To understand the differences between pancakes and Johnny cakes, it is helpful to first understand exactly what each one’s ingredients are. Then you will see that while these two classic breakfast foods are very similar, they are defined by their differences, for example, how they are prepared and served. Whether eating out or preparing a meal at home, both are delicious options.


Johnny cakes are a type of unleavened cornbread. The cornmeal is mixed with hot water or milk, salt and often sugar. This forms a sloppy gruel, or porridge, substance, which is then fried and served warm. A pancake is a thin, flat, round cake prepared from a batter, and cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan. Pancakes contain a raising agent, typically baking powder; a proportions of eggs, flour, and milk all combined to create a thick batter which is then poured onto a buttered pan, flipped and served warm. Pancake varieties can contain chocolate chips, bananas, fruit or other sweet ingredients. Johnny cakes are not prepared with sweet ingredients, but can be prepared with bacon grease for more flavor.


Pancakes are fluffier than Johnny cakes because they contain a leavening ingredient. In most pancake recipes, baking powder is what causes the final product to rise while it is being cooked. Johnny cakes are flatter, and often thinner, because they do not rise when cooked. Eggs also help pancakes rise, particularly when the eggs are beaten first before adding into the other ingredients.

Cornmeal vs. Flour

One of the differences between Johnny cakes and pancakes is that the main ingredient varies. In all pancake recipes, flour is the main ingredient; it is what makes up the bulk of the pancake. On the other hand, Johnny cake recipes call for cornmeal instead of flour. The cornmeal can be white or yellow, but both varieties have a very different texture than flour; cornmeal is grainier.


Pancakes are traditionally served stacked on top of each other with maple syrup and butter on top. They can be served with fresh berries, yogurt, powdered sugar or other delicious sweet toppings. Johnny cakes are typically served with butter, like cornbread. Remember, though, they should be served to taste, so feel free to experiment and eat them with anything you like.