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What Are Pretzels?
A pretzel is a type of baked bread product made from dough and shaped into a distinctive twisted knot. The signature chewy golden brown crust is made from dipping the dough in alkaline water before baking. This process gelatinizes the outside of the pretzel and gives them a unique flavor.
7 Soft Pretzel Varieties
- Cinnamon Sugar: Try brushing warm pretzels in melted butter and rolling in a combination of sugar and ground cinnamon.
- Pretzel Buns: Pretzel buns are perfectly burnished, dense rolls that are similar to a soft pretzel but more versatile in shape. Smother with pats of butter, stuff with your favorite sandwich fixings, or enjoy them straight off the baking sheet.
- Pretzel Dogs: A pretzel dog is a soft pretzel wrapped around a hot dog or sausage, which makes a delicious on-the-go lunch or appetizer.
- Bavarian Pretzel: German soft pretzels, called Brezeln or Brezen in Germany, are soft inside and deep brown on the outside from boiling in a lye or baking soda solution before baking. German pretzels are shaped slightly different than American soft pretzels with bulging thick rounded tops and extra thin sides.
- Everything Pretzels: Similar to bagels, these pretzels are topped with aromatic everything bagel seasoning (poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and salt).
- Jalapeño Cheddar: Pretzels filled with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped jalapeños for a spicy kick.
- Sour Cream and Onion: Pretzels brushed in butter and rolled in tangy ranch seasoning mix.
How to Shape Soft Pretzels
Pretzel shapes can vary from hearts and knots to long twists and Mickey Mouse ears, but if you want to go for the classic knot shape, here’s how to do it:
- On a lightly floured surface (a clean kitchen countertop works great), shape the piece of dough into a cigar shape, then use the palms of your hands to continue rolling it back and forth on the surface. Working from the middle of the dough, gently roll outward as you lengthen the rope.
- Roll out the rope to a length of at least 18 inches or more. Take the rope ends and draw them together so the dough forms a circle. Twist the ends, then bring the ends towards yourself and press them down onto the bottom curve. Use water to wet the ends to help them stick to the dough.
7 Dips to Serve With Pretzels
- Honey Mustard: A simple 1:1 ratio of sweet honey and tangy mustard is one of the easiest dipping sauces to make at home.
- Nacho Cheese: Smooth and creamy nacho cheese is liquid gold when it comes to dipping sauces for soft pretzels.
- Hummus: Hummus is a popular Middle Eastern dip and spread that is often enjoyed with pita bread, but pretzels are another tasty option for this healthy dip.
- Ranch dressing: Like pizza crusts, pretzels make an excellent pairing for this creamy, herbaceous dip.
- Marinara: Skip the Italian breadsticks and dip your pretzels in a marinara or pomodoro sauce for a light and tangy dip.
- French Onion Dip: This creamy and rich dip is a crowd pleaser at any party. Try serving up a platter of pretzels with this addicting dip.
- Caramel: If you’re a fan of salted caramel, try dipping your pretzels into decadent caramel sauce for a sweet and savory contrast of flavors.
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Easy Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe
Prep Time1 hr 15 min
Total Time1 hr 45 min
For the Pretzels:
- 1 ½ cups warm water (110 to 115ºF)
- 1 packet instant or active dry yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled (vegetable oil works, too)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
- Pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt) for sprinkling
For the Baking Soda Bath:
- ½ cup baking soda
- 8 cups water
- In a large bowl, whisk the yeast into warm water. Allow to sit for 1 minute. Whisk in salt, sugar, and melted butter. Slowly add 4 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix with a large wooden spoon or a stand mixer with dough hook attached on low speed until dough forms, it should be smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If dough is still sticky, add ¼ cup flour or more as needed.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for 3 minutes and shape into a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm place to let the dough rise for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- With a sharp knife, cut dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a 22 to 24-inch long rope. Take the ends and draw them together so the dough forms a circle. Twist the ends, then bring the ends towards yourself and press them down onto the bottom curve. Use water to wet the ends to help them stick to the dough.
- Bring baking soda and 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop 1–2 pretzels into the boiling water, being careful not to crowd them, for 30 seconds. Using a spatula, lift the pretzel out of the water and allow excess water to drip off. Place pretzels on a prepared baking sheet and then sprinkle each with coarse pretzel salt. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
- Bake for 12–15 minutes, until golden brown. Pretzels may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.