Pancake Fridays: Tres Leches Pancakes

The pancakes have been taste-tested and taste-tested. And taste-tested.

And every time, the immediate response is: “Well…these don’t really taste like tres leches…”

Immediately followed by, “…but they’re delicious/tasty/really good!” So I figured they were good enough to share, even if the title post should really be “Tres Leches-inspiredย Pancakes.”

Here’s the story behind why (or at least one reason why) these don’t taste exactly like tres leches:

When my sister went to Costa Rica on some eco-saving trip a few summers ago, she came back and immediately bought a sack of masa harina, or corn flour, to try to recreate the arepas she’d eaten. She was disappointed with her final result–dense and cakey pucks of banana-scented, lightly fried corn cakes that she said weren’t close to the tasty arepas she could eat “all day” in Costa Rica.

Ever since then, that sack of masa harina has been abandoned in our kitchen cabinet, except for one time we dragged it out to try making homemade tortillas. When my sister came back to Houston for the start of the school year, I asked her to bring the sack if she had room in her suitcase since I knew no one would use it at home.

So guys, I had to use it. It came all the way from California (even though you can buy this in virtually every supermarket ever). Approximately 99% of the tres leches cake recipes I looked up called for all-purpose flour, but let’s be real: I have an obsession with all things corn and I had an itch to use the masa harina.

So I did. And you know what? I think the corn flour gives these an unusual, distinct flavor. It’s what I think tres leches should be. Isn’t corn flour so much more Latin than regular flour?). They’re denser and heartier than other pancakes, almost reminiscent of really, really thick tortillas. And then they’re topped with a syrupy mixture of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and (in my case) almond milk.

Sweetened condensed milk is so good it shouldn’t be allowed. Combined with just enough other milk that you don’t feel like you’re eating pure sugar and drizzled over pancakes? I can almost promise you won’t care what’s underneath.


Some tasters commented that the pancakes weren’t as sweet as they wanted. I liked these pancakes on the plainer side since the topping was so decadent, but add 2 tablespoons of sugar if you want a sweeter pancake.

Although you generally want lumpy batter when making pancakes for a fluffier texture, don’t fret when your batter stirs up into an extremely smooth texture. These pancakes are naturally tighter-crumbed due to the masa harina, but they’re still fluffy.

The best part about making these pancakes is that you get to stab them with a fork! All over! It helps the milk permeate every last corner of the pancake for maximum soaked-ness.

For the sake of having three milks, I added a drip of unsweetened Almond milk to the condensed milk and evaporated milk mixture. When I tried an equal ratio of all three milks, the pancakes sogged through substantially compared to just the condensed and evaporated milk mixture. I preferred the sturdier pancakes with the two-milk soak, but tasters commented that the pancakes didn’t have the same soaked-through, fall-apart-in-your-mouth consistency as the cake traditionally does. So I would recommend using a tiny bit of milk (as noted below) of your choice. I left out the heavy cream (traditionally the third milk) because I figured that’s just overkill, but you can add that instead of the milk if you like.

Tres Leches Pancakes
A PanPrin original

1 1/2 cups masa harina
1 tablespoon + scant 1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup milk of your choice (I used almond milk)
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk (can use low fat)
2 tablespoons milk of your choice (I used almond milk)

Combine masa harina, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk together milk, egg yolks, vanilla and melted butter. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture; mix until just combined. Gently stir in egg whites until batter is smooth (a few streaks of egg white is fine).

Preheat a lightly oiled pan over medium heat for five minutes while batter rests. ย Add batter to pan two or three tablespoons at a time and let cook about two minutes on each side, until golden.

While pancakes are cooking, whisk together the condensed, evaporated and regular milk. Once cooked, stab the top surface with a fork, making sure you cover the edges as well as the middle. Drizzle each pancake with 1-2 tablespoons of the milk mixture until fully saturated. Serve immediately.

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48 thoughts on “Pancake Fridays: Tres Leches Pancakes

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  10. Bam's Kitchen

    Pancake Guru Erika, you have done it again another stunning way to create a new Costa Rica inspired pancake. Hmm that has me thinking about what you could do with coconut milk, mangos and pineapples and a Thai pancake flavors… The ideas are endless. Have fun in your kitchen.. Take care, BAM

    1. erika Post author

      Haha thank you Bam! Mmmm…that’s a great idea–I’ve never thought about incorporating Thai flavors into a pancake, but now I’m intrigued!

        1. erika Post author

          It’s right near Hermann Park/Rice University…five minutes from my apartment! I’ve never been but I hear they have an award-winning veggie burger that I’m dying to try! I’ve also been wanting to try Pepper Tree, zPizza, Roots, Radical Eats and Loving Hut. Basically everything on this list lol:

          Have you gotten to try many vegan places in Houston? If you’re ever in the Rice area, we should grab lunch or coffee or something!

    1. erika Post author

      Thanks Nancy :) It totally was–having a bowl of that milk mixture was so dangerous! Almost as dangerous as I would have been at that cakefest that you went to… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. erika Post author

      Aw thank you! Have you ever had arepas for real? I haven’t, but they sound delectable :) I’d love to see your version of them at home!

        1. erika Post author

          Thanks so much for the tip! I haven’t had a proper one yet, but I’m actually headed to Costa Rica soon, so hopefully I’ll be able to try some “authentic” ones there! And then I can compare it to Tuttopane ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. The Teenage Taste

    Nice to “meet” another Erika in Blog World! It’s even nicer to meet another Erika with a love for pancakes, too. These pancakes look absolutely amazing. I will definitely be coming back for more. :-)

    1. erika Post author

      Aww thank you! Almond milk is super great–what brand do you like? I generally stick to Almond Breeze, but I also really like Silk’s almond milk and I’ve heard rave reviews about the 365 brand…

  12. Rhyann

    Yum! Desserts in pancakes are always so delicious. I can definitely understand making something that was meant to taste like one thing, but turns into something that tastes completely different (but totally awesome!)

    1. erika Post author

      Aww yay thanks Rhyann :) I actually felt slightly guilty posting this since it totally doesn’t really taste like tres leches, but I’m glad you understand!

  13. Bailey Bakes

    Ok Miss Smartypants, what a neat idea! I don’t know why, but I always feel guilty smothering my pancakes in syrup. Maybe I can trick my brain into thinking smothering them with three types of milk is better for me. Ha! And I’m glad you were able to use up your sister’s masa harina! Although, I had no idea what that was, but it’s really fun to say. ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. erika Post author

      Haha rightt?? I didn’t even think of that, but milk is TOTALLY healthier!! Syrup 2.0 anyone?

      And yes, the masa harina…I still have a pretty full sack left. Whatever should I do with it? :)


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