An informative guide to homemade scallion pancakes, a layered Chinese flatbread loved for its super crispy, flaky texture and oniony, aromatic taste.
This is a revised version of my blog post on scallion pancakes. It provides more tips, substitute ideas and FAQs. New images and a video are also included.
What are scallion pancakes
Scallion pancakes, aka green onion pancakes/spring onion pancakes, are a type of pan-fried pastry flavoured with chopped scallions, salt and spices. They are a traditional home-cooked dish in northern China and are also widely available in restaurants and street stalls nationwide.
Although referred to as pancakes in English, they are very different from Western-type pancakes. Instead of a batter, they’re made from a simple flour-water dough with a savoury filling between the layers. For me, “scallion oil flatbread” would be a better translation for its Chinese name Cong You Bing/葱油饼.
Like Shanghai scallion oil noodles and steamed scallion flower rolls, these pancakes are scallion-flavoured and oil-enriched. With a distinctively fragrant and savoury taste, they make a great staple to accompany any dishes, or an eat-alone snack at any time of the day.
Crispy, flaky and tasty
As shown in the image above, scallion pancakes can be made thin or thick. Both versions share the same features: crispy, flaky and tasty. Before explaining the recipe in detail, let me summarise a few key tips for achieving the best result.
- Make it crispy by regulating the heat properly. Start with a hot pan then cook over medium heat.
- Make it flaky by brushing a good layer of flour oil paste in between layers and rolling up loosely.
- Make it tasty by using a generous amount of fresh scallions and your favourite spice.
Make the dough
Compared to the dough for dumplings or steamed buns, the dough for scallion pancakes is simpler in all respects. So it’s totally novice-friendly.
You can use any type of white, wheat-based flour. I list all-purpose flour in the recipe simply for its accessibility. Wholemeal flour isn’t suitable for this recipe but you can mix it with white flour. I recommend a ratio of 3:7.
Use hot water
Flour and water are the only ingredients you need for the dough. Instead of room temperature water typically used in the non-yeast dough (e.g. regular dumpling dough), boiling water is added to the flour in this case.
The protein of the flour is “cooked” so the gluten network is not as tight as that of the cold water dough. This results in a more forgiving and less elastic texture thus making kneading and shaping as easy as they can be.
The ideal ratio
I recommend a flour to water ratio of around 3:2 by WEIGHT. For example, to make 4 pieces of scallion pancakes, you’d need 250g flour and 160g hot water.
I always recommend novice cooks measure with a scale to achieve the desired result. That said, if you have to use measuring cups, the above quantity could translate to 2 cups of flour and ⅔ cup of hot water.
The dough should be on the soft side but not sticky. Please feel free to adjust if necessary as the type and brand of your flour may affect the optimal ratio.
Combine and rest
In a bowl, stir and mix flour and hot water with chopsticks until there is no more loose flour. Then combine by hand to form a rough-looking dough. At this stage, it isn’t necessary to overly knead to make it smooth.
Cover the dough tightly with a piece of cling film. This is to prevent the moisture from evaporating since it’s a warm dough. Leave to rest on the counter for 15 minutes or so.
Then knead again until it becomes very smooth. Unlike working with other types of dough which require lengthy kneading, you’ll be surprised how fast this process is. It only takes 10-15 strokes to make it completely creaseless.
Prepare the filling
While waiting for the dough to rest, prepare the filling ingredients.
Chop scallions into fine pieces. If they’re quite thick, halve lengthwise then cut. Don’t stint on the quantity. The more the merrier. You may use both the white part and green part, or only the green saving the white for other dishes (e.g. make Chinese scallion oil).
A type of fat
Traditional scallion pancakes call for lard (rendered pork fat) for its thick consistency and flavour. Rendered chicken or duck fat would work too.
For a vegan diet, use coconut oil instead. Alternatively, use any oil available, such as peanut, canola, sunflower, olive, vegetable oil, etc. Sesame oil is an option too but I suggest you reduce the quantity as it has a very strong aroma.
It’s mixed with the lard/oil to form a paste which helps to laminate layers of the dough.
Salt & a type of spice
My family love using ground Sichuan pepper for the tingling sensation it creates on the palate. Five-spice powder, cumin powder, and ground black pepper are good choices too.
In a small bowl, combine the fat/oil, flour, salt and spice into a smooth paste. If using lard or coconut oil, melt it first then mix.
Stuff and shape
Now it’s time to assemble the pancakes.
To prevent the dough from sticking, apply a thin layer of oil over the entire dough and the board/work surface you’re using. Dusting with flour could serve the same purpose but I find it often makes the dough drier.
With a rolling pin (any type), press the dough, then gently push it in all directions to flatten it into a thin rectangle piece. For your reference, mine measures about 43cm(17″) by 33cm (13”).
Use the back of a spoon or a brush to evenly spread the filling mixture over the dough. Sprinkle the chopped scallions on top.
From the shorter side of the dough, loosely roll the dough into a rope.
Then cut it into sections. Stand up one piece with the cut side facing up.
Press with your fingers then roll it flat with the rolling pin.
Thick or thin?
How thin should I roll my pancakes? You may ask. I showcase two options in this recipe. Choose whichever you fancy!
- The thick version: Divide the rolled dough into 4 sections. Each flattened pancake measures about 13cm/5″ in diameter and ½ cm/ ⅕” thick. Four pieces fit in a large frying pan so you can cook all at once. They’re crispy on the surface but soft in the middle, so you get a contrasting texture in every bite.
- The thin version: Divide the rolled dough into 3 sections. Flatten each piece as thin as possible (Mine measures about 23cm/9” in diameter). This is a more traditional look (my parents always make them this way). Compared to the thick version, they offer a pleasant chewier texture.
It’s easy to pan-fry scallion pancakes. But to achieve the perfect texture, crispy but not dry, you’d need to pay attention to three things: control the temperature, cover the pan and watch the timing.
Heat oil in a frying pan/skillet over high heat until hot. It’s important to have a hot pan when you place the pancakes in. Otherwise, the dough tends to soak up more oil resulting in a greasy taste. Drop a piece of scallions, or a sesame seed, to test. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough.
Once you put the pancakes in, remember to adjust to medium-high heat. Then cover the pan with a tight lid. This helps to cook them evenly without losing much moisture. If the temperature remains high, the outer layer will get burnt before the inner part is fully cooked.
When the first side becomes golden brown, flip over to cook the other side (always have the lid on). It took me about 4 minutes to cook both sides for thick pancakes. Thin pancakes would take less time. But the cooking time may vary in your case. Check the donees more often if unsure.
If available, use a wire rack to rest the pancakes for a short while before serving. If placed on a plate right away, condensation will form making them soggy. Also, if your pancakes are thick, the remaining heat cooks the inside further.
🛎 TIP: It’s fine to cook these pancakes without oil (I often do so to reduce oil intake), like how I pan-bake the flatbread for Rou Jia Mo (Chinese pork burger).
If you’ve made thick pancakes, tear them into pieces to eat. Whereas the thin version is often sliced into wedges, just like how you cut a pizza (see image below).
I grew up eating scallion pancakes as part of a multi-dish meal when we weren’t having steamed rice as a staple. It was usually paired with a few savoury dishes and congee or soup. We also ate them as breakfast or afternoon snacks.
Scallion pancakes sold in Chinese restaurants sometimes come with a dipping sauce. If this is what you prefer, you can get inspiration in my post on dumpling sauces. Alternatively, just dip them in Chinese chilli oil, with or without the company of black rice vinegar, light soy sauce, etc.
How to make ahead
Do you know that uncooked scallion pancakes freeze well? If you plan to eat them regularly, I suggest you make a big batch at once following these steps:
- Multiply the quantity of the ingredients proportionally.
- Make the dough then stuff and shape the pancakes.
- Pile them up using parchment paper to separate each piece to prevent sticking.
- Put them in airtight bags and store in the freezer.
Whenever you fancy a piece, simply pull out one and pan-fry following the same method without defrosting. If your pancakes are on the thick side, add a little water to the pan before you put the lid over the pan. The steam will help cook the middle part thoroughly, just like how you make pan-fried Chinese dumplings.
A: There are a few things that could cause doughy, dense texture. Make sure:
1) The pancakes aren’t too thick; 2) The heat isn’t too high or too low. If too high, they’re cooked unevenly. If too low, it takes too long to cook so they become dry; 3) The lid is tight so there isn’t too much steam escaping from the pan.
A: You can easily adapt this recipe with yeast-leavened dough. Try my recipe for Pan-baked Scallion Flatbread and Oven-baked Scallion Bread (see image below). They’re equally delicious!
A: Yes, you can either refrigerate or freeze the dough. Coat with a thin layer of oil and wrap tightly with cling film. Store in air-tight bags/containers. Defrost and bring to room temperature before shaping.
Other classic Chinese staples
Scallion Pancakes (Cong You Bing, 葱油饼)
For the dough
- 250 g all-purpose flour (plain flour) - about 2 cups (see note 1 for substitutes)
- 160 g hot water - about ⅔ cup
- Cooking oil - for coating
For the filling
- 2 tablespoon melted lard - or coconut oil, see note 2 for other substitutes
- 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- ¼ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper - or Chinese five-spice powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 40 g finely chopped scallions (green onion/spring onion) - about ½ cup
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
For serving (optional)
Make the dough
- Put flour into a heatproof bowl. Pour in hot water. Stir with chopsticks until no more loose flour or water can be seen. Use your hands to combine the mixture into a rough-looking dough (see note 3).
- Tightly cover the dough with cling film and leave to rest for 15 mins.
Prepare the filling
- While waiting, add melted lard (or other oil), flour, Sichuan pepper (or five-spice) and salt to a small bowl. Mix until it becomes a smooth paste.
Shape the pancakes
- Uncover the dough then knead until it becomes very smooth. Rub a thin layer of oil around the dough, as well as the work surface.
- With a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a thin, rectangular piece. For your reference, mine measures about 43cm(17") by 33cm (13").
- Brush the filling mixture over the dough, then sprinkle finely chopped scallions on top.
- From the shorter side of the dough piece, roll the dough into a rope (don’t make it too tight).
- Cut the rope into 4 cylinders. Stand a piece on one end. Press down with your hand, then flatten it with the rolling pin into a pancake that measures around 13cm/5” in diameter. Alternatively, cut the rope into 3 parts and roll each into a thinner pancake which measures about 23cm/9”.
Fry the pancakes
- In a frying pan/skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot. Drop a piece of scallions in to test. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough.
- Turn the heat down to medium and put in the pancakes (the top side facing down). You may cook 4 thick pancakes all at once in a large pan (28cm/11"), or 1 thin pancake at a time.
- Cover with a lid and leave to cook for about 2 minutes until the side facing down becomes golden brown (adjust the cooking time if necessary). Flip over to cook the other side (keep the lid on). Remove them from the pan once the second side turns golden too.
- For the best result, rest the pancakes on a wire rack for a minute or two before serving (condensation will form if placed on a plate straightaway). Also, the remaining heat will cook the inside further during the resting time.
- The thick version can be served as it is and torn apart to eat. The thin version is often cut into triangular pieces.
- Although they are tasty on their own, a dipping sauce would make a great accompaniment, e.g. a simple mixture of homemade chilli oil, black rice vinegar and light soy sauce.
- Store leftover pancakes in airtight bags in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a pan/oven/air-fryer.
- To make a big batch and cook later, double or triple the recipe proportionally. Freeze uncooked pancakes right after they’re rolled out. Pile them up with parchment paper in between and store in sealed plastic bags.
- Cook frozen pancakes without defrosting following the same method. If they’re thick ones, add a little water while cooking with the lid on (like how you make pan-fried dumplings).
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.
Hi, this recipe looks delicious, can you please tell me is about 1 tsp of spice? I’d like to try 5 spice and just not sure of the quantity as it can be overpowering. Please let me know. Thank you
Wei Guo says
My recipe suggests you use 1/4 tsp of five-spice or Sichuan pepper. I think it’s fine to increase it to 1/2 tsp if you like it stronger.
Thank you for sharing this recipe and all of the notes and pics, all are very useful. As I didn’t have fresh green onions, I used sauteed and cooled thin leek slices and opted for the chinese 5 spice. Easy recipe to make and the resulting flavor profile, brilliant. Thank you again and from now on end, I will be making this often.
Wei Guo says
Yes, you can be very flexible with the herbs and seasonings. Glad you enjoyed them!
I just tried for my snack. Simple, easy and very delicious. I will definitely make it again and freeze them. Thank you for the great recipe!
Wei Guo says
My pleasure to share!
Perfect!!! 葱油饼 is my fav streetside snack in Shanghai and this was my first time making them. I made them while my nieces were visiting and they tried to omit the original filling and add peanuts instead 🤣 they preferred the peanut version while us grownups loved the original ones! So good and way easier to make than I had imagined. Thanks a bunch!
Wei Guo says
Yes, you can filling them with many other things (I often use chopped pickled vegetables). Glad my recipe worked well for you.
I followed the recipe as written. The flavor was great but they weren’t flaky crispy as I had anticipated. Maybe I needed more oil in cooking them?? Edges were crispy, center was tougher. Thank you. Ill keep trying til I get it right.
Wei Guo says
Thank you for trying out my recipe! To improve the texture, here are a few tips: Make sure they aren’t too thick. Keep the heat at the right level. If too high, they’ll be cooked unevenly leaving a doughy centre. If too low, it’ll take too long to cook so they become dry. Also make sure the pan is tightly covered with a lid so there isn’t too much steam escaping from the pan. Hope this helps!
I bought some frozen scallion pancakes that I am pretty sure we’re the same as this. Those were partially cooked, and I thawed/crisped them in the toaster which made it super convenient to hearone up while I was preparing my meal. You suggest freezing raw – what if I half cooked them, so they would hold up to be finishing in the toaster? Maybe even in a cookie sheet in the oven so I can do several at once? I am trying to come up with freezer meal prep recipes that will make it easy to throw together dinner. In a few minutes.
Wei Guo says
I’ve never tried freezing half-cooked ones but I assume it works as you described. Happy cooking!
The dough is very easy to handle. I was not paying attention and rolled them out too thin but still we very much enjoyed them. There’s still one waiting for me in the freezer – already looking forward to making them again! Thank you !!
Wei Guo says
I freeze them too. So handy to have!
I tried and it came out perfect! The dough was just right, and we rolled it in pasta machine trying various thickness. I added a tsp of salt and some five spice powder. Also might have gone overboard with the scallions, but they’re so good. An absolute blast with the family; next time I will try to prepare a dipping sauce. Thank you for the marvelous recipe.
Wei @ Red House Spice says
My pleasure Lev! very nice to hear that you’ve enjoyed my recipe!
Hello! I tried making these pancakes today and they turned out a little stiff and not as flaky as I hoped they would be… they turned out crunchy on the outside and harder in the middle…. when I was kneading the dough and rolling it out I did notice that it was very stiff and took a lot of effort. Is there anything you could think of that I did wrong? I’d really appreciate a reply back, thanks!
Wei @ Red House Spice says
Thank you Lillian for trying out my recipe! The dough should be soft (but not sticky) and very easy to work with. I suggest you add a little more water next time. Also, since it’s a hot water dough, some of the water can evaporate during resting. Rub a little oil on the dough then wrap with cling film to rest. Hope this helps!
Travia Smith says
My husband made these for dinner and we couldn’t get enough of these pancakes! Definitely making again
Wei @ Red House Spice says
Thank you for letting me know you’ve enjoyed my recipe! This means a lot to me!
Dina Street says
I am about to make these, and I will leave my review. I was just so impressed with how thorough your instructions and comments were, that I chose to start with this one over all of the others I read through. Can’t wait to get into the kitchen! Thank you.
Wei Guo says
Glad you find my recipes helpful. Happy cooking!