These French buckwheat crepes are easy to make, naturally gluten free and with a lovely slightly nutty flavor. They're perfect loaded up with cheese, ham and egg for a classic "crêpe complete" for brunch/ lunch, or with many other tasty savory fillings.
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I'll admit, my first experience of buckwheat was not a good one. It was when I was on a project in rural Russia as a teen and we had batch-made buckwheat porridge every day. It wasn't exactly the easiest to eat.
But then in later life I had it cooked properly and grew to like it more. And I also discovered buckwheat flour used in a few traditional recipes from different parts of the world.
Does buckwheat contain gluten?
Despite the name, buckwheat is not a form of wheat and in fact not even a grain, though it's treated as one. Buckwheat is naturally gluten free, and high in protein - you can find out more interesting facts in this article.
The lack of gluten does mean it can be a little challenging to use in baking, for example. You typically have to blend it with wheat flour. However it works on it's own in thin pancakes such as these classic French crepes and Russian blini.
You will find buckwheat flour comes in light and dark varieties. The lighter is hulled, while the darker is unhulled. You can use either here - dark is higher in protein, but light I think has a milder flavor.
Where are these crepes from?
These crepes originate in the Brittany area of northwest France. They are sometimes referred to as a "galette". I know, that name can be confusing as that's also the name for a free-form pie/tart (like my blueberry galette and mushroom galette). So be aware these would be a "galette de sarresin" or "de blé noir" (the two names for buckwheat).
Some recipes include some wheat flour to help with the consistency, but traditionally, you just use buckwheat flour, as I have done here. This has the bonus of meaning they are gluten free crepes. You can make them with water or milk - I think milk is better flavor-wise but as you prefer.
This recipe has a relatively high proportion of egg which counteracts some of the challenges you can have with buckwheat - it can make them prone to cracking. If you like, you can thin out the mixture to make it less "eggy" with a bit more flour and milk/water.
Tips for cooking these crepes
Traditionally, these are made on a crepe maker called a billig that's basically a big round hot plate. You use a tool called a roselle to spread the batter really thin and even.
Obviously, it would be unrealistic to have one of these at home, though I do find my crepe pan pretty useful as an alternative (sadly, don't have it here right now). But you can still have pretty good success with these on an everyday skillet/frying pan. They might just be a little thicker, which makes folding them a little harder, but it's a minor thing.
To help them to turn out well, I'd recommend using a nonstick skillet or crepe pan over a medium-high heat and butter it slightly just before cooking the first one. You shouldn't need to butter again unless you seem to have problems with it sticking.
Once you add the batter, lift the pan off the heat and quickly rotate it to spread the batter right around the pan. If you need some help with how to do this, it's the same principle as I do for my ficelle picarde (mushroom and ham crepe au gratin) and my apple crepes and which both have a video. Though I admit my technique not as good as it could be in the video, so please don't judge! Also, I found I only needed to rotate the pan once with this batter as it's a bit thicker.
Typically, these crepes are served with savory toppings. Sweet crepes usually use a wheat flour batter. One of the most classic toppings is with cheese, typically gruyere, ham and egg called a "crêpe complete". That's what I've shown here, and it's definitely worth trying.
In some cases, the egg will be added directly onto the crepe to cook, but that's less successful without the crepe maker. So instead, it's better to fry the egg separately then tuck it in. You can also scramble the egg, if you prefer.
If you are looking for other topping ideas, you are really only limited by your imagination. I remember having these from a market one time and the stall had chopped wilted spinach, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, caramelized onions, cheese, ham, chopped chicken and more to choose from. So get creative!
If you're making a few of these, to be able to serve them more or less together, the best idea is to cook all the crepes first. Then, store them wrapped in a clean dishcloth and warm one at a time to add the toppings.
Have the toppings prepared before you start filling the crepes ie grate the cheese, fry the eggs. You only need a minute to add the toppings to the warmed crepe, fold in the edges, then serve.
These buckwheat crepes have a lovely flavor to them, that pair perfectly with a range of savory toppings. The classic ham, cheese and egg version shown here makes a delicious brunch or lunch. So give these gluten free crepes a try for a French twist to your morning.
Try these other tasty pancake recipes:
- British pancakes (relatively similar to French wheat flour crepes, classically served with lemon and sugar)
- Chestnut pancakes with honey-rose mascarpone (also gluten free)
- Chicken crepes with leek and mushrooms (the filling would also be good with these)
- Plus get more French recipes in the archives.
If you're looking for more ways to use buckwheat, both as flour and groats, this Food 52 article has lots of ideas.
- ½ cup buckwheat flour
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup milk
- ½ tablespoon butter approx
- 8 tablespoon grated gruyere cheese (approx)
- 4 slices ham
- 1 tablespoon butter or oil, or more as needed to cook eggs
- 4 eggs
For the crepes
- Mix together the ingredients for the crepes either by hand with a whisk or with a blender. Ideally, chill the mixture, covered, overnight or at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to use, stir the batter well. The consistency should be similar to heavy cream (double cream) - if it is too thick add a little water (I needed around 2 tbsp).
- Warm a crepe pan or large skillet/frying pan (approx 12in/30cm diameter) over a medium-high heat. When warm, add the butter - it should bubble immediately but not brown.
- Pour approx ¼ cup of the crepe mixture into the warm frying pan/skillet. Do this with the pan off the heat and at the same time swirl it round the pan so it covers all of the base, as far as possible. Fill any gaps with a little extra batter.
- After a couple minutes, the top will be dry. Loosen the edge and once the edge starts to curl up and go crisp, turn the crepe over with a spatula/palette knife. Cook a couple more minutes on the other side.
- Remove to a plate with a clean dish towel on top and cover with the towel. Repeat with the rest of the batter - you should get 4 crepes.
To fill the crepes
- Prepare fillings first - grate the cheese and separate into 4 piles of 2tbsp each ready to use. Break up the ham if larger pieces. Fry the eggs in a medium-high heat skillet with butter or oil so that the whites are cooked but yolks are still soft (unless you prefer cooked more).
- Re-heat a crepe in the crepe pan/skillet over medium heat for around 30 seconds. Add the cheese in the middle, leaving, top with the ham then the egg leaving the sides without any filling (or at least not too much).
- Fold in two opposite sides over the filling but leaving the yolk of the egg visible. Fold in the two other sides so that you form a pocket. Press the sides down with a spatula to get them to hold, as far as possible, then remove from pan and serve. Repeat with rest of crepes.
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