9 Unexpected Foods You Can Cook on a Waffle Iron

Remember when waffle iron food was limited to . . . waffles? We don’t want to go back to that dark time either, which is why we’re sharing our 9 favorite creative ways to use a waffle iron. We guarantee at least one of these things you can cook on a waffle maker will surprise you!

  • By Jess Dang
  • December 22, 2020

Whether you’re trying to make your food more creative and fun, the frying pan is already in use, or you just don’t want to heat up the house, the waffle iron is one of our favorite kitchen solutions. Once considered a single-use appliance that was impractical for anyone who doesn’t regularly make waffles, waffle irons are now embraced by inventive chefs and space-challenged home cooks alike. 

But it’s not always intuitive which foods will cook well on the waffle iron and which will turn into a nightmare of a mess. That’s why we wanted to share some of our favorite unexpected foods that can be cooked on a waffle iron. We primarily focus on meals (or components of meals), though many sweet treats do well on the waffle iron too!

As a general rule, we’d describe waffled foods as “squished but crispy.” The same pockets that get created when cooking waffle batter get created when cooking anything else on a waffle iron, too. For toasting or reheating foods that already have a set form — like bread — those pockets get created by force. But the upside of all that squishing is that more surface area of your food touches the hot iron, leaving the food perfectly crisp and delicious. (And hey, squished just means more flavor per square inch, right?!)

Read on for our 9 favorite yet unexpected waffle iron foods.

1. Falafel

Typically deep-fried, this chickpea or fava bean–based Middle Eastern staple gets much crispier and with much less fat when cooked on a waffle iron. Of course, it doesn’t retain its characteristic round shape, but with crunch like that, who cares? Falafel is traditionally served in a pita pocket, though it also makes a great topping for a vegetarian salad or goes well over couscous, as in our version, Black Bean Falafel with Harissa Aioli. Given the flatter shape created by the waffle iron, you could even turn it into a sandwich.

To make falafel on a waffle iron, spray or brush both irons with oil, then spread the falafel batter evenly across the bottom iron. Close the iron gently (don’t press down) and cook until evenly browned. (Note: This works best with fresh falafel batter as opposed to frozen falafels.)

2. Fried rice

If you’re a fan of the crispy bits of rice at the bottom of the pan after making rice or fried rice, this is the method for you! You can reheat cold leftover fried rice on the waffle iron, or cook fried rice from fresh rice if you prefer — just note that rice that’s already hot won’t get as crispy as reheating rice.

To make “waffled” fried rice, mix your favorite seasonings, such as garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes (the sauce mixture we use in our Kung Pao Chicken Wings with Fried Rice recipe). Stir this mixture into your rice along with some small, diced frozen veggies, such as peas, carrots, and bell pepper. Oil up your waffle iron, spread the rice evenly over the surface, and close. If you press the waffle maker closed firmly, you’ll end up with a dense patty that will stay together; less firmly and your rice will stay a little fluffier, but is more likely to fall apart when you remove it from the waffle iron.

3. Pizza

Ah, pizza. Everyone’s favorite meal becomes quicker and crispier when cooked on a waffle iron. Start by forming your pizza dough into small balls, then stretching those balls into roughly the size and shape of your waffle iron. Cook the pizza dough on your greased waffle iron until lightly browned, then remove it from the iron to add sauce, cheese, and veggies on top. Carefully put it back on the iron to melt the cheese, holding the top iron over but not touching the cheese. For more in-depth instructions, check out our post How to Make Waffle Iron Pizza.


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4. Crab cakes

Some people have strong opinions about what should — and shouldn’t — go into crab cakes. While we’re a fan of all crab cake styles, we will say that crab cakes without breading on the outside cook best on a waffle iron. Breading can burn easily, so if you do buy or make a breaded style crab cake, use low heat if your waffle iron has the option, and definitely watch the cakes closely while they cook. If you’re making your own crab cakes from scratch, check out our Crab Cake Sandwiches with Chili Lime Sauce!

5. Omelets

To be honest, when we first imagined putting raw eggs on a waffle iron, we pictured a giant mess (and maybe even having to buy a new waffle iron). But as it turns out, this is a pretty ingenious way to cook scrambled eggs, or their more sophisticated sibling, the omelet.

Chop up quick-cooking vegetables such as spinach and bell pepper, and whisk them with eggs and a little salt and pepper. You could also chop any leftover roast, steamed, or sautéed veggies you have sitting in the fridge. Simply pour the mixture onto a hot, greased waffle iron (use the low setting if you have it) and close, and within a couple of minutes you’ll have an omelet that peels off in a single strip. Top with green onion, cheese, sour cream, and any other toppings you like!

6. Zucchini fritters

Shred a couple of zucchini and wring out the moisture by squeezing it over the sink in a clean kitchen towel. Mix the zucchini with an egg, some ricotta cheese, flour, and salt and pepper, as we do in our Zucchini Fritters with Cilantro Garlic Sauce recipe. If you prefer, you can use parmesan cheese instead of the ricotta, and add optional Italian seasoning. Put spoonfuls of this mixture onto your hot waffle iron and close the lid; you can probably fit three fritters onto a standard-size waffle iron. Once they’re brown, remove them from the heat and serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top.

Want to fritter more veggies? Get our favorite formula and more tips with this post on How to Fritter Vegetables:


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7. Grilled cheese sandwiches

This lunchtime favorite could not be simpler to prepare, and a waffle iron makes this simple cooking project even easier. Using two slices of bread per person, butter one side of the bread while the waffle iron heats up, then spread half the unbuttered sides with shredded cheese (we like Monterey Jack or white cheddar best, but feel free to get creative!). Top with the other slice of bread so that both buttered sides face out, and cook on a preheated waffle iron (no need to grease this time). Press down firmly and toast your sandwich until it’s crispy on the outside and melty on the inside.

We like to serve these sandwiches with a simple side salad, as we do in our Waffle Iron Grilled Cheese with Spring Mix Salad, which contrasts the sharpness of tart apples with the rich creaminess of the cheese.

8. Tofu

People who claim not to like tofu often haven’t tried it prepared crispy, and — surprise! — once again this is where the waffle iron shines. The weight of the top iron helps to press excess moisture out of the tofu, which helps it to get nice and crisp on the outside, and dense and chewy on the inside. The pockets are also perfect for catching little pools of sauce that add extra flavor.

Start with firm or extra firm tofu packed in water, and dry it well after discarding the liquid. Slice the tofu into planks about ¾ of an inch thick, and marinate it in your favorite marinade for at least 20 minutes and up to a day. When it’s time to cook, discard the marinade, pat the tofu dry, and put it on the greased waffle iron set to high. It should cook for about 5 minutes. 

9. Polenta

Whether you’re working from a tube of precooked polenta or have leftover cheese grits you can’t figure out how to reheat well, look to the waffle iron for a delicious solution. Cheese grits probably work a bit better because they contain more fat from the cheese and any additional butter or olive oil you’ve used in the original preparation, and this fat helps the polenta to crisp up into a delicious crust where it touches the iron, while keeping it soft and fluffy inside. (For example, use leftover grits from our Shrimp, Cauliflower, and Bacon Sauté with Cheesy Grits.)

As with rice, starting with cold polenta will yield a better result, and try to keep the slice intact when you put it on the waffle iron — too crumbly and it’ll be hard to get it off in one piece.

While these are some of our favorite ways to use the waffle iron in preparing meals, the possibilities definitely don’t end there. Experiment with using your waffle iron to toast bagels and croissants, cook hash browns and tater tots, make French toast, or even to cook biscuits, cookies, and muffins! Play around and have fun with it, and you just may discover the next ingenious waffled food trend. Just be sure to fully preheat the irons, grease them well . . . and be prepared for the occasional mess.

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