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But Really, What’s the Difference Between Pancake and Waffle Batter?

They look almost identical. They taste almost identical. They have almost the same ingredients. What are we missing?

For the non-chef, there’s no greater food mystery out there than the difference between pancake and waffle batter. The choice breakfast items may be shaped differently, but they’re a similar color, and they have almost the exact same ingredients. Plus, the batter looks the same. Before it gets deposited onto a griddle or into a waffle maker, I personally wouldn’t know the difference. So, is there one?

Yes, but it’s slim. Most pancake and waffle recipes share the same basic ingredients: flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar and a leavening agent like baking powder. The one key difference is that waffle batter typically contains more sugar and fat — e.g., butter or cooking oil. The extra dose of sugar results in additional caramelization, and the added fat produces that trademark crisp exterior and light interior. As for how much of these ingredients arrives in any given batter, it’s really the chef’s choice.

Because pancake and waffle batter is only slightly different, you can still reliably use a pre-packaged mix like Bisquick to make either one. You could also make pancakes with waffle mix or vice versa, and you probably wouldn’t notice all that much of a difference. In fact, you might be pleasantly surprised. But if we’re being particular, less fat and sugar is what makes pancakes floppy, while more is what makes waffles crispy.

So, there you go: Another one of life’s greatest mysteries solved. Next up: If aliens were to arrive on planet Earth, would they prefer pancakes or waffles? (I just think it’s a good idea that we figure that out, y’know?)