Has a restaurant owner, chef, or entrepreneur ever asked you for vegan breakfast or brunch food ideas, including vegan waffle or pancake recipes? Are you a professional in the food service industry who sometimes seeks such recipes? Here I share with you a number of tips and waffle recipe recommendations.
If you’re in the former category, you may have had difficulty containing your excitement or knowing where to start first. After all, here’s someone who’s going to be serving food to a lot of people, so any decisions they make about food are going to have even larger impact. And you know of so many resources! How do you give them a few useful resources without overwhelming them?
If you’re in the latter, you know that you have more factors to consider than the average foodie:
- What type of equipment do I need, and will it be prohibitively expensive?
- Are there any special directions for cooking, so that training my employees on how to prepare it is relatively simple?
- Can I prep some of it in advance, so that the remaining prep and wait time isn’t too long after a customer places an order?
- Once parts of the recipe are prepped, can they sit for a few days so I don’t have too much waste if I don’t get orders shortly after prepping?
- What is the cost of ingredients? Will my customers be willing to pay enough more for my higher-than-average quality item, so that I still have enough profit margin to survive?
- Who is my primary customer audience? Do my customers want food that’s vegan, but still relatively basic and inexpensive? Or will they gladly pay a bit more for something that’s a bit more gourmet and impressive, really showing off the possibilities of vegan cuisine?
- Is it enough that the food is just vegan? Or is my audience going to buy more if I also make the product accessible to audiences with other dietary needs and preferences, e.g., gluten-free and soy-free?
- Do I want a really unusual product that stands on its own as a featured special that really attracts people, or do I want it to be something that can be combined witeh a range of other menu items?
Given the above, here is some guidance, including general ideas and specific vegan waffle recipe recommendations:
What type of equipment do I need?
Vegan waffles can take a bit longer to cook than regular waffles. You should have an industrial-strength iron, or at the very least a home-based iron that has at least 1,200 watts, and that doesn’t spread this wattage over a surface area for more than roughly one 7-inch round waffle or the equivalent. I’ve used a specific model of sub-$100 “high level home consumer” waffle iron (the Waring Pro WMK-300 and updated WMK-300a) for years, for relatively large home events. But how long it would suffice in a restaurant environment depends upon your sales volume. Even though I’ve had great luck with them, I know of one restaurant specializing in waffles who found they needed something a bit-more heavy duty than this. I’ve posted a few more ideas on the best waffle makers for vegan waffles previously. While I’m not an expert on shopping for used industrial-strength waffle irons, I believe one restaurant owner in Pittsburgh bought a few for not more than $250, and they did a great job with vegan rice-based waffles. You might start with a high level home consumer waffle maker, and then work your way up to a more professional one if you find the demand high enough. It’s not absolutely necessary to have a waffle iron that that flips / rotates, but such models do often brown the waffles more evenly on both sides.
Waring Pro does have another similar model, the WMK-600, that bakes two waffles at once, but I haven’t personally tried it. Because it adds only 200 watts of power over the single-waffle design, it distributes less power to each waffle; so I’m personally sticking to the tried and true single-waffle design for now. If you have good luck with it, please let me know!
Should I offer vegan waffles, pancakes, or both?
Most vegan waffle recipes can be converted to pancake recipes by minimizing the oil and increasing the amount of non-dairy milk or water to achieve the desired thinness. If you have a large grilling surface already available, and want to hold out for a spendy iron, you might start with pancakes and add waffles later.
Do I need to be concerned about any special training?
Vegan waffles do behave a bit differently than non-vegan waffles, e.g., they sometimes can cling to the iron a bit more. Be sure to skim the basic vegan waffle cooking tips and tricks, and have anyone else in your restaurant who will be prepping waffles do the same. Among the most important tips: Both the top and bottom iron grids should be sprayed with a thin coat of oil from a pressurized can prior to each waffle. Additional details are in The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook.
How can I reduce customer wait time?
Outside of yeast-raised waffles, many recipes allow for prepping the wet and dry portions in advance, so they can be stored for up to several days and then mixed shortly before baking. This will cut down on your customer wait time. One of the most important elements is to have a good labeling system, so that if you’re making up dry and wet portions for either a few different types of waffles, or for a few different batch sizes (e.g., one single batch and one double or triple batch), you know which container of wet batter ingredients goes with which bowl of dry batter ingredients. One other tip: I’ve found that mixtures incorporating full-strength coconut milk sometimes have a very short shelf life; I wouldn’t recommend prepping such mixtures more than a day or two in advance of using them.
You might consider offering some type of “vegan waffle buffet” which incorporates some of the same serving techniques I’ve used at waffle parties for 30-50 people, e.g.,using a pizza cutter to divide cutting waffles into quarters as they’re placed in the serving area, and including an array of toppings.
Additional ideas are in The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook’s “Organizing and Hosting a Waffle Party”and “Food Preparation Tips” sections.
What if I want to make gluten-free vegan waffles, or meet other dietary needs as well?
At this year’s party, I got a lot of requests to use gluten-free vegan waffle recipes. I went with the Vegan Gluten-Free Textured Rice Waffles (with whole grain teff) from The GVWC, and created the recipe for Vegan Gluten-Free Banana Almond Waffles. Most of the people at the party were not vegan, and they loved the waffles. The ingredients for these can be a bit spendier, so make sure there’s demand among your audience for both vegan and gluten-free dishes. If you want more options alongside the recipes posted on this site, check out the abridged version of The GVWC that includes just the gluten-free vegan waffle recipes (see very bottom of the GVWC page).
If you’re creating waffles that are both vegan and gluten-free, reading up on vegan waffle cooking tips is especially relevant.
If you’re not sure whether you want items to be free of soy, nuts, or specific grains, and the recipe calls for non-dairy milk of some sort, consider leaving that part of the liquid out until the item is ordered. In some cases you can substitute water, but you may of course need to use slightly less given the thinner consistency. This may also lessen the nutritional value of your waffles.
Over the last few years, I’ve also had a few requests from people who wish to minimize their intake of canola oil, for a few different reasons. In most cases, you can substitute other oils of similar viscosity for canola oil. While olive oil has a slightly more pronounced taste, I’ve used it successfully on a number of occasions, and the flavor tends to be masked. But some people may notice it, and have a preference for something else like grapeseed oil.
What if I just want something really basic and inexpensive?
I’d suggest starting with the popular Naked Vegan Waffles, and offering some topping combination options to make them more exciting. It could be whatever fruit(s) are in season, along with something like Kicky Waffle Syrup. Among the various toppings in The GVWC, The Dark Chocolate Syrup and Crazeee Carob Syrup are especially adaptable—while a few variations are included, you can easily add other spices to the “base” for infinite possibilities that make your menu unique.
The Tropically Tanned Naked Vegan Waffles from The GVWC are just a bit fancier than the original Naked Vegan Waffles, with slightly more sweetness and crispiness. Several other possibilities are listed in under neutral waffles.
What if I want something a bit more gourmet?
A relatively basic and neutral yeast-raised vegan waffle recipe is one good direction to go here, as they have a flavor and texture that sets them apart from others, and most restaurants do not offer yeast-raised waffles. However, there is a potential downside: once the yeast-raised portion is prepped, it must be mixed with the other ingredients and baked within a day or so, or it goes to waste.
You can partially address this concern by offering yeast-raised vegan waffles as one option of a waffle and topping smorgasboard, or by prepping batter for a limited number on a day when you anticipate high sales volume. Also, yeast-raised waffles keep reasonably well for up to a week if frozen right after baking; so if you have customers who might purchase frozen waffles, that’s another possiblity for reducing waste.
Another option is to offer waffles that incorporate a bit more grain texture and slightly different flavor than the run-of-the-mill waffle. For example, a waffle incorporating oats, cornmeal, whole teff grain, or a flavor like banana will fit this bill. Vegan gluten-free waffles, discussed above, also fit into this category. If you use real maple syrup in your waffles, that’s obviously spendier, but some customers may be willing to pay a bit more for this.
What if I want a really impressive gourmet vegan waffle recipe?
So you want a waffle that really stands out as a breakfast, brunch, or even dinner or dessert attraction. Your customers are willing to spend a bit more, because you offer really awesome dishes they just can’t find elsewhere. Your dishes totally blow away anything they might encounter in the non-vegan world, and send them spiraling into oralgasmic bliss. (Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away just a bit…)
As for savory waffles, one of my favorites is the Umami Mama Waffles: The Mother of Savory , topped with Savory Cashew-Mushroom Sauce. It’s a yeast-raised waffle that tastes like pizza. I also really like the Spicy Blue Tortilla Chip Waffles. You’ll find many other options under the Savory Novelty Waffles and Sweet Dessert Waffles categories on this site (I especially like the chocolate ones), and even more in The GVWC, which also includes the three aforementioned recipes. The Yeast-Raised Cornmeal Chili-Dippin’ Waffles are also quite tasty, and they pair well with many dishes in addition to chili.
With flavory-sweet/dessert waffles, it’s honestly very difficult for me to choose a favorite from the many listed here and in The GVWC. Some include mango, some ginger, and some chocolate. Some incorporate warm spices with those flavors. I say go with whatever you believe your customers may enjoy the most!
In case you don’t find more than enough options on WaffleParty.com and in The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook, I’ve also taken the time to compile a list of some of the other cookbooks featuring vegan waffle recipes. And if you don’t wish to create recipes from scratch, there is also at least one “just add water” vegan and gluten-free waffle mix available, which I’ve reviewed.
Many thanks for Niki P, friend and member of the Pittsburgh Vegan Meetup, for inspiring me to write this article. And perhaps some prolific vegan cookbook author, publisher, or organization will create a collection of vegan recipes geared toward restaurant owners, chefs, and entrepreneurs, if it doesn’t already exist. At least for now, you have a good starting point for vegan waffle and pancake recipes!