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Three waffle offs might seem excessive, but I just had to find the best liege waffle recipe! If you’ve never had a liege waffle, you must! They are a cousin to what we think of as Belgian waffles, but made from a yeasted, buttery dough similar to brioche. A thousand times more dense, layered, crisp yet doughy and chewy, these waffles are filled with pops of crunchy pearl sugar and often speckled in pockets of caramelized sugar. (More about liege waffles below.) In this bake off, we tried 9 popular internet recipes in search of the best. And yes, there were a few clear winners.
- 24 total tasters
- All doughs that called for an overnight rest were made the day before; all other doughs were made the day of
- Each recipe cooked in the waffle maker the day of (waffles generally cooked for 3-5 minutes total, depending on the recipe)
- All tasters ranked each waffle on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor and texture
- Ingredients were measured by weight according to King Arthur
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- King Arthur unbleached bread flour
- SAF instant yeast
- Fleischmann’s active dry yeast
- Unsalted Land O Lakes butter
- Nielsen Massey vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated sugar
- Lars Own Belgian pearl sugar (I found some locally at Sur La Table)
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
What is a Liege Waffle?
You may be wondering: what’s the difference between liege waffles and regular waffles? While liege waffles (pronounced lee-ezh) also originated in Belgium, they differ from what we think of as classic Belgian waffles (also known as Brussels waffles) in a few key ways:
- Yeast: Liege waffles use a yeasted brioche-like dough base while regular Belgian waffles typically use a looser batter containing chemical leaveners (i.e. baking soda/powder)
- Shape: Liege waffles tend to be smaller (and richer)–either shaped into a small, slightly uneven circle, or an oblong shape (vs. the perfect roundness of American Belgian waffles)
- Pearl sugar: The addition of these small, concentrated balls of sugar add crunch inside the cooked waffles, and also sweet layers of caramelization around the exterior.
- Toppings: Thanks to the pearl sugar, these waffles are sweet enough to be eaten without the typical syrup. However, a lot of waffle stands will add toppings like Nutella, cookie butter, fruit, etc.
- When to eat them: While Americans typically eat Belgian waffles for breakfast, liege waffles are eaten at all times of day in Europe (breakfast, dessert, as a snack, etc.)
This is one of those bake offs where my preferences don’t align very closely with the data. One big problem with the data set in this case was that some of the tasters had never tasted liege waffles before! I should have taken this into account beforehand, but unfortunately I did not. (I’ll share my top recommendations at the end.)
Interestingly, the ratings on recipes 4-6 below have the highest % would eat again, which means the top 3 recipes were quite divisive (and as you can see, the top 3 recipes have quite a split when it came to the flavor vs. texture ratings).
The good news is that I thought all of these waffles were DELICIOUS (except one recipe whose texture does not feel like a liege waffle to me), so you really can’t go wrong! This is just my regular disclaimer that the rankings are not perfect, and a lot of variation could have been due to my waffling errors, not the recipes themselves.
But here are the results:
- Waffle maker: Arguably the most important thing about liege waffles (besides pearl sugar) is the waffle maker. True liege waffles use heavy duty cast iron contraptions, but for the purposes of making liege waffles at home, you’ll need the right machine. I borrowed 4 waffle machines for this bake off and found out the day of that only 1 of them worked properly.
- I’d highly recommend this Presto flipside waffle maker
- This Hamilton Beach waffle maker turned out waffles that were significantly thinner and unevenly cooked (the sugar burned much faster). Definitely still edible, but not ideal.
- This Oster waffle maker is definitely not designed for thick liege waffle dough. While I’m sure it handles regular waffle batter well, you want to use a waffle maker that has deep grooves to make a true Belgian waffle.
- Flour: Bread vs. all-purpose flour did make a pretty significance in this bake off. Because bread flour has a higher protein content, it leads to more gluten development which equals more chew. If you like chewier waffles, definitely look for a recipe made with bread flour (Handle the Heat or Liege Waffle Wordpress). Personally, I like less chewy waffles and like the light crispness that all-purpose can bring to a recipe.
- Sugar: Interestingly, the winning recipe (Lars) doesn’t use any sugar in the dough, but uses 8oz/about 1.5 cups of pearl sugar and I found it perfectly sweet. Because the pearl sugar kind of melts into the dough, you can compensate for a less sweet dough with more pearl sugar. I generally seemed to find that 1.5 cups of pearl sugar to 3.5-4 cups of flour yielded my preferred sweetness (any extra sugar in the batter was a bonus; none of these waffles were too sweet to me). I didn’t notice a huge flavor difference in the waffles that used honey, likely because it was such a small amount.
- Rising time: Rising times varied across these recipes from 30 minutes to 5 separate rises over the course of ~24 hours. The main difference a longer rising time makes is a more yeasted/fermented flavor (kind of reminiscent to sourdough, but far milder). Although I don’t mind the mild flavor from a 30 minute or 1 hour rise, my preference is an overnight rest (partly for flavor, partly for the convenience of having waffle dough ready first thing in the morning).
- Butter: Two sticks of butter might seem a little obscene for a waffle recipe, but I promise it’s worth it for the richness and flavor. Interestingly, Kitchen Whisperer still did well despite having one of the lower butter ratios, but if you’re going for a true liege waffle texture, you’ll likely end up using more butter.
- Milk vs. water: I think other factors (amount of sugar, ratio of flour/butter/etc.) tend to overpower the role of milk vs. water in the dough. But the recipes that used milk did tend to rank higher than those that only used water. If you have it on hand, milk will always lead to a richer dough. One recipe where it made a significant difference is in the Anna Olson recipe, which uses sparkling water. Sparkling water reportedly helps with rising/creating a more fluffy texture in baked goods, and it definitely seemed to help create a perfectly even texture in Anna’s waffles (though perhaps at the expense of some flavor).
- Yeast: This isn’t a factor that played a big role in recipe differences, but just a note that all of these recipes used either instant or active dry yeast. These can be used interchangeably, though active dry yeast has larger granules and needs to be dissolved in liquid separately before being added to dough. Instant yeast, with its smaller granules, can be added directly to dry ingredients and mixed normally. Instant yeast will also rise faster than active dry, so you may be able to shave some time (10-15 min) off the rising time if subbing instant for active dry. If substituting active dry for instant yeast, let the dough rise a little longer.
Video Review of the Best Liege Waffle Recipes
Click below to see all of the waffles on video! I discuss my standalone, off-the-cuff thoughts on each recipe.
Analysis of the Best Liege Waffle Recipe
Foodess: a dense, sweet yeasty waffle with an interestingly craggy texture
I chose this recipe partly because the author says this recipe came from her Belgian friend and is “highly authentic” and partly because it uses an incredibly high amount of yeast. Five tablespoons per 500 grams (under 4 cups) of flour! This recipe uses a relatively high amount of sugar, both in the dough and from the pearl sugar. It also incorporates the butter in melted form rather than softened (as is typical with brioche). This recipe only requires 2 rises for a total of about 1 hr 15 min rising time.
Ultimately, this resulted in a waffle that was notably craggy around the edges with a dense crumb that separated into delightfully flaky layers. I loved the sweetness of this waffle and liked the slightly sour, fermented flavor. I thought these had the perfect amount of sugar and loved the bite and crunch of these waffles, though some tasters disagreed. Note that my waffles looked quite different from the photos in the original post (hers are much paler and look lighter) which I think is likely due to the variance in our waffle makers. I think this waffle got a bit robbed in the rankings–I would happily make it again!
- Texture was a bit tougher than i like, but very good overall!
- Unique and tangy, a little soggy, but the sugar was perfectly crunchy. I like this balance so much!!!
- This flavor had some extra tanginess that made it really enjoyable. Texture was a touch grainy
- It was a bit too crunchy. I think I needed more fluffy
- Too dry and dense, almost bread like. I didn’t want it to crumble
Hummingbird High: a rich and eggy waffle with a dense, perfectly sugary texture
This recipe is very similar to a popular recipe from Food & Wine, but uses an overnight rest (so if you’re trying to make these in as little as ~2 hours, check out the F&W recipe!) The ratios are somewhat similar to the Liege Wordpress recipe except that it uses 2 additional eggs and an extra stick of butter, making these the recipe with the highest ratio of egg.
I loved the starchy texture of these waffles with its crunchy edges and perfect pops of pearl sugar. They’re not overly yeasty, and you can taste the richness of the egg and butter in these. These were one of my favorites in terms of texture–but if I’m splitting hairs, perhaps slightly eggier in taste than I prefer. Again, I think this waffle got robbed in the rankings because I really had no complaints! Would happily make again and recommend.
- I could really taste the composition of this waffle – the eggy flavor, the sugar. It worked.
- Ooo a nice firm crisp outside, good sugar but not sickeningly sweet, somewhat dense tasty middle. Enough to chew but not too thick.
- This was one of my faves. She is sugary, thicc, and savory
- I tend to prefer fluffier waffles and this was not it. Otherwise, a perfectly fine waffle, but nothing particularly outstanding about it
- A little dense, a little on the drier side
Liege Waffle Wordpress: a buttery, deeply layered waffle with a deeply fermented flavor
This seems to be the original source from which many other recipes have been inspired. I followed the old version of the recipe which is unfortunately the more complex version that requires 5 separate rising times. This is the more streamlined version that I’d recommend you try (though it does look somewhat different from the version I tried, so I can’t vouch for the results). The recipe itself is not particularly complicated–it uses bread flour, a mix of milk and water, both honey and brown sugar, and a fairly standard amount of butter and pearl sugar (perhaps slightly less egg than average). However, between the room temperature proofing, a quick refrigeration before the overnight rest and then the following 90 min rise, this recipe is a bit of a headache to coordinate.
All of the rising time does result in a deeply fermented flavor that pervades the light crumb of the waffle. The contrast of this waffle vs. the other recipes almost reminded me of a loaf of sourdough vs. white bread–just a far deeper, more complex flavor with more sour notes. It also requires a folding of the dough before the overnight rest, which seemed to contribute more visible layers than some of the other waffles. This was no doubt a delicious waffle, but I generally prefer less of a fermented flavor and probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of doing all the rises in the original recipe again. However, I would definitely adopt the folding technique with other recipes, and I’m curious to try the streamlined version.
- I like how gooey and crunchy it is. Nicely sweetened and slightly doughy.
- Doughy middle, crispy outside, better flavored batter
- This has the right texture. Just fluffy enough with a substantial crust.
- This one has the most waffley flavor
- Airy dough and biscuity crust
- Totally fine flavor, but again just texture is too bready for a waffle, I was expecting more lightness
Kitchen Whisperer: a high-hydration waffle with good chew, on the sweeter sie
This recipe primarily stood out for its low amount of butter–nearly half the amount compared to the Liege Wordpress recipe! In lieu of butter, this recipe adds moisture by way of milk and water–nearly double the amount of liquid in Liege Wordpress. Along with the XL eggs (I just used large eggs and added a total of 4.5 oz), this recipe has a high liquid to dry ratio.
Though I had low expectations for this waffle (due to the lower proportion of butter), it had a nice stretch and spring and was lighter than some of the breadier waffles, which some tasters enjoyed. It was also perfectly sweet thanks to a mix of sugar, brown sugar, honey, and a high ratio of pearl sugar. This does require two rests (one overnight) but overall is fairly straightforward to make. This was a waffle that notably softened at room temperature whereas others remained more crisp and structured. Not a huge deal as all waffles should really be eaten hot and fresh, but just a note that these don’t hold up as well over time (though they are great reheated).
- Perfectly sweet, texture is perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
- Just light enough on the sugar and just soft enough on the inside to be my favorite so far. Subtly great in all categories
- Texture is on point. Sweet, crispy, delicious.
- Chewy texture, batter on the dry side, not as crispy/crunchy as others
- This one is sweeter to me than the others. I would not need any syrup with it
Wafels & Dinges: an airy, crispy waffle that is lighter than a typical liege waffle thanks to whipped egg whites
One of the first liege waffles I ever had was from the Wafels & Dinges food truck in NYC, and it was mind-blowing. I only found one reported publication of their recipe, though I remain skeptical of its accuracy. The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of dry yeast to use (I used active dry), doesn’t specify how much sugar to use (I used about a cup of pearl sugar, no granulated) and also requires whipped egg whites (a step not included in any other recipes)
These waffles cooked up extremely light and airy–basically a crisp golden shell encasing an airy, slightly spongy interior. Although tasters enjoyed the lightness of these waffles, they aren’t what I think of as liege waffles. A traditional liege waffle texture is denser, richer and more layered. On the plus side, these only require a 20 minute rise time, so they’re very quick to make! If you’re looking for a crisp, airy yet moist yeasted waffle recipe, I’d give this a try! If you’re looking for a traditional liege waffle, look elsewhere (but definitely go visit Wafels & Dinges if you’re in NYC!).
- The texture was PERFECT! So so light in the middle. My fav
- Crispy on the outside with a nice doughy texture on the inside, a good balance. Not as sweet.
- Very airy and fluffy, which I’ve discovered is my preference. Flavor was a little subtle.
- Buttery and airy with good crunch ratio
- Fluffy, but lacking in flavor. More traditional waffle texture, reminds me of a frozen waffle
Smitten Kitchen: a bready, layered waffle with plenty of pearl sugar
This is another recipe that was adapted from the Liege Wordpress with a few key differences: this uses slightly less flour, omits the honey, uses slightly less butter and uses AP flour instead of bread flour.
The result is a waffle that’s somewhat similar to Handle the Heat, but less chewy and more toothsome. The dense, bready texture has beautiful layers and a good amount of pearl sugar popping throughout the layers. The main difference between this and LW is that Smitten Kitchen has a much milder yeasty flavor that I prefer. This was one of my favorites–I loved the richness, the sweetness, the dense breadiness. The layers felt especially satisfying to rip apart!
- Thick fluffy soft texture that melts in your mouth and perfect sweetness level
- Strong under flavor of tang, I’m into the funk. The contrast between the waffle and the exterior texture is bomb
- Great taste but texture is a weird middle between hard and soft
- Perfect sweetness. Kind of bready, like a nice roll in the shape of a waffle
- It tried to be crunchy and soft and didn’t do either well for me
- A balanced chew to crisp ratio but almost too bready in flavor. Leaves me hoping for more.
Anna Olson: a smooth, not-too-sweet waffle that has a pleasingly even texture
Anna’s recipe was the only one to use sparkling water as the main liquid in the batter. She doesn’t specify why she uses sparkling water, but I’ve seen other recipes use carbonation to try to help enhance the rise in baked goods. While I’ve never seen it make a big difference before, it seemed to make a difference here as these waffles were notably more evenly smooth and picturesque waffles than other batches.
For me, the texture of these managed to perfectly walk the line of dense yet light and not overly bready. While I wished they were slightly sweeter, it’d be easy to add more pearl sugar next time. I noted in the tasting video that I’d like to try these waffles with milk instead of sparkling water and while I’d still be curious to try, I am now fairly convinced that the sparkling water really does contribute to this ideally fluffy texture. Another bonus: flexibility! This recipe can either be made with just a 1 hour rising time or an overnight rest (I used the 1 hour rising time). Next time I would try the overnight rest for more flavor. Conclusion: an ideal texture, just needs more sweetness.
- Favorite waffle so far! Not too egg-y, or flour-y, or butter-y. The flavor and texture were on point.
- Ideal waffle so far. Nicely crispy on the outside & fluffy interior. Good flavor but not too overwhelming
- An odd case. Amazing texture, really bland flavor. This is the biggest split between flavor and texture I’ve ever tasted in these tasting projects
- Not very flavorful but the texture is BOMB. Light and airy and crunchy, too
- Reminds me of challah bread on the inside. Not as sweet as the others, tame flavor on the inside
Handle the Heat: a chewy, rich waffle that requires an overnight rest
Tessa’s waffle recipe appears to be adapted from the Liege Waffle Wordpress, but with a much more straightforward rising time. Using all bread flour leads to a toothsome, chewy waffle. Even though both recipes use bread flour, I found Handle the Heat to feel slightly more chewy–perhaps the extended rise time in LWW allowed the gluten in the dough to relax more.
This waffle was one of the sturdiest with a nice layering to the dough and crisp edges. I liked the slightly yeasty flavor and good balance of sugar. I tended to prefer some of the other waffles that were a little less chewy, but I enjoyed this waffle and can see why it ranked high!
- This is it — this is the waffle that will have all of your friends taking second helpings at brunch and asking for the recipe. Fluffy, with a nice doughy flavor that’s enhanced by the sugar—would definitely make this!
- Not as sweet, but I liked the slightly chewier texture
- This one had the subtle sweetness that I appreciate from a waffle
- Yeasty, thick and dense, nice sugar ratio
- Batter is denser side, thick crust but I wouldn’t call it crisp, still chewy with good level of sugar pearls
- A little leathery texture-wise
Lars Own: a balanced, stretchy, fluffy and crisp waffle that is quick and easy to make!
This recipe comes from the back of the Lars Own pearl sugar bag and is probably the simplest of all these recipes! The recipe doesn’t specify what type of yeast to use, but I’ve used both instant and active dry yeast successfully. (Technically it should probably be active dry yeast since the recipe calls for dissolving the yeast in milk. Instant yeast, which are made of smaller granules, does not need to be dissolved first.) The biggest plus for this recipe is that it only calls for one 30 min rise–the shortest of any waffle! Note: I omitted the optional vanilla and cinnamon.
These waffles seemed to strike the the perfect balance of being rich yet light, stretchy and layered without being overly chewy, and crispy-edged without being hard. I liked the amount of pearl sweetness, though my only complaint would be I wish there was slightly more flavor in the dough (I might try resting this dough overnight next time). Overall, one of the best texturally. It’s always a bonus when the simplest recipes are among the most satisfying–I recommend giving this a try ASAP!
- Pillowy, light, soft, but so nice and crunchy on the outside
- Magical crust situation, one of my faves, the texture should win an award
- Flavor is perfectly sweet…not remarkable beyond that
- A little dense under the crunch
- Crumbly and almost biscuit like exterior very interesting
- Buttttteery. Would like to try it fresh though
- Missing the chew from some of the others but good sugar action!
Tips on Making Liege Waffles
Here’s hoping these questions will help you make the best liege waffles possible! If you have any more questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll try to add answer to them here.
I’d highly recommend this Presto flipside waffle maker
Funnily enough, I published this DIY pearl sugar post many years ago (my love for liege waffles runs deep). Lightly crushed sugar cubes is another option, but honestly nothing beats true pearl sugar. I highly recommend you source the real deal if this is your first time trying liege waffles!
I start by putting a damp paper towel in the waffle maker while it’s still on and letting it steam off some of the hardened sugar. Typically I let the sugar cool and harden on the waffle maker, then go in with a fork or chopstick covered in a paper towel and scrape off the sugar remnants. If I can rinse the waffle maker off without getting the cord wet, I’ll do that last.
Someone also recommended putting a cornstarch/water slurry in the waffle maker and running a cycle–it should lift all the remnants right off! I haven’t tried this yet.
Liege waffles are sweet and delicious enough to be eaten plain, no syrup needed. But they’re also fantastic with fruit like sliced bananas, strawberries or other berries, whipped cream, Nutella, cookie butter, or pretty much anything you’d put on a normal waffle!
Absolutely, most recipes call for it (during overnight rests). You can refrigerate leftover dough probably for at least a couple days if you want to keep making fresh waffles, though you may end up with a more fermented flavor.
Yes, but I would wait to add pearl sugar until after you defrost the dough.
Yes–if you can, shave a few minutes off the cook time if you plan on freezing the waffles so they don’t overcook when you reheat them out of the freezer.
In the oven at 250-300 degrees F for about 5-10 minutes or until hot. Eat immediately!
My personal favorites: It’s hard not to choose all of them! In rough order: Smitten Kitchen, Hummingbird High, Lars Own (texture), Anna Olson (texture), Foodess (flavor).
Crowd favorite: Lars Own
Easiest (and fastest) waffle: Lars Own
Best yeasty flavor: Liege Wordpress, Foodess
Best chewy waffles: Handle the Heat, Liege Wordpress
Best dense and bready waffles: Smitten Kitchen, Hummingbird High, Foodess
Best light and crisp textured waffles: Anna Olson, Lars Own, Kitchen Whisperer, Wafels & Dinges
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