Traditional Foods in Belgium: Liege and Brussels Style Waffles

Belgium is one of my favorite countries for culinary travel – from the cliché of  “Mussels in Brussels”, to the frites, chocolates, and of course, the handcrafted beers, it’s one country I will never tire of visiting.

One of the true culinary gems in Belgium is the waffle.  Not the American-style Belgian waffles I grew up with, but I’m talking real Belgium waffles. After my first visit, I learned that there are two distinct styles of waffles commonly found around Belgium, and they are quite different in appearance, texture, and certainly in their taste.

Brussels Style Waffles (Gaufres de Bruxelles)

The first time I tried a Brussels style waffle was in Antwerp.  They are rectangular in shape and are often served with a light dusting of powdered sugar or perhaps topped with whipped cream and strawberries.  They have a light texture and taste that comes from the yeast-leavened batter they are made from.

Brussels Waffle from Antwerp, Belgium

Brussels style waffles gave rise to the Belgian waffles we typically see in America and sometimes other parts of the world.  They were introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and were sold as “Bel-Gem Waffles”.  Although the concept of waffles had been around for hundreds of years prior, it was the World’s Fair that really catapulted them to popularity in America.

One notable difference between the American style Belgian waffle and the Brussels waffle is the use of baking powder versus yeast, giving it a different texture and taste.  When comparing, I find American waffles to be heavy and doughy whereas the Brussels waffle is lighter and more crispy.

Brussels waffles are much lighter than American style Belgian waffles

Liege Style Waffles (Gaufres de Liege)

Liege style waffles are the most commonly seen waffle in Belgium and they are definitely my personal favorite.  They are quickly identifiable by their uneven edges with the heavenly bits of caramelized pearl sugar.

While traditionally served from street vendors and eaten by hand, you will find a number of shops and bakeries selling them with oodles of toppings – my first one was whipped cream, bananas, and strawberries, with drizzles of chocolate on top.

Liege Waffles in Brussels with loads of toppings

Liege Waffles in Brussels with loads of toppings

When compared with the Brussels style waffle, Liege waffles tend to denser, a bit chewier, and certainly sweeter.  The dough is much different than Brussels style – almost like a brioche style bread.  Liege waffles are believed to have been developed by Liege’s Prince-Bishop’s chef back in the 18th century.

The signature element on a Liege waffle is the pearl sugar, which surprisingly comes from sugar beets, that caramelizes and sweetens when baked.  When you get a Liege waffle fresh from a street vendor, the sugar is still hot and the crispy edges literally melt in your mouth.

Liege Waffle from Liege – notice the caramelized sugar

Seeing as how I am a thorough researcher when it comes to anything food related while traveling, I’ve tried waffles in Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge, Liege and even supposed “authentic” versions in neighboring countries, like the Netherlands.  While many of these locales offer great waffles, my personal favorite stops were Liege and Brussels, however, they were both for Liege style waffles ironically.

Liege Waffles from stall in Brussels, Belgium

If you are on the hunt for the best offerings, stick with the street vendors, small specialty shops, and if you happen to be traveling during the upcoming holiday season, the Christmas Markets are full of awesome waffle vendors, usually selling lots of gluhwein too, which make the sometimes bitter winter temperatures a bit more bearable after hours of sightseeing.

  • http://www.breakawaybackpacker.com Jaime

    I have to agree Belgium has some of the best food ever. I was there for a week and two days all I ate were Belgian Fries, Belgian Waffles, Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Beer… so not great for the diet, but oh well I was in Belgium.

  • http://www.breakawaybackpacker.com Jaime

    I have to agree Belgium has some of the best food ever. I was there for a week and two days all I ate were Belgian Fries, Belgian Waffles, Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Beer… so not great for the diet, but oh well I was in Belgium.

  • camorose

    Can still remember my first waffle in Bruges–amazingly delicious!!! Chocolate and strawberries and powdered sugar–hungry just thinking about it :)

  • camorose

    Can still remember my first waffle in Bruges–amazingly delicious!!! Chocolate and strawberries and powdered sugar–hungry just thinking about it :)

  • http://www.travelingwithsweeney.com Catherinesweeney

    Yum, yum, Yum! My first waffle in Belgium was at the railway station in Antwerp — topped with warm chocolate. Loved it!

  • http://www.travelingwithsweeney.com Catherinesweeney

    Yum, yum, Yum! My first waffle in Belgium was at the railway station in Antwerp — topped with warm chocolate. Loved it!

  • Jodi Henderson

    Holy cow! I was considering a day trip to Brussels when I visit Paris in March…think this seals the deal! Brussels, here we come… :)

  • http://geekygirlinteractive.com/ Jodi Henderson

    Holy cow! I was considering a day trip to Brussels when I visit Paris in March…think this seals the deal! Brussels, here we come… :)

  • http://DestinationMike.blogspot.com Destination Mike

    Were you able to snag a waffle recipe or two?

  • http://DestinationMike.blogspot.com Destination Mike

    Were you able to snag a waffle recipe or two?

  • http://www.theroadtoanywhere.com Dean Wickham

    You just made me very hungry! Those waffles look delicious, particularly with the strawberries and chocolate. 

  • http://www.theroadtoanywhere.com Dean Wickham

    You just made me very hungry! Those waffles look delicious, particularly with the strawberries and chocolate. 

  • http://www.destinationeurope.com.au Andrea

    I wouldn’t say no to a waffle with Nutella right now (Brussels or Liege stye). 

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Saammeee here!

  • http://www.destinationeurope.com.au Andrea

    I wouldn’t say no to a waffle with Nutella right now (Brussels or Liege stye). 

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Saammeee here!

  • Regula @ foodwise

    Hello there,
    I am born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium.
    The big difference between the Brussels waffles and the Liege ones is that us Belgian people would usually never eat a Brussels waffle outside in our hand. The Liege waffle s indeed ‘street food’ but the Brussels waffle is to be eaten inside on a plate and often on a special occasion.
    It is something we treat ourself to and go to a tearoom or something.
    The oldest tradition in eating a Brussels Waffle is actually with butter spread on top.

    I loved reading your post!
    I do not write much about Belgium on my blog, I guess it’s to much on my doorstep;)

    And… If you return to Belgium… there is another waffle… The Lackman!

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Knowing me, I would put far too much butter on mine.
      Thanks for the extra info!

  • Regula @ foodwise

    Hello there,
    I am born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium.
    The big difference between the Brussels waffles and the Liege ones is that us Belgian people would usually never eat a Brussels waffle outside in our hand. The Liege waffle s indeed ‘street food’ but the Brussels waffle is to be eaten inside on a plate and often on a special occasion.
    It is something we treat ourself to and go to a tearoom or something.
    The oldest tradition in eating a Brussels Waffle is actually with butter spread on top.

    I loved reading your post!
    I do not write much about Belgium on my blog, I guess it’s to much on my doorstep;)

    And… If you return to Belgium… there is another waffle… The Lackman!

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      Knowing me, I would put far too much butter on mine.
      Thanks for the extra info!

  • aubreyann

    Yum! Can’t wait to try the authentic Liege and Brussels waffle. It will surely be a gastronomic experience. 

  • aubreyann

    Yum! Can’t wait to try the authentic Liege and Brussels waffle. It will surely be a gastronomic experience. 

  • http://www.quipidity.com Claire

    I LOVE Belgium waffles…. love the pictures, now I want to go back. Soon.

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      The pictures are definitely tempting.

  • http://www.quipidity.com Claire

    I LOVE Belgium waffles…. love the pictures, now I want to go back. Soon.

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      The pictures are definitely tempting.

  • Marie11675

    I agree I love the Liege style waffle, we liked  belgaufra stands in Brusseles. Thanks for detail on styles of waffle, I am on the hunt for an authentic recipe.

  • Marie11675

    I agree I love the Liege style waffle, we liked  belgaufra stands in Brusseles. Thanks for detail on styles of waffle, I am on the hunt for an authentic recipe.

  • Liz

    What a great article on Belgium waffles! Growing up, I used to visit my grandparents in Belgium and enjoyed these from a very early age. I loooove biting into those sugar pearls in the waffle.. the texture, the taste… for me it was always a bite of heaven in my mouth!

  • Liz

    What a great article on Belgium waffles! Growing up, I used to visit my grandparents in Belgium and enjoyed these from a very early age. I loooove biting into those sugar pearls in the waffle.. the texture, the taste… for me it was always a bite of heaven in my mouth!

  • Fuck You

    WALFELS!

  • Fuck You

    WALFELS!

  • Johnwilliam

    The pics are tempting me to visit Belgium, basically i am a food lover and I love to taste all kinds of food items.

  • Johnwilliam

    The pics are tempting me to visit Belgium, basically i am a food lover and I love to taste all kinds of food items.

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