Easy old-fashioned hoecakes are versatile little yellow miracles of crispy warm deliciousness! Also known as cornmeal pancakes, fried cornbread, or johnnycakes, they can be served any time of day straight out of your skillet.
Depending on where you are from, hoecakes are also called journey cakes, ho cakes, corn pones, corn cakes, and even johnny bread. But no matter what you call them, this staple of early America is a type of simple fried cornbread or cornmeal pancake that is quick and easy to make.
Why this recipe works:
- It has stood the test of time. Hoecakes have been around for over a hundred years and have been made thousands of times.
- It’s versatile, and these cornmeal pancakes can be eaten hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack.
- There are only a few ingredients, and you probably already have everything you need in your pantry and fridge.
- Did I mention they are easy, simple, and utterly delicious!
What are they?
It was originally thought that hoecakes originally got their name because they were cooked on a hoe over a fire. The current thinking is they got their name from the griddle pan they were cooked in, called a hoe.
In the old days, corn was one of the main staples of a Southern diet. It was used as an ingredient in all kinds of dishes, including grits, cornbread, mush, and yes, even moonshine.
What’s the difference between hoecakes and traditional pancakes?
The main difference is traditional pancakes don’t contain cornmeal.
How and when to serve them?
For breakfast, these cornmeal pancakes ascend into the stratosphere with the addition of a pat of butter and blackberry or maple syrup.
These old-fashioned, corn-flavored, crunchy bites of goodness also make the perfect snack topped with a scoop of peanut butter or jelly or pimento cheese. And, a hot johnny cake with a glass of cold buttermilk is a culinary extravaganza!
What’s in them:
If you would like to try your hand at making this easy recipe, you will need self-rising flour and self-rising cornmeal. You will also need eggs, sugar, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.
I like to make mine in a cast-iron skillet, but you can also use a non-stick skillet.
In the tips section below, I’ve also included some ideas for adjusting the recipe if you only have all-purpose flour or regular cornmeal. I also have a quick tip for making homemade buttermilk.
How to make them:
Add the flour, cornmeal, and sugar to a large bowl and whisk to mix.
Then, add the eggs and buttermilk to a smaller bowl and whisk well.
Finally, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Then add a quarter of a cup of vegetable oil and one-half cup of water.
Mix well to combine all ingredients but don’t over mix. The batter will be thick. If you think it is too thick, add a bit more water, about one tablespoon at a time until it gets to the consistency you like.
Add one-quarter of a cup of vegetable oil (I use peanut oil, but any kind will do) to a large skillet over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add about two tablespoons of batter for each pancake to the hot skillet. I like to use a small ice-cream scoop, but you can also use a spoon.
Cook the hoecakes about one to two minutes or until bubbles form on the top side. Use a pancake turner and flip them over. Cook until each side is golden brown and the edges are crispy.
Use a pancake turner or spatula to remove the cakes and place them on a paper towel to drain.
Hoecakes, like pancakes, are best when served while still warm.
I’ve called for vegetable oil in this recipe, but many southern cooks prefer to cook them in bacon grease.
Hoecakes, like pancakes, should be served warm. To keep them warm while cooking the rest, place them on an oven-safe plate and keep them in an oven at 225 degrees F.
I’ve seen a few recipes that call for self-rising cornmeal mix instead of self-rising cornmeal. I have tried it and while it works in a pinch, I don’t think you get the corn flavor or crunch regular cornmeal provides.
To substitute all-purpose flour, add 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
To substitute regular cornmeal, add 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
You can make your own buttermilk by adding one tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to one cup of whole milk and letting it sit five minutes.
Hoecake batter can be made ahead of time and stored covered in the fridge for two to three days.
More recipes with cornmeal:
If you like the delicious taste and crunch cornmeal adds to your recipes, you might also like these recipes:
- Cornmeal Biscuits and Orange Butter,
- Tomato Cobbler with Cornmeal-Cheddar Biscuits,
- Make-Ahead Cornbread Dressing with Sausage
- Easy Traditional Southern Style Cornbread
- Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Cornbread Muffins
- Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing
- Old-Fashioned Southern Buttermilk Cornbread
- Best Southern Crispy Fried Oysters
★ If you make this dish, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
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- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1 cup self-rising cornmeal
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil divided
- Add the flour, cornmeal, and sugar to a large bowl. Add the eggs and buttermilk to a smaller bowl and whisk well.
- Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients along with ¼ cup of vegetable oil and ½ cup of water. Mix well to combine all ingredients but don’t over mix. The batter will be thick. If you think it is too thick, add a bit more water, about 1 tablespoon at a time until it gets to the consistency you like.
- Add ¼ cup of vegetable oil (I use peanut oil, but any kind will do) to a large skillet over medium heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the batter using a large spoon or small ice-cream scoop. About two tablespoons of batter will make a hoecake about 3 inches across.
- Cook the hoecake about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until each side is brown and the edges are crispy. Use a pancake turner or spatula to remove the hoecakes and drain them on a paper towel.
- Serve immediately.
**This recipe was originally posted on May 16, 2016. Republished on February 26, 2020, with expanded text and tips, new images, and a new “how-to” video.