The dish is a staple in the American South, and you’ll find it on menus at every diner, breakfast spot and soul food restaurant. It’s also one of the most popular dishes to order from brunch buffets. But what are some of the best recipes for this classic Southern dish? We will also discuss the history of this dish as well as the traditional way to make it. The blog post will also include some tips on storing and reheating leftover for your next meal.
WHAT IS CHICKEN AND WAFFLES?
Chicken and waffles is a dish traditionally made of fried chicken served with waffles. It’s popular in the American South, where the combination originated, but it’s also become quite widespread on menus in coffee shops nationwide. The dish is often presented as an early American take on Southern cooking (i.e., originating in North Carolina).
There are countless variations on the waffle component, however, including sweet options like strawberry or blueberry waffles or savory options like buttermilk waffles or cornbread waffles. Some restaurants even offer the option to smother your fried chicken with syrup, to mimic classic breakfast combinations like French toast and bacon (or sausage) and maple syrup.
Of course, there are even artisanal varieties that come in flavors like rosemary and thyme.
THE HISTORY OF CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
The history of chicken and waffles is actually much more complicated than you might think.
So where did chicken and waffles come from?
The actual origins of the dish are widely debated, but most food historians point to one specific place: Harlem, New York City. The first known fried chicken and waffle combination meal appeared on a menu at Wells Supper Club in Harlem in 1938, according to Rufus Lovett- Allston’s culinary history of African American culture, Baked In (Portsmouth: Arcadia Publishing).
This restaurant was owned by Henry Wells who had previously operated another location called Wells’ Restaurant that included both this signature dish as well as an all-you-can eat buffet. But Wells’ original restaurant only served dishes like pig’s feet and ham hocks, so the fried chicken and waffle combo represented a new kind of eating experience.
Food historians like Michael Twitty (The Cooking Gene) and Jessica B. Harris (High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America) argue that this meal represents a kind of fusion between African American and Southern cooking styles- although dishes like chitlins or chitterlings were also served at Wells Supper Club in Harlem.
In fact, most accounts claim that it was actually Malcolm X who first introduced Louis Armstrong to Wells’ fried chicken recipe in 1952, leading him to rave about it in the noontime for his radio program “Hot Biscuit.” The combination of fried chicken and waffles was so well-received that Wells is said to have been commissioned by the city to feed crowds at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral.
The taste for this festive dish quickly spread throughout all of Harlem and then, eventually, the rest of America. According to some food historians like Michael Twitty (quoted in The New Yorker) eating a meal like this became an act of self- assertion for African Americans living in segregated areas during the mid-twentieth century when segregation was rampant and there were very few opportunities for them to go out and try new kinds of food apart from traditional Southern cooking.
Some people suggest that the reason chicken and waffles work so well together is because both of these items are often cooked in cast iron skillets, and it’s not uncommon for each item to be served in a separate vessel (i.e., one skillet for the fried chicken and another skillet for the waffle).
WHY CHICKEN AND WAFFLES IS SO POPULAR
It’s one of those things that not only tastes good, but it also has a history to back up the hype. As told by NPR in an article this week, “chicken and waffles” was created as a late-night treat for factory workers who had just finished their shift. The dish combined (normally) fried chicken and syrup with the classic American breakfast food: waffles.
It probably ended up getting popular because it’s delicious — I mean, how could you resist? You get salty, sweet, savory all in one bite… Does it really get any better than that? There are even restaurants that make the whole experience interactive: you can watch them cook the chicken and waffle right from your table!
It’s also a dish that brings in different cultures: the waffle part of it has associations with Belgian cuisine, whereas the southern-style fried chicken comes from African American tradition.
Since then, it’s made its way into restaurants across America and even spread to other places around the world!
Here Are Some Fun Facts About Chicken And Waffles
– The dish is associated with Harlem in New York City (home to many African Americans!)
– There are already over 200 eateries in NYC serving up this classic combo, as well as countless others across America. Not only will you find it at your local BBQ joint, but it shows up on people’s brunch menus all the time!
– It’s been featured on several TV shows and movies, such as The Mindy Project and Bob’s Burgers.
– There’s even a YouTube channel dedicated to chicken and waffles!
WHY DO I LIKE IT?
I mentioned the fact that the salty/sweet combination is what makes it so good in my opinion — but apart from that, it reminds me of some of my favorite meals growing up. In Brazil, we have a very similar type of food: “coxinha de frango” (or just coxinha), which is fried dough filled with shredded chicken.
It was one of those things that I would always get when going down to my grandma’s house or something. Since I don’t really have those opportunities anymore, it’s nice to be able to recreate the same flavors and nostalgia at home!
I know I’m not alone on this one: whenever I bring up the idea of chicken and waffles in public, there are always people who want to try it right away. Even if you’re not a big fan of chicken or waffles individually, getting them together is guaranteed to make everyone happy! Not only that: you get two dishes for the price of one.
1. The Best Thing About This Dish
It’s actually healthier than you think… Just look at these stats:
– The recipe has 310 calories (for 3 servings!)
– It only takes around 30 minutes from start to finish!
– Its main ingredient: chicken is protein packed.
– Fried food isn’t THAT bad for you after all.
2. Some Other Ways To Make This Recipe Healthier
Choose low fat ingredients (like cornmeal instead of flour, and cooking spray instead of oil). You can also use skinless chicken breasts or skip the frying altogether and bake it in the oven! Plus, adding vegetables such as tomatoes and onions will help you feel fuller without compromising a single calorie!
You might be surprised to learn that there are quite a few variations on how people make chicken and waffles nowadays… but the best part about this dish is that they’re all good one’s worth trying.
From what I’ve seen around Instagram, some popular flavors are: – Sriracha-caramel fried chicken – Cheesy chicken and waffle sandwich – Pizza chicken waffles
To make life even easier, there are already recipes out there for how to prepare the dish in bulk. This means that instead of cooking it right before you plan on eating, you can have a meal ready for later! This is a perfect lunch idea and it’s definitely worth trying.
RECIPES FOR A CLASSIC SOUTHERN DISH – FRIED CHICKEN, WAFFLES, SYRUP
They are all over the internet. However, it’s not as common to find recipes that explore different flavor combinations within this combo. I’ve included some of my favorite recipes from around the web in case you’d like to see what else is out there!
1. Classic Chicken And Waffles
- 4 pieces of bread (I recommend 2 buttered toasts for each serving)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 3 tbsp cornmeal
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Canola oil to fry
1.2. Ingredients for the fried chicken:
- Chicken pieces
- Cayenne pepper
Mix the flour with salt, black pepper and cayenne in a bowl. Then pour it into another bowl and add the cornmeal. Put your beaten eggs into yet another separate bowl. Dip a piece of chicken into the egg mix then press it firmly onto the cornmeal mix. Repeat this step with all chicken pieces.
Heat your oil in a skillet (about 1/2 inch of oil) and once it’s hot, fry each piece until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and put the fried pieces into a preheated oven to keep warm while you prepare the rest.
For the waffles, separate the egg whites from the yolks and whip them up separately for about 15 minutes or until they form stiff peaks; fold these whipped whites into the batter at the very end. Pour batter onto hot waffle iron (follow your appliance’s instructions).
Serve each toast topped with 2 buttered toasts, four pieces of chicken and maple syrup!
2. The Best Recipes For A Blackened Chicken And Sweet Potato Waffles With Pecan Butter Sauce
- Blackened Chicken Strips
- 2 tbsp. paprika
- 1 tbsp. salt, divided
- 1/2 tbsp. white pepper, divided
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
2.2. Sweet Potato Waffle Batter:
- 1 large, sweet potato (baked)
- 2 eggs + 2 egg whites (beaten)
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
2.3. Pecan Butter Sauce
- 4 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Zest of one orange
For the chicken strips: Mix the ingredients for the chicken strips in a small bowl. Place the chicken in a greased 9″ x 13″ baking dish and cover with the seasoning mix, shaking to ensure each piece is evenly coated. Cover with foil and allow to marinate 20 minutes or overnight. Preheat grill (or pan) over high heat; cook about 6-8 minutes per side until juices run clear. Keep warm on a plate covered with foil while you prepare everything else!
Combine all ingredients for waffles into a blender and blend until smooth! You can also just mash them up if needed – I used my NutriBullet. Once your sweet potato is baked, remove its skin using either your hands or a fork (be careful of burning hot steam as you remove it).
Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and mash into small pieces. Add your eggs and mix it all together. Once incorporated, add 1/2 tsp salt and some freshly ground black pepper according to taste (I just eyeball it!). If the batter is too thick or pasty, add some almond milk until you get a nice waffle-batter consistency.
Clean off the grill surface and turn heat down to medium high, spray with nonstick cooking oil. Ladle about 1 cup of batter on the hot surface so that each waffle consists of three rounds. Let cook until bubbles form on top – this will make flipping much easier!
Cook for another 2 minutes or so then flip carefully using a metal spatula being careful not to break the waffle apart. Cook for another 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet covered with foil (to catch dripping butter). Repeat this step for two more waffles and put them into your oven to keep warm while you prepare everything else.
To make the sauce, simply mix all ingredients together in a small bowl with a whisk and serve over finished dish!
OTHER VARIATIONS OF THE DISH
Chicken nuggets on top of Belgian waffles with chicken gravy between the waffles
Fried chicken on top of Belgian waffle with a side of syrup for dipping
Chicken tenders and Swiss cheese in between layers of waffles cut into triangles (dinner square)
Chicken breast served with mashed potatoes and gravy
Buffalo-style wings over cornbread
Vegetarian options like tofu scramble or avocado toast
Chicken Sausage, Cheddar, & Chive Buttermilk Biscuit with Gravy Waffles
TIPS ON HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT LEFTOVER CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
– Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
– To reheat, place on a baking sheet and heat at 350°F for 10 minutes or until warm throughout.
– You can also place slices of leftover chicken in between fresh waffles for a quick, easy lunch!
WAYS TO EAT YOUR LEFTOVERS
– You can also shred the chicken and put it into a pot of creamy mac & cheese!
– You can serve chicken on top of waffles along with orange zest over sweet potato waffle
– You can place slices of leftover chicken in between fresh waffles for a quick, easy lunch!
– If using chicken in a salad, take ½ cup of leftover chicken and toss it with lettuce greens in a bowl and serve with your favorite dressing.
– Add shredded or cubed chicken to an omelette or scrambled eggs and top with cheese!
– You can also serve the blackened buffalo style wings over cornbread.
– You can also substitute cornbread with a thick, wheat crust.
– Add shredded or cubed chicken to an omelette or scrambled eggs and top with cheese!
– Make a casserole out of it (adding veggies like spinach or tomatoes)!
FIND THE BEST RECIPE AND KNOW NEW VARIATION OF THE FAMILIAR CHICKEN AND WAFFLE
Southern cuisine is rich with fried chicken and waffles, so we’ve collected some of the best recipes for you to try. From new twists on a classic dish like the avocado and bacon egg benedict or pineapple upside-down cake waffles to dishes made just for kids, there are plenty of options out there to explore!
What will your next meal be? Which recipe looks good to you? We can help find what’s right for you. Let us know in the comments below which one sounds better than others.