When it comes to breakfast foods, nothing beats pancakes and waffles. Besides the obvious physical disparity, there are usually marked differences in taste and texture. So what is the difference between pancakes and waffles?
The main difference in taste and texture between pancakes and waffles comes from the variation in ingredients and how they are made. Baking powder that makes pancakes airier and lighter is often absent from waffles. Also, the egg in waffles is separated during the preparation phase of the recipe.
As you can see, small variations in the recipe, along with how they are made, make a world of difference. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the topic.
How Are Waffles Different From Pancakes?
The main physical differences between pancakes and waffles lie in the shape and texture. Pancakes are generally flat and round while waffles are often square with numerous surface ridges, nooks, and crannies. Waffles are also heavier and less fluffy due to variations in ingredients and preparation methods.
Let’s go through what causes the differences.
Differences in Cooking Methods
Here are the cooking methods for pancakes and waffles:
- Pancakes are poured out on a griddle, cooked on one side, and then the other. This leads to caramelized outsides and a fluffy inside.
- Waffle batter is poured over an iron that has two heated surfaces. The iron is then closed, compressing the batter between the two heating elements. This leads to the same caramelization on each side, but without that fluffy inside.
These methods of cooking alone are the primary factor that leads to different tastes and textures between pancakes and waffles. However, it turns out that our brain expects a different taste based on the visual difference, too. Based on experience, the brain expects pancakes to taste like pancakes and waffles to taste like waffles.
How Ingredients Differ
Typically, if using the same ingredients, pancake batter will be a bit thinner than waffle batter. This can be remedied by small variations in the ingredients.
Boxed “pancake mix” is usually a mixture of flour, salt, shortening, baking powder, and sometimes other ingredients, just packaged together for convenience. When using it to make batter for pancakes or waffles, the difference lies in the other items added.
If using Bisquick pancake mix, for example, you’ll use 2 cups of mix for both pancakes and waffles. You’ll add 2 cups of milk and 2 eggs for pancake batter. You’ll use 1 1/2 cups of milk, 2 tbsp of vegetable oil, and one egg for waffles.
Which Packaged Pancake or Waffle Mix is Best?
Which mix is the best generally depends on personal preference. While Bisquick is often seen as a household staple, there are other options. Aunt Jemima mix is sold in most stores, as well as Krusteaz, Hungry Jack store brands, and others, including organic and gluten-free versions.
What Brand of Waffle Mix Do Hotels Use?
Golden Malted is the largest commercial distributor of pancake and waffle mix and is the most common type found in hotels and motels.
Golden Malted pancake and waffle mix is the self-described choice of the “best hotels and restaurants around the world” since 1937. Boasting “If you’ve eaten a waffle at a hotel, most likely it was a Carbon’s Golden Malted….”
Their website includes recipes, an online shop, and a “waffle program” for schools, hotels, and restaurants. There are a variety of packaged mixes, including “just add water” versions. If you want to give a Golden Malted mix a whirl, you can visit them here.
Pancake and Waffle Batter from Scratch
When making both pancake or waffle batter from scratch, recipes typically call for eggs, butter, sugar, and leavening agents (such as baking powder). What you add after that will make all the difference.
Pancakes are often seen as more versatile; for instance, chocolate chips will melt more thoroughly through the batter than they would in a waffle due to the constraints of the waffle iron.
Pro Tip: To make extra fluffy pancakes, you can add a little baking powder or egg whites. Generally, baking powder would not be added at all to a waffle batter.
Food Network’s website has recipes for basic pancakes and waffles here, along with dozens of variations to try.
Making Extra Fluffy Pancakes
If super-fluffy pancakes are your aim, why not try sourdough pancakes
Sourdough, which has been around since ancient times, is a bread that uses natural leavening to rise. Instead of using a packaged yeast, sourdough starts with a “starter,” a slurry of water and flour that uses the natural bacteria and yeast in flour, activated when flour is mixed with water. Those natural bacteria give sourdough bread the same kind of tang that is found in yogurt.
Sourdough pancakes are fluffy and tasty and make a great addition to your pancake repertoire. Check out an easy sourdough pancake recipe here.
What Can I Use as Waffle Add-Ins and Toppings?
Both pancakes and waffles are suited to adding all sorts of extras. Common add-ins include blueberries, oats, vanilla, cinnamon, sprinkles, and chocolate chips. Although butter and maple syrup are the classic toppings others include fruit, whipped cream, and other dessert-type options.
What you add to the batter depends on whether you’re looking for a savory or sweet pancake or waffle.
- Common savory add-in choices include scallions, bacon or sausage, apple, buffalo chicken, spinach, cheese, and other spices.
- Sweet add-ins include fruit, peanut butter, chocolate or other flavored chips, honey, coconut, and jam.
Toppings vary depending on the add-ins:
- For savory toppings, butter, yogurt, fried eggs, spices, cheese, sour cream, and even kimchi can be used.
- Sweet topping options frequently used include whipped cream, butter, maple, or other flavored syrups, and powdered sugar.
The Right Tool for the Job
If you’re going to be making pancakes and waffles on a regular basis, you’ll need a good griddle and a good waffle iron.
When it comes to griddles, some cooks swear by cast iron or steel models, which can be placed over a grill or stove burners. Others prefer the convenience of an electric griddle. Here are two considerations:
- If purchasing an iron griddle, thicker is better – but you want one light enough to move around. Thicker griddles will retain heat better and won’t warp.
- The disadvantages of cast iron are that it heats up more slowly and requires particular attention to cleaning, maintenance, and storage. Electric griddles can’t be beaten for convenience and ease of maintenance, and are often hailed for ease of temperature control.
Here are my recommendations:
- Pancake Griddle- The good thing about pancakes is that you don’t have to buy a specific product to cook them on. Any skillet will work, although I prefer a cast iron griddle. If you don’t have one, here is a really good one found on Amazon. It is specifically designed for pancakes and sets right over the burners on your stove or grill. Take it with you when camping!
- Waffle Iron- You don’t need to spend a bunch of money to get a quality waffle maker. I prefer a compact model that can be easily stored away, like this one found on Amazon.
Pancakes and Waffles Around the Globe
Foods similar to pancakes and waffles can be found throughout the world. Almost every country has a version of a pancake.
- Crepes, originally from France, are a type of super-thin pancake generally rolled up with a filling.
- Blintzes, from Germany, are similar.
- Potato pancakes, typically associated with German, eastern European, and Jewish cuisine (Latkes), are made from riced or mashed potatoes and can be served with applesauce, sour cream, and other toppings. Variations in add-ins are common. An Irish version is the boxty. For a host of potato pancake recipes, visit Allrecipes.
- Chinese bing are also similar to pancakes or crepes.
- There are Finnish Kropsua, Indian dosa, Canadian beavertails (a cross between a cinnamon-sugar donut and a pancake)
- Dominican Yaniqueques (translating to “Johnnycakes”)
- Costa Rica has chorreadas, a savory cornmeal pancake that can be eaten at just about any meal.
There are many different variations of waffles as well:
- Stroopwafels, from the Netherlands, are filled with syrup.
- The Japanese version of the waffle is the taiyaki, which is stuffed with red bean filling. How you start eating it is reputed to reveal your personality.
- The Rosette is Scandinavia’s crispy addition to the waffle family.
- Pizzelles are a thin, cookie-like waffle often seen in the U.S. but originally from Italy. They have a particular pressed pattern that is their signature.
- The Kanom Rung Peung, from Thailand, is a coconut flavored version. Hong Kong boasts the egg or bubble waffle. It’s usually stuffed with ice cream.
- Brazil has the Pão de queijo, a cheese-filled waffle.
No discussion including waffles would be complete without a look at the Belgian waffle, a restaurant staple.
Belgian waffles did indeed come from Belgium, where they are a street food. Generally called either gaufres in French or waufels in Flemish, there are several varieties found in Belgium. Liege waffles, made from a yeasted dough (rather than a batter), are encrusted with pearl sugar. Brussels waffles, which are closest to the Belgian waffles typically served in the U.S., are made from a yeasted dough.
There are many other types – a fruit waffle, a butter waffle, and a heart-shaped waffle among them. All have different ingredients and preparation.
Which is Healthier – Pancakes or Waffles?
Neither pancakes nor waffles are likely to be put in the health food aisle anytime soon. However, some choices can make them healthier.
- Waffles typically contain more fat and sugar.
- On a one-to-one comparison, waffles generally have 100 more calories than pancakes.
- It’s mostly the toppings and add-ins, however, that make the most significant difference.
Making Pancakes and Waffles Healthier
Using whole wheat or gluten-free flour and opting for healthy toppings and add-ins like fruit and nuts can also make for a healthier pancake or waffle. There are also specific modifications that can be made based on your diet choices.
- For those on a low-carb diet, there are flourless waffle recipes.
- Those looking to eliminate gluten can use packaged mixes made from gluten-free flour or make batter from scratch using gluten-free flour and baking powder.
- Those looking for a high-protein option can add oats and extra eggs to boost the protein content.
Pro Tip: If you find that the flavor is lacking in a basic waffle or pancake that features gluten-free flour, you can add a little cinnamon or vanilla.
The Final Word
Classic pancakes and waffles have a lot in common, with the batter generally showing only slight differences. Even so, the cooking method and add-ins vary greatly. There is almost no end to the variety of pancakes and waffles you can create once you get started. You’re limited only by your own inspiration and creativity.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Main photo courtesy of frank wouters from antwerpen, belgium, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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