The History of Chicken and Waffles


Chicken and waffles. While this combination may sound at first like an extravagant diner order intended to take full advantage of the simultaneous breakfast and dinner service, it’s actually a fairly common dish—and a delicious one at that. A little sweet, a little savory and a little spicy if that’s what you choose, the recipe is an American original that’s become more and more popular in recent years.

You can even find this flavor dynamic at play on the McDonald’s menu when you order the McGriddle with its savory breakfast food sandwiched between two syrup-soaked pancakes. Now that McDonald’s is offering all-day breakfasts, food-hackers have been known to ask for a piece of chicken on their McGriddles.

The History of Waffles

So how did this dynamic duo partner up? First, let’s look at the dish’s components. Waffles have been around since the middle-ages in some shape or form when the same methodology for making communion wafers — pressing a batter between two hot plates — was implemented with flour and water, and honey and eggs if you were a king. The pilgrims brought waffles to America in 1620 after making a pit stop in Holland, likely making them the first people to stop for waffles on a road trip. The Dutch popularized waffles in the northeast, and Thomas Jefferson is credited with starting something of a waffle crazy in the 1790s. What with those newfangled electric waffle irons, people were pretty excited about the Belgian waffles at the World’s Fair in 1964.

Then There’s the Chicken

Fried chicken, called fricassee in its earliest form, has been around since medieval times as well. Although the earliest recipes involved various meats and braises, recipes for the dish in colonial times begin to look more like the fried chicken we know today. The braising step was eliminated by the 1800s as African slaves refined the recipe, and diners and Colonel Sanders brought fried chicken country-wide by the middle of the 20th century.

Putting It All Together

As for the combination, a Dutch version from the 1600s with shredded chicken and gravy on top of a waffle sounds really good, but it’s not the chicken and waffles recipe we know and love today.

Fast forward to 1938 and the Jazz Age at Wells Supper Club in Harlem. Jazz musicians would come here in the late hours after their gigs, wanting to grab a bite between the dinner and breakfast services. As a compromise, they were served chicken and waffles, and a new food item was born. Harlem native Herb Hudson decided to open a restaurant in L.A. dedicated entirely to the dish, opening Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in 1976 and fully cementing the dish as a staple. Now you can find chicken and waffles not only on most soul food menus, but pretty much on every other brunch menu you might stumble upon in a foodie-centric city. Some places even serve chicken and waffle tacos by making a waffle-style taco shell with a piece of fried chicken inside. Learn how to make the dish yourself in the video above!

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