The Rise of the Stroopwafel: From Dutch Delicacy to Trailside Treat

The stroopwafel's history includes a time as a snack for the working class and riding along with Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.

The world-renowned stroopwafel followed the surge in cycling and other recreational activities over the past half century, from spandex-clad racers in the Tour de France to being a hip-pack companion for those on singletrack escapades. The venerable mid-ride snack has surpassed the gelatinous gel and chewy energy bars that tire the muscles of the mandible.

Stoopwafel origins

The stroopwafel (translating to syrup waffle) has been around for centuries, much longer than the modern day bicycle. Dating back to the 1700s, the sweet morsel has its roots in the quaint Dutch city of Gouda. Yes, the same city that the cheese is from. Unlike savory Gouda cheese, the stroopwafel is a palm-sized sweet that is composed of two thin waffles with a layer of caramel-like syrup in the middle. 

The waffles are traditionally made from wheat flour, butter, brown sugar, yeast, and milk. It is suspected that a baker MacGyvered the first one using leftover bread crumbs and whatever else was around and injected sweetness by adding a syrup which also held the crumbs together. The earliest recipe for stroopwafel was recorded in 1840, according to Science Meets Food. Back in the 18th century, the waffles were primarily eaten as a snack by workers and were sold by street vendors. Being a cheap treat to make, they were afforded and consumed by working-class folk and the treats were referred to as “poor peoples biscuits,” according to Dutch Review.  Modern outdoor enthusiasts and 18th century workers have at least that in common. 


Stroopwafels are the perfect snack. They are packable, barely noticeable in an accessory pocket, provide quickly-released energy, and are easy to eat, even on the bike. Hot or cold, the waffles are quite tasty and have a long shelf life. Since they are already so flat, they are difficult to crush in your pack or frame storage. 

Although rooted in the culinary history of the Netherlands, the stroopwafel is now shelved around the world from gas stations to department stores. Of course, most dedicated outdoor sports stores also have a few options available as well as local cafes to pair with your coffee or tea, especially since they fit perfectly when placed on top of a mug filled with a steaming beverage to warm the gooey stroop sandwiched between the wafers. 

Stroopwafels in the USA

Most U.S.-based cyclists and mountain bikers will recognize stroopwafels from one proliferative brand, Honey Stinger. Chief Marketing Officer Wendy Mayo says it all started when road cycling’s popularity was at its all-time high. 

“Honey Stinger brought the stroopwafel to the US in 2011 in collaboration with Lance Armstrong after he enjoyed eating the Dutch version while cycling across Europe,” said Mayo. 

Honey Stinger, based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, switched up the recipe and focused on outdoor enthusiasts, from golfers to mountain bikers. Instead of a brown-sugar-based mixture for the interior filling, Honey Stinger uses honey and other organic ingredients. But before the Honey Stinger stroopwafel, there were other products.

“Inspired by the Gamber family’s long legacy as a top honey producer in the United States, Honey Stinger was born in Steamboat Springs, CO in 2001. We launched our first product in 2003 – the Honey Stinger Gold Energy Gel — which brought the benefits of honey to endurance sports.” 

Mayo is speaking of benefits like antioxidants, trace minerals, and probiotic properties, which are absent in refined sugars. For those who don’t know the Gamber name, Ralph W. Gamber bought three beehives at a farm sale in Pennsylvania in 1946 to start beekeeping as a hobby but over time it morphed into one of the largest honey businesses in the country. Gamber even created the ubiquitous plastic bear honey squeeze bottle. 

The focus on more exercise-appropriate ingredients is based around Honey Stinger’s athletic target market. There is a focus on simple carbs and sugars, great for endurance sports. In 2016, Honey Stinger released gluten-free options after a push from consumers.

“Our sports dietitians we work with would definitely tell you that protein after a workout is a critical element to help rebuild and repair muscle,” said Mayo. “Our waffles don’t have much protein because too much before or during a workout can weigh you down—simple carbs are better for that.”

Though Honey Stinger is likely the most recognizable name for Americans when it comes to stroopwafels, the market has become more competitive with athlete-minded brands like Gu, Untapped, and Vafels creating their own performance-based, syrup-waffle snacks.

The future

So, what does the future of mid-ride snacks look like? According to Mayo, we’re well past the days of desserts disguised as fuel.

“The days of candy bars and donuts as fuel are definitely over (although you can certainly still find those things at aid stations!)” said Mayo. “It’s about keeping things interesting for your taste buds yet still feeding your body in a way that’s beneficial. The science happening around athletic performance and nutrition continues to develop and consumers are getting more savvy about how nutrition affects their performance.” 

How to eat a stroopwafel

  1. Pre-ride: Over a cup of coffee/tea until the waffle softens. Or dip it in your beverage and skip the wait.
  2. Mid-ride: Pour the old, crumby stroopwafel package that has been in your hip pack for too long directly in your mouth.
  3. Whenever: Top with fruit or nut butter before a ride for some added sustenance. You can even make a PB&J using the waffles in place of bread.
  4. Post-ride: Make a dessert, toasting the waffle, and adding ice cream, whipped cream, and/or fresh fruit.