Chicken and Waffles the Amish Way

Brace yourself: we’re about to travel deep into the hinterlands of Pennsylvania once again for one of those “only in PA” culinary specialties that surprise and mystify the population at large. This time, it’s chicken and waffles—not the famous Southern version with fried chicken and maple syrup, but the kind I grew up eating with roasted chicken, yellow gravy, and sometimes, for that extra helping of carbs, a scoop of mashed potatoes.

amish pennsylvania dutch chicken and waffles
An Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, this curious compilation is seen more frequently in the towns east of Pittsburgh, where it pops up on local restaurant and buffet menus from State College to Lancaster to Reading. “Whenever I’ve tried to discuss our style of chicken and waffles with people, they seem confused until I explain that the waffles are just a nice alternative to dumplings or mashed potatoes with a roast chicken dinner (or, at my grandma’s house, an addition to mashed potatoes!),” said food writer and northeastern Pennsylvania native Michele Laudig. “It’s the starch that soaks up all the delicious gravy.”

Unlike Michele’s experiences, this wasn’t a meal served at home for my family. Chicken and waffles were a special-occasion food, a delicacy available when we gussied ourselves up to go to the Oakhurst Tea Room in Somerset, which has been serving the dish since 1933. It’s still part of their smorgasbord buffet and available on the lunch menu, where they’ll let you choose stuffing or french fries in place of the mashed potatoes if you so desire, but warn that there’s “No half portion on Waffle unless two people are splitting it.”

It was also often the closest I came to religion. The dish has always been a staple of Pennsylvania church and community fairs, served in the cool linoleum-floored basement meeting halls as a fundraising tool and counterpoint to the fresh-squeezed lemonade and Slushies from the outdoor booths. Despite not being Catholic, I ate my fair share of chicken and waffles from St. Benedict’s church on Bedford St., tagging along with friends during our summer vacations.

amish pennsylvania dutch chicken and waffles
Once we moved closer to Pittsburgh and further away from the more traditionally rural Pennsylvania Dutch communities, chicken and waffles fell off my culinary radar. I got my driver’s license and spent weekends eating Denny’s caesar salad and seasoned fries (with a side of caesar dressing for dipping!), Boston Market side item samplers, and Eat n’ Park clam chowder with friends, forgetting my food roots as so many teenagers do in favor of the communal booths of chain restaurants. Now that I’m older and look at my upbringing through a nostalgic lens, I think it’s time to bring chicken and waffles back to prominence.

Though the Amish chicken and waffle combo has been spotted as far south as Baltimore, it sadly hasn’t made the leap to nationwide fame. While I understand the appealing mash-up of fried, salty, and sweet that’s brought Southern chicken and waffles to icon status, the “epic comfort food” (as Michele calls it) deserves a bigger place at the table.

Why don’t more Pennsylvania-bred chefs tweak it for their menus and give it an upscale spin? Meat and Potatoes, the downtown Pittsburgh gastropub, does a Southern version with fried chicken, bourbon and bacon-infused syrup, and a savory cheddar jalapeño waffle for brunch, but ignores the PA heritage version entirely. (They also do a fancy bologna sandwich for lunch, but that’s another story.) Supper in Philadelphia serves chicken over a biscuit with truffle mustard cream sauce, which is at least a step closer to my goal of a chicken and waffle on every plate, but it’s still a nearly fruitless search.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to make it at home with the remnants of my roasted chicken, a quick batch of waffles, and a pan of poultry gravy—it’s gotta be creamy, and it’s gotta have that golden hue. If you’re from Pennsylvania and have memories of chicken and waffles, leave your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your variations and if you’ve seen it elsewhere in the country.

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Comments

  1. carol barber says

    So RandeB, did you wash your chicken and waffles down with some ice-cream from Friedens? What is the name of that place?

  2. says

    Oh wow! I’m a huge southern style chicken and waffles fan, never heard of this version but I’d totally go for fries or mashed potatoes on it!

  3. says

    I ,too, was lucky enough to grow up with the hearty influences of Amish cooking.

    We are these chicken and waffles, corn meal mush for breakfast, wilted dandelions with hot bacon dressing, and shoe fly pie.

    I loved that time of innocence when there couldn’t be too many carbs on a plate!
    Can’t wait to try this version!

  4. says

    I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch Country (York County!) and among the things I miss are Chicken Pot Pie, which is not a pie at all. I had totally forgotten about this version of Chicken & Waffles – thanks for reminding me. We might have to have this soon.

  5. says

    A) I love this so much. B) I need a waffle iron. I feel like people don’t look as fondly on putting gravy on pancakes…

    Proud to be from the same state as something this wonderful.

  6. Lori says

    I grew up with chicken and waffles too! They were a Wednesday treat at a local diner in Northumberland County and my mother made the best recipe ever! She poached chicken breasts for hers. The so called Southern version was actually invented in NYC when a local restaurant owner in Harlem invented it for the musicians getting off work in the wee hours of the morning. They couldn’t decide if they wanted breakfast or dinner, so he combined them together so they could have both. Clever, but not the original PA Dutch version. Thanks for your version–by the way, this stuff doesn’t need a snotty upscale version-otherwise it wouldn’t be chicken and waffles anymore! Laura’s experience sounds a lot like mine too!

  7. Charlie says

    St. Benedict;s Church, Johnstown PA, annual reunion severed thousands of chicken and waffles dinners. But it is on Bedford STREET, not Bedford Ave. I have lived in the South now for 20 years, and miss it so. I was shocked the first time I went into a restaurant and got fried chicken strips on a dry waffle.

  8. Matt R Eagles Phan says

    I want to open a chicken and waffle restaurant in Delaware county Pa (right outside of Philly). Need a partner

  9. Erin Schoenfelder says

    I seriously thought ALL chicken and waffles were this way! I remember some distinct shock at ordering chicken and waffles. Of course, most of my Central PA cuisine cravings mystify my Maryland friends… so I guess it’s fair, right?

  10. says

    We grew up in Huntingdon County, PA & my best serving of this great dish was at Helfrick’s in Big Valley – an Amish community – where it was served family style. The waffles were made on old cast irons & turned by hand over the stove. Stewed chicken was historically used & cooked a long time since it was an older tough bird that quit laying. The gravy had chicken in it & also some whole egg yolks – probably from the killed bird – that were stewed with the chicken. Side dishes included mashed potatoes, veggies in season, usually succotash & pickled things & spiced things…..which was the Amish tradition.

    • Mary Ann Smith says

      As many times as I had chicken/waffles at Helfrick’s INN THE PINES in Big Valley there was never chicken in the gravy. Chicken was fricasses and came on platters. Waffles came separately on platters. Gravy also separate. Yes for mashed potatoes, apple sauce or coleslaw – frequently corn pudding – and homemade ice cream. I was there when Jane (can’t think of last name) hosted the meal and also in the ’50s when her grandmother hosted.

      But I like the kind where the chicken is cut in pieces and is in the gravy!!!

  11. Mary Ann Smith says

    AND – there was NEVER yellow color to the gravy – at my house or at INN THE PINES (or Helfrick’s – it’s other name).

    • Pamela says

      I am 63 years of age and ever since I was a young child, my mother has made chicken and waffles with chicken gravy and we have this in my home now every Christmas and Thanksgiving. I live in Pennsylvania and have all my life, but no one here has ever heard of eating waffles with chicken gravy . They make fun of it and won’t even try it, including my husband of 20 years. I can’t imagine not having this every holiday or any time my son wants it. It is hard to take eating waffles with chicken,and syrup, it just sounds terrible. We have mashed potatoes, chicken, and waffles,whole corn, toss salad and coleslaw. I Love It !!! My Grandmother made it when my Mother was a kid.!!!

  12. GINGER says

    I grew up in Lancaster, PA and loved having chicken and waffles for lunch or dinner. Miss a lot of the Pennsylvania Dutch foods since I now live in Florida. My kids had it a couple years ago and loved it. Now they ask when I am gonna make it again for them. We grew up on that stuff and the kids always tell us, make some of that food for us mom. Gonna make it more often now.

  13. Barbara says

    Wow! I went looking for a recipe for chicken and waffles like Mom used to make – comfort food for a rainy fall day – and found kindred spirits here. I too was raised on the “Reunion” chicken and waffle dinners at St. Benedict on Bedford St. They were made all the better accompanied with pepper slaw – a sweet/sour vinegar dressed green pepper and cabbage cole slaw – and mashed potatoes, of course. I went to St. Benedict school and even worked at the dinners when I was in high school. My only disagreement with the above is that the recipe is a bit too upscale. A secret ingredient of my Mom’s chicken and waffles, as well as St. Benedict, was the Campbell’s creamed chicken. I just sent my husband to the store to get a can ….. Fried chicken and dry waffles are a sham. These are the real chicken and waffles!

  14. Krispen Mccarthy says

    i take it a step further and add mixed veggies to the gravy chicken mix with mashed potatoes . Comfort food at its best!

  15. Dawn Wright says

    I grew up in Iowa with a Grandmother who was from Pennsylvia and made this for special occations. This was not a food we could order at restaurants in Iowa. I started looking for recipes because my mother’s birthday is coming up and she has been talking about wanting some. Unfortunately Grandma did not write the recipe down and no one in the family knows how to make it like she did. She did always make the gravy from the chicken that she boiled.

  16. Elizabeth says

    Thank you for this recipe. I grew up in Williamsport and my mom would make this for us. I looked for a recipe, and all I saw was fried chicken and maple syrup…not the comfort food I was looking to make for my sons. Thank you for sharing this recipe….can’t wait to make it.

  17. Bonni says

    thanks for the recipe! Born in the coal regions of PA and enjoyed Chicken & Waffles at Knoebel’s Grove. Got a waffle iron from Santa…so glad I can now enjoy a taste of my childhood memories!

  18. Kim says

    I remember this at my Grandma’s. We lived in Lancaster and Lititz. I’m going to try it for lunch. I also got a waffle iron for Christmas and we have leftover chicken and gravy. Let’s see if the kids and husband like it!

  19. Heather says

    I’m from Canada and although I cook a lot and enjoy it very much, I’d always heard of chicken and waffles, but had never looked into a recipe etc. A few years ago, I met a lovely man from Ohio who has become the love of my life. We’ve talked about “chicken and waffles”, but not really “talked” about them..haha a year or so Lay’s chips came out with a Chicken and Waffle’s flavour, and I refused to try them…you see…when I FIRST heard of chicken and waffles, I pictured lovely prefectly roasted chicken, topped with gravy, sitting on top of yummy waffles, with lots of fresh ground pepper on top…mmmm….then reality(or so I thought) SMACK me in the face when I went to look for a recipe and found, to my horror(though I’m sure it’s good too) that what is commonly known as chicken and waffles contained fried chicken! AHHH!! my lovely vision was shattered, I was totally wrong! My chicken and waffle heart was broken….. until last week, when my boyfriend again mentioned them, and I, still thinking it was an odd combo asked him about making it for him for dinner…because he usually doesn’t eat chicken on the bone, and fried chicken usually is…..he looked at me on horror at the very idea that Chicken and Waffles be deep fried chicken! Instead, he describe almost exactly what I had originally thought Chicken and Waffles was! I KNEW we were meant to be together! haha

    So today I decided to try look at a few recipes as a guide and found yours and have know figured out why he’s had the same type I had dreamed about (he grew up in (OH/PA)….. he also use to mention a thing called Scrapple, so I found some once in the store (now in WA) and was super excited about it at the time….although, it went in the freezer and hasn’t been touched since….I just can’t wrap my head around it, or how to cook it..

    • Steph says

      Slice the Scrapple and brown it on both sides in a frying pan. Serve with maple syrup as a side to eggs. My grandfather’s favorite PA Saturday breakfast.

  20. Lura says

    I love chicken and waffles. I grew up in South Williamsport eating this whenever I got a chance. I moved away for many years and when I talked about chicken and waffles people had no idea what I was taking about. My husband grew up in southern Illinois and when we moved to PA he would not even think about trying this until we went to the Selins Grove Brewery. It was a special that day. I ordered it he ordered a sandwich. Food comes to the table he taste my chicken and waffles had he sandwich wrapped to go and orders chicken and waffles. He now loves it. I just got my own waffle iron and found this recipe. Can’t wait to try this.

  21. Amy says

    I was born and raised in Lancaster County, and this was always a favorite. The only difference from your recipe to what I was raised on is that the chicken and the gravy were not separated. The chicken was mixed in with the gravy, forming a delicious, hearty meat gravy. It was also not as yellow. (It was served to me as a child, I am not sure of the recipe for this kind of gravy.) I remember going to community dinners at churches and various fundraisers where this was served as the main entree, in this fashion with the meat and gravy all together.

  22. Lee says

    From southern Lancaster county, now living in Baltimore, just making sure I was making it right….. I’m winging it, and I’m spot on. Thank you!

  23. Charity says

    WOW, I am SOO happy I found this article. People in CT look at me like I have six heads when I tell them fried chicken does NOT belong on waffles. *THIS* is chicken and waffles! <3

  24. Julia says

    My husbands family is frin Hazleton PA and that is how I learned about chicken and waffles. It is an awesome way to use leftover chicken and gravy and also helps stretch your food dollars. We love it with some homemade applesauce.

  25. Alice Williams says

    I tried chicken and waffles for the first time this last weekend at a restaurant in Huntingdon, PA. It was made the Amish way and I always wanted to try it. It was great and I plan on making it at home with leftover chicken and gravy. The only thing I would have added is a little cranberry sauce. The real thing not the canned.

    That is one thing scratched off my bucket list!!

  26. Russ Longenberger says

    Sent this recipe to a good friend in Georgia who never heard of chicken & waffles!!
    She told me CHICKEN was for Lunch or Dinner & Waffles were for Breakfast.. WE WILL SEE

  27. Lois says

    So happy to have run across your website and the story/recipe on my childhood favorite meal, chicken and waffles! I am a native Pennsylvanian, raised in Erie but my mom, who made C & W on a bi-weekly basis, was from Central PA around Williamsport. I’ve since moved to Michigan, and in my travels, find nothing but the “syrup” instead of chicken gravy version wherever I’ve found it on a menu. I was so excited to find a Waffle House, sure that they would offer the “correct” version of it, but alas, again, not the right one.
    It’s such a wonderful concoction, I’ve made it for friends who are initially skeptical, then happy, blissed- out converts to the gravy over the waffles. I keep it simple, just fried chicken ( or rotisserie in a hurry), gravy, waffles and perhaps a vegetable such as green beans as a side dish. Perfection! I hope fellow PA’ers keep making this dish generation after generation. It’s too wonderful to let go by the wayside. Maple syrup with your waffles? Fooey! That’s for breakfast!

  28. says

    What fun to read your article.When I was still a girl living at home, my mother would go into Johnstown (where we are from) and pick up my grandmother and her waffle iron. This was laways a good sign, since we knew chicken and waffle would be Sunday’s dinner. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing and waffles. Peas might also show up, after all the goal is to get as many carbs as possible on one plate.The waffle iron would sit on the end of the table and my mother would bake waffles until we would all just about burst. Now and then I get a real need for chicken and waffles and to the chuckles of my husband and children indulge that craving. Oh, and I still have my grandmothers waffle iron. It makes the thinnest most crispy waffles to soak up all that wonderful creamy gravy. Think I’ll go and roast a chicken right now!! I live in southwestern New Mexico (Truth or Consequences, NM) now, how long do you think it will take chicken and waffles to make it to the land of enchantment. You know it would have to have green chilies in the gravy, maybe on a blue corn meal waffle!!

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Oh, Lois, you’re speaking my language with this Southwestern U.S./Southwestern PA mashup… I will most definitely have to make blue corn waffles with chili-rubbed chicken and gravy with green chilies! You’re so lucky to still have your grandmother’s waffle iron too.

  29. Becky says

    I am from central PA and this is probably my favorite meal by far. However, I now live in Reading and have not come across chicken and waffles at any of the restaurants I’ve eaten at. I would be very grateful if you could point me in the right direction in this neck of the woods!!

  30. Rich says

    This is the ONLY chicken & waffles I have ever known. Being from PA Dutch country I’ve learned the real way to make lots of foods. I usually “cheat” and incorporate a can of cream of chicken soup in the gravy for flavor and consistency. Also I always mix the chicken into the gravy before serving. It makes a more blended mixture.

    Fried chicken sitting on a waffle is just that. Maybe the waffle is there to soak up the grease?

  31. Lex D'Messiah says

    Hi,
    My Mother made this all the time while I was growing up – she was from NE PA.
    I think a good point to make about this dish is that its not something you make with a lot of spices – just plain old chicken (or turkey is great too ) so if using a rotisserie chicken get the skin off and rinse the meat slightly.
    Mom used to use Cambell’s cream of chicken in the gravy to make it thick without adding a lot of flour or cornstarch etc.
    Another point to make is that the waffles MUST be the bisquick kind – very simple baking soda type waffles – no added sugar or sweeteners.

  32. Lex D'Messiah says

    p.s. Make a pot of gravy and add the meat to it – let it mingle for a long time. You can add carrots or celery or both – but I personally feel that ruins the flavor. To me this is a very specific comfort food.
    serve with cranberry on the side and its perfect as is.

  33. Jay Blauch says

    The way I was taught is as follows. The Waffles you have pretty much correct, but I make a larger batch and use the rest for breakfast, snack, or sandwich. (maybe a little sweeter by adding a Tbs or 2 when whipping the egg whites). For the chicken, I place a 2lb fryer (split) to a pot, add more if you want more chicken, sometimes I use 2 or combinations of legs thighs, (leg quarters) and/or half breast) It all depends on which “meat” you desire. (If it is white, can use all breasts,(bones help) but some thigh and leg brings out better flavor. Anyways, place the chicken in a pot, add 1 or 2 cans chicken broth (yes, I know that’s cheating), I also add about a Tbs or so of “chicken Base” (used for soup shortcuts) do not know how “chicken bouillon cubes” would work. Boil/Simmer for about an hour till done. Remove chicken, let cool till you can handle. Meanwhile, you could be making the waffles…lol. When chicken cool enough to handles, remove skin and discard (unless you have a pet that would devour it. lol). remove bone, discard the bone, tear, pull or cut chicken to desired size. Meanwhile, after removing as much fat as possible, bring “broth” back to a boil. add a little milk to get that “poultry” color. If you have “Poultry Gravy” Mix, can use some here, but only to about half the consistency you desire, add a slurry of “cornstarch and cold water” to achieve desired consistency (this keeps the salt count lower), add the chicken to the “gravy” heat through. Serve over the “Fresh” waffles. one, two, three or more layers, I usually do 2 layers. Serve with mashed potatoes if desired. Save the “leftovers” of the chicken gravy and make a “Baked chicken Pot Pie” with a double crust (like the ‘Banquet’ pies).. Want to know? contact me.