I have loved soft pretzels ever since I was little kid and my mom taught me to microwave the frozen ones we bought in 500-packs from Sam’s Club. They were filling, tasty, and paired nicely with my pouch of Capri Sun on warm summer afternoons.
Now that I’ve grown, I find the frozen pretzels just don’t satisfy like they used to, for one simple reason: I started making them myself.
As always, this is a full explanation of how to make these pretzels with helpful tips and tricks. However, if you don’t care about all that, you can always skip down to the bottom for the TL;DR version.
Quick thing: I have included affiliate links to Amazon below – it won’t affect your price to click them, but I do get a kickback. I promise that my links are only to be helpful and offer products that would be useful with the recipe.
So, to make pretzels, your ingredients are largely the same as if you were making bread: warm water, yeast, salt, sugar, and flour. However, once you make the dough and shape it into whatever pretzel shape you like, you boil the pretzels in a pot of water mixed with baking soda. Finally, you brush with egg before baking, then with butter afterward.
Making the Dough
First thing, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
No matter what you do, don’t bake these pretzels on a baking stone or in anything that has nonstick seasoning. Baking soda will strip the seasoning right off of it.
Now, put a cup and a half of warm water into a small bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. The water shouldn’t be so hot that it steams, but almost hot to the touch. Add in a packet (about 2 and a quarter teaspoons) of active dry yeast, then let it stand for somewhere around 5 minutes.
When the time is up, the mix should be foamy and have a strong yeast smell.
Add a teaspoon and a half of salt and a tablespoon of sugar, then stir.
Now we add the flour. If you started with a small bowl for the yeast/water mix, put four cups of flour in a big bowl then add the mix. If you started with a stand mixer, just dump in the flour.
About the stand mixer. We are fortunate enough to have one, so I will be using it for this recipe. However, this can also be done with a hand mixer (if it has dough hook attachments) or with just a spoon and your own two hands.
I would recommend the stand mixer if you can access one – it makes things easier. If you want to look for one for yourself, click on that image of the black one. KitchenAid models are the gold standard of stand mixers.
In any case, now comes the time to make the dough. You should knead the dough, whether by hand or hook, for about five minutes. The result is a dry, firm dough.
Forming the Pretzels
Now is where things start to get pretzel-shaped.
I have done these several different ways. For example, I made the traditional pretzel twist, tied them into big knots, or even rolled and cut them into inch-long pieces for pretzel bites. It really doesn’t matter how you shape your pretzel, so feel free to get creative!
Just click on that picture of the three scrapers to the left if you want to look into some for yourself.
Whichever way you choose, though, once they are formed, take a sharp knife and cut shallow slits across the top.
While you are shaping the dough, add a third of a cup of baking soda to a saucepot of water. Bring it to a low boil. Don’t fill it up too high, though. The water tends to foam toward the end of the batch of pretzels. I have a bad habit of filling the pot too high and suddenly have to rush back to the kitchen, blowing on the bubbles before they could overflow.
Once the water is boiling, add the pretzels in batches. Boil each for about 30 seconds.
Then, remove each with a slotted spoon and put on your baking sheet.
Beat an egg with a fork. The picture above shows one of my favorite tricks. To avoid accidentally spilling egg or having to awkwardly manipulate a bowl, I put the egg in a mug before beating it.
Then, take a silicone brush and spread the egg on your pretzels.
Sprinkle on salt to your taste. Kosher salt works well, as does sea salt and any leftover pretzel salt you may have from the frozen ones.
Bake for 8-9 minutes. At this point, pretzels should be light brown.
To finish them off, crack the oven door and turn on the broiler. Bake for a few more minutes until the pretzels are nice and dark brown.
Finally, melt some butter in another mug…
…and use it to brush each pretzel.
Enjoy! I like my soft pretzels dipped in plain old yellow mustard, but feel free to get creative with beer cheese and other dips!
Quick word of warning – If you make the porcupine-looking pretzels, bite down on the spines with care. They can get kind of pointy on the tips.
Homemade Soft Pretzels
- 1 and a half cups warm water
- 1 package (about 2 and a quarter teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 and a half teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 1 beaten egg
- Coarse salt to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone nonstick mat.
- Combine warm water (1 and a half cups) and yeast (one packet or 2 and a quarter teaspoons) in a small bowl or stand mixer bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
- Add salt and sugar and stir.
- Either put flour (4 cups) in a large bowl and add water/yeast mixture, or add flour to stand mixer bowl.
- Mix and knead using either a mixture or by hand for about 5 minutes. Dough is ready when it is smooth and firm.
- Start boiling a pot of water with the baking soda (1/3 cup) mixed in. Don’t fill pot more than three quarters full to prevent foam overflowing.
- Shape the dough to your preference. Make classic pretzels by rolling dough into long snakes and twisting together, buns by tying snakes into knots, or bites by cutting the dough into inch-long pieces.
- Add each pretzel to the softly boiling baking soda water for about 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on baking sheet.
- Brush pretzels with a beaten egg, then sprinkle with salt.
- Bake 8-9 minutes, then broil for about a minute, until the pretzels are nicely browned.
- Brush baked pretzels with melted butter and enjoy!