These are the best homemade soft pretzels I’ve ever made and they are well worth the time it takes to make them. In this post, I share all of my tips so you can make them, too!
These soft pretzels are so good, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a soft pretzel again. I’ve made soft pretzels a few times before this, but haven’t been happy with the results. The biggest problem with homemade soft pretzels is that they don’t always taste as great the next day or they don’t bake up as puffy as the ones you can buy.
Unhappy with my previous experiments, I tried a recipe for homemade soft pretzels from Alton Brown. Baby bro’s girlfriend helped me make them and we were so happy with the results! We learned a lot about how to make delicious soft pretzels that remind us of the ones we usually buy. Plus, they reheat and freeze well!
How to Make Homemade Pretzels
Homemade soft pretzels are so fun to make and I’m excited to share all of my best tips for making them. Like I mentioned, now that I know how to make them, I don’t think I’ll ever buy one again!
Making pretzels is a lot like making traditional bagels. The dough is similar and both are boiled for a short time before they are baked. Like bagels, these soft pretzels are made with yeast so it’s a good idea to plan ahead since they need time to rise before you bake them.
- I used my stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to make the dough. Start by combining water, sugar, and kosher salt in the bowl of the mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and leave it for five minutes. The mixture will start to foam which indicates that the yeast is activated.
- Add the flour and butter and mix them with the yeast mixture until they are well combined. To knead the bread, adjust the speed to medium. Let the mixer knead the dough until the dough turns smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. This usually takes about four to five minutes.
- At this point, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. I actually just cleaned my stand mixer bowl and oiled it, but you can also use a separate bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes or until it’s doubled in size.
How to Shape Pretzels
Once the dough has risen you can shape the pretzels. The original recipe makes eight really big pretzels, but I prefer smaller ones so we made 16 pretzels.
- Before you shape the pretzels, get your water boiling for the pretzels. You will need 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda. This solution is critical for achieving the right kind of crust and flavor for your pretzels. While the water comes to a boil you can shape the pretzels.
- Prepare two half-sheet baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper and lightly oiling them.
- Lightly oil your work surface and divide the dough into 16 pieces (or 8 if you want really big pretzels).
- If making smaller pretzels, roll each piece of dough into a rope shape approximately 12-inches long. For the big pretzels, roll each into a rope approximately 24-inches long.
- Take one of the ropes and place it so it forms a “U’ shape. Take one end in each hand and cross them over each other and press the ends onto the bottom of the “U” to make the pretzel shape.
- Place the pretzel on the prepared baking sheet and repeat the process with the rest of the dough.
Boil the Pretzels
What gives soft pretzels their distinctive texture and flavor is a quick dip in a pot of boiling water with baking soda. The baking soda water will help the pretzels puff up, give them a crusty exterior and that distinctive soft pretzel taste. I can’t stress enough how important this step is – if you skip it your pretzels won’t be as good as they can be. I’ve made pretzels following a recipe that suggested just hot water and it didn’t work, so be sure your water is at a rolling boil.
It helps to have a large flat spatula to move the pretzels to and from the water. You want to boil them one at a time and only add the next one after the one before it has been removed.
You only need to boil the pretzels for 30 seconds each. So, for a batch of 16 smaller pretzels, it will only take eight minutes to complete the step. For larger pretzels, it only takes four minutes. You can place the boiled pretzels on the same sheet pan.
Pretzel Salt and Other Toppings
Before you add any salt or other toppings, you’ll want to brush each pretzel with an egg wash which will help create a beautiful golden color once they bake. It will also help whatever you sprinkle over the top stick to the pretzel.
As far as toppings, I prefer my pretzels plain but at this point, you can sprinkle them with pretzel salt, which is a large-grain coarse salt. If you can’t find it you can substitute kosher salt, which is similar.
There are other ways to flavor your pretzels like sprinkling them with cinnamon-sugar for a sweet version or sprinkling them with “everything bagel” seasonings or other savory flavors. Since making these plain pretzels I’ve also made Cinnamon Pumpkin Soft Pretzels which are a sweet fall twist on the original.
Baking the Pretzels
The smaller pretzels only take six to seven minutes to bake at 450°F and the large ones take about 12 minutes. Bake them until they turn golden brown.
Enjoy them warm from the oven with a dipping sauce like honey mustard, nacho cheese sauce or for a sweet treat try dipping them in melted chocolate or even peanut butter! Or, enjoy them plain like I did. They’re delicious all on their own!
Short on time? Try my No Yeast (2-Ingredient) Soft Pretzels or for a low-carb option try my Keto Soft Pretzel Bites.
Best Homemade Soft Pretzels
- 1 1/2 cups warm 110-115°F water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour approximately 4 1/2 cups
- 2 ounces unsalted butter melted
- Vegetable oil for pan
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel salt optional
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar and kosher salt. Sprinkle the yeast on top and leave it for five minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately four to five minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, clean it, and then coat the inside of the bowl vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450° F (232°C). Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush them with vegetable oil. Combine the water and baking soda in an 8-quart pot and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.
While the water comes to boil prepare the dough by first transferring it to a work surface coated lightly with oil. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces (or 16 if you want smaller pretzels). Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (12 inches for smaller pretzels). Make a U-shape with the rope and, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place them on the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Boil the pretzels, one at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula and transfer them back to the sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the pretzels.
Brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with the pretzel salt, if using. Bake the pretzels for twelve minutes (or six to seven minutes for small pretzels), or until they golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for five minutes before serving.