Whether you want to go sweet or savory, classic or over the top, the possibilities are limitless for waffles, a breakfast staple. We asked chefs from all over the US to weigh in on their favorite waffle toppings — here are some of our favorites.
Lucky Charms marshmallows make a magically delicious addition
Troy Guard, chef-owner of TAG Restaurant Group in Denver, sees waffles as "a great blank canvas" and had many great ideas, but our favorite topping suggestion was Lucky Charms— "just the marshmallows, of course" — with fresh whipped cream and fruit.
"If you're making the batter from scratch, you can also grind the Lucky Charms into a powder and add to the waffle batter for a magically delicious touch," Guard added.
Layering technique is key
"For me, it's not just about the toppings — it's about how you layer them," said Mike Reilly, chef de cuisine at The NoMad. "You have to start with butter while the waffle is hot so that it starts to melt and create a solid base layer, then add whipped ricotta for delicious creaminess, followed by chopped lemon candied walnuts for tang and crunch. Finished with maple syrup, obviously."
Swap maple syrup with savory sauces
"You can push the envelope and go with BBQ or pesto sauces," said Kyle Corea and Adam Gold, founders of Funk 'n Waffles in Syracuse. "The BBQ really sinks into the waffle and gives it a truly Southern flavor, and the pesto sauce is a fitting, counterbalancing zest to the spongey, sweet dough of the waffle."
Try Middle Eastern flavors like dates and tahini
For Mike Solomonov, chef/owner of the acclaimed Zahav in Philadelphia, his ideal waffle toppings — date molasses and raw tahini — are connected with his Israeli roots.
Fried chicken is a no-brainer
Becky Quan, pastry chef at NoMad Las Vegas, enjoys both sweet and savory waffle combinations. If she's going savory, fried chicken and maple syrup on a waffle is her go-to.
"It's a classic combination of sweet and savory, and just straight up delicious," Quan told INSIDER. "Really, how can you say no to fried chicken?"
Don't be afraid to go big
Waffles aren't exactly a health food, so go big or go home, right? At Clinton Hall in New York City, waffles come in high stacks accented with everything from sparklers to cotton candy to entire slices of cake.
"Waffles are the perfect dish to play around with," Darryl Harmon, executive chef at Clinton Hall and mastermind behind the appropriately named WTF waffles, told INSIDER. "It has a strong base you can build on and be creative with."
Harmon listed lavender honey butter, smoked persimmon compote, and brown butter powder as some options.
Get creative with the batter
"I think less about what to put on waffles [than] what's in them," said Public House chef Jasmine Hughes, who dreams up seasonal waffle specials with inventive toppings and batters.
"I love alternative flours like buckwheat and spelt for earthier flavors. Big chunks of dark chocolate and banana in a nutty, toasty batter is next-level."
When it comes to savory waffles, Hughes notes, "Crispy serrano ham and bites of melty manchego in the batter, topped off with an olive oil fried egg? That's the one I make when I want to make 'em fall in love."
Bacon, egg, and cheese is always a winning combination... even on a waffle
Bryan Lewis, the founder of Press Waffle Co., combines two breakfast staples for a creation that he calls The American, "because it is oh so very American." The American is a Liège-style waffle topped with melted Cheddar, bacon crumble, maple syrup, and a fried egg.
Sometimes simple is best
No fancy fruit compotes or streaky bacon on hand? No problem. Tim Love, chef/owner of several Texas restaurants including Lonesome Dove Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse, and Love Shack, said, "I like the classics on my waffles, just some Aunt Jemima syrup and butter."
Drizzle waffles with honey instead of maple syrup
Greg Proechel, executive chef of Ferris in New York City, uses honey flavored with tea as a lighter alternative to maple syrup, describing it as "super floral" with a "unique sweetness."
"We simply put honey into a pot and warm it with about 5% of its weight with water and then pour the honey over the tea bags," said Proechel. It's ready to use after about 20 minutes.
This chef's homemade sauce with Asian-influenced flavors is perfect for a savory waffle
"Recently, for brunch, I've been making a savory scallion sesame waffle and topping it with General Tso's fried chicken, sesame seeds, and a maple habanero syrup," said Henry Lu, executive chef of Loosie's Kitchen.
Lu's homemade General Tso's sauce features red wine vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, water, agave, sambal, honey, salt, corn starch, and garlic.
Caramelized bananas add an appealing flavor and texture
Jay Calimlim, the executive chef of Della's Kitchen at Delano Las Vegas, likes to top waffles with caramelized bananas "because of the contrast of textures and flavors."
"I slice the bananas in half and sprinkle sugar over the top, then caramelize the sugar with a torch," said Calimlim. "This gives a crunchy, glass-like texture to the sugar, similar to a crème brûlée, that cuts through the creamy texture of the banana."
Maple syrup is a must
Whether she's leaning sweet or savory, for Natalie Saben, pastry chef at Chicago's Pacific Standard Time, a waffle isn't complete without copious amounts of maple syrup.
"When I want to be a purist, I love a waffle with butter and strawberries drowning in maple syrup. The more maple syrup the better," said Saben.
For savory, chicken and waffles are her go-to move, "especially if the fried chicken has a little bit of heat in the dredge." She continues, "You have this great combination of sweet and salty because, of course, mine again is drowning in maple syrup."
Frozen waffles make a sweet base for a homemade ice cream sandwich
Freezer waffles have a special place in this chef's heart.
"When I was younger, my mom always had frozen waffles in the freezer," said Caitlin McMillan, chef at Goldie. "I'd pop them in the toaster oven, scoop a heap of vanilla ice cream on top, and fold it over. To this day it makes the most comforting and perfect ice cream sandwich."