One of the traits that Greeks are famous for is their hospitality. And this is always closely connected with food. If you had an opportunity to visit Greece, or have a Greek neighbor or friend, then it is safe to say they have never let you leave their house with an empty stomach. Food is so embedded into the Greek culture that leaving an empty plate is considered more offensive than breaking one. (You are probably familiar with the custom of smashing plates when celebrating and if you thought the letters in bold in the title above are randomly bolded you were very wrong. Opa! is a Greek verbal emotional expression used during celebrations and dancing in Greek culture.
There are so many Greek dishes that are worth mentioning and preparing that one would get “lost in translation” by solely attempting at describing all of them. This is why we have chosen to say a thing or two about tiganites, the Greek pancakes.
Tiganites are very similar to crêpes, only slightly thicker. These pancakes can come in both sweet and savory variations and are incredibly yummy. They are a common item on breakfast menus in Greek households, but can also get into the dessert part. Although some may say that tiganites are more of a fried bread than a pancake (since they lack the softness and fluffiness American pancakes are famous for), they are going to be referred to as “Greek pancakes” in this text.
The ingredients that a Greek pancake recipe will call for are nearly the same as those regular pancake recipes would require. Eggs, flour and milk (although lukewarm water is used as well). The characteristic thing about the recipe for tiganites is it calls for the very Greek (and Mediterranean) ingredient: olive oil. This recipe is easy to handle and will take you up to 30 minutes tops!
Classic Greek Pancakes Recipe
- One cup of all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- One cup of water
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- A pinch of salt
Pour all the ingredients into a large bowl not paying attention to whether they are wet or dry. Whisk everything together to form a smooth batter. Don’t be tempted to leave out lumps (because the regular pancake recipes would certainly warn you not to overmix). The batter for the tiganites must be as smooth as possible. Also, feel free to leave the batter be for 20 minutes or so (making sure you wrap it with a plastic wrap this will allow for bubbles to appear).
Since these pancakes will require a more deep fry than the regular ones, you will need 2 tablespoons of oil to cover the bottom of the pan and make sure you preheat it first! Using a spoon pour one and a half spoon of the batter (depending on how large you want them) in the hot oil. Flip as soon as they become to get a golden brown color. It is preferable to transfer them to a kitchen paper, which will allow the oil to get absorbed.
Note: As previously mentioned you can also use milk, adding a little bit of milk will make them taste like a donut and replacing the water for milk altogether will make them crispier on the outside and moist on the inside.
How to perfect the sweet Greek Pancakes?
As we already stated, tiganites can be both sweet and savory. The sweet version which is considered a classic, and is served in small shops around Greece and Cyprus are pancakes drizzled with honey, cinnamon and nuts.
Toast some chopped walnuts or use toasted sesame. Toasting them will enhance their nutty flavor which will make them and the honey a match made in heaven. Plus, nuts have always been famous for their many health benefits. Promoting heart-health (due to the potassium they contain), promoting bone-health (due to the phosphorous they contain), and energy boosting being one of the many.
Prepare your very own spread. A chocolate tahini spread would complement the toasted sesame so well that you will never want to eat pancakes any other way!
Make your own buttered honey! It is easy peasy, just get 1/3 cup of butter melt it in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and half a cup of honey and stir for a minute or two. You should know though, that the buttered honey cannot be made ahead nor be re-used. So be careful with the amount you are preparing. If not served immediately the honey will crystallize and no matter how much you try it won’t melt if reheated. In any case, you will have fun in the kitchen!
Fun Fact: Tiganites are believed to be the very first pancakes in the world and they are served in the feast days of Saint Spyridon and Saint Andrew.
How to perfect the savory Greek Pancakes?
Well, Greek yogurt combined with cheese is THE combination. You can choose from a fresh sheep and goat’s milk cheese (anthotyro) spread over them or myzithra cheese. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
There is a dish that incorporates this pancake recipe and it is served in Cyprus. The savory dish is known as Genoese Canelloni, a mixture of ground meat, tomato sauce, cheese, and bechamel sauce.
Fun Fact: Traditional “tiganites tou Aghiou” are served on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra) on December 12, to honor the patron saint of St. Spyridon. In fact, the very name of these pancakes translates into or “the Saint’s Pancakes”. Now if this is not convincing enough, go ahead and prepare yourselves a batch of these beauties and you will be assured that these are truly a piece of heaven. And plus, these recipes are very budget-friendly!
Prepare a batch of these Greek beauties and get the taste of Greece into your own kitchen. Both you and your family will enjoy a lovely meal. And if you know someone with Greek origin, surprise them! People say, say hello to someone in a language they understand and they will be grateful, say it in their own language they will be forever your friends, the same goes for food!