Soft Pretzels are easier to make at home than you’d think, and taste even better than the ones you find in the mall! The simple dough is made by hand, and the pretzels bake to fluffy, chewy perfection. A baking soda bath gives them the classic pretzel flavor, and I’ve included recipe variations for sweet or savory pretzels with fun dip ideas for each.
Why you’ll love these Homemade Soft Pretzels:
- Easy Recipe – Although we are working with yeast, this recipe is simple enough for even bread baking newbies!
- Taste Like Mall Pretzels – My homemade version tastes just as good as the soft pretzels you get in the mall!
- Customizable Flavors – Make your pretzels the classic way, with salt, or brush them with melted butter out of the oven and coat them in cinnamon sugar!
As always, the full recipe with measurements & directions can be found at the bottom of this post.
- Butter – I always use salted buter for the best flavor, but feel free to use unsalted butter if you prefer.
- Milk – I use 2% milk (this is what we always keep on hand). However, I think whole or skim milk would be fine as well.
- Yeast – Use instant yeast (or rapid rise yeast), not active dry yeast.
- Brown Sugar – Brown sugar helps give the classic flavor to our pretzel dough, and provides sugar for the yeast to feed on. Do not omit this!
- Salt – Salt provides flavor!
- All-Purpose Flour – Spoon your flour into the measuring cup, then level it with a flat utensil for best results, or use a scale. Scooping the measuring cup directly into your flour will lead to too much flour, and a potentially dry bake.
- Egg – A beaten egg makes our egg wash – this is brushed on the dough before baking to help them bake up to a deep golden brown, and give a nice shine.
- Dairy-free – Use your favorite, trusted dairy-free milk and butter.
- Gluten-free – I have not tested these with any gluten-free flour.
How to Make this Soft Pretzel Recipe Step-by-Step:
Step 1: Make the Dough. Whisk together the melted butter, yeast, sugar, and warm milk. Stir in the flour and salt until a shaggy dough forms.
Step 2: Knead Dough & Let it Rise. Knead the dough on a floured countertop for 4-5 minutes. It will smooth out as you knead and will spring back when lightly indented with a fingertip. Place the ball of dough back in the (greased!) mixing bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Step 3: Divide Dough & Shape Pretzels. Slice the risen dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each one out into a long rope with your hands. Then, lay the rope in a large “U” shape, and cross the ends over each other twice. Bring this twisted part back down over the curve of the “U” and you have a classic pretzel twist! Repeat with each piece of dough. (See step-by-step images below the next image.)
Step 4: Baking Soda Bath. Drop the pretzels, 2-3 at a time, into a large pot of boiling water (not warm water – boiling!) & baking soda for about 30 seconds. This gives that classic pretzel taste!
Step 5: Egg Wash & Bake. Place the twists on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash (for deep golden color & shine!) and sprinkle with salt, if using. Bake as directed in the recipe card below.
Serving + Storing this Recipe:
Enjoy these soft pretzels while they’re fresh & piping hot from the oven! Brush with melted butter if desired, and finish with any other toppings/dips you like. See suggestions for flavor variations by scrolling just a few sections down from here.
Expert Success Tips for Homemade Pretzels:
- Oven Thermometer – An oven thermometer will tell you if your oven is actually running at the temperature you set it to. Your oven may not be accurate. Accurate oven temperature is crucial for most bakes, so I leave an oven thermometer in at all times to keep an eye on my oven’s calibration.
- Kitchen Scale – A food scale is the best way to make sure your flour is at the proper weight, since amounts will vary SO widely based on how you measure it, as well as the measuring cup you use, as they are not standardized.
- Dough Rising – When it comes to yeasted breads like this one, the most important thing to remember is that your dough should double in size during the rise time – this takes precedence over the approximate rise time! This could take less than one hour on a hot summer day, or if your home/kitchen runs quite warm. This could also take longer than one hour on a cold day or if your home runs quite cold. Mine took 60-65 minutes on a cloudy winter day, but our house sits around 67-69 degrees.
Yes you can do either! If you double the recipe, I would work with just 4-5 pieces of dough at a time while shaping the pretzels, and keep the other sliced dough pieces on a parchment-paper lined pan, covered with a kitchen towel, in the fridge. This will prevent them from rising too much since it will take you more time to work through a double quantity of the dough.
You can make the dough, shape the pretzels, and then refrigerate the shaped pretzels on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, covered well with plastic wrap for up to 24 hours. Do NOT do the baking soda bath and egg wash until you’re ready to bake them.
They will be puffy and a deep golden brown. If in doubt, use an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a large pretzel to check the temperature. When baked, the pretzels will be between 200 degrees F and 210 degrees F. I pulled mine from the oven at 205 degrees F.
- Classic Salty – Brush with egg wash and add coarse salt for a classic pretzel. Serve with cheese sauce, or with my Beer Cheese Soup!
- Cinnamon Sugar – Brush the baked pretzels with melted butter and coat in cinnamon sugar for a sweet variation. Serve with chocolate sauce or cream cheese dip!
- Garlic Parmesan – Bake the pretzels with egg wash and no salt. Brush the baked twists with butter, then dip in a mixture of grated parmesan, Italian Seasoning, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt. Serve with marinara sauce.
- Cheddar Jalapeño – After egg-washing, press a few jalapeño slices into the top of each pretzel. Sprinkle on a little pretzel salt, then sprinkle a little shredded cheddar cheese on top of that, and bake as directed.
- Pizza Pretzels – After egg-washing, press a few small pepperoni slices (buy mini ones, or cut regular pepperoni into smaller pieces) into the top of each pretzel. Sprinkle on a little pretzel salt, then sprinkle a little shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese on top of that, and bake as directed.
- Plain – Feel free to just brush on the egg wash and skip the salt and cinnamon sugar if you prefer plain soft pretzels.
- Slotted Flipper – Use a slotted spatula or a fish spatula (so versatile!) to lower and remove your pretzels from the baking soda bath. This allows extra liquid to drain out.
- Pretzel Salt – I like to buy salt specifically made for pretzels – the crystals in this pretzel salt are just the right size. Pretzel salt crystals are not too large and not too small. I think regular coarse salt found in the grocery store may be in too large of pieces – you could purchase that however, and try breaking the pieces up by crushing them in a plastic baggie with a rolling pin.
- Instant Read Thermometer – An instant read thermometer tells you if your warmed milk is the correct temperature, and can help you ensure your pretzels are baked to perfection!
More Fun Snack Recipes to Love:
- Classic Puppy Chow
- Edible Cookie Dough Bites
- Homemade Chocolate Bark (Customizable!)
- Cheddar Cheese Stuffed Soft Pretzels
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups
Did you make this recipe? Snap a photo and leave a comment!
Easiest Soft Pretzels, Two Ways
For the Pretzel Dough
- 3 tbsp salted butter, melted
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm milk (100℉ to 110℉)
- 3 and 1/4 tsp instant yeast Also called "rapid rise yeast"
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
For the Baking Soda Bath
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 9 cups water
For Topping & Baking
- 1 large egg, for egg wash
- pretzel salt Or coarse sea salt
- melted butter
- cinnamon sugar
- garlic parmesan seasoning
- Make the Dough: Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk to a 2-cup glass measuring cup and warm in the microwave in 15-20 second intervals, stirring between each. It should be warm but not super hot – when in doubt, check for 100 to 110℉ with an instant thermometer. Add the warm milk to the bowl of butter, along with the yeast, brown sugar, and salt. Whisk well, then stir in the flour last. You'll have a shaggy dough. Flour your counter, and dump the dough out. Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes. It will smooth out during this time, and the dough should spring back when gently poked with your fingertip. Shape it into a ball (doesn't need to be perfect!). Give the mixing bowl a light spray with nonstick spray (no need to clean it out first) and place the dough back into the mixing bowl, covered with a clean kitchen towel, to rise for 1 hour.(Note: The main thing to look for is that the dough has doubled in size – even if it takes less or more than 1 hour. Rise time will vary with the temperature of your home.)
- Prep for baking: Preheat your oven to 450° F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Beat the egg in a small bowl (this will be your egg wash). Add your baking soda and water to a large pot or dutch oven and whisk together. Bring this to a boil while you shape the pretzels.
- Fill and Shape the Pretzels: Once the dough has doubled in size, dump it onto the counter (don't use flour this time) and gently press down into an oval that's about 9 inches across. Slice this into quarters with a sharp knife (give it a quick spritz of nonstick spray to prevent any sticking) and then slice each quarter into thirds, giving you 12 thin triangles of dough total. (Each should be between 80-90 grams, if you want to check your work). Keep the other dough pieces covered with the kitchen towel while you work, and begin with one – rolling it out on the counter with both hands, like a rope, starting in the middle and working your hands outwards, repeating as needed until the rope is 18-22 inches long. Then, shape it into a "U." Pick up the ends and cross them over each other twice, then bring them down to meet the bottom of the "U" – you just shaped a pretzel! Repeat with 3 more pieces of dough, so you have a batch of four pretzels. We'll get those baking, then repeat the process with the remaining sections of dough.
- Baking Soda Bath: Drop the filled and shaped pretzels, 2-3 at a time, into the boiling baking soda bath. Leave them in for 20-30 seconds, then remove promptly with a slotted spoon, leaving behind excess liquid, and place them on a prepared baking sheet (you should be able to fit 4 per sheet).Note: Too long in the baking soda bath can leave an odd taste.
- Bake: Brush this batch of four pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt (if using). Bake for 10-12 minutes. They will be a deep golden brown when done. An instant thermometer inserted into the center of the pretzel should read 200-210℉. While this batch bakes, repeat with the next batch of four pretzels, and then repeat one final time with the last 4 pretzels.
- Serve + Store: For Salted Pretzels: Brush the baked pretzels with melted butter when they're fresh out of the oven, and enjoy immediately! Serve savory pretzels with cheese dip. For Cinnamon Sugar or Garlic Parmesan Pretzels: For these flavors, brush hot pretzels with melted butter then coat in cinnamon sugar or a mixture of grated parmesan (the powdery kind), garlic powder, and Italian seasoning (pour it onto a plate, and dunk the pretzels in). Serve cinnamon sugar pretzels with a cream cheese dip (cream cheese + powdered sugar + milk + vanilla to taste), and serve garlic parm ones with a marinara dipping sauce. These are absolutely best while they're fresh from the oven, although they can be gently reheated as the day goes on. However, once the first day passes they will not be as good. This is a food that was truly intended to be eaten on the first day. Reheating them in the oven on the 2nd day does help, but seriously – just eat them on the first day!Tip: The best way to coat the cinnamon sugar and garlic parm pretzels is to put the coating in a shallow bowl and swirl the buttery pretzel around in it.