Homemade Soft Pretzels
These homemade soft pretzels are the best of the best with a chewy exterior with an incredibly soft inside that just melts in your mouth. They’re a fun snack to make with kids. Plus, you can bake up huge pretzels, regular-size, pretzel bites, or even make pretzel dogs with this dough. They’re perfect for afternoon snacks, movie nights, game days, or just because!
Don’t Get It Twisted; You’ll Love These Homemade Pretzels!
I am a bona fide soft pretzel addict. Whether I’m at the mall, at a sporting event, or at a restaurant that’s offering Oktoberfest specials, there’s absolutely no question that I’m going to get a soft pretzel.
There’s something so satisfying about that distinctive chewy exterior paired with the warm, soft interior of a pretzel that makes them irresistible. It’s a snack food that transcends seasons. Whether you’re enjoying a baseball game on a warm summer evening, partaking in Oktoberfest festivities during the fall, catching a hockey game in the dead of winter, or enjoying everything that’s in bloom during springtime, soft pretzels are where it’s at!
This is my third iteration of a soft pretzel recipe. My first attempt was over 12 years ago, and then I moved on to another recipe a few months later. I finally settled on this fabulous version about 10 years ago, and it’s the only one I’ve been making since. I’ve found that this recipe produces the softest, chewiest, most traditional-tasting soft pretzels that I’ve made to date.
This homemade soft pretzel recipe is broken down into four parts — the pretzel dough, the baking soda water bath, the egg wash, and the salt garnish. That may seem like a lot, but they’re truly each so simple, and I’d bet you have most or all of these ingredients on hand at this very moment!
- For the soft pretzel dough, you’ll need: warm water, light brown sugar, kosher salt, active-dry or instant yeast, all-purpose flour, and melted unsalted butter.
- And for the baking soda water bath, all you’ll need is exactly what you’d think — baking soda and water.
- For the egg wash, all you need is an egg yolk and water.
- Lastly, for the topping, you’ll need coarse salt to sprinkle on top of your baked pretzels.
It might not seem like it at first glance, but homemade soft pretzels are a relatively easy process and don’t take very long as far as kitchen projects go. You’ll be rewarded with some of the most AMAZING pretzels!
Combine water, sugar, and salt; then add yeast. Once this mixture is combined, we’ll let it sit for a few minutes until it “blooms” (i.e. the yeast starts to wake up and get foamy). Next, add flour and butter. This is all you need to make the dough!
Knead the dough until it’s smooth with a stand mixer and dough hook until it’s soft, pillowy, and just slightly tacky.
Let dough rise. Cover the bowl and place in a warm, draft-free spot until dough is doubled in size; usually 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Next, prepare the baking soda bath. Combine water and baking soda in a large pot, and bring to a boil.
Shape the pretzels. See the photos below and the video for step-by-step shaping details. It goes quickly once you get the hang of it if you’ve never done it before!
You want to achieve that classic pretzel twist shape, so work slowly being careful not to tear the dough.
Dip the pretzels in baking soda bath. They only need to be in the water bath for about 30 seconds, otherwise, they will take on too much of the baking soda taste. A quick dip, then remove with a slotted spatula.
Brush and sprinkle. Brush the pretzels with an egg wash (or melted butter if you want more of a buttery flavor) and sprinkle with salt or whatever other toppings you might like.
Time to bake! Less than 15 minutes in the oven, or until golden brown (or however done you prefer your pretzels!), let them cool for a few minutes, then dig in!
And serve. I love to serve these soft homemade pretzels with some tart yellow mustard, homemade beer cheese, and a tall glass of chilled beer. They’d also be great with a homemade cheese sauce!
Tips and Variations
You don’t have to be an expert at baking with yeast to turn out some fantastic soft pretzels. Before long, you’ll be twisting and shaping dough like a pro. If you’ve been nervous about working with yeast in the past, this recipe is a fabulous place to start, as it’s basic, easy, and incredibly forgiving.
A few quick tips to help you make some ah-mazing pretzels!
- Both instant and active dry yeasts can be used in this recipe.(But I still like to let the yeast sit with the water, sugar, and salt even if using instant.)
- This recipe makes eight large pretzels. If you want slightly smaller pretzels, you can easily divide the dough into 12 portions instead. Check for doneness a couple of minutes early.
- The egg wash on the pretzels gives them a little shine, and I find it softens the exterior a bit. For a more traditional taste, omit the egg wash and just use salt when the pretzels come out of the water bath. For more of an Auntie Anne’s buttery flavor, brush the pretzels with melted butter when they come out of the water bath and again when they come out of the oven.
- I have used this recipe to make pretzel bites, as well (Directions can be found here, along with a spicy dipping sauce).
- Once you have this basic recipe down, you can use it to make all sorts of adaptations, including cinnamon-sugar pretzels, cheddar-jalapeno pretzels, pizza pretzels, garlic butter pretzels, chocolate chip pretzels, Nutella-stuffed pretzels … any type of pretzels! There are so many savory and sweet flavor options, and they’re all delicious!
I like serving these easy homemade soft pretzels as a snack or appetizer with some tangy mustard (I like yellow, but whole grain or spicy brown would be delicious, some ice-cold beer, and some other of my favorite party appetizers, like:
- Slow Cooker Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
- Buffalo chicken dip
- Sausage-stuffed mushrooms
- Cinnamon sugar candied pecans
- Homemade French Onion Dip
- Nuts and Bolts (aka homemade Chex Mix)
- Sweet cream cheese dip with fresh fruit
Looking for a fun recipe to make with the kids? Use this soft pretzel dough to make hot dog mummies! Perfect for Halloween. Just wrap the risen dough around cooked hotdogs, and bake until golden brown. Top with salt and make a face using your favorite condiments!
Storage, Freezing, and Reheating Instructions
- Store these homemade soft pretzels in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Freeze cooked and cooled pretzels in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Make sure to wrap each pretzel in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
- Reheat by placing these soft pretzels in a 350-degree oven or toaster oven for about 15 minutes, or heated through. Alternately, you can also microwave from frozen until heated through.
More Recipes To Try
- Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles
- Pretzel, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Malted Milkshake
- Beer-Battered Onion Rings
- Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
- Boston Baked Beans
For the Pretzel Dough
- 1½ cups (375 ml) warm water
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2¼ teaspoons (2.25 teaspoons) active dry or instant yeast, 1 packet
- 4½ cups (562.5 g) all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Baking Soda Water Bath
- 10 cups (2.5 l) water
- ⅔ cup (80 g) baking soda
For the Egg Wash
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- Coarse salt, for sprinkling
- Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl until the sugar and salt have dissolved, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.
- Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes. (Alternately, you can mix the dough with a wooden spoon until it comes together, then need by hand for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and just slightly tacky.)
- Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; set aside.
- Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot (a Dutch oven works perfectly for this). Bring the mixture to a boil.
- In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other twice and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the prepared baking sheets.
- Gently lower the pretzels into the boiling water, 2 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash or melted butter (see notes) and sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Bake until dark golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. Soft pretzels are best eaten fresh, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Both instant and active dry yeasts can be used in this recipe; I still like to let the yeast sit with the water, sugar, and salt even if using instant.
- The dough can be made using a mixer or by hand, I have done both successfully.
- This recipe makes eight large pretzels; if you want slightly smaller pretzels, you can easily divide the dough into 12 portions instead. Check for doneness a couple of minutes early.
- The egg wash on the pretzels gives them a little shine and I find it softens the exterior a bit. For a more traditional taste, omit the egg wash and just use salt when the pretzels come out of the water bath. For more of an Auntie Anne’s buttery flavor, brush the pretzels with melted butter when they come out of the water bath and again when they come out of the oven.
- These pretzels can be frozen after baked and cooled; wrap well in plastic wrap and place in a resealable freezer bag. To reheat, place in a 350-degree oven or toaster oven for about 15 minutes, or heated through. Alternately, you can also microwave from frozen until heated through.
- I have used this recipe to make pretzel bites, as well (directions here, along with a spicy dipping sauce).
- Recipe adapted from Alton Brown
Photography by Dee Frances.