Soft Pretzels

This is not the first time these soft pretzels have appeared on the blog.  Almost exactly one year ago, I hosted a summer fun and games night for my friends, and I served these pretzels.  They were a huge hit!  At that time, I mentioned that it might be a good idea to experimenting with freezing the pretzels at some point in the process to avoid having to make them fresh just before a party, therefore making them more party-friendly.  In case you haven’t noticed, I tend to keep myself fairly busy in the kitchen, and I never got around to the pretzel experiments, but I also never forgot.  Finally I decided to just buckle down and make it happen.

So, recently I tried three different methods of making the pretzels.  First, I made them the usual way – shaping the dough, boiling, baking and serving all at once (pretzel A).  I also tried freezing some that had been freshly boiled and baked (pretzel B).  I thawed these in the microwave on defrost and then rewarmed in the oven.  Finally, I tried freezing some of the shaped pretzels after shaping (pretzel C).  I boiled these directly from the freezer, adding about 15 seconds to the boiling time, and baking for a minute or two longer than normal.

The verdict?  All three methods work wonderfully.  Ben and I agreed that of the two pretzels that had been frozen, those that were boiled directly from the freezer and then baked (pretzel C) were just ever so slightly better in texture than those that had been frozen after baking. That said, all of the options were fantastic and I would not hesitate to serve any of them at the party.  That is fantastic news, so you can choose whatever option is most convenient for your schedule.  I have left the recipe below as is, but just know that you have several prep choices available.

Soft Pretzels
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For the dough:
1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl

For finishing:
Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

To make the dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.

In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.

Working with one piece at a time, roll a segment out into a 24-inch long rope.

Make a U-shape with the rope and holding the ends of the rope…

cross them over each other and onto the bottom of the U-shape in order to form the shape of a pretzel.  Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and return to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Alton Brown via Food Network

53 Responses

  1. Thank you for this! We’ve been slightly obsessed with these pretzels since you posted the recipe last year. It’s great to know how they can be frozen! I make some of the batch half-sized and they are perfect for my 4 year old! We also eat them with spicy mustard (like at The Rathskeller, but not so hot) and have found that Silver Springs brand mustard (I think it’s the Beer ‘n Brat variety) is our favorite.

  2. that is good to know! soft pretzles are my sister’s favorite food and i really need to try to make them

  3. These look awesome! I love pretzels. My kids and I get the ones at Sam’s all the time from the snack counter. I love your website. Just stumbled across it the other day.

  4. Ok this I’ve done before, and my kids loved to help with this!

  5. Always wanted to try making these…everyone in our house adore them. A nice spicy mustard to serve along side. Mmmm!

  6. I need to try these! I found another soft pretzel recipe about 6 months ago on another blog, and it was horrible.

    I’m determined to make some decent soft pretzels before this year is up!

  7. Thank you for sharing this again with the tips for making ahead/freezing. I find this kind of information extremely helpful, especially since I’ve gone back to work full-time, and most of my cooking/baking has to be done ahead of time.

  8. I love soft pretzels, and have always wanted to try making them! These look so good, I will just have to make them myself!

  9. So funny, I have been sitting on a blog post that is almost exactly like this. Pretzels are the best “back-to-school” food EVER! I have a different, sweeter recipe, but you can’t beat Alton’s methodology, he really has the science down.

    I was just about to make a BIG batch this weekend to freeze so I am thoroughly thrilled that you posted this with your tips.

    {Btw, your pretzels look to perfect. I want to see the “real” ones!}

  10. So funny, the next blog post I’m working on is this same recipe – so glad to hear that they freeze well because I was thinking about trying that out this weekend if I make some more.

  11. We were at a baseball game the other day and the first vendor we saw was a pretzel person. We didn’t buy one but talked about it the whole time… Now my mouth is watering and I wish I would’ve done it. Even if I had too much of the other goodness…


  12. Love these! Maybe I will make them this weekend when I have the extra time. They are such a great back-to-school recipe, great for the lunch box!

  13. These pretzels look great, thanks for letting us know how well they freeze!
    Quick question, where did you purchase your baking mat (where you roll your dough out)? Thanks!

  14. I probably wouldn’t make these myself, but I sure would like to have one of yours!

  15. Oh yum…being the carb lovers that we are we’re always up for some big chewy soft pretzels! We will definitely give these a try…yum yum yum.

  16. These are on my list for making this weekend. I am very new to making bread and as I found with the buns I made last weekend, I had a heck of a time dividing into equal parts. I know this is a newbie question but what method do you use for dividing into equal parts? I would use a scale but its not like dough appreciates have bits torn or added to it. I was rather disturbed with my assortment of mismatched buns.

    Thanks, Kelly

    • I use my scale, and I have no problem with tearing bits off/adding to other dough balls. You should reshape the balls afterward anyway.

  17. Annie,
    I’m confused. Of the two from your freezer, which one was better, the one that you cooked directly from the freezer or the one that you baked, then froze. I wanted to make this for my husband’s birthday party next weekend.
    I think I was confused with the labeling of ‘b’ and ‘c’.

  18. Gorgeous!

  19. It’s just a little bit cool here this morning, the first hint that we’ve had that fall might be coming. I think that these soft pretzels would be the absolute greatest thing for a fall party. I grew up in Cincinnati, where soft pretzels are food for the soul. Here in Colorado, you find them at malls (meh) and upscale brewpubs ($$). I’ll be making these really soon.
    On another note, this is yet another reason that I really should get a chest freezer. Your blog is full of examples of how to use them to save time and money. I HATE my side-by-side fridge/freezer. That freezer is too small!
    Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, once again…

  20. You won’t believe when I tell you that I was just yesterday thinking about freezing these pretzels and wondered if you had any tips. I’ve made these pretzels at least a handful of times and they are always a hit. I’m having a tailgate this weekend and wanted to make the pretzels but didn’t want too much fuss Saturday morning. Perfect timing and can’t wait to try it out. Thanks!

  21. Soft pretzels are so much fun, and yours look fantastic! Thank you for that helpful guide to shaping them, as well. I made them a few months ago and they were unlike any ballpark pretzel I’d ever had! Great job on these, and cute photo of your wedding rings sitting by the side, haha!

  22. How timely! Yesterday I was looking up pretzel recipes because I want to make pretzel rolls or pretzel buns for a bratwurst/kraut/mustard sandwich. I knew we wouldn’t be able to eat 8 whole rolls but I didn’t know how well the pretzel dough freezes. Thanks!

    Now I just wonder if this recipe would work for buns instead of pretzels…

  23. Wonderful, Annie! Soft pretzels are on my 30. I know which recipe I’ll be using!

  24. These look great! Your recipes and photos are awesome! Keep doing what your doing, I really enjoy reading what you have to say. I blog as well at Saffron & Semper Fi, mainly recipes, photos and what not. Maybe you can check it out sometime? Thanks!

  25. Thank you! this looks really fun to try….especially with winter coming!

    So it was Pretzel C, not B……?

  26. These look SO good!! I’m definitely adding this to my list of “to make”!! (It is getting REALLY long 🙂 I just made pizza bites last week and they were SO good!! Thanks for all of the great recipes!

  27. Thank you so much! Last year, I spent the entire morning before our annual Oktoberfest party making a pretzel mess in my kitchen (since I know they taste best fresh baked). They were a hit, but I was thinking of just skipping them altogether this year since it was such a hassle. Now I can prepare early!!

  28. We recently ate at Hannah’s Bretzel in Chicago ( and loved the bread for their delicious sandwiches. I see someone else already commented about wondering if this recipe would make good rolls. Any thoughts?

  29. I am so excited to see this recipe! I signed on today specifically looking for a pretzel recipe and look what I see for today’s post! 🙂

  30. Thanks for taking one for the team and conducting this important research! I’m sure having all those pretzels around was just horrible. 🙂

  31. quick yeast question….
    I have never worked with instant yeast. Its different than fast active dry yeast, right?
    I checked for instant yeast at my grocery store and walmart and could not find it.
    Thanks for all the great recipies!

  32. i saw this recipe yesterday, and after baking and candy making all day, i ended up making these! this recipe totally replaces my previous recipe as this yields exactly the type of pretzel i envision as the best. i’m thinking these would also be great as bite sized pieces with a chedder mustard sauce. yum-o

  33. Great recipe! Saw it on FoodGawker. I checked it out to see if differed from my favorite soft pretzel recipe. (No major changes from mine.)
    You might try freezing the pretzels after boiling, but before baking. I have the best luck that way (works well with bagels, too!)
    Keep up the good work!

  34. Annie- any tips on adapting this to a freezable pretzel dog recipe? I am thinking make dough through first rise, wrap around dog, freeze, then boil for 1 min (dough-dog ensemble) and bake? Have you done this??? I’m having a birthday party for my daughter and thought it’d be a nice twist. (for birthday luncheons, as a rule, we serve hot dogs on a spool…..)

  35. These were so easy and such a big hit! They were exactly like baseball stadium pretzels, and I just still can’t believe how easy they were.

  36. I just used this dough to make stuffed pretzels last night and it turned out fantastic! This dough is so easy to work with!

    A quick question for you — when you unfroze your “B” pretzels, how long did you defrost for in the microwave and on what settings and for how low did you put them in the oven? Thanks!

  37. Annie, these are absolutely fantastic. I didn’t have a mixer at the boyfriend’s house, so we did these by hand and they were still really easy.

  38. Could margarine be used instead of unsalted butter if in a pinch?

    • That’s your call, but I never use margarine for anything.

      • I’m going to make these for my daughter’s Halloween party at school. One of her classmates is allergic to all sorts of things, including dairy and eggs. I’m going to substitute Earth Balance for butter (it’s basically vegan margarine) and leave off the egg wash on his pretzel. I’ll report back and let you know how they turn out. I’m sure I’ll miss the buttery flavor, but it’s worth it not to have a kid go into anaphylactic shock. 🙂

  39. Any feedback on how long these stay good when setting out at a party? Seems like a soft pretzel would get tough after a bit, but .. .. not sure.

    • They do fine as long as they are warmed up right before the party. In my experience, they never sit out for long anyway because they get eaten.

  40. I made these earlier today and they are delicious! One problem…mine turned out a little ‘spongy’. I guess that would be the best word to describe the texture. They taste great but the texture doesn’t look as nice and smooth as yours:( Any ideas what I may have done wrong? I am determined to make a beautiful AND delicious soft pretzel!

    • The smoothness of the final appearance all has to do with how you shape the dough. It just takes practice, I think, but if your dough is not smooth you may need to add more flour so it isn’t sticky and therefore easier to shape.

  41. I have made these several times and they are awesome! I even substituted half whole wheat bread flour and they were still good.

  42. Thanks for being the guinea pig on the bake/freeze test. I am making ham and cheese pretzel bites in advance for New Year’s Eve, and I wasn’t sure whether to boil/bake them, then reheat, or shape/freeze/boil/bake. I decided on the latter, and I am (pretty) confident they will be terrific! Thanks and happy holidays!

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