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Rhode Island Jonnycakes | Thick South County Style

Rhode Island Jonnycakes | Thick South County Style
6 votes, 4.67 avg. rating (91% score)

rhode island jonnycakes

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Perfect jonnycake batter…for this household.

Diane says the batter should be sturdy but thin enough to easily slip off a spoon (think buttery mashed potatoes), and the griddle should be hot with an even coating of bacon grease or corn oil. Like all good cooks, she advises you to trust your eye and instinct to tell you when the consistency is just right.

rhode island jonnycakes

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Add more milk for a thinner jonnycake.

After 5 or 6 minutes, the jonnycake bottoms are crisp and brown. Give them a flip and let the other side catch up.

rhode island jonnycakes

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Time to flip!

Hot and crisp with a slightly chewy center, the jonnycakes tasted better than I expected. Slightly nutty and with a pleasantly coarse texture, the flavor was pure and good, enhanced, but not overpowered by a good spread of butter. “Never maple syrup!” they both tell me, although a little creamed cod or chipped beef on top is alright for lunch or dinner. It’s true that just because something looks like a little pancake doesn’t mean it should be eaten like one. After eating a few jonnycakes apiece, Bob and Diane sent me on my way with a bag of their Rhode Island Johnnycake Meal (made from 100% Rhode Island Flint Corn) and a promise to call the next time they know the mill will be grinding so I can see it in action.

Bob and Diane Smith

Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Bob and Diane Smith of Wakefield, RI have been manning the water-powered Perry Grist Mill since the mid-1980’s.

And sure enough, I’ve made another batch of jonnycakes at home since then, trying to get them just like Diane’s. The nutty cornmeal taste is oddly addictive. Try some yourself and see if you don’t agree.


Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
Thick-style jonnycakes made from local whitecap flint corn served with plenty of butter.

Are you a jonnycake lover (or johnnycake lover)? Do you like them thick or thin? If you want a thin version try our recipe for Thin Cold-Milk Johnnycakes. And let us know what you think!

Aimee Seavey


Aimee Seavey


Assistant Editor Aimee Seavey is a staff writer for Yankee Magazine and assists in the development and promotion of content for through blogging and social media outlets.
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3 Responses to Rhode Island Jonnycakes | Thick South County Style

  1. Hollis Phillips March 26, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    The thing that always puzzles me in this debate is that no one ever mentions the use of specific johnny cake pans. I have two that have been in my family for over 50 years. Our johnny cakes were always made on the thick side…you’d let the cast iron pans heat over a gas flame until they were, in the words of my Dad, “smoking hot”. Then you’d add pats of bacon grease, carefully saved over time) to each depression, and plop in the batter, letting it cook for 5-10 minutes on top of the stove until they were brown. Then the pans would be carefully put into a hot oven via a pair of pliers. They would bake for exactly 59 minutes. Out they would come, golden and crusty all over, to be split a covered with a big pat of butter. Only once the butter had melted would you take your first buttery, crisp bite! Pure heaven.

    I have occasionally seen these pans in antique stores, always made from cast iron. My family is from Massachusetts, so perhaps this is a localized version?

  2. Julie March 26, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    Hi, just for the record, Wakefield is NOT in West Kingston. Both are villages in South Kingstown which is in Washington County. Thanks!

    • Aimee Seavey March 26, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

      Hi Julie! Thanks for your comment. I’ve updated the post to show that both villages are located in South Kingstown. The mill’s mailing address is on Narragansett Road West and I think that’s where my brain pulled the West from! Thanks for the correction!

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