Homemade Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels need that dark brown crust and I'll show you a few ways to do it. We'll make a super soft pretzel dough the creates a cottony soft interior and for the brown crusty exterior, we'll experiment with different alkaline solutions.

Homemade Soft Pretzel Dough

Yield: 10-12 large pretzels

  • 1 1/3 cups (296g) warm tap water (about 110-115F/43-46C)
  • 1.5 teaspoons (5g) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons (29g) white granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups (540g) unbleached all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 3.5 tablespoons (49g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons diastatic malt powder (optional, but makes your pretzels browner and softer in the middles)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I use Diamond Kosher)

  1. Note: If you're using the "baked baking soda", perform the baking of that baking soda at this step (or earlier and just keep the sodium carbonate in an airtight jar), which is outlined in the "baked" baking soda instructions below this set. If not, just proceed with making your dough in step 2, below.
  2. To a large mixing bowl, add the warm tap water, yeast, and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, you should see the yeast rise to the top a little and some bubbling. This step is to just make sure our yeast is alive and ready to use for our bread.
  3. Add the flour, melted butter, diastatic malt powder, and kosher salt. I use my dough hook and then my hands to form the dough into a shaggy ball. If you're kneading by hand just form the dough into a ball.
  4. We're now going to develop structure (gluten) in the dough by kneading. I use my Kitchenaid mixer on the 3 setting for about 10 minutes. You can also do this manually on the counter by hand if you like for the same amount of time.
  5. Place your dough back into the mixing bowl with a bit of oil and coat the bowl and ball of dough very lightly. Allow this to rise in a warm spot for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size. (For reference, I have a proofing setting on my oven and after an hour at 85F it has doubled in size in my bowl.)
  6. Meanwhile, line two trays with parchment paper and lightly brush them with oil.
  7. Place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat the oven to 425F/218C.
  8. Place your dough onto your counter and press out the air a little. It has a good amount of butter in there and is not an incredibly sticky dough so it should not stick to your counter, but if it does, you can add a light dusting of flour. Divide your dough into 10-12 individual balls. Cover with plastic wrap so they don't dry out.
  9. To make a pretzel shape, form the letter "U". Take the two legs and cross two times, then pull the legs down over the base of the "U". Lay your pretzels on your greased sheets.
  10. Cover and let it rest for another 30 minutes to proof just a little to get a nice and airy interior. Proceed with your choice of wash below. (Watch the video above to determine which bath is best for you.)

Baking Soda + Room Temperature Water Pretzel Bath

  • 1/4 cup (72g) baking soda
  • 4 cups or 1L of room temp water
  • Coarse or pretzel salt (optional)
  1. Add your baking soda and water to a large bowl. Whisk until the baking soda dissolves. (You may not be able to dissolve it all due to the water being cool.)
  2. Dip your pretzels in the bath using either your hands or a slotted spoon for 30 seconds, flipping once during this time.
  3. Drain and place back onto your greased parchment lined baking sheets.
  4. Sprinkle with pretzel or coarse salt, if desired.
  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until the pretzels are a golden brown.

Baking Soda + Boiling Water Pretzel Bath

  • 8 cups or about 2L of room temp water
  • 1/2 cup (144g) baking soda
  • Coarse or pretzel salt (optional)
  1. In a large saucepan or pot with a wide opening (to accommodate one or more pretzels) bring your water to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer.
  2. Slowly pour in your baking soda and whisk until completely dissolved.
  3. Dip your pretzels in the bath using a slotted spoon for 30 seconds, flipping once during this time.
  4. Drain and place back onto your greased parchment lined baking sheets.
  5. Sprinkle with pretzel or coarse salt, if desired.
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until the pretzels are a golden brown.

"Baked" Baking Soda + Boiling Water Pretzel Bath

  • about 1 cup (288g) of baking soda
  • 8 cups or about 2L of room temp water
  • Coarse or pretzel salt (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F/175C.
  2. Line a large baking tray with foil and pour on your baking soda. Bake for 90 minutes. Because of the water evaporation, it will be about 1/3 less heavy and seem a little more "powdery". It will also have a clean smell - this is why it's called washing soda :) Set this aside to cool. You will have extra, about enough to make three baths, listed below, so you can keep the excess in an airtight jar until you're ready to use it.
  3. In a large saucepan or pot with a wide opening (to accommodate one or more pretzels) bring your water to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer.
  4. Slowly pour in your baked baking soda and whisk until completely dissolved.
  5. Dip your pretzels in the bath using a slotted spoon for 30 seconds, flipping once during this time.
  6. Drain and place back onto your greased parchment lined baking sheets.
  7. Sprinkle with pretzel or coarse salt, if desired.
  8. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until the pretzels are a golden brown.

Lye Pretzel Bath

  • 21g Food grade sodium hydroxide
  • 2 cups (1/2L) of cold water
  • Coarse or pretzel salt (optional)

NOTE: Sodium hydroxide is a caustic chemical. Please keep away from children and pets. Read all labels thoroughly before starting any work with it.

Here is a helpful link from King Arthur Flour that should get you acquainted with lye.
In addition, here is the Safety Data Sheet if you need more info regarding sodium hydroxide.

  1. Please watch the video of me making my pretzels using lye so you have an idea of what to do.
  2. Safety first. Make sure you have long sleeves, nitrile or rubber gloves, googles for your eyes, and a bag to cover your countertop.
  3. Weigh out the sodium hydroxide. I use a cupcake liner. Set that aside.
  4. Pour your cold water into a non-reactive (stainless steel or glass) bowl or tray.
  5. Slowly pour your sodium hydroxide into the water (Never add water to sodium hydroxide as this can cause splashes.) whisking until it's dissolved. This is an exothermic reaction, meaning it gives off heat, so you may feel some warmth on your bowl. This is normal.
  6. Dip your pretzels in the bath using a slotted spoon for 30 seconds, flipping once during this time.
  7. Drain and place back onto your greased parchment lined baking sheets.
  8. Sprinkle with pretzel or coarse salt, if desired.
  9. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until the pretzels are a golden brown.

Meet Adriana

Hello, I'm Adriana, a science and tech nerd that loves to create helpful resources for home bakers. This is home the Cakeculator and a recipe repository for all my baking vids you find on YouTube/Tiktok/Instagram. Hope you have fun around here!

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