Hotteok (which can be pronounced as HO-tuck or HO-duck) is a very popular street food that you can find in South Korea. It is a stuffed pancake that can be either sweet or savory, and of course in true Trader Joe’s fashion, they created a version of it for you to try at home! Trader Joe’s Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes really do give you the feeling like you are strolling down the streets of Seoul, while in the comfort of your own home. What more could you ask for?
I have never been to South Korea or tried this snack, so I was not sure what to expect. Thanks to Instagram and Trader Joes fans around the country I discovered the Korean hot cakes and immediately knew they would be right up my alley. BUT, would they deliver? The pancakes come frozen and TJ’s gives you three suggested options to prepare them.
Straight out of the bag they actually look like a thicker version of a traditional breakfast pancake.
In case you’ve already thrown out your bag I’ve listed the heating instructions below.
Sweet Korean Pancakes Heating Instructions
Microwave/Stovetop (from frozen): Remove all packaging. Place one pancake on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Remove from microwave and place in ungreased pan over medium heat. Heat for about 5 minutes on first side, until crisp and dark golden, before flipping. Heat on second side until crisp and golden. Allow to cool a bit as sugar can be quite hot.
Stovetop (from defrosted): Remove all packaging. Place in ungreased pan over medium heat. Heat for about 3-4 minutes on first side, until crisp and dark golden, before flipping. Heat on second side until crisp and golden. Allow to cool a bit as sugar can be quite hot.
Air Fryer (from frozen): Remove all packaging. Place one pancake in the air fryer and set the temperature at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat for 5 minutes. Allow to cool a bit as sugar can be quite hot.
How to Make Trader Joe’s Korean Pancakes
Since I didn’t want to plan ahead and worry about thawing the pancakes I opted for the microwave/stovetop option which has you heat from frozen. It’s a little cumbersome as the instructions state to heat one pancake at a time for 30 seconds, and then heat the pancake in an ungreased skillet for five minutes and flip.
You could be daring and microwave 2 pancakes together but don’t tell anyone I recommended that. Add 15 seconds for a total of 45 seconds and you can save yourself some time and eat two pancakes together or share one with a friend.
For stovetop browning I found that five minutes per side was too long after the first one came out a bit burnt. For the 2nd pancake I shortened the time to three minutes per side and it was much more palatable. You can see the difference in the photo below.
When heated and browned, the pancakes develop a golden brown hue like a caramelized treasure and crispy outside they gives a nice mouth feel with each bite. Do be sure to let them cool before eating as the sugar inside can be scalding and you don’t want one of those burns on the roof of your mouth like after eating a hot slice of pizza that’ll take days to heal!
The Taste of Sweet Cinnamon Korean Pancakes
I’ve never had a pancake like this before. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had stuffed pancakes and pancakes with toppings, but this was different. I guess it’s the fact that they were less like breakfast pancakes and more like a sweet treat.
They are definitely not your Bisquick pancake masquerading as a Korean food. When heated properly, the pancakes are pleasantly golden brown and a bit crispy on the outside. The inside becomes soft, warm and gooey on the inside like a sugary confection.
As I had hoped, the cinnamon filling almost oozed out and there was a generous amount of filling inside. The taste of the dough was pancake-esque, but better. It gave off a buttery flavor and the cinnamon flavor was there but not overpowering.
The Korean pancakes were clearly Trader Joe’s sweet take on the Korean street food.
A Must Try Serving Suggestion
To enhance the Korean pancakes and make them even more delectable follow Trader Joe’s serving suggestion and do yourself a favor and add ice cream!
I followed the directions on the back of the bag and cut the pancake laterally (creating a sandwich). Then drop a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream right in the middle.
My goodness this was a game changer!
The ice cream brought out the sweetness of the cinnamon and created a cinnamon vanilla swirl with each bite. It’s like the two were made for each other.
Are Trader Joe’s Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes Vegan?
While not listed on the packaging, the Korean pancakes are also vegan treat! Here are the list of ingredients for you to see! This makes the Korean pancakes an item that almost anyone can enjoy and that is always a plus in my book.
Trader Joe’s Korean Pancakes Ingredients
As for the ingredients, they start out as we’d expect for a pancake with the traditional pancake batter mixture. Korean pancakes are traditionally made with sweet rice flour. I was pleasantly surprised to find a concoction labeled Sweet Potato Mousse in the list of ingredients and still wonder how this plays into the recipe.
Don’t get me wrong, Sweet Potato Mousse is definitely a thing, I’ve just never seen it as an ingredient in a baked good. It actually shines on its own as a whipped dessert. The mousse adds dimension to the texture and flavor of the pancakes.
WATER, WHEAT FLOUR, BATTER MIX (WHEAT FLOUR, MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH, SUGAR, CORNSTARCH, SWEET RICE FLOUR, CANOLA OIL, RICE FLOUR, DEXTROSE, SALT, GLUCONO-DELTA-LACTONE, SODIUM BICARBONATE), SWEET RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SWEET POTATO MOUSSE (SWEET POTATO, WATER, SUGAR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SALT, VINEGAR, XANTHAN GUM), SOYBEAN OIL, YEAST, CINNAMON, CARAMEL COLOR, SEA SALT.
ALLERGENS: SOY , WHEAT.
What I didn’t Love
I’ve been singing many praises but let’s be honest, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies when it comes to Korean cakes. My only complaint (and it’s kind of a big one) is the size.
They are much smaller than I was expecting (and led to believe by the packaging), especially considering the size of the bag they came in.
You only get four pancakes in each package, for $4.49 making this very low on my value meter. Although not plentiful in quantity, the pancakes happen to be very filling. The diameter of the pancake may not be big, but they are thick so you can’t really eat that many in a sitting (at least I can’t).
While this isn’t the food to buy if you’re looking to stretch your dollars the Korean pancakes are a fun choice to spice up a breakfast or a special dessert once in a while.
Trader Joe’s Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes Nutrition Facts
As you’d probably expect, the Sweet Korean pancakes don’t offer a whole lot of nutritional benefit. The fact that TJ’s markets these as a dessert should’ve been a clue that the nutritional information on the back of the bag won’t be something to be desired. But, how bad is it?
One small but fluffy pancake that is approximately 2-3 inches in diameter weighs in at 280 calories, 8g of fat, 49g of carbs and 27g of sugar (including 12g of added sugars).
On the plus side, the pancakes are a source of protein (4g) and fiber (3g).
Sweet Korean Pancakes Compared to Brookies
I thought it’d be useful to compare the pancakes to another popular TJ’s dessert to see how they compared nutritionally. For this comparison I chose the Trader Joe’s Brookies.
For those not familiar with a Brookie, think of the ultimate mash-up between a chewy fudgy brownie and traditional golden chocolate chip cookie batter.
Using weight in grams as the constant, 1 pancake equaled 90g while 2 Brookie pieces equaled 78g.
The pair of Brookies contained 360 calories, 16g of fat, 44g of carbs and 28g of sugar (including 28g of added sugars). The two Brookies did contain a combined 4g of protein but were not a significant source of fiber.
Whether you’re a numbers person or just like to have a better understanding of what you eat, I hope this is a helpful comparison.
Are Trader Joe’s Korean Pancakes Discontinued?
Understanding Trader Joe’s plans for whether or not to discontinue foods is like cracking The Da Vinci Code. Many items at Trader Joe’s are seasonal and therefore come in and out stock.
Trader Joe’s Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes have not been discontinued, as suggested in the popular Reddit thread. The specialty pancakes are a seasonal item for the fall and winter. In September (if not sooner) you’ll find them in a Trader Joe’s freezer near you. If you have not yet tried them you can add them to the large list of pumpkin products that you’ll soon be purchasing.
WARNING: When these came in last year, they sold so fast they went on back stock. Eventually, they made a reappearance and I believe were around until around Christmas.
So, are they instagrammable? YES. Are they tasty? YES. Would I eat them for breakfast? Probably not. But my kids really enjoyed them.
Kudos to Trader Joe’s for doing a great job making this Korean street food snack accessible to us suburb-ians. They really brought the Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes to life. Eat them as is or dress them up with some ice cream, chopped nuts, and top with whipped cream.
Overall, I would give a rating of 7/10 (due to price and quantity) and will most likely give them another try. Here’s to hoping Trader Joe’s will introduce another variation of Hotteok such as Green Tea or Pizza Hotteok.