Back when I had a kitchen, I owned a waffle maker. Waffles have made it into American kitchen culture, but do you know where they originated? The tiny country of Belgium; hence the beloved Belgian waffle.
When I traveled to Belgium this summer I was excited to do my share of tastings of Belgian waffles, I wanted to find the best waffles in Brussels! But I quickly learned when it came to Belgian waffles – it’s complicated.
My First Belgian Waffle in Brussels
On my 2nd day in Brussels, I went to the Sunday market and while there I stopped at a little van that sold waffles and tried my first delectable taste of square Belgian baked goods. It was good, I was happy – so happy I got back to my home and put my little video of my waffle tasting on Facebook.
That’s when I learned I was ill-informed when it came to Belgian waffles.
History of Belgian Waffles (it’s more complicated than you think)
Immediately I had one of my friends ask me if the waffle I had was a Liege or Brussels waffle. Huh? There are different types? Soon other well-traveled friends started chiming in, and there was a waffle debate going on on my Facebook page!
I quickly googled these types and found a myriad of info about the dueling waffles. Plus – I also quickly learned that much like the fortune cookie, the Belgian waffle was something contrived in America…not Belgium. It was introduced at New York’s 1964 World’s Fair by restaurateur, Maurice Vermersch, where waffles were sold as “Bel-Gem Waffles”. Vermersch decided to change the name to the Bel-Gem Waffle upon observing that many Americans could not correctly identify Brussels as the capital of Belgium. However, the Americanized Belgian waffle was mainly contrived from the Brussels waffle with a few substitutions.
A Tale of Two Waffles
I studied the internet on Brussels and Liege waffles and quickly learned how to tell the subtle differences.
Brussels waffles are made with an egg white or a thin, yeast-leavened batter which makes them lighter and their appearance is more rectangular with deeper holes and smooth edges. They are easy to differentiate from Liège Waffles by their rectangular sides.
Liege waffles (named after a town in Eastern Belgium) are made with a batter that is more like bread dough; thick and sticky. The dough contains chunks of pearl sugar, which caramelize and form a crispy, crunchy, golden coating.
The dough is spread/pushed into the waffle maker and the end result is uneven edges and a dense, sweeter, and chewier waffle. There are no rectangular sides. It is the most common type of waffle available in Belgium and is prepared in plain, vanilla, and cinnamon varieties by street vendors.
American Belgian Waffles
I said this was a tale of two waffles, but it’s actually necessary to mention the third waffle – which is an Americanized version of the Brussels waffle – and it’s what we are probably most familiar with in North America. Recipes are typically baking soda leavened, though some are yeast-raised. They are distinguished from standard American waffles by their use of 1 ½” depth irons.
Waffle Tip: In Belgium, most Brussels waffles are served warm by street vendors and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, though in tourist areas they might be topped with whipped cream, soft fruit or chocolate spread for the tourists who are expecting Americanized Belgian Waffles. So if you want a true, local waffle in Belgium – you have to forego the whipped cream, chocolate, and fruit.
Taste Test – Which Waffle is the Best?
I was now armed with waffle knowledge and was ready to do my own taste test. Based on my research I realized the waffle I had at the market was a Liege waffle; so next I wanted to try a Brussels waffle.
I went down into the tourist hive, near Grand Place, and found oodles of waffles places near the famous Manneken Pis statue. In fact there were even life-size replica’s of Manneken Pis holding a waffle while holding his ‘dingle’ in his other hand; which didn’t seem very hygienic to me!
I ordered a light Brussels waffle and simply had it with powdered sugar as opposed to the high calorie tourist temptations (American Belgian Waffles) they had displayed in the glass cases. (Seriously – how can you even taste the waffle with all of that additional stuff on top…ridiculous!)
I loved the light Brussels waffle; it reminded me of what my mother used to make on Sunday mornings. I had declared it the official ‘winner’.
A few days later I found myself in the college town of Leuven and walked by a little snack shop in a non-touristy area; I was hungry so decided to treat myself to a waffle snack. I didn’t have any choice of waffle types – they only served the Liege waffles. So I took my waffle sandwiched in its little waxy paper and ate it while walking around the city.
Whoa….wait a minute. I stopped, took another bite and let the caramelized goodness melt in my mouth with a slightly sweet aftertaste.
This Liege waffle originated from a regular ‘brick and mortar’ store as opposed to a truck/mobile waffle store I tried at the Brussels market – and it completely won me over.
I clearly needed to do MORE research.
For my remaining 2 weeks in Belgium, I took my journalism seriously; I researched waffles every chance I got. I videoed them, photographed them, tasted them, and took notes. I poured through my data and studied my findings and came up with this result.
Don’t believe me – try them for yourself – make them in your own home!
- Includes Waffle Pantry Belgian pearl sugar (16 oz).
- Yields a total of 18 Liège waffles (100 g or 3.5 oz per waffle serving).
- Includes Lesaffre SAF-Instant Red Yeast, 7 g (Pack of 2).
- Simply add hot water, butter, and eggs to create fresh waffle dough.
- Preparation time of 15 min. Rise time of 2 hours.
Where To Find the Best Liege Waffle in Brussels
Specifically, I prefer the Liege waffle from Vitalgaufre – a chain of shops found in Brussels and internationally. Instead of piling fruit and needless whipped cream on top, they simply bake some of the fruit/vanilla into the batter so that you can still taste the flavor of the Liege waffle – YUM.
And if you are looking for real Liege Waffles in the US and find yourself in Ohio…check out the Taste of Belgium. I had them in Cincinnati and it was as if I were back in Belgium!
Oh yeah and one more thing to blow your mind and remind you that you know very little about the origin of waffles. In Belgium, they don’t eat waffles for breakfast nor do they use syrup! See…travel is education!
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Love Belgian Waffles? Try other Belgian Food!
One of my good friends & former Brussels expat, Alison, spent years researching the Brussels food scene – including waffles! She wrote a guide to the best food in Brussels – a must have item if you are traveling to the region!
By John October 7, 2010 - 3:30 pm
In Belgium, waffles are the food that ensures that ice cream vans are used all year round, instead of being parked up in winter. When it is cold the waffles sell themselves, as you the smell of waffle making entices prospective customers. In summer our minds are programmed to see out ice cream, although you can often choose a waffle if you wish.
Me, I prefer the Liege waffle to eat on the street and the Brussels waffle with ice cream.
By admin October 7, 2010 - 3:41 pm
Ha – even in August I thought it was too cold in Belgium to have ice cream! I’m a whimp! However – you make a very good point in ice cream van efficiency!
By Mark H October 7, 2010 - 6:31 pm
I, too had my waffle experiences with ice-cream. Thinking back, I have no idea if what I had was a Liege or Brussels waffle nor the subtle differences between the two. Maybe I should have done a little more on the job learning and sampled a few more.
By admin October 8, 2010 - 9:56 am
That’s the spirit…more research!!
By Donna Hull October 7, 2010 - 7:16 pm
I had no idea that there were so many different types of waffles. I know what I’ll be doing when I finally visit Belgium.
By Jenny October 9, 2010 - 7:52 pm
OMG that statue is hilarious. Sometimes when I travel I’m all “WTF?” is that!?! Thank god for cameras. The world is an interesting place.
By admin October 9, 2010 - 8:39 pm
I’m so glad someone gets my sense of humor. I literally stood there looking at it thinking…do people see what I see? Ewwwww!!!!
By Anil October 15, 2010 - 7:19 am
Learned 3 new things about waffles! I never took notice of the differences when I was there many years back, clearly more research is needed 🙂
By Claudia November 2, 2010 - 2:53 pm
I really loved this post and laughed out loud on the waffle and the Mannekin Pis comment. You are really funny. I am heading to Brussels for New Years and am really happy about it. Keep up the good work.
By Boggy March 24, 2011 - 3:57 pm
I had my first waffle (brussels) in 1964 at the fair and spent the next 40+ years trying to find one that even came close.
I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the Vermersch recipe and tried it. It was spot-on. I then tried the Bel-Gem waffle mix from Williams_Sonoma. That too was spot-on. The climax came last year when I happened upon a “Waffels and Dinges” truck in NYC, operated by a member of the Vermersch family. I’m a happy waffle-eating sonofagun now!
By Maribel July 12, 2011 - 12:21 pm
Would you be willing to share that recipe with me? My son just went to Brussels, and sent me a pic of one of these beauties; he claims it’s like eating a piece of heaven. Me, I live in Puerto Rico, and can’t afford the trip to Belgium, so having the chance to make these at home would allow me to taste a little piece of heaven too. I’m a foodie, so this will mean sooo much to me! My email is: [email protected]
By Sherry July 13, 2011 - 4:38 am
I’m actually back in Brussels this very moment for a couple of days and plotting out my waffle eating! Enjoy your waffles!
By Ali December 13, 2012 - 10:24 am
Please, Please, Please – Can you post the Vermersch recipe or email it to me – Thanks in advance – [email protected]
By Sherry December 22, 2012 - 7:37 am
I don’t actually have it. I’m heading back to Belgium this next year – so will see if I can find it!
By vikram July 19, 2014 - 8:59 am
No Idea whether you are still following this..
If Yes..can please share with me the recipe of Vermersch recipe
By Vrian Sevilla November 8, 2014 - 10:42 pm
Im not sure if this thread is still active. I was hoping if you can share the recepie from Vermersch?
My email is [email protected]
By Cameron March 9, 2015 - 2:49 am
Please tell me that somebody received this recipe. I would be extremely grateful if someone could forward it to me [email protected]
By Janine September 24, 2012 - 10:25 am
I know this is an old site (2010) but I thought I would comment anyhow.
Please…realize that most of the waffles offered in the chain (or other) restaurants in the US are nothing even close to true Belgian waffles ( Liége or Brussels). They are nothing more than a pancake batter baked in a waffle iron instead of cooked in a fry pan.
Heavy dough, then of course covered witn syrup or other disguise.
Please, just call them waffles, but don’t use the title “Belgian”
By Sherry September 24, 2012 - 10:40 am
It’s an old post – but it’s a completely active site – so thanks for your comment. I absolutely realize that what we have in America is not normally the traditional Belgian waffle! Hopefully the article taught a few people that too. Waffles, frites, and beer is why I travel to Belgium!
By The Belgian Kitchen November 8, 2014 - 9:10 pm
Maybe you don’t live in an area that has authentic Belgian waffle restaurants. Since the early 2000’s, Liege waffles started becoming popular in the US mostly due to the Waffle Cabin. They have 22+ locations mostly at ski resorts across the Northeast. Also in NYC, Wafels and Dinges has been operating since around 2007 selling very good authentic Liege and Brussels waffles. They have 7 food trucks/stands and 2 retail locations. In every major city, there is usually at least 1 authentic Belgian waffle stand or food truck. Caffebene is also making big inroads in LA and NYC selling coffee, Liege waffles, gelato, and sandwiches. Things are definitely changing.
We started our Liege waffle dough manufacturing wholesale business this year and we’re supplying restaurants, cafes, skiresorts, ice cream shops, froyo shops, etc… with authentic Liege waffle dough. Hopefully we’ll get a customer near you so that you can enjoy the real thing. We’re serving mostly the Northeast market, but we’re starting to get customers in the midwest and west coast. We’re trying to elevate the quality of the Liege waffles in the US by selling a real butter all natural dough. As far as we know, all imported dough from Belgium is made from very low quality cheap margarine that has transfats. Eventually we’ll be selling retail as well with a truly artisan dough. Stay tuned!
THE BELGIAN KITCHEN
“Authentic Liege Waffle Dough Wholesale Manufacturer/Distributor”
By David August 27, 2013 - 4:32 pm
Are they eaten hot and at room temp?
By Sherry August 28, 2013 - 1:09 am
By Jonathab January 8, 2016 - 9:43 pm
Cool story. Especially the statue, haha! So the did anyone ever post a recipe?
By Anjali March 2, 2016 - 12:58 pm
Found what claims to be the original Bel-Gem recipe:
World’s Fair Bel-Gem Waffles
adapted from Maurice Vermersch’s original recipe reprinted in the Queens Tribune
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Makes about 16 square waffles
3 cups milk, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until warm to the touch but not steaming or bubbling. Measure out 1/4 cup milk (into the proper measuring cup, of course) and sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Stir gently and let sit for 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a small saucepan while the yeast dissolves.
Whisk the melted butter, the dissolved yeast, sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg yolks together in a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining milk, then gently stir the flour into the batter with a wooden spoon. It will be slightly lumpy.
With a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form when you pull the beaters out of the eggs. The egg whites will still be droopy; don’t overwhip!
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the batter rise in a warm place for an hour.
Heat your waffle iron and cook your waffles according to your appliance’s specifications. For me, that’s 1/4 cup of batter on a piping-hot iron, cooked for about 5 minutes. Your mileage may vary. Serve immediately or freeze, wrapped in foil, to reheat in a toaster oven.
Read more at http://www.goodfoodstories.com/worlds-fair-belgian-waffles/#kkgMP7CX3EX9JKRz.99
By Sherry March 5, 2016 - 5:45 pm
Thanks for sharing…will you bake it up and mail one to me?!
By Mac February 22, 2017 - 4:38 pm
I had to googled “dingle” because I had no idea what you were referring to. Why didn’t you just say penis? That’s what the body part is called. It isn’t called a dingle…
By Sherry February 22, 2017 - 5:23 pm
I guess it just goes to show you that all of our cultures and how we were raised are different. No right or wrong – just different.
By Leslie June 21, 2017 - 5:32 pm
I have been through the same experience after I first bit into a liege style waffle. They are the best!!!!! I absolutely love them, hands down winner imho
By Arwa September 20, 2017 - 7:22 am
I really enjoyed reading your experience ? And I’m so excited to try the both types, thanks for sharing your story.
If anyone gets the recipe please please email me at
Thanks in advance.
By Millie Hue November 8, 2018 - 8:40 pm
It got me when you said that the dough of the liege waffles is more like the bread. I guess I will buy this type of waffle for the breakfast party that I plan to host for the birthday of my sister. It will be a surprise. When she wakes up, everything will be ready for her. Thanks!
By Pan Lu-Ming September 27, 2021 - 4:54 am
Brussels waffles are crisp while Liege waffles are moist.