Most of us are familiar with soft pretzels as a fast-food treat item, the kind of thing you buy at the fair or while you’re walking around a tourist town. Now, many of those pretzels are actually pretty good (though usually drenched in things that are not so good for you!), though the flash-frozen and reheated ones can be rather dry. I know that this is how I thought of them until midway through high school when a friend said “Oh, and while you’re over, why don’t we make soft pretzels?” We did, and I was surprised at how easy and fun it was. Plus, they’re really quite tasty! I fell even more in love with the very fresh and chewy pretzel while traveling through Germany, where the street-sellers’ pretzels put most every soft pretzel purchased in the US to shame (useful note: If you’re ever in the Munich train station, get the mustard with your pretzel. It’s REALLY GOOD. Of course, the German mustard served with pretzels, and sausages I suppose, is just really really really tasty.)

So, here is the recipe I use to make pretzels. Credit should be given to that high school friend, Betsy, for introducing me to this recipe, which is especially wonderful because it is designed to be done with a stand mixer (easy street!) :-). Don’t worry, though, if you don’t have one it’s perfectly simple to do by hand too.

Soft Pretzels — yields 8 good-sized pretzels


  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (yeast temperature, that is, appx. 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or honey, for those who must avoid sugar at all costs, but honey doesn’t activate the yeast as well)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (coarse salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one package)
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup (half a standard stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 cups water (yes, you actually need to measure in this case)
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk + 1 TBS water, beaten together (a baking glaze)


1. Combine the warm water, sugar/honey, and 2 tsp coarse salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you’re doing this by hand) and give it a stir. Sprinkle the yeast in and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast begins to foam (activates).

2. Once the yeast is activated add the flour and melted butter. Using the dough hook attachment on your mixer, mix on a low speed until well combined. Just mix until well combined if mixing by hand :D.

3. Once combined, either increase mixer speed to medium and “knead” until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, or turn the dough out on to a greased kneading surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Once the dough is kneaded place it in a well oiled bowl (I just wipe out the mixer bowl and then oil it a bit rather than get a whole ‘nother dish dirty), cover and let sit in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

4. After the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the 10 cups of water into a 6-8 quart sauce pan and mix in the baking soda and put this on to come to a rolling boil. Also, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease them (I just spray them with Pam). The parchment paper really is needed here. Also, it’s best if the sheets don’t have edges.

5. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface (like your counter top) and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough until it is about 24 inches long. Make a “U” shape with the dough rope, cross the ends over and gently press those ends and the center cross together to form the traditional pretzel shape. Do with all 8 pieces, so that you have 8 raw pretzels.

6. Place the pretzels 1 by 1 into the boiling soda-water and let them bob along in there for 30 seconds (no longer or they’ll get gross and mushy). Fish them out (try not to take too much water along–I use a slotted spatula and gently shake off the pretzel and spatula over the pot) and set them on the parchment paper covered sheets. This is called the “soda bath” and it’ll give the pretzels their distinctive chewy outer crust (this same type of technique is used to give bagels their chewy crust).

7. Once all the pretzels have had their soda bath, brush them with the egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle as much coarse salt as you’d like onto as many of them as you’d like at this point (I usually put quite a bit on all of them, but that’s my taste). Put the pretzels in the preheated oven and bake for 12-14 minutes or until a nice dark golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and let sit at least 5 minutes before eating (in my opinion, though, they are best warm, so don’t wait too long!).

These do reheat okay for a couple of days, though they reheat better in the oven than the microwave (but it’ll do in a pinch). They’re also not half bad cold. Enjoy!