How to Make Soft Pretzels

This soft, chewy snack is a staple at German beer halls and breweries, but why make the trip when it's this easy to learn how to make soft pretzels at home?

Homemade soft pretzels are a real treat. That chewy texture is ideal for dipping into mustard, and having a few around is a great excuse to whip up your favorite cheese dip. Sadly, their soft feel doesn’t last forever, and they always taste best when they’re freshly baked. Good thing it’s super easy to learn how to make soft pretzels at home—especially if you have a bread machine.

Why do you boil pretzels in baking soda?

It might seem like we added a really weird step in this recipe: boiling each pretzel in a baking soda bath before baking them in the oven. But it’s super important. The brief dip in this alkaline solution changes the pH of the outside of the pretzel, an essential step to giving the pretzel its crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside characteristic. It also helps the pretzel achieve a golden brown color. Without it, the pretzels would look light in color (like bagels) after they cook.

How do you keep pretzels fresh overnight?

We definitely recommend making pretzels the day of your event; they taste much better that way. You can store them overnight wrapped in a dishcloth and placed in an airtight plastic bag, but they will be a little soggy and lackluster the next day. Try reviving them using our stale bread technique, or embrace the leftovers. Turn them into pretzel chips, French toast casserole or hack one of our favorite leftover sandwich bread recipes.

How to Make Soft Pretzels

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water (70 °F to 80 °F)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Additional ingredients:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Coarse salt

Yield: 8 pretzels

Instructions

Step 1: Mix the dough

If you’re using a bread machine, place the dough ingredients—the water, flour, brown sugar and active dry yeast—in the machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select the dough setting and start mixing, checking the dough after five minutes to see if it’s the right consistency. If it’s too sticky or dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour as needed. Let the cycle fully run before moving on.

It’s just as easy without a bread machine. Simply place the water, flour, brown sugar and active dry yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Knead with the dough hook for 5 minutes, or by hand for 10 minutes. Place the dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a damp towel. Let it rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Editor’s Tip: Once the dough has risen, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Just make sure to let it come back to room temperature before moving on to the next steps.

Step 2: Divide and shape

When the bread machine cycle is completed or the hand-mixed dough has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eight balls and cover them with a damp towel so they don’t dry out.

Working one at a time, roll each ball into a 20-inch rope, using your palms to roll from the center outwards to create an even-shaped rope from end to end. Pick up the ends with your fingers and form the rope into a large U-shape. Cross one end over the other once or twice and bring the twisted ends down towards the bottom of the U-shaped curve. It’s okay if the ends slightly overlap over the bottom dough. Press the ends lightly into the dough to secure them in place, using a splash of water if the dough is too dry to stick.

Place the formed pretzel on a lightly floured surface to keep it from sticking as you work on the remaining shapes. After you form one or two, you can move on to the next step and come back to form more pretzels if counter space is an issue.

Editor’s Tip: Instead of creating the traditional pretzel shape, you can also cut them into 1-inch pieces and make pretzel bites!

Step 3: Boil and bake

Preheat the oven to 425 °F and lightly grease a baking sheet. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the remaining water and baking soda to a boil. Drop the pretzels in the water one or two at a time, and boil them for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove each pretzel with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Place the dried pretzels on the baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt, to taste. Repeat until all the pretzels are boiled.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 10 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

Editors Tip: Turn these pretzels into a sweet treat by brushing them with melted butter before sprinkling on cinnamon sugar. Or, go extra-savory and coat them with everything bagel spice.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.