These tasty Vietnamese crispy pancakes are a staple in our household as they are quick to prepare, extremely tasty and nutritious, and vegan and gluten free! You will love the contrast between the turmeric and coconut crepe wrapped around the crunchy and zingy salad inside. Together with the classic nuoc cham Vietnamese dipping sauce, it is a match made in heaven!
Why you will love this recipe
- This crispy Vietnamese pancake recipe is so quick and easy to make.
- It is an explosion of flavours in your mouth with each bite!
- Since there is no wheat flour in these pancakes they are naturally gluten-free and suitable for celiacs. Yey!
- Although the pancakes look very much like omelettes, there are actually no eggs and the yellow colour comes entirely from the turmeric powder, so they are also naturally vegan. Double yey!
- You can use this Vietnamese crepe recipe for all sorts of other dishes as a tasty vegan alternative to an omelette.
- You can also use the salad recipe on its own as a side salad.
This recipe is based on the Vietnamese street food, Bánh Xèo which is savoury stuffed crispy rice flour pancakes. You can find versions of this dish across much of South East Asia with Banh Chev in Cambodia and Khanom Bueang Yuan in Thailand.
For me, Vietnamese cuisine is characterized by strong punchy flavours and quick cooking and this dish is no exception! In Vietnamese, the name Bánh Xèo can be translated literally to “cake” (banh) “sizzle” (xeo), referring to the loud sizzling noise that you hear when you pour the batter into the hot frying pan! This is what makes the pancakes crispy.
These Banh Xeo pancakes are a thin pancake more like French crepes that are flatter and thinner than the small American style pancakes so think of them more as Vietnamese crêpes rather than pancakes!
How is this recipe different from the traditional Vietnamese version?
- The pancake batter is traditionally made with rice flour, water and turmeric. For this banh xeo recipe, I have added coconut milk too as I like the mellow flavour that it adds and the slightly thicker consistency.
- The traditional filling for these pancakes includes prawns and/or slices of pork belly which I don’t eat. I have made this vegan by omitting the animal products.
- I have also made the filling lighter and healthier by making it a salad rather than cooking it. You could of course cook it if you prefer – see “Adapting for Children” below.
- I have made a slight variation to the nuoc cham dipping sauce to make it vegan. It is no less tasty though!
Adapting For Children
I find most children love pancakes and anything that involves eating with their hands. So, with only a few small changes, these crispy Vietnamese pancakes can be a big hit with kids! For an easy plant-based family meal:
- serve the spicy, salad filled version for the adults,
- siphon off some of the sauce before adding the chilli for the childrens’ version,
- if your children don't like salad, stir fry some of the salad so that the children can have the cooked version inside their pancakes instead.
Although this list looks long, it is only because there are three constituent parts to making this Vietnamese banh xeo pancake recipe. They are actually very simply ingredients!
- rice flour - I use brown rice flour for extra fibre but you can use white rice flour if you prefer. If you have a thermomix, you can even make your own rice flour from plain uncooked dry rice (1 minute, speed 10).
- cornstarch – alternatively you can use arrowroot or tapioca starch instead. The starch helps to give the pancakes a lighter texture.
- turmeric – the ground turmeric gives that wonderful yellow flavour to the pancakes and is essential in this recipe. Please don’t leave it out.
- coconut milk – this gives a lovely mellow background flavour. You could just use water if you like but it will be a thinner consistency so you may need less liquid.
Nước Chấm Dipping Sauce
I make my version of this delicious spicy sauce from lime juice, vegetarian fish sauce, water, tamari (or coconut aminos), sesame oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, red chilli and garlic cloves. The vegetarian fish sauce can be hard to find. If you can’t find any, just leave it out and add a little more tamari and rice vinegar.
If you have a bottle of the ready-made sauce then you could use that instead. Check the ingredients though as it often contains fish ingredients and/or gluten. In any case, I find this so quick and easy to make and like that I can control exactly what ingredients it contains!
- choose a variety of fresh vegetables – I like to use carrots, red cabbage, and rocket (arugula), mainly for their colour and crunch!
- spring onion (scallions / green onion)
- mung bean sprouts - mung beans are so good for you and their sprouts are easier to digest.
- fresh herbs - I like to use the typically Vietnamese herbs like coriander, mint, thai basil.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities of ingredients.
- To make the banh xeo pancake batter, you whisk the ingredients together or just whizz them in a blender. Then leave the batter in the fridge for half an hour to give the flour time to absorb the liquid.
- Chop all the salad ingredients and put them in a bowl. (Add a spoonful of the nuoc cham dipping sauce as the dressing just before serving.)
- Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and keep in a jug in the fridge.
- When you are ready to make the pancakes, heat a small frying pan or skillet over a medium-high heat and add a little oil. These pancakes are fried in oil as opposed to normal British style pancakes. Once the oil is hot, add a ladle of batter into the hot pan and swirl it around to cover the pan with a thin layer of batter. You should hear a loud sizzling sound when you pour it in!
- Let the pancake cook for a minute then gently pull up the side with a spatula to check underneath. If it is a golden brown colour, then use the spatula to flip the pancake onto the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes until golden brown on that side too.
- Place the cooked pancake onto a plate lined with kitchen towel. Then place a clean tea towel over the top to keep it warm.
- Repeat until you have used all the batter and made all the pancakes. Transfer to a serving plate.
- To serve, take one pancake each, fill with a spoonful of the salad, wrap the pancake around it then pour the dipping sauce over the top or dip the end of the pancake into it if you prefer. I like to serve the pancakes on a big serving platter for everyone to help themselves and build their own.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full instructions.
For julienning vegetables, I have a little julienne peeler which looks exactly like the Y-shaped vegetable peelers but with a jagged edge. It makes it so easy to prepare vegetables in this way, especially the carrots. It makes quite a big difference to the lightness of the dish to have the vegetables so finely sliced.
To do it by hand instead:
- Cut the carrot in half across the middle. Next, slice each half lengthways as thinly as possible, then turn the slices onto their flat side and slice lengthways again as thinly as possible until you have shapes that look like matchsticks.
- For the cabbage, you can slice it really finely or use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to peel off lots of thin slices at once!
This Vietnamese banh xeo pancake recipe is perfect for a weeknight family supper or as a light lunch for guests if you make everything in advance. You can keep each part separately in sealed containers in the fridge until you need them.
- Salad: Make up to 4 hours ahead but don't add the sauce until you are just about to serve it. Keep the salad in a covered bowl in the fridge.
- Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce: Make ahead and keep separately in the fridge. This sauce will happily keep for up to a week in the fridge.
- Pancakes - either:
- make the batter in advance (up to a day ahead) and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge until you are ready to cook the pancakes; or
- make the pancakes a few hours ahead and keep in the fridge in a sealed container. Then warm for 5 minutes in the oven (or air fryer) at about 80-100°C wrapped in foil lined with baking paper (see this article for why I don't like my foil to touch my food while cooking) or just quickly re-fry the pancakes on each side to heat them up.
Making the pancakes in advance means that they won’t be quite as crisp and light as when they’re made fresh. However, they’re perfectly decent and if you have a lot of people to feed, making pancakes in advance is really the only practical way to do it!
This Vietnamese banh xeo pancake recipe is so adaptable as you can chop and change the filling to whatever you choose. I like this combination of salad vegetables because of the colours and the crunch. But you can use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge drawer that need using up!
You could also use the filling as a Vietnamese spring roll or summer roll filling. For that you would skip the crepes and instead use rice paper wrappers dipped in water to roll around the salad filling and folded over itself to make a rice paper roll. Equally delicious!
I love to serve these crispy Vietnamese pancakes for an al fresco lunch. If you want to bulk it up with some protein then you could add some crispy salt and pepper tofu cubes that would go brilliantly with the dipping sauce too! Finish off with some mango sorbet and you've got yourself a delicious light lunch party meal right there!
I also like to make more salad than I need as it keeps well so it is useful to have in the fridge for quick weekday lunches.
Vietnamese Pancakes FAQs
Although the banh xeo batter is vegan, the fillings are usually not vegan. So, if you order these savory Vietnamese crepes in Vietnamese restaurants, or, indeed, on the streets of Vietnam, then it would usually contain pork belly strips and/or prawns as well. Likewise, the nuoc cham dipping sauce would usually contain fish sauce as well, which makes it non-vegan. This recipe, however, has been adapted to be vegan and just as delicious!
You need to ensure the oil in the pan is hot before you add your pancake batter. If it is not hot enough, it will just steam rather than fry. The addition of cornstarch in this recipe also helps to make sure that the pancakes are crispy.
Since these are really Vietnamese crepes rather than pancakes, the consistency of the batter is thinner than normal pancake batter. You want it to easily spread around the pan when you pour the batter in so that it covers the base with a thin layer of batter. If it does not spread quickly or easily, then it is too thick and you will need to add water to thin it down. Whisk in small amounts of water (a tablespoon at a time) and check the consistency until you get it thin enough so that it runs easily across the pan but still holds its own and doesn't tear on flipping. (It needs to be thick enough to hold the filling.). Ideally, it should be about the thickness of pouring cream. As with crepe cooking, the first one is usually just a tester to check the consistency and the temperature of the pan!
📖 Recipe 📖
Vietnamese Bánh Xèo Pancakes (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
- 225 g brown or white rice flour
- 70 g cornstarch, (or arrowroot or tapioca starch)
- ½ teaspoon salt, (Himalayan pink salt)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 200 ml water
- 1 tablespoon flavourless oil, (e.g. sunflower, rapeseed, grapeseed)
- 40 ml lime juice
- 40 ml vegetarian fish sauce, (optional)
- 40 ml water
- 1 tablespoon tamari , (or coconut aminos)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, (or maple syrup)
- 1 red chilli, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
- 200 g red cabbage, sliced very thinly or julienned
- 80 g rocket
- 3 spring onions, sliced thinly on a diagonal
- 100 g mung bean sprouts
- 40 g fresh herbs, e.g. coriander, mint, thai basil
- Make the pancake batter: Whisk together the pancake batter ingredients (except the oil) in a large bowl or simply whizz them in a blender. Set aside for half an hour (or longer if you want to make ahead) while you make the sauce and the salad.225 g brown or white rice flour, 70 g cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 400 ml coconut milk, 200 ml water
- Make the salad: julienne the vegetables for the salad and pick the leaves from the herbs then roughly chop them. Put all the salad ingredients into a bowl.2 carrots, 200 g red cabbage, 80 g rocket, 3 spring onions, 100 g mung bean sprouts, 40 g fresh herbs
- Make the sauce: mix the ingredients together in a small jug.40 ml lime juice, 40 ml vegetarian fish sauce, 40 ml water, 1 tablespoon tamari, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 red chilli, 3 garlic cloves
- Make the pancakes: heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium-high heat. Then, once hot, ladle in a little batter into the pan and swirl it around to spread the batter over the whole of the pan into a circle shape (the amount you need depends on the size of the pan but you want it to be a fairly thin mixture covering the base). It should bubble a bit and then firm up enough to be able to use a spatula to gently peel the edges away and check the underside. Once it is golden on the underside, you can flip the pancake over and cook for a minute or two on the other side.1 tablespoon flavourless oil
- Place the cooked pancake on a plate lined with a layer of kitchen towel. Note that the first pancake is often just a tester and not as good as the rest! Adjust the pancake consistency or heat of the stove as needed (see notes).
- While making each pancake, keep the cooked pancakes warm under a clean tea-towel or in a very low oven (80°C) with an up-turned plate on top to stop them from drying out.
- When ready to serve, whisk up the sauce and toss a little of it into the salad then pour the rest into a dipping bowl. Place a warm pancake on each plate, with a spoonful of salad on top and a little spoonful of sauce, then fold the pancake over, sprinkle a bit more sauce on top and garnish with some coriander leaves to make it look pretty!
- It's easiest to use a julienne slicer to prepare the vegetables but see the blog post for more knife skills tips to make this salad.
- Check the consistency of the batter when you make the first pancake. It should be thin enough to spread easily across the base of the pan but thick enough to firm up and flip over when the bottom is cooked. If it tears easily, then it is too thin and needs a little more flour whisked into it. If it does not spread easily, then it is too thick and need a little water added to thin it down. It should be about the consistency of pouring cream.
- All parts can be made ahead and kept separately in sealed containers in the fridge. Then when you’re ready to eat, you make the pancakes and toss a little sauce into the salad. See the blog post for more tips on making this dish ahead.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
If you like this Vietnamese Banh Xeo Pancake recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free lunch recipes too: