Do you put syrup on chicken and waffles?

Quick Answer

There is no definitive answer to whether you should put syrup on chicken and waffles. Some people enjoy the sweet and savory combination, while others find it unappealing. It comes down to personal preference. Many restaurants serve chicken and waffles with syrup on the side, allowing customers to add as much or as little as they want.

What are Chicken and Waffles?

Chicken and waffles is a dish that combines chicken with waffles. It originated in the American South, becoming popular in the late 1800s. The dish rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance in the early 20th century. Since then, it has spread across the United States and become a staple menu item at many soul food restaurants and diners.

Chicken and waffles features crispy, fried chicken served alongside a fluffy waffle. The chicken can be prepared in a variety of ways – bone-in fried chicken, chicken tenders, or chicken schnitzel are common. The waffles are typically thick and fluffy Belgian-style waffles, but occasionally regular American-style waffles are used.

History of Chicken and Waffles

The exact origins of chicken and waffles are disputed, but most stories trace the dish back to the American South in the 18th or 19th centuries. Enslaved cooks working on plantations likely came up with the idea of combining leftover fried chicken with leftover waffles for an easy, hearty meal.

As African Americans migrated North and West, chicken and waffles spread throughout the country. The dish became a specialty in certain restaurants and diners, especially in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, New York, and New Jersey. During the 1920s and 30s Harlem Renaissance, chicken and waffles took hold as a distinct culinary tradition among African American communities in Harlem. Well-known jazz clubs like The Cotton Club featured chicken and waffles on the menu alongside live music and dancing. Celebrity musicians would stop in for a meal after their shows, further popularizing chicken and waffles in Harlem and beyond.

The dish saw another surge in popularity when upscale Southern restaurants started serving chicken and waffles in the 1980s and 90s. Chefs put gourmet twists on the classic by using high-quality ingredients and different seasonings and preparation methods. Today, chicken and waffles is beloved nationwide – from trendy brunch spots to down-home soul food joints to specialty chains like Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.

Regional Variations

While the basic premise of chicken and waffles is fried chicken and waffles served together, specifics around preparation and presentation can vary by region:

– In the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, chicken and waffles often consists of boneless fried chicken tenders or schnitzel-style pounded chicken breast on a Belgian waffle. Syrup is usually served on the side.

– The Southern version typically uses bone-in fried chicken, skillet-cooked to achieve a crispy exterior and juicy interior. Waffles are more dense and less sweet. Syrup is optional.

– West Coast chicken and waffles feature brined or marinated chicken for extra juiciness. Waffles often include ingredients like cheddar, herbs, or spices baked in. Maple syrup is common over traditional cane syrup.

– Midwest chicken and waffles can include chicken fried steak in place of fried chicken. Waffles tend to be more bready than fluffy.

Should You Put Syrup on Chicken and Waffles?

The choice of whether to pour syrup over chicken and waffles largely comes down to personal preference. Here are some pros and cons:

Reasons to Put Syrup on Chicken and Waffles

– Syrup adds sweetness that balances the savory fried chicken. The contrast makes for an interesting flavor experience.

– Maple syrup’s viscosity allows it to nicely coat and cling to the nooks and crannies of the fried chicken’s crunchy exterior.

– Syrup provides moisture that prevents the chicken skin and waffles from drying out.

– Drizzling syrup over the top brings the dish together visually for attractive presentation.

– The sweet flavor complements spices like paprika, cayenne, onions, and garlic often used to season fried chicken.

Reasons Not to Use Syrup

– Some diners feel that syrup overpowers the flavor of quality fried chicken, making it too cloying or candy-like.

– Those who don’t enjoy mix of sweet and savory flavors may find syrup on chicken unpalatable.

– Syrup significantly increases the dish’s calorie and sugar content. Avoiding it creates a “lighter” meal.

– In restaurants, chicken and waffles are often served with other sauces like hot sauce, honey butter, or gravy on the side. So syrup may be unnecessary.

– Without syrup, you can better taste nuances from chicken brines/marinades and specialty waffle recipes.

Expert Opinions on Syrup and Chicken and Waffles

Renowned chefs and food writers have weighed in with their take on syrup’s role in chicken and waffles:

Expert Opinion
Alton Brown “I don’t care for syrup on my chicken and waffles – I feel like it makes the chicken too sweet and candy-like. I’d rather have hot sauce or honey butter on the side for dipping.”
Ina Garten “I think just a small drizzle of maple syrup brings the dish together. But focus on finding high-quality chicken and waffles – don’t drown them in syrup.”
Simon Majumdar “This savory-sweet combination is one of my favorite aspects of chicken and waffles! The syrup cuts through the fried chicken’s crispy skin and richness.”

As you can see, esteemed food experts land on both sides of whether syrup belongs on chicken and waffles. It’s completely up to personal taste – there are good arguments on both sides.

Chicken and Waffles Etiquette

Beyond the syrup debate, there are other points of etiquette to keep in mind when eating chicken and waffles:

– Bone-in chicken requires using utensils. Eat the chicken with knife and fork, cutting through bones as needed.

– If you have chicken tenders, it’s acceptable to use your hands, dipping pieces directly in syrup or sauce.

– Cut waffles into bite-sized squares with your fork and knife to make eating easier.

– While sharing family-style, be mindful not to “double-dip” pieces of chicken you’ve already bitten into communal syrup containers.

– Pour syrup slowly and carefully to prevent it from getting onto other food or your dining companions.

– Be conservative with syrup usage so it doesn’t saturate the table or your meal.

– Keep in mind presentation when plating chicken and waffles – neatly arrange chicken alongside the waffle(s), attractively drizzle syrup and sauces.

– Offer to share your meal and let others have a bite so they can experience the dish!

Where to Enjoy Exemplary Chicken and Waffles

If you want a standout chicken and waffles experience where the syrup question has already been decided, visit one of these legendary spots:

Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles (California)

Originating in Los Angeles, Roscoe’s serves crispy, juicy fried chicken alongside ultra-fluffy waffles with sweet butter and syrup. Get the #2 combo with chili for the signature taste.

Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles (Georgia)

Singer Gladys Knight runs this Atlanta eatery featuring breaded, fried chicken breast and mismatched homemade waffles with maple syrup.

The National Cafe (Louisiana)

This New Orleans joint piles fried chicken tenders atop cheesy bacon waffles slathered in syrup.

Big Mama’s Kitchen (Pennsylvania)

At their Pittsburgh location, Big Mama’s soaks chicken in buttermilk then fries it perfectly to pair with thick Belgian waffles and syrup.

Yo Mama’s Bar and Grill (DC)

Yo Mama’s adds savory cheddar and fresh herbs to their waffles served with juicy fried chicken and syrup on the side in DC.

Making Chicken and Waffles at Home

Want to serve chicken and waffles at your next brunch? Follow this recipe:


For the Fried Chicken:
– 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
– 1 cup buttermilk
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
– 1 teaspoon paprika
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon black pepper
– Canola oil for frying

For the Waffles:
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 3/4 cups milk
– 2 eggs
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– Nonstick cooking spray

For Serving:
– Maple syrup
– Butter


1. Place the chicken thighs in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, Cajun seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
3. Remove chicken from buttermilk and coat thoroughly in the seasoned flour mixture, pressing to adhere.
4. Fill a large skillet with canola oil to a depth of 1-inch. Heat oil to 325°F over medium heat.
5. Fry chicken in batches, flipping once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
6. Make the waffle batter by whisking together the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract until smooth.
7. Spray waffle maker with nonstick spray and pour in 1/3 cup batter per waffle, following manufacturer’s instructions to bake.
8. Build the chicken and waffles by topping waffles with fried chicken and drizzling with maple syrup and butter to taste.


The age-old question of whether to pour on maple syrup persists when it comes to chicken and waffles. Most establishments serve the syrup on the side, letting patrons decide how much sweetness they desire. Syrup proponents believe it perfectly balances the savoriness of fried chicken and prevents dryness. Purists argue pristine fried chicken needs no adornment and the syrup masks subtler flavors. There’s room for debate – but ultimately you can’t go wrong following your preferences. Chicken and waffles is a cherished American dish to be enjoyed freely and creatively.

Leave a Comment