The sushi waffle is neither sushi nor waffle, really. The Instagram recipe, from Recipes by Anne, involves crisping sushi rice in a waffle iron and topping it with raw salmon, avocado, Sriracha, and mayo. Maybe it’s more like fusion pizza, as if Wolfgang Puck was really trying to revamp the IHOP. Or maybe it’s best described as a testament to the power of the waffle iron, social media’s current favorite appliance. Home cooks and influencers are finding out just about anything can be waffled, making the tool a surprising multitasker, and creating a food trend that has more staying power than your average…flash in the pan.
I remember popular waffle hacks getting around at least a decade ago, when people were pressing pre-made cookie and cinnamon roll dough until it came out crisp and pocketed. But social media has powered the trend over the past few years, ever since everyone on TikTok got a mini waffle iron that costs about $10 at Target. The first recipes were sweets-focused, criss-crossing multicolored batters into patterns or giving the waffle treatment to other desserts like brownies and doughnuts.
The Keto diet also influenced a more varied use of a waffle maker, as the prohibition on carbs forced people to get creative with the idea of a “sandwich.” The waffle maker became a necessary tool for “chaffles,” aka waffles made out of cheese and egg that served as ersatz bread and snacks in and of themselves. Influencers filled their chaffles with vegetables and pepperoni, or sometimes just put cheese and meat directly into the waffle iron and called it a sandwich.
The chaffle experiments revealed a truth: It’s hard to have a waffle iron and not be tempted to put just about anything in it. “In recent weeks I’ve noticed that people are getting a lot more creative and trying different variations in the waffle maker,” says Recipes by Anne founder Anna Castkova. That means hot dogs, pasta, battered chicken wings, stuffing, straight Nutella, and whole croissants (which Castkova says is a shame, as it must ruin the lamination). There are also food accounts almost entirely dedicated to seeing what can be waffled: @bellemeows has attempted to waffle frozen dumplings, mochi, okonomiyaki, and Cup Noodle, while @bettercallhall has made the series #canitwaffle, in which he puts everything from Smuckers Uncrustables to teriyaki steak in the waffle maker in his classroom.
Unlike some other TikTok trends where you have to really stretch to figure out why everyone is suddenly smearing nacho fixings across a whole countertop, waffling everything has incredibly obvious appeal. Waffle irons are relatively cheap, cook food quickly, and give it an even crunch, and opening a lid to reveal waffled Skittles or cheeseburgers makes a great visual on video-driven social media. The trend is both useful and silly, capable of producing quick meals (a frittata in a waffle iron sounds like a pretty good idea!) and outlandish prank foods that drive engagement. No matter what you’re looking for out of food content — healthy family recipes, cheap snacks, gags — the waffle iron provides.
But as with so many social media trends, there is an air of desperation here. You can sense in many of these videos the hope that this waffle recipe, equal parts practical and surprising, will be the one to go viral. Like butter boards and mug cake and birria anything, waffled meals fit the Known Entity + Fun Twist = Success equation. People would probably be putting eggs or rice into a waffle iron anyway, but the content machine flips the priority from self-amusement to the intentional amusement of others.
Still, that’s just how social media works, irrespective of waffles. And as trends go, the waffle iron might be the best possible one. It’s relatively accessible and easy to use and no one is going to accuse you of culturally appropriating Belgians. If this is the world we have to live in, one where sharing recipes is a matter of “content creation,” then fine, make everything a waffle. At least I don’t have to buy a new appliance.