This is definitely one of those Southern things that people don’t “get” until they try it. Chicken and waffles. One of my guiltiest pleasures (besides Velveeta and bacon-wrapped cocktail weenies).

The history of chicken and waffles is a bit murky, but it is definitely a soul food thing.  Since there’s no real established history of the chicken and waffle, I can just run wild here and tell you what I think happened. Obviously, fried chicken started in the South. That’s why they call it Southern fried chicken, isn’t it. And, historically, who makes the best fried chicken? You know this one. African Americans. I can tell you without a doubt that if you ask about the top three fried chicken restaurants in Nashville, they will all be owned and/or staffed by black people. Okay, I’ll just tell you: Swett’s, Prince’s Hot Chicken and Monell’s.

However, I do not believe that post Civil War many black people were making waffles in the South. First off, nobody could afford flour. BUT! What freed slaves were doing in droves was getting the hell out of Dodge and moving North. In the case of chicken and waffles, they were specifically moving to Harlem, which is the epicenter of the Chicken and Waffles Movement (no, there is no such thing but it sounds important, doesn’t it?). There was flour up North, thereby making the likelihood of waffles more possible. If you Google chicken and waffles, the joints in Harlem will always be at the top of the list.

That is how I believe chicken and waffles started. Southern fried chicken + people move to Harlem + flour. There you have it.

But maybe you don’t care about the history of chicken and waffles. Maybe you just want to eat some.

Here’s how I do mine. First of all, I use waffle mix. As you can see, my waffle mix is right next to my beloved Bisquick in the freezer because in the South you do not store dry goods in the pantry. Bugs. No need to elaborate. Bisquick is good for pancakes, but it doesn’t have enough heft to make a waffle. I don’t need to tell you how to use a waffle iron, do I? I didn’t think so.

For the chicken, I used boneless chicken breasts. The traditional chicken and waffles comes with bone-in pieces, but I find it irritating to navigate around the bones and then combine the perfect bite of chicken with waffle. Why make your food aggravating to eat? Isn’t there enough trouble in the world?

So the secret to my fried chicken – boned or not – is this: one 1-ounce package of ranch dressing mix to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. You can thank me later.

Then once the chicken is done, make the waffles so that they’re nice and hot. Add the butter (real) and maple syrup. Please, for the love of God, do not buy those cheap name brands (rhymes with Hog Baggin’). Look at the label. If the first ingredient is corn syrup, that is not at all what you want. Don’t make me come after you.


  1. Gail Kerr
    Gail KerrReply
    February 4, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    GREAT one, Catherine! You’re spot on about the history, but there’s a little music twist too. Harlam was booming with music clubs. When the bands, mostly black, would get off work in the wee, wee hours, they’d go to diners. Some of them wanted breakfast. Some of them wanted fried chicken. Ta da! Chicken and waffles was born. Savory. Sweet. Hot. Oh yes.

    • Catherine Mayhew
      Catherine MayhewReply
      February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks for the extra insight. Love the chicken and waffles!

  2. Reinhardt
    February 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm


  3. A Cassel
    A CasselReply
    February 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Here’s Philly’s latest version of that:

    • Catherine Mayhew
      Catherine MayhewReply
      February 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      This makes me want to move to Philadelphia.

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