Fry

Caribbean Johnny Cakes

by:
May 24, 2021
5 Ratings
Author Notes

My tasty Caribbean johnnycakes are a must-have on the islands of the blue sea; they're one of the most beloved dishes. This yummy, simple recipe can be enjoyed for breakfast or lunch. —Moria T

Test Kitchen Notes

This shallow-fried flatbread recipe requires no yeast for proofing, so there's no need to wait hours for the dough to rise. These breads are perfect on their own with a little sea salt, honey, and butter for breakfast, or for dipping into soups, stews, and sauces. Also, try serving them as a side dish at your next barbecue or as the base for an open-face sandwich if you ever run out of bread. You simply won't be able to resist the crispy outside and soft, buttery, flaky inside. Made with all pantry ingredients, you'll find yourself reaching for this versatile, fun recipe over and over again.

Different versions and stories about the history of johnnycakes can be found throughout the Caribbean, as well as the American South (where they're also called hoecakes) and New England, and they were also made by Native Americans, though the American versions tend to incorporate cornmeal into the dough and are known as "cornmeal pancakes." Reportedly, johnnycakes were originally called "journey" cakes because of their durability and were easy to make on the road and take on the go.

The recipes for johnnycakes are as varied and diverse as the many countries and people that continue to enjoy making them. And the more you make them, the more you'll want to experiment, using this recipe as a base. Try mixing in some cornmeal with the flour, as the Southerners do; or adding milk, buttermilk, or coconut milk instead of water; or baking instead of frying; you can even stuff them with meat, cheese, or fish. You'll soon discover why these sweet treats are a staple all throughout the Caribbean. —The Editors

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the surface
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingertips.
  2. Add 1 cup of water to the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and knead with your hands, sprinkling the surface with more flour as needed, until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a towel. Let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  5. After dough has rested, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil.
  6. Form small balls of dough with your hands. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into circles with a rolling pin or the palm of your hand. Be sure to not make them too thin.
  7. Pierce each piece of dough with a fork or sharp knife several times and then drop in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown.
  8. Let drain on napkins or paper towels.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Francoise C Timoll
    Francoise C Timoll
  • Whattime Isit
    Whattime Isit
  • Natalie Martin-Martin
    Natalie Martin-Martin
  • Ingrid Berridge
    Ingrid Berridge
  • Walter G. Edwards III
    Walter G. Edwards III

59 Reviews

Razor1 January 24, 2021
First time making Johnny Cakes, husband rated it a solid 8. I’m going to try again next weekend for a solid 10. Any ideas on frying times.
 
Francoise C. January 4, 2021
In Jamaica, they are also Johnny cakes. I made two batches, one with butter and one with olive oil. Both were perfect and delicious. Don't skip the dough resting time! I rested mine for an hour. Yum!
 
Whattime I. October 4, 2020
Thank you for sharing this recipe. My husband and I first had Johnny cakes at La Reine’s chicken shack in St. Croix. Yummy, yummy, yummy 😋.
 
Ayakasxm21 August 4, 2020
I am born in St.Maarten and they would be called Johnny cake and would be eaten plain.
 
Ayakasxm21 August 4, 2020
I am born in St.Maarten and they would be called Johnny cake and would be eaten plain.
 
Natalie M. May 21, 2020
I thought this recipe was great! We served these with Garlic Fried Chicken and honey like at Vie's Snack Shack in St John! They were awesome! The consistency was great! I would love some better qualifiers on how long to fry, thickness of roll out, and kneading time, but it worked out.
 
Ingrid B. May 17, 2020
Lovely recipe made it for the first time, I just replaced the water with milk.
I was told by my Kittitian husband that the original name came from 'journey cake'
Lockdown keeps us busy with cooking😊
 
Razor1 January 24, 2021
How long did you fry them? Can’t wait to try the milk.
 
Adam M. March 9, 2021
True story—my family is Jamaican. They are called Johnny Cakes, which is the pronunciation of Journey Cakes in patois. They are dense and filling, but cheap to make. Perfect for a journey away from home. :)
 
Walter G. May 3, 2020
In Antigua they call these Johnny Cakes. Other islands have different names. In Nigeria they make something very similar (if not the same) and call it Puff Puff.

Who cares about the stinkin' name! I followed this recipe and the result was good!
 
Glenz February 6, 2019
Isn't it silly to argue about what a particular food is called? The main thing is, that they're ALL delicious!
 
Deborah March 30, 2018
Wow, so many of the comments are so rude. From the recipe, look and taste this cakes they appear to be "Virgin Islands Johnnie Cakes", in all its golden glory and sweetness. I have worked and lived on various islands in the Eastern and Western Caribbean. There are almost as many recipes and optional names for johnnie cakes as there are Caribbean islands. Some Johnnie Cakes or Bakes have little or no sweetness to as sweet as cake. All or good in there on way and purpose. Funny thing, these cakes are very similar to fry cakes that I've eaten from the Pomo Native American Reservation in Clearlake, California. Fried or baked, salty or sweet, I love Johnnie Cakes from breakfast to dinner, to topped with ice cream for dessert. Ladies, be nice. It cost nothing.
 
Patrice F. December 10, 2018
I agree with you on this. Differernt countries call things differernt names and anyone can change a recipe based on their individual influences. lets just eat and be merry :)
 
Razor1 January 24, 2021
Well said, I had them in the Caribbean any name is good with me they are incredible can’t wait to try it again next weekend.
 
elaisha March 19, 2018
girl plzz i dont know where you from but i am from St.John which is in the caribean and they call it johnny cake i whant to know what is friend bakes you need to get it right check my culture properly because people call certain things differently
 
No November 5, 2017
First of all they are called fried bakes i am from the Caribbean and i have know clue what a johnny cake is. Second of all they aren’t even supposed to be sweet tasting so they can’t be cake. Please fact check my culture properly.
 
Lulu L. November 28, 2017
What island are you from because this is a Johnny cake and I’ve had a recipe book from Jamaica that was published in the early 80’s by a Jamaican and this is similar to that recipe but 1/2 the sugar. Maybe you should do some research of how things were made there. Jamaicans have there own twist on things so I’m assuming you must be from a another island.
 
CrucianGal February 13, 2018
These are Johnny Cakes and that is what they are called in the Virgin Islands. They look just like that and they are supposed to be sweet.
 
Mahoganey February 18, 2018
That was very rude your island isn't the only island with culture. My grandmother is from st. Thomas and used to make Johnny cakes for me and my sister they were our favorite. I'm sure all islands have their own take on some version of this doesn't make it more right or wrong . And this is a good recipe i still make them and they are delish!
 
K November 8, 2018
It’s called “fried bake” where from. It’s it’s not sweet. Trinidad
 
Patrice F. December 10, 2018
K, I'm from Trinidad too and this is a Johnny cake. Different island vary recipes and call them different things. Let's just be tolerant of this fact. Akee is differnt for example to Jamacians and Bajans as is chennet. It all depends who taught you and who you were influenced by. at the end of the day, its delicious :) bth, it looks like an empanada. lol
 
Alexandra B. December 27, 2018
Not sure which Caribbean you from man, cannot be on earth. I am from the Caribbean as well and they are called JOHNNY CAKES!
 
DONNA January 18, 2019
No disrespect, my husband us jamaican we all are from the same waters just different islands I love Jamaican cooking in the Virgin islands we call it Johnny cake which is slightly made with a little sugar but in Jamaica it is k own as fry dumplings same ingredient just Virgin islanders put slaughter sugar but if you ask me they taste the same only little sugar to suits one choice.
 
Cherrysofine February 3, 2019
Well in my country they call them Johnny cakes. Different countries, Different names for food...
 
Trina J. April 6, 2020
And I am from St. Thomas and we call them Johnny Cakes! Looks like you need to do some fact checking!
 
Ela S. April 13, 2020
My boyfriend and his fam is from the US Virgin Islands and it’s called Jonny cake and they are a bit sweet. His grandma was born and raised there plus the rest of his family and they all call it the same
 
Ela S. April 13, 2020
I Know it’s called Johnny cake and I am not from the USA or any US/VI but my boyfriend is including his whole family. His Mom, Grandma, siblings... you name it were born and raised in St.Croix virgin island. He and everyone of his family call it Johnny cake!
 
Abby135 September 4, 2017
What type of johnny cake is this and from what country/islands?
My mother is from the Dominican Republic and they don't make johnny cakes like this and it doesn't look like that either.
 
Nicole November 3, 2017
My best friend is from St. Kitts and I make these for him - he said they are the closest to his Grandma’s that he’s ever had! I don’t stick them with a fork before frying them though - that takes the puffyness away.
 
Nicole November 3, 2017
My best friend is from St. Kitts and I make these for him - he said they are the closest to his Grandma’s that he’s ever had! I don’t stick them with a fork before frying them though - that takes the puffyness away.
 
Aqua M. March 5, 2017
I am 19, born and raised on St. Thomas, Virgin Island and I love johnny cakes. Good recipe!!
 
Tony E. February 12, 2017
Yes this good recipe which can be adjusted to your liking.
I've been making this since I was a kid and now my children love it when I make Johnny cakes for them.
 
Dillon J. January 22, 2017
Thank you for this recipe, mines turned out perfect.
 
Lauryn January 13, 2017
And I'm 11
 
Lauryn January 13, 2017
I am a island girl too ,I was born in st.croix virgin island
 
Island G. October 23, 2016
Folks I'm an Island gal and goodness some of you beat good common sense. If you already add butter why add oil to the dough. You should realize its for frying ONLY! Glad that was added after so you all can stop beating down someone for sharing
 
Veggiesoulsista July 26, 2016
You gave me some brownie points with my husband. He was born and raised in the Virgin Islands, so he knows johnny cakes (I'm from Florida). His birthday was Monday, so this weekend I made a big meal with the johnny cake as a surprise. I followed the recipe almost exactly, only I used the tub butter rather than the stick.

I cook, but I am new to frying things (was scared of all the oil). These came out like I was pro. I forgot to prick the first batch that went into the oil, and even those came out good! He asked me how I got them so evenly brown, and I just shrugged. I used peanut oil to fry.

As someone who is not from the VI, these taste like funnel cakes to me without the powdered sugar. They might be better than funnel cakes to me, because they are thicker and fluffier! I will make them again -- my husband is already saying that I will have to make more the next time I make them. He has eaten all the leftovers already.