gluten-free crepes

A couple of weeks ago, we had our friends Tita and John over for breakfast. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence. These are two of our favorite people in the world. However, it was Tita’s birthday recently, so this was a special occasion. We wanted to fix her whatever she wanted to eat.

She thought when we asked her, then said, “You know, when we were first married and really poor, we had the same two poverty dinners over and over: souffle and crepes. All they require is flour, eggs, and a little milk. It has been long enough since then I think I could enjoy them again. How about crepes and souffle?”

You bet, Tita. Anything for you.

Danny made a towering souffle with whole-grain gluten-free flours, which sank slowly on the table for the next fifteen minutes as we finished the crepes. We knew we wanted to make the best for Tita. We needed a good recipe.

This was a no-brainer (as Tita likes to say). We turned to Heidi Swanson’s new book, Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen, which had just arrived in the mail.

Heidi never lets us down.

This time, especially, Heidi’s recipe worked beautifully. We set the table with quince paste, small slivers of salami, pesto that Tita made for us last summer that had been sitting in the freezer ever since, slices of Gruyere cheese, and sauteed apples. “Dig in, everyone,” Danny declared. And we ate, contentedly munching on one kind of filled crepe after another, talking together, happy.

This is what Heidi does. She suggests food to you that you might like, because she has taken such pleasure in that simple recipe in her kitchen, the sun shining through the window as she chews. She wants to share something with you, whether it’s an egg salad made with yogurt instead of mayonnaise, or cabbage soup with chickpeas and mustard/cheddar croutons, or ginger cookies with dried apricots and shaved chocolate. Everything in her book (and her website) sounds healthful and unpretentious. And always utterly delicious.

I’ve been reading Heidi’s website since before I started this one. Back in 2005, there weren’t that many food blogs out there. I remember that I stumbled on Clotilde’s site because my dear friend Sharon sent me the link in an email saying, “Can you believe this? Someone who talks about food as much as we do writes about it in a website!” It was such a strange and wondrous idea at the time. From Clotilde I found Heidi. And I sat there, staring, at the beautifully lit photographs: cream-colored dishes set on a wooden table, Northern Californian light flooding in from the side. I had a point and shoot and memories of a family Polaroid. I had never taken photographs like that. However, looking at Heidi’s site, I somehow thought that I could learn to look at light that way someday.

She is still inspiring me, every time I click over to see what she is cooking now.

Of course, her food always inspires me as well.

I love that Heidi uses what must seem like unusual ingredients for many folks — cardamom, tempeh, dukkah, pepitas, black sesame paste — and makes them feel familiar. Her recipes, and particularly in this book, are simple to prepare, with few ingredients. She truly wants you to cook, to sit down and eat well. With easier preparations, the ingredients that come from a well-stocked health food store don’t seem so intimidating.

Plus, there is this soda bread, an adaptation of Heidi’s soda bread with our whole-grain gluten-free flour mix and oat flour. (If you can’t eat oats, you could try quinoa or amaranth flour. Heidi would encourage you to use either, I’m sure.) It bakes up golden brown, moist on the inside, and waiting for a slathering of the dill butter Heidi shows you how to make in the book.

If somehow you don’t eat up all that bread the day it is baked, you can cut it into cubes and make up the strata in Heidi’s book. This one not only tastes wonderful — with flecks of crumbled feta and flicks of fresh oregano — but you put it together before you go to bed, put it in the refrigerator, and slide it in the oven when you wake up.

Now that’s my kind of everyday food.

Heidi inspires me with her passion for natural foods. What does that mean? Foods in their whole, natural state, not besmirched by food dyes, gums, or unpronouncable names. Food the way it’s meant to be eaten. It’s how we eat around here now too. This book is going to fall apart at the seams before we’re done cooking with it.

Life’s funny. I once stared at Heidi’s site in awe and now she and I are friends. I’m grateful for her presence in my life.

Buy this book and you can have Heidi in your kitchen too.

GLUTEN-FREE WHOLE GRAIN CREPES, adapted from Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen

I first made crepes with a friend whose mother is French, well over a decade ago. As he poured some batter into a hot pan, then deftly turned and rotated it until every part of the surface was covered in golden crepe batter, I knew this was something he had seen done many times. Certainly as a child he had grown up eating crepes with his parents, perhaps a Sunday tradition, a simple ritual that stuck with him in muscle memory. He made us a plate full of rolled crepes and set them on the table. We grabbed good cheese for one set of crepes, Nutella for another. And we ate, talking, sharing childhood memories and devouring those crepes together.

After going gluten-free, I didn’t know if I would ever eat crepes again.

Thanks to Heidi’s foolproof recipe, we’ve eaten crepes several Sundays in a row. The secret is in the patience. We combined buckwheat flour (the kind we grind ourselves from raw groats) and some of our whole grain mix for a healthy whole-grain crepe. They’re light and lilting, even with all those whole grains. If you want to use different flours, simply substitute those for ours with the same weight. Unlike other recipes for crepes I have seen, Heidi doesn’t have you using a blender. Instead, combine everything together and run the batter through a sieve. After that, you let it sit. That’s the hardest part. It’s worth it.

If you’d like to see how to run the crepe batter around the pan, and flip them in the air if you feel daring, we’ve made you a little video of Danny doing just that.

Now that we have gluten-free crepes down, I wonder what will happen years from now, when Lu stands in a kitchen with a friend and someone suggests making crepes. My guess is that she’ll pull some gluten-free flours toward her, make up a batter, and start turning that pan deftly. After all the years of watching Danny and I do it, she will know how.

85 grams buckwheat flour
140 grams whole grain flour mix
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs
2 cups water, or more if necessary
Butter for cooking

Combining the dry ingredients. Combine the buckwheat flour, whole-grain flour, and salt.

Finishing the batter. Use a fork to stir in the eggs until the dough looks shaggy. Stir in the water gradually, whisking as you go. The batter might seem thin to you, but it will thicken as you let it rest.

Letting the crepe batter sit. Pour the crepe batter through a fine mesh strainer, leaving any lumps in the strainer. Let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes, by which time it should be the consistency of heavy cream. (You can also let the batter sit overnight in the refrigerator.)

Cooking the crepes. Set a large non-stick skillet (or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Add enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan. When it is hot, add about ¼ cup of crepe batter, or just enough to coat the pan in a thin layer. Rotate the pan so the crepe batters runs along the edges of the pan and covers every part of the surface. Cook until the crepe starts to bubble and moves easily around the pan, about 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on how brown you want the crepes. If you are feeling brave, flip the crepe in the air and let it land in the pan. If that’s overwhelming, flip the crepe with a spatula and turn it over entirely. Brown the other side of the crepe and remove it from the pan.

Make a pile of crepes on a plate and continue cooking until you have used all the batter.

You can fill these with virtually anything that appeals to you: a bit of Comte cheese, some raspberry jam, corn in brown butter, sautéed apples, figs and blue cheese. You get the picture. Soon, you’ll be eating plenty of crepes.

Makes about 12 crepes.

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37 comments on “gluten-free crepes

  1. Genesis

    I have been reading your blog for two years and have never commented before. I have made so many items from your site though that I feel forever indebted to your creativity, bravery and willingness to learn. I must say that am so excited to make these crepes! Every summer my rather large family has a family reunion in Eastern Washington with my even larger extended family and crepes are always featured at breakfast. Much to my chagrin (at the time chagrin, now it is gratefulness) I have had to miss out on these for the last few summers. However, this year I am going to have this perfected and try it out. Thank you for finding ways to make me remember that my being gluten-intolerant does not equate going without; instead it makes me grateful to know the things that trigger reactions so I can live my life to the fullest.

    –Genesis

  2. Belinda

    Hi Shauna,
    how about making these egg-free? With only 225 grams of flour and 3 eggs, the ratio is almost 1 to 1 :) Do you have suggestions? I love crepes, but without the eggs they are more difficult to make. I’ll keep searching for my perfect receipe!
    love your blog, Belinda from the Netherlands

    1. Vicky

      These look lovely Shauna! I made some wraps on Saturday using two parts water to 1 part buckwheat flour and a pinch of salt. My husband who does not eat eggs thought they were as good as any crepes he had eaten in the past made with eggs.

      1. flo makanai

        I love Heidi’s site, and I’ve pre-ordered her book and can’t wait to receive it at home!

        For the eggless crêpes, one can just mix buckwheat (preferably whole grain) flour with some coarse salt and water to form a batter that’ll be almost like cake batter, then let the batter stand a few hours on the countertop, then add enough water to have the consistency she likes (that’s the hardest part, the one you get to know without thinking when you often make crêpes the way we do in France), and then cook the crêpes the way Shauna explains it.
        Just do it, adjust the quantity of water, try again etc, and you’ll find your way.
        My dad used to pour part of the batter in another bowl before adding water, so that, in case he had added too much he could equilibrate with some more of the original batter.
        When I was young, living near Paris, in France, my Dad often made 100% buckwheat crêpes dinner. We absolutely loved those dinner, which we ate in the kitchen, when all the other meals were shared in the dining room. My sisters, my mum and I took turns to tell Papa which kind of crêpe we wanted, whether it was “complete “(an egg, some gruyère and some ham) or filled with just an egg, or (my favorite) just gruyère and a pat of salted butter on top. When we were finished with the savory crêpes, we had more with honey plus some lemon juice (my sugary best), or sugar or, for an extra treat, chestnut puree from Clément Faugier… And when Papa had had enough, Maman got up and cooked some more crêpes for him. Now, when I visit my oldest Sister, who lives near Quimper, Finistère, Bretagne, with my 3 girls, you can be sure we ALWAYS share a crêpe dinner.

        If you happen to have fizzy apple cider, you can also replace part of the water with the cider, yummy :)

        1. flo makanai

          No they don’t taste better, but neither do they taste worst. They’re just different, more rustic, and when well cooked, almost crispy and very light. With a little salted butter, mmm! Less a dessert than the milk ones (which, in my youth, we never had when using buckwheat, but always used when making wheat flour –and eggs and sugar– crepes for Mardi Gras).
          (Hope you don’t mind my answering here, Shauna?)!

      2. belinda

        Reluctantly, I tried this. Just buckwheat and water, with some salt and vanilla. And you know what? It really worked!!!! The simplest receipe ever. No milk, no eggs needed. Thanks for the tip!!!!

  3. Michelle

    So I think it is time for me to go and get a copy. I was going to wait until the 30th but this might have just pushed me over the edge!

  4. brandi

    those crepes look perfect. I’ve never attempted to make regular ones, but I’m definitely going to try these now that I know I’m gluten intolerant.

    I love Heidi’s site, as well.

  5. carol

    You have highlighted two from my list of other favorite foodie & photo bloggers, Heidi & Clotilde! Like they did (and do) for you, they are hugely inspiring to me as well. Heidi’s latest book has been on-order now for over a month and I am excitedly awaiting its arrival here. Thanks for catching the foodie fever and breaking out as you did. I really enjoy your site and your books! Keep on with the creative magic that you & Danny do, together with Lu!

    Cheers, Carol

  6. Lisa

    The first morning we awoke in Paris, we could smell the crepes from our window. Every street corner had someone making them it seemed. I loved watching how they made them.

    We made them when we were first married four hundred years ago, and tried them GF later on without great success. I think this will work! You’re right — the hard part will be waiting for the batter to sit. I think crepes will be on the menu this weekend. Savory crepes with buckwheat flour and maybe a mushroom gruyere filling.…hungry now. Will have to order Heidi’s book. I always learn something new from you! Thanks!

  7. Lydia Seltzer

    Heidi was the first blog I ever read! I love her flavor combinations! The first recipe we made was her Tapioca Pudding, ohhhhhh! Our family and friends request that pudding regularly. Now we have your recipes and I will soon have both cookbooks sitting next to each other on my cookbook shelf. It warms my heart to think of two good friends sitting next to each other, and I get advice from both!!! Thank you to both you and Danny for wonderful recipes and cooking advice.

  8. Angie Halten

    I’d have to say that crepes rank up there on my top 10 best foods list. I’ve used other flours but not buckwheat in crepes…but I will now!

  9. Christina Files

    I just made GF crepes last night with white rice flour. I googled a recipe and whipped it together and in the back of my mind wondered.…I could probably have used Shauna’s whole-grain flour mix that’s sitting in my cupboard. You just made my day!! :)

  10. Lisa @ www.bakedinmaine.com

    Just had had crepes with strawberries and cream last night!

    Can’t wait to try GF or buckwheat crepes and my post on my blog/site.….

    Cheers!

    PS. I’m a huge 101cookbooks.com fan too, love us some Heidi!

  11. cari

    There is a spot in Charlottesville, Va called the Flat. It is literally a hole in the wall storefront, not much more than a shack that serves savory buckwheat crepes. My brother, who also has Celiac, took me there when I visited recently. I savored every single bite. Since then, my partner Tina has mastered the art of recreating them at home. It is one of our favorite stand up meals. Tina hardly gets the crepe off the pan and stuffed with ham, cheese and what ever else fancies us at the moment. I simply stand next to the stove eating them before they even make it onto a plate.

  12. The Teenie Foodie

    What a wonderful breakfast! This book sounds great, although I tend to get recipes online and in magazines. These crepes look delicious, although sadly I’m allergic to buckwheat.. :-(
    Great post though, and I may make the crepes for my family.

    Teenie Foodie

  13. MilkJam

    Here in Normandy crepes are an institution! Actually “galettes” are the savory ones made only with buckwheat flour and then filled with anything! “Crepes” are the dessert ones made with white flour.
    I know I have left Normandy/Brittany when I travel and they sell crepes filled with savory items — it’s just all wrong! The buckwheat is the best part of a galette, it is very lacy and hard to flip without breaking it but is so flavorful.
    My favorite local creperie has a fantastic galette filled with camembert, bacon and mushrooms with a side of carmalized apples — heaven!

    Bon appetit!

  14. Mar

    I made crepes a couple of weeks ago to use up some frozen cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. Rolled ‘em up with mashed up cottage cheese and cinnamon (the poor woman’s ricotta), topped ‘em with the cranberry sauce and sour cream (the poor woman’s creme fraiche), artfully sprinkled powdered sugar over everything. They were wonderful!

  15. Morgan

    Oh man, crepes are my guilty pleasure. I’m generally one of those people who gravitate towards really dense foods (both nutritionally and otherwise), but every once in a while, crave fluffy and sweet deliciousness. I live din Japan, and let me tell you, at every single festival there’s crepes, and they are to die for.

    They’d have simple crepes, as well as crazy elaborate dessert ones. My favorites were the ones filled with japanese purin (which is basically flan in a cup), whipped cream, bananas, chocolate sauce, and cornflakes.

  16. Stephanie B

    Nice looking recipe. The only thing that disappoints me is that I wish there was a “real” recipe for the whole grain flour mix. Each of the flours and starches you can choose from have different tastes and properties, so there are a million different ways to make the flour mix. what’s the best combination? that’s what I’m looking for.

    1. shauna

      Stephanie, we leave the whole grain mix open because so many people have intolerances or allergies to certain grains that we don’t anyone feeling left out. However, for these crepes, we used brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat, teff, arrowroot, and sweet rice. That’s a combination we’re using for most baked goods these days, successfully.

  17. Julia Sarver

    Oh yummy! Can’t wait to make these — I love crepes and had heard you could make them GF but wasn’t quite sure how to substitute. Thanks again, Shauna, for a great recipe!

  18. healing

    Loved the video, fearless flipping! All the extra details help so much! I seldom cooked or baked at home, and now with health being a priority I am learning not only cooking 101, but cooking with non gluten, dairy 101.
    THe crepes were awesome. My family wanted more. oh , if you could see teen boys eat them up. Thank you, for your efforts, time, energy, and delightful spirit.
    Blessings

  19. Anne Marie

    I made these yesterday to use them in a manicotti recipe that I have been working on. Since I have yet to see any GF manicotti, I used the crepes, stuffed them with an artichoke, cheese and chicken filling and topped with a creamy pesto sauce. It turned out great.

    Of course I had to try one with powdered sugar and syrup — yum!

  20. Sara

    I always love your thoughts and recipes!!- so much so that I have nominated you for the versatile blogger award!

  21. Gluten Intolerance

    I imagine how the couples live for the past time. It’s like what we have now, poor and stable on food we ate but sometime it feels great. But will all the gluten free foods we’ve search and tried we all feel better. I remember also, my girlfriend make a gluten free mango crepe, I help her out to make it and its super sweet!

  22. Rei Akira

    I had a blast making your crepes, Shauna (and my sisters and I loved eating them).

    However, I was really intrigued by flo makiani’s comment about crepes made from just buckwheat, water, and salt. I tried this, and tried again and again, but somehow they’re always far too watery (i suppose) and don’t stick together well enough to flip. They just turn to mush. Is there anyone who can offer a basic buckwheat:water ratio? I’m stuck! ><

  23. Ac

    Oh my gracious! I just made these with ham, baby swiss and green onions. Delicious.

    I also want to thank you for all you do. We went gluten free a few months ago and I (sadly) immediately turned to packaged/processed gluten free products just to feed the family. I felt better but not as good as I thought I could. I’m working now on getting back to what I used to do which was make things from scratch and use flours high in fiber.

    Thank you for inspiring, encouraging and showing us it can be done.

    P.S. — Loving the whole grain mix (GF AP flour as I like to call it :-))!