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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tips for success
- The sponge adds a slightly tangy flavor. The longer it ferments, the more flavor the pretzels will have.
- Don't skip the poaching step! This is necessary to promote the signature golden-brown crust.
- 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.
- 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.