And no, they're not Eggo.
Chicken and waffles — the sweet and savory combo traditionally enjoyed in Harlem haunts, Los Angeles institutions, and soul food joints — is, these days, eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and put on any respectable brunch menu coast to coast. But if the dish's mainstream appeal hadn't been solidified just yet, as of Monday its national footprint will be firmly stamped with an iteration released by the country’s largest hawker of crispy poultry: Kentucky Fried Chicken.
KFC’s take, Kentucky Fried Chicken & Waffles, includes, of course, fried chicken—in this case, the brand has chosen to pair waffles with its Extra Crispy variety in the form of tenders, bone-in chicken, or a Hot Honey filet for the sandwich version (yes, they indeed took two waffles and made a chicken sandwich).
But I know what you’re really wondering: How’s the waffle?
Waffles, particularly Belgian waffles, are one of those finicky foods that have to be consumed soon after they’ve been cooked, lest they get cold and sweaty. I’ve eaten my share of chicken and waffles in various iterations, from Amy Ruth’s to Roscoe’s, so my curiosity was piqued when it came to trying what is essentially a fast food waffle.
I sampled the new waffle offering earlier this week with KFC U.S. Head Chef Bob Das and Sarah Doyle, a product developer from KFC’s Food Innovation team, both of whom worked on the all-important waffle. “We wanted something signature and distinct. We didn’t want the typical Eggo waffle you can get at the grocery store,” Doyle told me. “We’ve looked at waffles for several years now, at different types, asking ourselves did we want to go with an American style or the Belgium style, and we settled on this Belgian liège style, even using pearl sugar imported from Belgium. And the way we prepare it — frying it — it is different from anywhere else.”
So in addition to a liège waffle’s deep hash markings, sweeter flavor, and more rustic shape, KFC’s take is a bit denser (think biscuit dough in a waffle iron) than fluffier Belgian waffles you might be used to. The reason for the textural difference is so that the waffle can stand up to the fryer and deliver on a more crucial texture (depending on your waffle preferences): crispiness. To that end, the waffle holds up to the steam from the hot chicken and doesn’t just become a syrup-drenched yoga mat for the chicken to rest on.
“Prior to this, we didn’t really have the technology to deliver a really great waffle,” Das said. “We have the best — in my opinion — fried chicken already, so we didn’t want to deliver a half-a--ed waffle with it. Sarah went through fifteen variations of just the liège waffle to get to this one.”
The only downside might be the size — about four inches in diameter (standard for a liège waffle, however) — so if you’re expecting something that fills your plate, you might be a little disappointed. But, to my taste, the gamble on a smaller, crispier waffle worked well enough. And while waffles are definitely a step into breakfast territory, KFC’s chief marketing officer told me the brand isn’t looking to fry up eggs or open its doors earlier anytime soon.
Kentucky Fried Chicken & Waffles are served with Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and available with chicken pieces or tenders starting at $5.49 or as a sandwich with a Hot Honey fried chicken filet for $5.99 starting Monday, November 12 through December 31 at participating locations.