Kitchn Love Letters

I Tried 6 Famous Waffle Recipes and the Winner Will Change Your Sunday Mornings Forever

published Mar 16, 2024
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overhead shot of six piles of waffles, all made using different recipes
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

Once you determine if you are a sweet or savory breakfast person, the next question is whether you want pancakes or waffles. They feature mostly the same ingredients and have similar methods for making the batter, but a waffle maker transforms the batter into something very different than a griddled pancake. Whether square, round, mini, thick, thin, or animal-shaped, a waffle is a showstopping thing of beauty. That’s even without singing the praises of the butter-filled, syrup-laden indents.

We recently tested the six most popular pancakes on the internet in search of the best. Obviously, waffles were next. Does separating eggs and whipping the whites make a difference? Will buttermilk yield a more tender waffle than milk? In the battle of oil versus butter, which gives a crisper exterior? Read on to find out which ones are worthy of your next breakfast or breakfast-for-dinner.

Quick Overview

So, What’s the Best Waffle Recipe?

Ree Drummond’s classic waffles are light and crispy with the perfect amount of sweetness. Based on texture, flavor, and ease, this is the waffle recipe we recommend the most.

Meet Our 6 Waffle Contenders

For this showdown, we collected six famous waffle recipes to cook and compare against each other. This showdown stuck to waffle recipes leavened with baking powder, baking soda, or both, as yeasted waffles (oh-so delicious) are different altogether. The batter was cooked one large round waffle at a time without any stirred-in flavors, and no special toppings were prepared. 

  • Grandbaby Cakes (Jocelyn Delk Adams): These buttermilk waffles have something none of the other recipes do: a hint of spice from a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. The dry ingredients are similar to the other recipes, except for the surprising omission of salt. While there is no added salt, the recipe does call for salted butter in the batter. The liquid is all buttermilk, and the eggs are separated with the white beaten and folded in at the end.
  • Melissa Clark: Yogurt is the ingredient that makes this recipe stand apart from the others. In addition to yogurt, there is milk, melted butter, and four whole eggs, making this recipe the one with the most eggs in this showdown. The dry ingredients include all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. The method is simple: Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Then, stir them together. The recipe also includes metric weights, which can make bringing the batter together extra quick if you have a scale. (PSA: A scale is SO worth it!)
  • Ree Drummond: These waffles feature all the usual ingredients, but after a closer look it becomes clear that what sets this recipe apart is the quantity of these ingredients. The base of the recipe is 2 cups of all-purpose flour, which is similar to the others, but there is more sugar, vanilla extract, and melted salted butter in comparison. The batter also has separated eggs, but not an equal number. There are two egg yolks and four egg whites whipped and folded in.
  • Jessica in the Kitchen: This recipe differed from the others because it is vegan. The three ingredients this affects are sugar, milk, and eggs. White sugar is often not vegan, so this recipe calls for brown sugar or maple syrup. The liquid is homemade vegan buttermilk made with unsweetened non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar. Melted vegan butter or coconut oil stands in for dairy butter. Outside of these changes, the ingredients and method are pretty standard, including a little vanilla extract.
  • Maxi’s Kitchen: A popular TikTok video, these waffles promise to be extra crisp, thanks to the addition of cornstarch. Cornstarch has a lot of great uses in the kitchen, specifically in baking recipes, but this recipe calls for a hefty dose. The recipe only makes enough batter for two large waffles, but ratio-wise, the ingredients were on par with most other recipes, except for some major differences. Instead of melted butter, these waffles have avocado oil in the batter — and quite a lot of it. There is 1/3 cup for just 1 cup of the flour and cornstarch blend, making it the recipe with the most added liquid fat.
  • Spend with Pennies: This recipe is very straightforward. With only eight ingredients, it has the same basic structure as Ree’s waffle recipe, but in different quantities. It features milk as the liquid, a little vanilla, and your choice of melted butter or oil. The recipe did not specify salted or unsalted butter, so I defaulted to unsalted, especially as there is a measured amount of salt. The batter has separated eggs, and the whites are beaten to stiff peaks and folded in at the end.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

How I Tested the 6 Recipes

Once I started making waffles, I couldn’t stop. I made all six on the same day. None of the recipes had specific cook times, as it can vary so much between brands, so I judged doneness by color and feel, tapping for that crisp exterior and looking for even browning. If a recipe specified how often to grease the waffle iron and with what, I followed that instruction. Otherwise, I lightly brushed the waffle iron with butter, as needed. I cooked all the waffles at the same heat level on the waffle iron.

I transferred the cooked waffles to a wire rack set over a baking sheet to prevent the bottoms from becoming soggy. I made sure to cook the entire batch of waffles so I could taste more than one, as each waffle may cook a little differently. I tasted the waffles warm and fresh without any additional toppings so I could judge the batter itself because, let’s face it, a slather of warm butter mingled with a generous glug of maple syrup (robust for me!) can salvage even the most mediocre waffle.

  • Ingredients: All six recipes start with all-purpose flour, so I used the same bag of nationally available, unbleached all-purpose flour. I ensured my baking powder and soda were fresh and used fine or kosher salt as instructed. When a recipe called for milk or yogurt, I defaulted to whole-milk varieties, although the buttermilk was low-fat, as that is the most common way to buy buttermilk. (Don’t have any? You can make your own buttermilk!)
  • Measuring methods: To measure the flour, I gently aerated my fresh 5-pound bag and then spooned it into a measuring cup and leveled the top. Granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt were scooped and leveled, and brown sugar was packed. All the different milks and oils were measured in a liquid measuring cup. While one recipe also includes weights for each ingredient, I stuck with measuring cups and spoons for consistency across the recipes.
  • Kitchen tools: I mixed in metal and glass bowls and used rubber spatulas and metal whisks to combine ingredients. Egg whites were whipped with an electric hand mixer. The waffles were all cooked using the same round waffle maker. It is a moderately priced variety from a nationally available brand. You simply add the batter and close the lid — no flipping involved. I used the light indicators only as a guide for doneness and not an absolute.

Why You Should Trust Me as a Tester 

Before becoming a professional recipe developer and tester, I never thought much about waffles. Waffles fell into two main categories: The frozen ones you pop in a toaster or the decadent, fluffy morning treat that somehow made it acceptable to have ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and sprinkles for breakfast.

Over the past 20 years of creating recipes for magazines, books, and websites, I have dug much deeper into waffle styles and recipes. I have cooked a lot of waffles of all shapes, sizes, and thicknesses and experienced firsthand the differences between them all. I have created everything from extra-crispy waffles to savory waffles to rich cocoa-spiked ones. The variety has helped me understand how different ingredients and their quantities can affect the result and the wide expanse between a fantastic and poorly crafted waffle.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

1. The Crispiest Waffle: Maxi’s Kitchen’s Best Waffles

Overall rating: 7/10
Get the recipe:  Maxi’s Kitchen’s Best Waffles

These waffles have the unique addition of cornstarch, and I was curious if they would create waffles with super-crispy exteriors and tender interiors, as the video claims. It is a hefty dose of cornstarch at 1/4 cup for just two large waffles. My main concern with this recipe was the amount of oil. There is 1/3 cup oil for only 3/4 cup flour. All the other recipes had a similar amount of oil or melted butter for 2 cups of flour. I know from experience that oil produces a crisp waffle, but this amount seemed generous.

As the batter rested, the consistency thickened and became a little stretchy and jiggly, likely from the starch hydrating and absorbing some of the liquid. The waffles cooked up to a nice golden-brown, although not so different from most of the other recipes. Toward the end of the cooking time, I got a whiff of toasty oil, foreshadowing the forthcoming taste. These waffles were absolutely the crunchiest of the bunch, and the kiss of vanilla was a nice touch. But the oil gave the outsides of the waffles a slightly fried and heavy taste that was hard to get past — especially coupled with the slight tang of buttermilk. While still an overall tasty waffle, there is a bit of a flavor tradeoff to achieve a deep crunch, and that’s why these didn’t rate higher.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

2. The Most Surprising Waffle: Jessica in the Kitchen’s Vegan Waffles (Fluffy and Crispy) 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

3. The Thickest, Fluffiest Waffle: Grandbaby Cakes’ Buttermilk Waffles

Overall rating: 8/10
Get the recipe: Grandbaby Cakes’ Buttermilk Waffles

Grandbaby Cakes (aka Jocelyn Delk Adams) spikes a classic batter with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, which is just enough to add a warming back note that complements the vanilla and buttermilk and adds a little interest. The other ingredients are all standard. With 2 cups of buttermilk but only 2 tablespoons of sugar, I wasn’t sure if the waffles would be too tangy, but the lack of added salt was the bigger question in my mind. 

I remained optimistic, as the batter was a lovely, thick, aerated consistency that was easy to scoop into the waffle iron and did not overflow once the lid was closed. The beautifully golden waffles came out tall and crisp. The interiors are very tender and soft, which is a lovely contrast to the gentle crunch. The flavor, however, is a little off-balance. The whiff of toasty cinnamon is so inviting, but I found myself searching for more depth of flavor as they tasted a little flat. I found myself searching for something. Perhaps a bit more sugar? Perhaps a separate pinch of salt from however much was in the 6 tablespoons melted into the batter? Whatever the solution, the texture was spot-on, and all that was needed to nudge these into the top spot was a little more flavor balance.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

4. The Most Tender Waffle: Melissa Clark’s Waffles

Overall rating: 8/10
Get the recipe: Melissa Clark’s Waffles

This recipe was one of the easiest to mix up. For the wet ingredients, there is 1 cup each of yogurt and milk, which turns into a buttermilk-like product. There are 4 eggs for 2 cups of flour, which do not get separated, making these waffles the most egg-heavy of any in the showdown. To make the batter, mix the dry in one bowl, the wet in another, and then combine the two. 

These waffles cooked up to a pretty, even brown. The exteriors had some crispness to them, but it wasn’t a thick crust, and after a minute or two out of the waffle iron, it softened and almost completely disappeared. That left a very tender, fully cooked waffle, but one that was also creeping towards the edge of soggy. Although there is a tip on how to modify the recipe for lighter waffles, I made the batter as written, and it was quickly clear that using whole eggs does not produce the same texture as separating them and folding in whipped egg whites. Cutting the yogurt with milk kept the acidity in check and provided a subtle background tang that was pleasant. This recipe does not have any added vanilla, so it is a very straightforward, tasty waffle. Really, the only reason they didn’t rate higher was their overall softness and the lack of contrasting textures.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

5. The Most Versatile Waffle: Spend with Pennies’ Fluffy Homemade Waffles

Overall rating: 9/10
Get the recipe: Spend with Pennies’ Fluffy Homemade Waffles

At first glance, this recipe offers nothing unusual or special. Flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt are whisked in one bowl, and milk, egg yolks, melted butter, and vanilla are whisked in a second bowl. The egg whites are whipped to peaks separately, and then the wet and dry are combined, taking care not to overmix, before folding in the whites. 

But in this simplicity is a lot of success. There is a moderate amount of sugar and vanilla, just enough to give a well-rounded flavor but not so much that you couldn’t top with a fried egg and bacon as easily as fruit or chocolate. They are light, with just enough crunch on the outside, and tender but not wet on the inside. Basically, it is just an all-around solid waffle that tastes exactly like what you expect one to. They are easy to whip up from pantry ingredients and sure to be well-received by a crowd. It was a very close call to decide if this recipe was going to be the runner-up or the winner, and it is still a recipe I would happily make again.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

6. The Most Classic, Delicious Waffle: Ree Drummond’s Waffles