rest 30 minutes either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You can also make the batter in the evening, then cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  • You'll generally need about 1/4 cup of batter per crepe. If you need a slightly larger crepe, increase it to 1/3 cup.
  • Lots of crepes recipes call for brushing the skillet with melted butter or oil, but giving the pan a quick coat of canola cooking spray also works well.
  • While the first side may take 1 to 1 1/2 minutes to cook, the second side generally takes about 30 seconds.
  • Crepes freeze perfectly. Separate them with little strips of wax paper, then slip into a ziplock freezer bag and you'll be ready for the next impromptu dinner, brunch, or dessert.
  • Many crepes recipes call for melted margarine in the batter. You can make a healthier crepe by cutting the butter in half and switching to canola oil (increase the milk by the amount of butter you took out). This pumps up the monounsaturated fats and omega-3s while reducing saturated fat.
  • You can substitute half whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour called for in your crepes recipe. The crepes will still taste terrific.
  • Try using a higher omega-3 brand of eggs. You can also use one less egg than the recipe calls for, and add a couple of egg whites or some egg substitute instead.

Healthier Crepes Recipes

Here are a few crepes recipes -- both sweet and savory -- to get you started.

Beer Batter Herb Crepes
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 slice whole-grain bread + 1 teaspoon oil

2 large eggs (use higher omega-3 eggs if available)
2/3 cup low-fat milk
2/3 cup light or nonalcoholic beer
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • Add eggs, milk, and beer to large mixing bowl and beat until blended.
  • Add flours, salt, canola oil, basil, and oregano to bowl with egg mixture and beat on medium until batter is smooth. Scrape sides of bowl midway. You can let the batter sit for an hour, or you can use it right away if desired.
  • Start heating a 10-inch nonstick crepe pan or skillet over medium heat. Coat it with canola cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the crepe pan and tilt to cover bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Cook the crepe until it is just golden on one side (about 1 minute). Flip it over and cook until other side is golden (about 30 seconds).