15 Things You Didn't Know Your Waffle Maker Could Do

Waffle makers are pretty magical items with significant history in the U.S. and around the world. Capable of turning soupy batter into some of the finest, fluffiest creations on any table anywhere, homemade waffles are a brunch-time favorite. They take well to many types of toppings, their charming square pockets soaking up butter, syrups, and sauces with equal enthusiasm. In recent years, they've even become popular as a partner to fried chicken and as a dessert item in hole-in-the-wall joints across the nation.


However, turns out waffles have been under-recognized and underrated for years. They're not just for breakfast, brunch, and dessert; lunch and dinner deserve their time in the spotlight as well. Moreover, the waffle iron can work as a tool for many other kinds of food. Specialty item? More like Jack of all trades. Today you're going to learn all the many other ways you can put your waffle maker to work.

1. Savory waffles

Let's start with the slightly-obvious: you can make both sweet and savory waffles. Why is it on this list, since even savory waffles are genuine waffles? Because most people have never heard of such a thing. Waffles are meant to pair with butter and syrup, as was, is, and shall ever be, no? Whipped cream and powdered sugar, sure. Fruit sauce, fine. Chocolate chips ... okay, if you must. But savory? No, thank you.


And yet, umami waffles are truly delicious. The waffle shape still soaks up sauce well, and the high heat of the iron's plates makes for a crispy, crunchy exterior. The only difference is a lack of sugar and the addition of traditional savory ingredients, such as herbs, cheese, sour cream and buttermilk, garlic, and lots of salt. (But not, like, more than is heart-healthy.)

Not sure where to start? Here's a raft of (sweet and) savory waffle recipes, or you can just try Googling your favorite ingredients + waffles. For instance, you could try cheddar waffles, herb waffles, or just plain savory waffles to see what you come up with. Or you could start with this delicious sesame scallion waffle recipe, an ideal companion to eggs and fruit salad. Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner, after all?


2. Pizza

More ways to make pizza? You bet. The waffle maker is absolutely up to the task, helping create delightfully crispy crusts that need nothing more than the addition of a little sauce and a lot of cheese to reach pure pizza perfection. There are two basic approaches you can take.


First, you can make or buy pizza dough and press it in the waffle maker until it has that smoky slightly blackened effect we all love in a good crust. Second, you can use crescent rolls or an off-brand variety, unrolling them and cutting them into squares or just using their classic wedge shape. There are likewise two ways to top your pizza. You can either fold your ingredients into the middle and press in the iron, or you can cook the crust for about 3 minutes, then add the toppings and cook again. The waffle maker will essentially fry the cheese so it cooks into the dough rather than sticking to the plates. Either way, it's heaven.

If you already have leftovers in the fridge, no sweat: you can give pizza the waffle iron treatment. Simply fold up your slices so that the outside is all crust, then press the little pizza package like a panini. The result is an ooey, gooey calzone replacement that turns ordinary cold pizza into a dinnertime treat.


3. Panini

Let's be honest: a waffle maker and a panini press really aren't that dissimilar. The only real difference you'll discern is that while a panini press usually creates evenly spaced grill marks on your sandwich, the waffle maker will produce little darkened squares. It won't crush your bread if you don't want it to, however, since you can just close the lid lightly and let it do its work. This is also a nice way to warm up leftover sandwiches from restaurants and delis if you don't have a George Foreman grill or panini press.


To use the waffle maker, assemble your ingredients and carefully place them between two lightly oiled waffle iron plates. In fact, assume with any food on this list that your waffle iron plates should be lightly greased with a neutral-tasting oil, such as safflower. The only exception is when your recipe says otherwise, such as if it tells you to butter the outsides of your bread or coat the outsides with cooking spray.

You can use any type of filling you would in a regular panini. As discussed in "Pizza," you don't need to worry about the cheese sticking, since it's greasy and will crisp up without adhering to the plate. Lunchmeat, veggies, mushrooms, and even fruit (ham, pear, and brie, anyone?) are all good options. Many people also enjoy adding mayo, but given the heat, we recommend thinly applied and on the outside. Once your sandwich is assembled, grill for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown.


4. Falafel

Fragrant, savory, spiced, and redolent of the Middle East, falafel is a favorite food cart item. It pairs perfectly with cucumber and tomato salad, hummus or tahini, and pita, and makes a nice change from normal workaday meals in American households. Even better, it's one of the easiest dinners to make quickly once you know what you're doing.


Many people, however, don't take the time to make falafel at home. For one thing, it's a real P.I.T.A. to make yourself. The sheer amount of soaking and grinding dried chickpeas is enough to make anyone give up on the idea of cooking, and that's before you even head to the stove. For another, it's a thankless, oil-spattered chore to cook it.

Luckily, with a boxed mix and a waffle iron, you can make delicious falafel in no time flat. Simply whip up your recipe, then let it rest while you preheat the iron. Spoon half a cup of mix into the middle of the waffle maker and press it down, then cook for about 3-5 minutes. Cut a slot between the crispy halves for yogurt, and light, crispy veggies, and enjoy. 


5. Hash browns

A humble food, hash browns are typically made of nothing more than shredded or grated potato cooked in a little bit (or a lot) of fat, with a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning. Because potatoes crisp up so readily, but you simultaneously want to keep the insides of hashbrowns moist and steaming, hash browns are particularly well-suited to the waffle maker treatment.


Prepare your hash browns as you heat your waffle maker. If you're using a frozen variety, make sure to thaw them beforehand. With both fresh and frozen, you'll need to squeeze the moisture out of your potatoes. Always be diligent about this. You have to squeeze them through a sieve or towel to remove all the moisture, or they won't get golden and crispy.

Once that's done, you can follow your recipe's instructions. Some keep it simple, while others add cheddar and ham or paprika and garlic. For a full-sized waffle maker, load it up with four spoonfuls of potato mixture, one for each quadrant. Cook for 2 minutes to start, then press the lid down to flatten the potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.


6. Latkes

While quite similar in nature, latkes are different from hashbrowns. They are a magical recipe all their own, including a number of extra ingredients like onions, eggs, and bread crumbs. This writer grew up in a house that celebrates Hanukkah, so she is quite familiar with the wide range of approaches to latkes, from those that are very battery (high in liquid content) to those that let the potatoes and onions do the talking. However you prepare your latkes, though, they are much more than simply an Eastern European take on hashbrowns. Anyone who says otherwise has clearly never taken it up with a family of Jewish folk.


The good news is, latkes are about as easy as hashbrowns to make in the waffle iron, although the prep is a bit longer. When you're first starting out, try an online recipe specifically created for waffled latkes, as this will help you understand the timing. If you already have a latke recipe that you love, you can experiment with simply throwing that into the waffle iron for 6 to 10 minutes.

7. Omelets

If you like frittatas, then you will love waffle iron omelets. The heated plates give the same result as a good omelet made in a cast iron pan, with fluffy eggs inside and a nice browned effect on the outside. You can fill your omelet with a huge variety of veggies and types of cheese, and using duck or goose eggs always makes for a nice flavor twist.


The best thing about waffle iron omelets is how fast they are. Instead of fussing with a pan and trying to get your eggs right, with much jiggling and tilting of pans, all you have to do is ladle some seasoned egg mixture into the waffle maker and boom, they're done 2 minutes later. 

For best results, look up a recipe online to get an appropriate cooking time for your ratio of eggs, milk, cheese, veggies, herbs, and spices. That way you can avoid over- or undercooking your tasty lunch or dinnertime creations.

8. Cornbread

With its thick batter and crisping potential, cornbread is a wonderful candidate for the waffle iron. It cooks quickly, due to the thinness of a waffle maker's interior, and stays moist because it steams itself throughout the process. You can even use leftover cornbread stuffing in the waffle maker, particularly useful after the winter holidays. All you need to do is mix in some eggs and cook, et voilà: a delectable dish that looks nothing like leftovers, suitable for any meal of the day.


Waffled cornbread is also a great summer treat with a big garden salad and meat off the grill. Feel free to make your own cornbread mix and cook it in your waffle iron, but frankly, Jiffy Cornbread Mix is so darn good it may get you hooked on cornbread waffles for life. Once cooked, you can dress up your creations to be savory or sweet.

9. Quesadilla

Tortillas and cheese are a match made in heaven. Whether you prefer cheddar, pepper-jack, or muenster, the result is the same: pure bliss. Turns out, the waffle iron can accommodate you on your journey to quesadilla perfection, because it heats so evenly from both above and below. Although most people familiar with a waffle iron know that it does usually cook a little more on one side than the other (unless you've got the flippable kind). This is still guaranteed to be better than a pan where heat is only coming from below, but you should still preheat the waffle iron to ensure even cooking.


There are a few other tips you should know about before simply throwing them on the grill. For one, make sure to soften any veggies you're going to put inside the quesadilla so they cook at the same pace as the tortilla and cheese. For another, you'll want to lay a tortilla on the bottom, spread cheese, then lay another on top; constructing outside the iron and then transporting it could result in disaster.

10. Cookies and brownies

Cookies are the quintessential baked good. They come in eight kajillion varieties, are delicious at any time of day (yes, even for breakfast), and cook up quick. And as it happens, they cook up even quicker in the waffle maker, done in 2 to 3 minutes as opposed to the 10 to 15 they usually take in the oven. Best recommendation: look up a cookie-specific recipe when you first try this, before branching out to your own beloved recipes for experimentation. That way you can work out any waffle cookie kinks with training wheels on.


Like its cousin the cookie, the brownie is an all-around favorite among folks of any age. Rich, chocolatey, soft, and chewy all at once, brownies are the ideal dessert or snack. (Or, again and without apology, breakfast.) Also like cookies, brownies cook quickly in the waffle maker, around 3 minutes. 

11. Fritters

Who doesn't love a fritter? They're an ingenious combo of veggies, egg, salt, and spices, both coming together rapidly on a weeknight and nice enough to serve at a fancy dinner party on weekends. You can make them with almost anything, from zucchini to beets to sweet potatoes, carrots to cauliflower to corn ... and the list goes on. When you introduce the waffle iron to the mix, the combination becomes irresistible because it's so darn speedy, with fritters reaching golden brown perfection in about 3 minutes.


One thing to note about fritters is that, like hash browns and latkes, they are made of a variety of different elements that need to meld in order to create a desirable finished result. So just like waffles themselves, you must avoid lifting the waffle maker lid too early, or you might pull them apart. And like Humpty Dumpty, you really can't put them back together again.

12. French toast

It seems like there should be a really good name for waffle French toast. Maybe ... wench toast? No, that can't be right. Wrench toast? Huh. This is going nowhere.

No matter what you call it, one of the easiest, yet somehow most delicious, breakfast foods is French toast. It's kind of amazing how nothing more than bread, eggs, and a little milk can result in something so amazing, but here we are. Not that it needs improvement, but if you want to take French toast the extra mile, you should pop it into your waffle maker.


Because French toast is essentially already baked, all you're doing in the waffle maker is cooking the egg through. Many recipes will tell you to cook until golden brown, but if you want specific instructions, try cooking for around 3 minutes and watching for the steam to stop. That's a good sign your French toast waffle is cooked.

13. Polenta

While delicious in its own right, polenta is basically a vehicle for cheese (at least in this writer's household) and should be eaten as often as humanly possible. Luckily, the waffle iron makes that an achievable feat. You can either whip up a batch of fresh polenta and ladle it onto the hot plates like batter, or you can use leftover or precooked polenta, sliced after it's congealed in the fridge.


If you're making polenta on your own using an online recipe, you may notice that it calls for the addition of cheese, eggs, and flour. Although you can certainly just use precooked polenta, it's definitely yummier to add in these extras. The egg will make your polenta fluffier, while the flour will bind it together for a bit more structure. As for the cheese, if you need that explained to you ... well. Enough said.

How long you cook the polenta is up to you, because some like it crispier than others. A good indicator is to let it cook for 2 minutes after the light goes off.

14. Cinnamon rolls

The fact that you can cook cinnamon rolls in a waffle maker is proof positive that you basically can't screw them up no matter what you do. It couldn't be easier, either. The waffle iron makes the dough puff up nicely, then brown against the hot plates to create a pleasant toothsome-ness with a fluffy inside, just as a cinnamon roll should be.


All you do is take cinnamon roll dough, either homemade or store bought, and roll it out, then cut it into circles. Pop them into the waffle maker until they're puffed and golden, which should take between 3 and 4 minutes. Then remove and shovel on the cream cheese frosting, vanilla icing, or cinnamon sugar topping. If you want, you can buy premade cinnamon rolls from a tube. These come loaded with cinnamon flavor as well as an icing packet, so you don't have to make it yourself.

The only caveat is you should make sure not to overproof your cinnamon roll dough if you're making it at home. As any good acolyte of "The Great British Bake Off" knows, overproofing (letting dough rest for longer than the recipe says) will allow the yeast to create too much gas and weaken the gluten structure. This can cause collapse when you go to "bake" your rolls in the waffle iron, so adhere to your recipe's timing.


15. Crab cakes

Yes, you can even do crab cakes in a waffle maker. The breadcrumb coating is a perfect protective agent to get a nice crisp while keeping the insides moist. However, if you're going to cook crab cakes in your waffle maker, just make sure it's a cast iron variety that will clean easily ... or else use a lot of oil to ensure the crab doesn't stick. There's nothing like old seafood to ruin your waffles for the rest of time, so take care. In fact, if you're going to go the savory waffle route, it's worth it to run to your nearest thrift store and pick up an extra iron for $5 or so. Then you can have one for each approach, dinner and dessert.


To make waffled crab cakes, you can look up a recipe that's specifically geared toward this, of which there are quite a few online. Alternatively, you can simply take crab cake mixture and press it in a waffle iron, as online recipes for waffled crab cakes are essentially the same as those you'd bake or cook on your stovetop. This will give you a nice coating without the danger of drying out (as in an oven) or using too much oil (as when pan frying).