DIY Food

I Tried It: Extra Fluffy Pancakes, Thanks to This Japanese Secret Ingredient

November  3, 2017

Recently, it came to my attention that there was a pancake trick making the rounds on Japanese Twitter. The secret to airier, fluffier, cakier pancakes? Mayo.

Weird, I know. But who am I to scoff? Rather, who are you to scoff? Who are any of us to scoff? So once I finished scoffing, I set out to give this recipe a try, following a translation of the original tweet.

According to SoraNews24, an online Japanese content aggregate, the recipe reads:

  • First mix one egg, 150 milliliters (2/3 cup) of carbonated water, and two tablespoons of mayonnaise together in a pot.

  • Add 150 grams of pancake mix, stir lightly, and heat over a low flame (option to add blueberries at this point).

  • Cook for about three minutes, flip, cook for about two more minutes on the other side, and you’re done.

  • Add butter, syrup, jam, or whatever toppings you’d like, and enjoy! The mayonnaise makes the pancakes fluffier, thicker, and juicier.

Sounds easy, right? Sure enough, it was. I ran out to the store for a can of seltzer and threw together all my mis-en-place. I assumed the original recipe called for Kewpie mayonnaise, but I opted for what I had at home instead: Hellmann's. I don’t own any pancake mix so I used a cup of flour and a teaspoon of baking soda in its place and threw in a half cup of sugar and a pinch of salt for good measure. Twitter users were using rice cookers to achieve these towering cakes, but I poured the whole bowl of batter into small pan, figuring the effect would be something similar.

The final product, pipin' hot from the pan! Photo by Valerio Farris
Look at that height! Photo by Valerio Farris

The results were surprising. And by surprising, I mean it worked! What I pulled out of my pan was a spongy pancake about an inch in height. I transferred it to a plate, cut myself a slice, and drizzled some syrup over the top. I have to say, I liked the taste. It was a little tart (probably due to either the mayo or the seltzer?), but not too dense. The pancake took well to the syrup, absorbing its sweetness. I think, ultimately, the recipe is a good one, particularly for sharing—not to mention the potential for add-ins. Personally, I’d line the middle with slices of persimmons… but that’s just me.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Matthew W. December 2, 2017
It's mise en place, not mis en place. Other than that, great article! Tried it myself, it was quite good.
krin E. November 15, 2017
I wonder if it works with just the seltzwr
Maggie November 16, 2017
Read my comment below
TIGGUY November 13, 2017
I've added Hellman's to a scrambled egg mixture and it makes them fluffier.
Maggie November 13, 2017
I don't know about the mayo, sounds kind of gross to me. It probabbly works for the same reason it works when you add it to a cake, because it's oil+eggs.

As for the seltzer, I have made pancakes with lemon-lime soda and they were lovely and light. This is due to the carbonation of course. In vegan baking you can add seltzer or soda instead of eggs along with the baking powder/baking soda to help it rise.
jro November 11, 2017
Thanks for posting this! I've been obsessed with pictures of Japanese Pancakes online! I did try this as described, but I'm not a fan of the mayo taste. I'm thinking the Kewpie Mayo is essential as I know it's different that American mayo. I'd like to try it again with the Kewpie Mayo. The pancake did come out incredibly large and fluffy! A good start!
Chef S. November 10, 2017
Lastly I found this new information on Kewpie Mayo.
Susan W. November 10, 2017
Um, I just read through the comments and I wonder if the "hate" comments were removed. I see none here. Nothing was rude. People were just expressing surprise.
Londo N. November 10, 2017
Tried the recipe this morning: exactly as translated. After cooking the prescribed time, it was still raw in the middle. Cooked for 2 more minutes, began to get too brown on the exterior, still had a raw stripe through the middle. I don't think stovetop cooking is suitable for such a THICK pancake.
Chef S. November 10, 2017
I did some R & D on Japanese sauces for a restaurant group in the San Francisco Bay area. As I recall doesn't Kewpie Mayonnaise contain MSG?
Todd K. January 1, 2018
Yes, it does. And what a blessing. It's an essential Umami ingredients.
Ann-Marie D. November 10, 2017
OK OK my inbox has had a ton of amusing comments in the last 48 hours. I will try this weekend and report back, especially as I have a HUGE Kewpie mayonnaise bottle that must be used up! And c'mon, gotta love the Japanese for keepin' it real!
Eri November 9, 2017
Not sure why folks are being kinda rude. It’s a bit different. Why the hate, peeps? This reminds me of a recipe that was popular in so many church cookbooks in the 60s & 70s - “mayonnaise cake”. I’m also wondering if this is the same as - or related to - another recipe that seemed all the rage a couple of years ago. It was called something like “Japanese Cotton Pancakes”, I think, but due to health issues & obnoxious meds I don’t have a very reliable memory. Anyway - I think it looks awesome! Thanks for the recipe.
Geri November 9, 2017
If you need to make 'quick' fluffy pancakes, use Bisquick recipe and add club soda in the place of milk. Light, fluffy pancakes....yum! I have been doing this for many years.
Geri November 10, 2017
I am going to try the Kewpie Mayo recipe this weekend. My curiosity has peaked.
Emily S. November 9, 2017
I kind of got a kick out of all the hater comments on here. I mean, it doesn't even sound like a real recipe with how many changes she made, so it's kind of hard to hate on someone just sharing a new find they're excited about.

Or maybe I'm the only one that thought this looked good? Maybe because I don't actually like real pancakes... I will admit though, the photo in my email was a little misleading to what the recipe outcome actually looks like. We use seltzer in our fish and chips batter for fluffiness too, but I honestly never heard about adding it to pancakes (probably once again because I'm not a big pancake fan). I'm adding it to the try list (although I'm getting kewpie mayo for sure)!
Joycelyn November 9, 2017
Not really new, just someone discovering pancakes can be made much the same as mayo biscuits, a old recipe that's been around for years.
That aside, you actually added 1 cup of sugar to such a small amount of ingredients?
Pamela_in_Tokyo November 9, 2017
She just used half a cup of sugar. Still a lot.
vern B. November 9, 2017
Sounds like great fun. I always cook with my daughters (8 and 11). They will think the new ingredients are a blast! We all love any type of pancake. Thanks for a fun twist.
Charles November 9, 2017
Nothing to see here. It's soda water? That's not a lot different than baking powder CO2. I have been using soda water in pancakes since the 1970's. I was 9.
Joy S. November 9, 2017
Absolutely going to give it a go. I love fluffy pancakes 👅
Pamela_in_Tokyo November 9, 2017
Japanese variety shows and their off shoots in the Internet are having a great deal of fun with making normal foods with weird ingredients. The stranger ingredients would include some sort of Japanese snack food and then something that people often have in the refrigerator. Mixing that with one other normal thing and coming up with a completely different recipe for some kind of western food. People on the show taste these foods and say they are delicious but I really have my doubts. And I don’t really know if I would want to eat something made that way.

Right now pancakes are really popular in Japan. I mean they always have been popular, we have pancake mix boxes in the supermarkets. But there are a couple of coffee shops that make really thick pancakes the take over an hour to cook. So I think people are trying to re-create these things.

The box cake culture has never taken off here. They make too much cake for the average household. When Japanese housewives make a cake, they want the size to be something that they can serve their family and that they will generally eat up completely in one setting. They DON’T want leftovers. So a very small cake is what they want to make.

Refrigerator M. November 9, 2017
My crepe recipe uses seltzer. So why not for pancakes? Will try it.
Helen S. November 9, 2017
Mayo is essentially oil So replace the mayo with oil and you have the "mystery " ingredients. All pancakes have some sort of fat - oil or butter. As to the fluffiness, which I doubt considering the size of this,it is indeed the club soda or selzer water. My son told me about this years and year ago when he learned it working in a restaurant,
Todd K. January 1, 2018
I'm just guessing, but I think the mail provides more than just oil in that it provides some structure. Since its emulsified and thicker than just plain oil it may contain the CO2 as the Seltzer and baking soda work.