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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn
Recipe Review

We Tested 4 Popular Waffle Recipes and Found a Clear Winner

updated Sep 28, 2022
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Nothing stacks up to starting your morning with a plate of crisp and buttery waffles drenched in maple syrup. But if you’re used to grabbing a pair from the freezer and popping them in the toaster, it’s time to dust off that waffle iron and cook up a batch of your own. Homemade waffles always feel like a total treat, and they’re really quite easy to prepare.

The very best homemade waffles should greet you with crisp, golden-brown outsides and tender, pillowy insides, with a balanced flavor that’s a tiny bit rich and buttery and not too sweet. (You’ve got to leave room for the maple syrup, of course!)

Most recipes start with the same basic ingredients — flour, butter, dairy, some eggs, and a leavening agent, like baking powder or baking soda — so it takes a smart technique (or a unique extra ingredient) to make a memorable waffle that stands out from the rest.

For this recipe showdown, I was determined to find the secret to cooking up the best waffles at home. Is buttermilk a must, or does whole milk make for the tastiest waffle? What about a duo of buttermilk and heavy cream? Does separating the eggs make for the crispiest waffles, or is the secret using a little bit of cornstarch? I took to the kitchen and fired up my waffle maker to find the very best homemade waffle recipe.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Meet Our 4 Contenders

For this recipe showdown, we kept our focus on American-style waffles, which are leavened with baking powder or baking soda (unlike Belgian or Brussels-style waffles, which are leavened with yeast).

To narrow down the contenders, we looked for recipes that each took a different approach, either with ingredients, technique, or both. Martha Stewart’s Easy Waffles are the simplest and quickest to make, and don’t require buttermilk. King Arthur Baking Company’s Classic Buttermilk Waffles, in addition to being an internet favorite, are beloved by our Senior Contributing Food Editor and come with the option to use all-purpose or pastry flour.

Grandbaby Cakes’ Buttermilk Waffles call for separating the eggs, then whipping the egg whites and folding them into the batter at the very end (similar to the technique we use for our light and fluffy pancakes). And Oh, Sweet Basil’s Ultimate Waffles uses heavy cream (in addition to buttermilk) and cornstarch, and calls for resting the batter. It was also the winner of Pancake Princess’s waffle bake-off.

How I Tested the Recipes

All four waffle recipes were prepared in the same afternoon, using the same waffle iron. To minimize ingredient variability, I purchased flour, butter, milk, buttermilk, and eggs specifically for these tests to make sure the ingredients were fresh and incurred no brand-specific differences.

Each waffle was evaluated immediately after cooking and again once cooled, both on its own and with syrup. I was looking for a recipe that is easy to follow and produces a waffle that’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, with a rich, buttery aroma, and one that keeps its shape and doesn’t get soggy once cooled.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

1. The Most Underwhelming: Martha Stewart’s Easy Waffles

My favorite thing about these waffles is how simple and straightforward they are to make, and that they require only a handful of ingredients I already had on hand. I was less impressed with the flavor and texture of the waffles, however.

They’re decidedly sweet and a little on the eggy side, with a texture that was more chewy than crisp. If you’re in a pinch and want a basic, straightforward waffle that doesn’t require buttermilk or resting the batter, this is a good option.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist Cyd McDowell

2. The Close but Not Quite: Oh, Sweet Basil’s Ultimate Waffles

These waffles have been on my radar ever since they won Pancake Princess’ buttermilk waffle bake off, so I knew from the start I’d be including them. I was also really intrigued that this recipe calls for heavy cream in addition to the buttermilk, and also calls for cornstarch, which supposedly makes for a crispier waffle.

The combination of buttermilk and heavy cream produced a waffle that’s incredibly flavorful, with a hint of richness, and also balanced the eggy flavor you get with some waffles.

The outside was crispy and the center was soft and pillowy, although I wasn’t a fan of how sturdy they were. While not dense or heavy, they were on the doughy side, which I didn’t care for. But if your ideal waffle is flavorful and very substantial, this is the one for you. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

3. The Lightest and Fluffiest: Grandbaby Cakes Buttermilk Waffles

These are the lightest, fluffiest, airiest waffles I’ve ever made. Just like it does for pancakes, separating the eggs and whipping the whites gives these waffles a light-as-air texture and a crispy outside. The addition of ground cinnamon and vanilla extract gave these barely sweet buttermilk waffles big points in the flavor department, too. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

4. The Clear Winner: King Arthur Baking Company Classic Buttermilk Waffles

In addition to being a totally trusted resource for all things baking, King Arthur Baking Company knows how to make truly amazing waffles. From the crisp, golden-brown exterior, to the soft and pillowy insides, to the barely sweet, buttery flavor, this recipe is everything I want in a really good waffle.

If you have pastry flour handy, go ahead and use it for added crispiness. But it’s not worth going out of your way to get it, because using all-purpose makes an exceptional batch of waffles.

Do you have a favorite waffle recipe? Let us know in the comments!