Difference Between Waffles & Pancakes

By Cynthia Myers

Waffles and pancakes share equal billing as favorite breakfast foods for many Americans. A stack of crispy waffles or fluffy pancakes oozing melted butter and syrup makes a filling Sunday brunch or weekday breakfast. Both waffles and pancakes are a form of quick bread, relying on baking powder and eggs for their lightness instead of yeast. You can buy boxed pancake and waffle mixes or refrigerated batters or whip up your own in the kitchen.

waffles
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Waffles with berries.

Ingredients

Organic brown eggs
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Waffles contain more eggs.

Waffles traditionally contain more fat than pancakes, which helps produce the crisp exterior of waffles. Waffles also contain more eggs, to help make them lighter. Some waffle recipes call for separating the egg white and egg yolks and beating the egg white until stiff, then folding them into the batter after you stir in the yolks. This makes a very light, fluffy batter. Pancake batter produces a denser, more cakelike product. You can make waffles with pancake batter and pancakes from waffle batter, but the end results will differ from traditional recipes for either.

Cooking Method

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Waffle iron.

Waffles are made on a waffle iron. Old-fashioned waffle irons you heat on the stove top work as well as electric waffle irons. Waffle irons are heated on both sides. They cook the batter quickly and produce the waffle's characteristic indentations. The waffle iron produces a cake that's crispy on the outside and tender inside. You cook pancakes on a griddle or in a hot skillet. Pancakes usually aren't as crisp as waffles.

Shape

Close-up of pancakes stacked high with syrup being poured over them
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Pancake stack with syrup.

Pancakes are round. You can cook them without any sort of mold, spooning or pouring batter onto the hot griddle or into the hot pan. The size of the pancake depends on how much batter you use and the thickness of that batter. Silver dollar pancakes are only a few inches across, while some people prefer plate-sized flapjacks. The shape of your waffle iron determines the shape of your waffle. Waffle irons come in both round and square varieties. Some irons produce thicker waffles, known as Belgian waffles, while other produce thinner, crispier waffles.

Toppings

Strawberry Waffles and Maple Syrup
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Maple syrup.

Maple syrup and butter are the traditional toppings for both pancakes and waffles. The topping soaks into the pancakes and pools in the indentations of waffles. You can also use fruit syrups such as blueberry. Waffles can also be used to make desserts, layered instead of shortcake with strawberries and whipped cream. The waffle cone used for ice cream may have begun life as a thin, crisp waffle. Savory pancakes are used in some Chinese dishes, served, for example, with duck.