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Pancakes vs. Waffles: What’s the Difference? Plus, How to Make Them Better Than Ever.

Created March 24, 2020
Fluffy and tender pancakes or crispy and chewy waffles? There are two types of breakfast people—which one are you?
Choosing between pancakes and waffles might just be one of the hardest breakfast dilemmas we’ve ever encountered. Luckily, you can’t go wrong with either one. When cooked perfectly, a pancake should have slightly crispy edges, a golden-brown exterior and a fluffy center; if you’ve mastered this—it’s no small feat!—we applaud you. When you bite into a glowing, caramel-colored waffle, it should be crispy on the outside and soft and chewy in the center—a texture that contrasts excellently with maple syrup, whipped cream and even ice cream! Whether it’s pancakes or waffles that get you out of bed in the morning, we’re going to give you the details you need to master these morning meals. From what goes into the batters, to the most delicious toppings and even a couple of must-try international variations, Betty’s about to show you how to make breakfast even better!

Pancakes vs. Waffles

What’s the Difference Between the Batters?

Both waffle and pancake recipes share some of the same basic ingredients, like eggs, milk and flour, but their batters are not the same. Waffles usually contain more fat and sometimes more sugar. The additional fat helps turn out waffles that are crispy on the outside and soft and chewy inside, as opposed to a floppy pancake. The additional sugar leads to more caramelization, so waffles get brown and crispy on the outside. Because the dry ingredients included in both pancakes and waffles are similar, you can use a mix, like Bisquick™, as a shortcut when making both Pancakes and Waffles, but the additional oil added to the waffle batter will produce a different end results.

How Are Pancakes Cooked?

cooking pancakes on griddle

The best way to cook up a stack of flap jacks is on a well-greased griddle or in a skillet. Allow the griddle to heat up to proper pancake temperature—if using an electric griddle bring it up to 375º or medium-high heat if using a skillet. Splash a droplet of water on the surface, if it sizzles, it’s hot enough to start making pancakes. Or you can try a tester with some of the batter before going all in.

Pro tip: Make sure to use a fat with a high smoke point to grease the griddle. This will prevent burning and ensure golden-brown hot cakes. If you need help deciding which is the best fat to use, check out our article, From Smoke Point to Shelf Life: Everything You Need to Know About Cooking Fats. Hint: It’s not butter!

How Are Waffles Cooked?

pour waffle batter on waffle iron

A well-greased and piping hot waffle iron is needed to achieve the crispy, golden-grooved exterior and fluffy interior. Some waffle irons are square shaped, and others are round. Generally, a square waffle iron will cook up more waffles at a time so if you’re feeding a crowd—go with this option!

What Are the Best Toppings?

lemon ricotta pancakes

The beauty of pancakes and waffles is that they are completely customizable—consider them the blank canvas of the breakfast world. You can top them with just about anything. Butter and maple syrup are the classic combo, but don’t limit yourself because the possibilities are endless. Try topping them with fresh fruits, like berries or sliced apples. Dollop your golden-brown beauties with whipped cream, Greek yogurt and peanut butter. Drizzle them with honey, chocolate syrup and other flavored syrups. You can even switch things up a bit and go for a savory option, like chicken and waffles or pancakes with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. These suggestions are merely a jumping off point, feel free to get creative!

Variations You Won’t Want to Miss

Though styles of pancakes and waffles vary all over the world—they’re universally delicious, especially the recipes we’ve recommended below!

Berries and Cream Dutch Baby

Pancake Variations

In general, you can make pancakes thicker or thinner by adding more dry or wet ingredients respectively. In the United States, pancakes tend to be fluffier thanks to a leavening agent—usually baking powder. In France, a thinner version (called crêpes) is common, and the Dutch and Germans serve puffy pancakes called pannekoeken or Dutch Baby pancakes, which are often made in the oven and filled with sweet or savory toppings. Thin Asian-style pancakes are often made with savory ingredients like scallions, then served with veggies, meats and/or a spicy or sweet dipping sauce. There’s even a national Pancake Day, aka Fat Tuesday, the last day of feasting before the start of the Lenten fasting season.

Pancake Recipes to Make Any Day Feel Like Saturday

Waffle Variations

belgian waffles with berry cream

The best-known waffle variation hails from Belgium. Belgian waffles are thick with deep squares perfect for filling with maple syrup, or the traditional whipped cream and strawberries. You can even top them with a scoop of ice cream and chocolate syrup! They have a light, airy texture, thanks to the addition of a leavening agent.

To make Belgian waffles, add yeast, or sometimes baking soda, to the batter, so the batter rises when cooked giving the waffles their characteristic height and texture. If you make your Belgian waffles using Bisquick™ Original mix, you won’t need to add a leavening agent, because it’s already included in the mix. Belgian waffle irons will give the shape—thick squares with deep holes—associated with this style of waffle.

Pro Tip: Making your Belgian waffle batter the night before will not only speed up breakfast, it’ll result in lighter, fluffier and more flavorful waffles, as the batter will rise overnight. Try for yourself with Betty’s recipe for Raised Belgian Waffles.

Aside from the traditional, well-known Belgian Waffles, there’s also an American, or should we say, Southern-inspired favorite that makes for an excellent breakfast, lunch or even dinner—chicken and waffles! This Southern staple is truly the best of both world with savory, salty, crispy chicken and fluffy, crispy waffles drenched in maple syrup. Give it a try with our recipe for Fried Chicken and Waffle Sandwich Bites. For a twist on this combo, try the chicken-and-gravy topped Party Waffles Royal. This time-tested recipe has been a hit since it first appeared in “The Bisquick Cookbook” back in 1964.

In addition to these variations, there are plenty of other ways you can enjoy waffles, and not just at breakfast time either. They make the basis of a great beat-the-heat treat in this recipe for Waffle Ice Cream Sundaes. Or, make a delicious berry trifle using Bisquick™ mix in our Summer Berry Waffle Trifle. Waffle Grilled Cheese anyone?

Crispy, Waffle Recipes Begging for Maple Syrup

Once you’ve decided whether or not you’re going to make pancakes or waffles, learn how to flip a perfect pancake in our guide on How to Make Pancakes and how to keep your waffles from sticking in How to Make Waffles. All the tips and tricks you need to cook up the best breakfast ever!