Chinese Character Pancakes and Recipe

Character Pancakes - Word in Chinese

Kids love to learn Chinese with Chinese Character Pancakes. What kid doesn’t like pancakes?! Making pancakes from scratch is just as easy as making them from the box but they taste so much better! My son has been helping me make pancakes since he was about 2 years old. It’s messy but that adds to the fun (for the kids). It’s a great way for them to practice measuring, sifting, and mixing. Plus they learn about the ingredients and how to cook, which is an essential life skill. Save the actual stove work for older kids though.

For the pancake art you will need some kind of tool to “draw” with. You can use any squeeze bottle but I really like the size of the bottle that comes with the Wilton Cookie Decorating Kit. It’s easy enough to clean with a bottle brush. One thing to note is that this bottle is not heat safe. The plastic tip will melt if it comes in contact with a hot pan.

Chinese Character Pancakes Bottle Kit
Chinese Character Pancakes Bottle

After testing many pancake recipes over the years and I’ve found that the key to tall and fluffy pancakes is a combination of baking soda and baking powder. Adding salt brings out all flavors. You can even add vanilla extract, but I omit it because it does darken the batter and I want more contrast between the pancake and the characters. As for the colored batter for the characters, I use cocoa powder because it’s something I always have in the cupboard and I feel it’s better than artificial food coloring.

pancakes - fire
Chinese Character Pancakes smile

Don’t worry if you mess up a couple. It’s a fact that the first pancake is garbage anyway! Remember that you have to draw a mirror image of the character. Let the colored batter cook through before adding the white batter. Most importantly, have fun! My kids were trying to take a bite as I quickly snapped a couple photos. Sure it’s a bit more work but the kids faces light up when they see their breakfast. They will always remember these special moments.

Chinese Character Pancakes Hand
Chinese Character Pancakes Word

Fluffy Pancakes Recipe Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 -2 Tbsp Sugar (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • cocoa powder (or a few drops of food coloring)
  • 1/2 Tbsp hot water


  1. Pour milk into a bowl and add vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes. Milk will thicken.
  2. Heat butter until just melted. You don’t want it too hot.
  3. Add cocoa powder and hot water to the squeeze bottle. Shake well.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar (optional).
  5. Break the egg into the milk mixture and whisk a couple times to break up the egg yolk.
  6. Add egg and milk mixture, and butter to the dry ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps.
  7. Quickly pour some of the batter into the squeeze bottle and shake well until the color is consistent.
  8. Batter will thicken while you heat up your pan on Medium heat.
  9. When the pan is hot, use the squeeze bottle write your character and allow the colored batter to cook through, about a minute.
  10. Top with white batter. Cook until bubbles appear then flip and cook until browned.

Recipe Notes:

  • Buttermilk can be used in place of the milk and vinegar.
  • Allow the colored batter to cook through. If it’s too wet, when you pour on the white batter the colors will mix and you will not get crisp characters.
  • If you get a lump in the squeeze bottle nozzle, don’t squeeze over the pan. Either squeeze over the sink to get the clump out or just tap the bottom of the bottle on the counter and shake again. No need to get the lump out.

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