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by matt long on December 27, 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.