Hotteok (호떡), a popular street food snack in Korea, consists of fried dough filled with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. I like to use pecans instead of walnuts or peanuts in my Korean pancake recipe. Enjoy these sweet treats while they are hot and fresh!
I can't remember how I first learned about these sweet Korean pancakes called Hotteok (호떡) but I have been dying to try them ever since! Homemade Pancakes are kind of my thing, and I've been incorporating more Korean recipes in anticipation of the adoption of my youngest son, so I couldn't wait to try this version with fried dough.
The only problem was that I had never actually eaten them before and I couldn't find any where nearby that served them fresh. I did find a frozen option at Hmart (an Asian grocery store about two hours away) but I knew they wouldn't compare to the piping hot version served on the streets of South Korea.
So I invited one of my good friends, who happens to have been born and raised in Korea, over to test this homemade Korean pancake recipe with me.
I started the dough before she arrived because I knew it had to rise for an hour or so. After I had it all mixed together, I frantically sent her a text with a picture of the dough to make sure the consistency was right.
The hotteok dough will be very wet and sticky. I was tempted to add more flour because it looked overly sticky, but that is what you're after! Let it rise and do its thing, and then use a well-floured surface to shape the sticky dough into balls.
How to Make Hotteok Filling
Traditional hotteok filling is made with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts- typically walnuts or peanuts. I decided to substitute in pecans because I don't particularly love either of those. When the little ball of dough is fried and pressed, the filling becomes a delicious, syrupy mixture.
When it comes time to fry the hotteok, you will want to move quickly. It's best to have all of the balls of dough ready to go before you begin. You can cover the formed dough with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out if you need but I just tried to work quickly.
How to Fry Hotteok
These little sweet pancakes cook very quickly. The Korean pancake recipe I was following suggested cooking each one for a total of 5 minutes, but I found that they cooked much faster. This will vary greatly for a few different reasons:
- the size of your pan and how much residual heat it holds
- how much oil you are using
- whether you are cooking on an electric cooktop or a gas range (where you have more control over temperature)
You will know when it is time to flip the hotteok when you see that the bottom side is starting to turn golden brown. The color will begin to seep up the sides and when it looks like it is cooked half way through, it is time to flip and cook the other side.
My friend actually gifted me a hotteok press that a family member from Korea sent to her. You can buy a hotteok press online, though they are cheaper in Korea. I plan to pick up a couple more when I'm there in a few months.
If you don't have a hotteok press, you can use a flat back spatula, but I do think it is worth the small expense to buy one. Trust me, after you make these once, you will be using it often! Check out this quick video of a vendor in Korea flipping fresh pancakes with his hotteok press.
My friend taught me how to use the hotteok press to flip the hotteok over. Gently slip the flat edge of the tool under the bottom of the hotteok to gently lift up and flip. The fried dough is more stable than traditional American pancakes, so it is easy to flip in one piece without worrying about it falling apart.
Traditional hotteok are served piping hot, usually in a folded napkin or piece of wax paper, and are especially popular in the wintertime.
You will want to eat your hotteok as soon as it is bearable to do so but be careful not to burn your mouth with that delicious syrupy filling.
If you let the hotteok cool they will become heavy and tough. I'm not saying that I didn't still eat the last one that remained after I finished cleaning up after breakfast... I'm just saying it was 100x better when it was hot and fresh from the pan.
Korean Pancake Recipe Notes:
- You will want to use wet hands (rubbed with oil) when kneading the dough during the rise process and dry hands (dusted with flour) when shaping and filling the dough.
- Be careful when filling the hotteok- you want it full so that you get filling in every bite, but not so full that it ruptures while frying. We used a large spoonful, about 1-2 tablespoons.
- I found it easiest to clean the skillet after each batch (frying two at a time) and begin the next batch with new oil. If any filling leaks out, it will burn quickly. Be very careful not to burn yourself with hot oil.
- You can experiment with other sweet fillings like Nutella or omit the sugar and try savory fillings like shredded cheese and scallions to create your own Korean pancake recipe.
We enjoyed our hotteok with hot tea and a bowl of berries tossed with this simple honey lime dressing.
For the dough:
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp chopped pecans, (or walnuts or unsalted peanuts)
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- vegetable oil for cooking
- Combine the water, sugar, yeast, salt, and vegetable oil in a large bowl and stir well to dissolve the yeast. (The water should be warm, just below too warm to touch.)
- Stir in the flour and knead the dough in the bowl until smooth, about two minutes. (The dough will be very sticky. It will feel less like "kneading" and more like just moving around sticky paste.)
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until the dough doubles in size. (About one hour.)
- With well-oiled hands, knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes to deflate the gas bubbles and make it smooth again. Re-cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
- Combine all of the filling ingredients in a small bowl, mix well.
- Dust a large cutting board with the ⅓ cup flour.
- With well-oiled hands, knead the dough in the bowl to deflate the gas bubbles, about five minutes.
- Transfer the sticky dough to the board and shape it into a ball. With floured hands, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball.
- Flour your hands, flatten one ball of dough and spoon about 2 tbsp of filling in the center. Gather the edges together and pinch to seal. Repeat for all 8 balls of dough. (You can cover the filled balls with plastic wrap to prevent drying, or work quickly.)
- Heat a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and swirl the skillet to coat evenly.
- Place the filled hotteok in the skillet, seam side down. (I fried two at a time, be careful not to crowd the pan.)
- When the bottom turns light golden brown, about 1-2 minutes, turn the hotteok over and press each one down using the hotteok press (or back of spatula) to make a thin disc.
- Cook for another 1-2 minutes on the second side, until you start to see the syrup through the dough. Be careful not to let the syrup leak out and burn.
- Carefully remove the hotteok from the pan and set aside on a plate lined with wax paper. Don't stack the hot hotteok on top of each other.
- Wipe the skillet clean using a paper towel and tongs, and add clean oil. Repeat the frying process for the remaining hotteok.
- Enjoy immediately. (Remember the filling will be very hot!)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 8 hotteok
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175