No, it’s not more butter.

By Stacey Ballis
March 12, 2021

Waffles are one of those foods you either cook at home all the time, or only eat out. Unlike pancakes, which can be an occasional cooking project for anyone, waffles are their own unique beast, and since they require a specialized piece of electronic equipment, they are a polarizing item. The universal truth is that if you are not currently a waffler (like Jackie Kennedy), but are in possession of a waffle maker, you simply have not yet found the waffle that speaks to you.

As someone who was never a waffler, preferring the simpler pancakes when in need of a fancy breakfast carb, I had always been perfectly comfortable with not making waffles. But then I discovered the easy addition to my waffle batters that changed everything.

The secret ingredient to better waffles

The secret ingredient to better waffles is sitting right in your refrigerator: leftover grains. Rice, farro, quinoa, wheat berries: Having cooked leftover grains to stir into your waffle batter makes for a waffle with oomph. It holds up better to toppings, whether you are a simple butter and syrup person, or want to go all-in with fried chicken tenders and spicy honey. You can add just a small amount for occasional pops of texture and chew or add a lot for a hearty waffle that will keep you going like a bowl of oatmeal but without the goo factor. It's also an easy and fun way to get more healthy whole grains and fiber into your family's diet.

Credit: Getty / Michelle Arnold / EyeEm

How to add whole grains to your waffles

And here's the best thing of all: You don't even have to adjust your favorite waffle batter recipe! Since your leftover whole grains are just a mix-in ingredient, and already cooked, the addition will not affect the cooking or batter chemistry. For every 2 cups of waffle batter, you can add as little as a 1/4 cup of cooked grains for just a little bit of texture, or as much as 1 cup if you want a waffle that might be a great base for a Benedict or a brunch entrée. Whole grains are delicious with fruits and nuts, so if your recipe includes those, you will still be in great shape.

Some things to know about using whole grains in your waffles:

They must be fully cooked before adding them to your batter; they will not soften in the baking time.

They must be fully cooled before adding them to your batter, or they can start to cook the batter before you ladle it into your waffle maker. If your grains are clumped, break them apart with a fork before folding them into your batter.

Use grains that have been steamed or boiled but have not been dressed with any oil or other ingredients.

Your waffles may take slightly longer to cook the more grains you add, so adjust your timing accordingly.

Leftover grains and waffle pairings

So, check what's in your fridge and go to town this weekend! Here are some fun pairings to give you inspiration:

Wild rice and blueberry waffles

Farro waffles with lemon zest

Quinoa almond waffles

Wheatberry waffles with cherry compote

Vanilla waffles with short grain white rice

Basmati waffles with fried chicken tenders and sriracha honey butter