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Soft Pretzels

Homemade soft pretzels are a true treat. With a golden, crisp crust and a fluffy, doughy interior, these salty pretzels are a must-try home baking project.

overhead of soft pretzels on a baking sheet with white bowl of mustard sauce

I think it's safe to say everyone needs a good soft pretzel recipe! Adults and kids alike enjoy them and they are surprisingly easy to make.

With a combination of sweet buttery flavor and tangy sourdough, these homemade pretzels taste so much better than the storebought versions.

A stand mixer will make the process super simple but if you don't have one you can mix and knead the dough by hand.

Once you've mastered this simple recipe, give my lemon poppy seed soft pretzel bites and maple cinnamon bagels a try.


Why this recipe works

  • This straightforward recipe gets tang from a quick 12-hour sponge.
  • To achieve the signature golden-brown color of soft pretzels, poach your shaped dough before baking. This process is the same for bagels.
  • This recipe only needs one rise. The single rise will yield a chewy pretzel with super soft interiors.
broken soft pretzel stacked on others with the interior visible

Soft pretzel recipe

This is a simple and fun baking recipe to make at home. I've simplified more complex soft pretzel recipes by paring down the ingredient list, having just one rise time and an easy 12-hour fermentation.

This means that this soft pretzel recipe has all of the tangy flavor and chewy, soft texture you love, without extra work or special ingredients. This is definitely an elevated but simple recipe to keep in your back pocket for days when you just need to bake.


Ingredients

  • Bread flour: Bread flour has more protein than all-purpose and other common flour varieties. This gives your pretzels a firmer texture and more structure. In a pinch, you can substitute bread flour with all-purpose.
  • Yeast: Instant yeast activates immediately upon contact with water, so there's no need to wait for your yeast to activate before mixing your sponge or dough.
  • Salt: Salt is an all-important ingredient in pretzels. Use it to flavor both the dough itself and to add crunch and taste to the surface of your soft pretzels too.
  • Butter: A bit of unsalted butter enriches the pretzel dough for a pillowy soft, tender crumb.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda is used for poaching the pretzels, not leavening the dough in this recipe. It helps build color on the pretzels while they bake.

To make these pretzels you'll need:

  • Stand mixer: I use my stand mixer to ensure the dough is fully kneaded before rising. If you don't have one, you can still make homemade pretzels with some elbow grease and a lightly floured work surface for kneading in step 1.
  • Dough hook: A dough hook is a must-have stand mixer attachment for making dough, from bread to pizza.
  • Large pot: Use a pot with a wide mouth to easily poach your pretzels.
  • Slotted spatula: This is the best tool for poaching your pretzels. It makes dropping and removing the shaped pretzels to and from the boiling water easy and mess-free.
  • Baking sheets: Use two parchment-lined baking sheets to shape and bake the pretzels.

How to make soft pretzels

This simple soft pretzel recipe has three steps. First, make a quick sponge that ferments to build a tangy sourdough-like flavor. Then, turn your sponge into a firm pretzel dough. Finally, after rising, poach your shaped pretzels in a water and baking soda mixture before baking to golden-brown perfection.

dipping soft pretzel in mustard sauce

Step 1: Make the sponge

The sponge for this pretzel recipe is as easy as it gets. Simply stir together bread flour, instant yeast, warm water, and salt until you have a uniform dough.

Let this ferment at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours. The longer it sits, the more sourdough flavor you'll have.

shaggy dough in bowl with wooden spoon, small dough ball in bowl, and proofed dough sponge in bowl

Step 2: Make the dough

When your sponge is fermented to your liking, it's time to make pretzel dough. In a stand mixer, combine the sponge, bread flour, instant yeast, warm water, salt, and butter into a smooth dough. Knead this for 5 minutes in the mixer or by hand.

This dough just needs to rise one time. Do so in an oiled mixing bowl at room temperate for 45 to 60 minutes. It should double in volume.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

dough in bowl of stand mixer, dough in glass bowl, and proofed dough in glass bowl

Step 3: Shape the pretzels

To shape your dough, divide it into 10 even balls. Keep them covered on the baking sheet when you're not using them to avoid drying out.

Roll each dough ball into a tapered rope 22-inches long. Cross the ends of the rope over each other to make a 4-inch loop. Then twist the ends once or twice and fold the twisted ends back over the loop to form a pretzel.

process shots showing how to shape pretzels

Step 4: Bake

Before baking, you'll need to quickly poach the shaped pretzels. Bring a large pot of water and baking soda to a rolling boil. Then gently lower the pretzels into the pot and poach for 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer them back to the baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Finally, bake the soft pretzels for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and chewy. Cool for 5 minutes before serving with mustard or cheese dip.

overhead close up of soft pretzels on a baking sheet with white bowl of mustard sauce

Tips for success

  1. The sponge adds a slightly tangy flavor. The longer it ferments, the more flavor the pretzels will have.
  2. Don't skip the poaching step! This is necessary to promote the signature golden-brown crust.
  3. Brush the shaped dough with melted butter or egg wash before sprinkling with salt. The butter will make the pretzels more like the famous Auntie Anne’s pretzels, while the egg wash will give the pretzels a shiny crust. These are completely optional additions to the pretzels.
  4. You can also brush hot-from-the-oven pretzels with melted butter for additional flavor.

Storing & Freezing

To store: Baked and cooled pretzels can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 3 days at room temperature.

The prepared pretzel dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Dough from the fridge can be shaped into pretzels while cold, but let the shaped pretzels sit at room temperature until they puff up before poaching and baking.

You can also cover and refrigerate the poached/unbaked pretzels for up to 24 hours before baking.

To freeze: Baked and cooled pretzels can be frozen for up to 2 months. To reheat, bake frozen pretzels at 350°F for 20 minutes or until warmed through.

The dough can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator.

Watch how to make it

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overhead of soft pretzels on a baking sheet with white bowl of mustard sauce

Soft Pretzels

Yield: 10 pretzels
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Proofing Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Homemade soft pretzels are a true treat. With a golden, crisp crust and a fluffy, doughy interior, these salty pretzels are a must-try home baking project.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • ½ cup bread flour
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons water, at 70°F
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the dough

  • 3 ⅔ cups bread flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast, 1 packet
  • 1 ¼ cup water, at 105-115°F
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • coarse salt, as needed

For the poaching liquid

  • 1 gal water
  • ¼ cup baking soda

Instructions

Make the sponge

  1. Using a wooden spoon, combine the ingredients in a medium bowl. Once incorporated, use a clean hand to knead the dough inside the bowl until the dough comes together.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for 6-12 hours.

Make the dough

  1. Place the sponge, flour, yeast, water, salt, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until well combined. Turn the speed up to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Make the poaching water

  1. Bring the water and baking soda to a full rolling boil in a large wide pot.
  2. Meanwhile, divide the dough into 10 equal-sized pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Keep dough balls covered with a lint-free cloth to prevent drying. Roll each ball of dough into 22-inch ropes, pressing to taper the ends.
  3. Shape pretzels by crossing over the ends of a rope of dough to form a 4-inch loop. Twist the ends two times. Lift the twisted ends and fold them back on the loop to make a pretzel shape. Place the shaped dough onto prepared baking sheets and keep covered with a lint-free cloth.
  4. Gently lower as many pretzels as the pot will hold in one layer. Poach for 20-30 seconds. Use a slotted spatula to remove the pretzels and allow the water to drain off. (Don't leave the pretzels longer than 30 seconds or they'll take on a metallic taste from the baking soda.)
  5. Transfer pretzels back to the prepared pans and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes until evenly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

  1. The sponge adds a slightly tangy flavor. The longer it ferments, the more flavor the pretzels will have.
  2. Don't skip the poaching step! This is necessary to promote the signature golden-brown crust.
  3. Brush the shaped dough with melted butter or egg wash before sprinkling salt. The butter will make the pretzels more like the famous Auntie Anne’s pretzels, while the egg wash will give the pretzels a shiny crust. These are completely optional additions to the pretzels.
  4. You can also brush hot-from-the-oven pretzels with melted butter for additional flavor.

Make ahead tips

  1. Baked and cooled pretzels can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 3 days.
  2. Baked and cooled pretzels can be frozen for up to 2 months. To reheat, bake frozen pretzels at 350°F for 20 minutes or until warmed through.
  3. The prepared pretzel dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Dough from the fridge can be shaped into pretzels while cold, but let the shaped pretzels sit at room temperature until they puff up before poaching and baking.
  4. The dough can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. You can cover and refrigerate the poached/unbaked pretzels for up to 24 hours before baking.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 pretzel
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 220Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 1851mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 7g

* Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy by an online nutrition calculator and is not guaranteed to be accurate. Always seek advice from a nutritionist or medical professional.

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