What’s the Difference Between a Crêpe and a Galette?

This past summer, on a whirlwind trip between Paris and Bilbao, Spain, I visited the Brittany – in the Breton language, Breizh – region of France.  I’m not terribly familiar with regional French cooking, so naturally that was something to looking forward to while making my way southwest.

For those that don’t know, Brittany is most famous for kouign-amann (a buttery cake that I will discuss at a later date), apples, sea salt, salted caramel, cider, and that ever-popular street snack known as a crêpe.

Now, if you’re like me, you believed that crepes could be filled with anything, savory or sweet.  While living in Tokyo, I’d get my fill – chocolate banana and whipped cream, or shrimp avocado –  at the Japanese creperie chain Dipper Dan.  Occasionally, I get them in Chinatowns, or whenever I am craving a meal between two larger meals.

In other words, crepes – stemming from the Latin word crispus meaning “curled” – are almost everywhere.

But we’ve been had!  Kind of.

On one hand, you have the crêpes sucrées, sweet crepes, and the crêpes salées, or savory/salty crepes.  You can order either of those without issue…but in Brittany, home base of these svelte members of the pancake family, savory ones are called galettes.

There’s something different about their shapes, too.

As a daytrip from the city of Rennes, capital of Brittany, I visited the medieval city of Vitré.  Aiming to have a regional lunch, I tried La Crêperie du P’tit Léon.

Please allow the following two photos to demonstrate.

This is a galette.  It’s a bit larger than a standard issue crepe, and in this case, is filled with ham and local cheese.  It has the form of a folded square.  Oftentimes, in addition to wheat flour, Brittany galettes are made with sarrasin, or buckwheat, giving them a slighty nuttier, earthier flavor.

For dessert, I tried a pear and chocolate crêpe.  Was it sweet?  Of course.  Is it more of a rounded triangle in shape?  There’s another telltale sign of it being a crepe (and not a galette).

So, what’s the difference between a crêpe and a galette?  The former is slightly smaller, more triangular, and contains sweet ingredients.  A galette is square origami with savory fillings.  And I’m sorry if you’re hungry for both right now.

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