Pancakes vs. Waffles: The Battle of the Breakfast Staples

Which is better: pancakes or waffles?

This longstanding debate remains unresolved as both breakfast staples continue to prove that each has its own appeal. This may be why people are torn between these two delicious pastries. Even if you ask anyone who is currently taking or has undergone a pastry course in Dubai, you’ll still get different answers.

While difficult, this article will attempt to dissect the differences between the two, as well as the various arguments people use to support either pancakes or waffles, to see whether it is possible to declare only one winner.

Pancakes and Waffles: 5 Key Differences

Both waffles and pancakes are considered staples on a breakfast table, but they rarely appear at the same time.

Some say that pancakes are superior since you can add berries, chocolate chips, and even buttermilk directly to the batter to get a tastier stackable breakfast. Others argue that waffles are better since the crunchy griddle exterior makes it the perfect vessel for butter and syrup.

Still, in many households, pancake batter is also used to make waffles as both contain flour, eggs, and leavening. However, other people argue that the two simply are not one and the same.

In fact, some believe that there are enough differences between the two breakfast items to distinguish one from the other. What are these differences, you may ask. Read on about the five key differences between pancakes and waffles that most people don’t know about:

1. Cooking method

The resulting texture, appearance, and flavor of pancakes and waffles differ mainly because of the way each one is prepared.

Theoretically, the batter should taste the same no matter what shape it takes. However, this idea has been debunked in the case of these two breakfast staples as the mold used to prepare pancakes and waffles makes all the difference.

Pancakes are cooked over a flat and smooth surface. This cooking method gives pancakes a fluffy texture because it spreads over a single flat surface. However, it also gets less caramelization outside.

Meanwhile, waffles are cooked by being compressed on both sides inside a batter-drizzled waffle iron. Since they are cooked within a fixed mold, they don’t get as fluffy as pancakes. What makes waffles stand out, however, is the extent of caramelization that results in a crunchier exterior.

2. Batter mixture

The mixtures used for pancakes and waffles are essentially the same, with the base composed of butter, eggs, sugar, and leavening agents. However, the taste still differs because of certain ingredients.

When made separately, the batter for waffles and pancakes vary between recipes. The key is in the texture.

For example, you can add more baking powder and butter in waffle batter to emphasize the contrast between the crisp exterior and soft interior. In pancakes, you may choose to fold the batter with whipped egg whites to achieve a fluffy texture.

Some foodies and pro chefs also make pancake recipes with both baking soda and baking powder, while neither is added to waffles.

3. Toppings and additives

Whatever the changes you made in pancake and waffle batter, there will still be a chance for one to be better than the other. How? With toppings and additives.

What you prefer in terms of texture may change once additives and toppings come into play. In fact, it only takes a handful of ingredients to transform a single batter into two completely different dishes, offering tastes and textures that are worlds apart.

For instance, adding chocolate chips directly into pancake batter can give diners an entirely new encounter compared to the classic pancake experience. Since chocolate will melt in the batter once cooked, the pancake will definitely taste superior to your average waffle.

For waffles, enhancements come in the form of toppings and fillings (as in the case of waffle sandwiches). While pancakes tend to get soggy quickly after being soaked with syrup, waffles can maintain their crispness for longer by trapping the maple syrup and any other liquid toppings in the nooks created by their shape.

Ingredients like nuts, berries, and even whipped cream also stay on top of waffles better because of their unique texture, whereas these tasty morsels usually fall off a level stack of pancakes, especially when rolling down with the syrup.

4. Flavors and variations

When served plain, both waffles and pancakes are both lightly sweet, though waffles tend to be sweeter and more bread-like because of the higher levels of sugar and butter in the batter. Waffles also caramelize more than pancakes because of this very same reason, making them a bit richer and more akin to other types of pastries.

Despite this, pancakes do have an advantage with international variations. Look above and beyond your breakfast (or lunch or dinner) plate, and you’ll realize the advantage this cakey pancake pantheon has. From several savory Asian pancakes like fluffy Japanese souffle pancakes to crepes, Dutch babies, blini, and idlis, you have an entire planet’s worth of choices of pancake variations.

For waffles, there are only a few international versions, namely:

  • Hong Kong egg waffles
  • Scandinavian sweetheart waffles
  • Belgian waffles
  • Taiyaki

5. Presentation

Yes, there are obvious presentation differences in pancakes and waffles that don’t need to be mentioned. But besides the usual smooth pancakes versus textured waffles, you’ll also find several other factors that are not the same between the two.

For one, toppings usually just slide off of pancakes while waffles hold them in place because of the grid-like texture. However, pancakes have the advantage of taking the shape of the pan used to cook it, not to mention they can be cooked in a way that will create a mouthwatering work of art, and stacked way higher than waffles can ever be. Meanwhile, waffles are only limited to the shape of the appliance used to cook them and don’t normally come stacked.

The Verdict

Pancakes and waffles are both breakfast favorites, but many people want to know which one is better. The verdict? It depends.

Deciding on which one is better – pancakes or waffles – based on objective analysis is virtually impossible. After all, food is a subjective matter.

Someone who takes cake baking and decorating classes might find the artistic freedom pancakes offer to be advantageous. However, those who are after less hassle and more of an exciting crunch during their meals may say waffles are the best.

Only you can decide which one is better for you.



Shanaaz Raja is the Course Director at International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai.