The History of Waffles

This is a picture of four waffles cut as triangles.


This is a picture of four waffles cut as triangles.

Waffles… or pancakes? The legendary feud about the superior breakfast pastry will go down in history forever as one of the most divided squabbles ever in human history. Which is better? The golden-brown, crispy pockets of the waffle or the spongy, moist pancake? Both can trace their roots back to Ancient Greece, where many people enjoyed the sweet treats. However, the history of the delectable waffle goes even further back in history, where it may have gotten its start as a grain-based hotcake cooked over smoldering coals. This is the meager beginning and history since of the beloved waffle.

The waffle first emerged in the Neolithic Age as a hotcake, flipped on both sides to ensure even cooking. It was extremely plain, containing no sugar or other additions and made mainly of simple grains and was flat, unlike the thick, fluffy waffles of today. As time advanced and as humanity advanced into the period we now call the Iron Age, new tools became accessible with the use of iron. Waffle cooking methods grew closer to what we now see today with the invention of the first waffle griddle – two heated iron plates to “sandwich” the waffle and accelerate cooking time.

Ancient Greeks made a savory waffle called an obleios, adding cheese and herbs on top as a seasoning. Later in the Middle Ages of Europe, flat wafers called oublies became common snacks from street vendors. However, the oublie became more like the modern waffle when, in the 1200s, waffle irons gained patterns. Eucharist, religious communion wafers developed a cross pattern. The iconic honeycomb pattern of the waffle soon appeared, giving the waffle its name deriving from the Old French word wafla, meaning honeycomb. The waffles also grew thicker and fluffier, more like modern waffles. These waffles soon made their way to the new world – America. 

In 1620, waffles came to America with the pilgrims. 150 years later, Thomas Jefferson popularized waffles in America when he brought back waffle irons from his trip to France and threw “waffle frolics,” parties centered around waffles. Waffle-making became easier with Cornelius Swartwout’s patent for his “Improvement in Waffle-Irons”, a new more efficient waffle iron. In 1911, General Electric patented the world’s first electric waffle maker. Frozen waffles appeared in the 1950s as a more convenient way for waffles to be consumed. Belgian waffles were introduced to the United States in the 1962 World Fair in Seattle but its popularity didn’t surge until the 1964 and 1965 World Fairs hosted in Queens, New York. The American waffle as we know was born. 

Millions of waffles are enjoyed yearly by nearly everyone. Waffles have changed tremendously since their beginnings and may continue to change in the future.