Rhode Island-style Jonnycakes

Jonnycakes with bacon bits

Jonnycake breakfast illustration by Rayne Beaudoin
This recipe came from a couple of sources but primarily from Roger Testana, jonnycake chef for the May Breakfast at the Old Stone Church in Tiverton, RI. There are thick and thin versions of the Rhode Island jonnycakes which are eaten as an accompaniment to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Apparently, feuding over the East Bay and West Bay (thin vs thick) is a local tradition in Rhode Island. This recipe will give you the thin version which is wonderful plain with salt right off the griddle, but can be a sweet breakfast option with syrup and berries. Jonnycakes are reputed to be "America's first pancake" (or should that be the Native American's first pancake?). As a southerner, I love most anything made with corn and at first glance this is just a small corn tortilla, but don't tell anyone from Rhode Island I said that!


  • 2 cups stone ground white cornmeal, preferably jonnycake (flint corn) meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, any kind
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. Combine the cornmeal and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the cold water and stir until smooth. Stir in the milk, adding more if needed to achieve a thin, pourable batter.
  2. Lightly oil the griddle. Stir the batter — it tends to settle — then spoon out 1 tablespoon of the batter for each cake onto the griddle. The batter should "dance" out into a thin disk. If it seems too thin, add 1 teaspoon of cornmeal to the batter. If the cake sits too high, thin out the batter with a little milk.
  3. Let the cakes bake on the griddle until the underside is deep brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Flip them with a metal spatula, being careful, as they are fragile and tend to stick, and fry the second side just until spotted brown, about 1 minute.
  5. Serve them immediately. Lightly oil the griddle and stir the batter between batches.
60 calories per jonnycake, with 1.5 g of fat. The batch can yield up to 12 medium sized cakes.
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