Today’s easy Soft Pretzel Recipe is aptly named, because it occupies a soft spot in my heart. This is a shortcut version of the shopping mall favorite that’s fun (and 100% doable) at home.
Walking around the local shopping mall was *the* activity of my middle school days. No trip was complete without a stop at Auntie Anne’s.
The buttery scent of those soft pretzels still tantalizes me every time I pass by one at an airport or food court.
As I’ve grown older, knowing the dough is mass-produced and the “butter” is probably not butter at all makes me far less likely to purchase one.
It does not, however, stop my soft pretzel craving.
About Soft Pretzels
It is believed that soft pretzels originated from the Catholic Church.
Thanks to their simple ingredients list, soft pretzels were an approved food to eat during Lent. In addition to their beloved taste, pretzels were a symbol of love and luck.
Later, German immigrants settling in America brought pretzels with them.
However, a traditional German soft pretzel (or Bavarian pretzel) is different from the typical soft pretzel we may purchase from a mall or sporting event here in the United States.
The difference between a Bavarian pretzel and a soft pretzel (American-style) is the use of lye. Most American soft pretzel recipes dip the dough in a baking soda solution, while German pretzels use a lye solution.
From-scratch traditional soft pretzel recipes, like the ones highlighted in the box above, are a project.
- The dough must be mixed, left to rise, shaped, then left to rise again.
- Like bagels, pretzels are made in boiling water prior to baking to give them their snappy outsides and chewy insides (messy!).
- Soft pretzels must be boiled, or dipped in a baking soda bath (or lye if you’re gusty and strict with your pretzel traditions).
- THEN, they can be baked. At this point, I am hungry and tired.
I’ve done pretzels the old-fashioned way, and honestly…it’s a lot of work.
These EASY soft pretzels, however? You can be pulling them warm from the oven less than an hour from now!
The Easiest Soft Pretzel Recipe
Instead of boiling soft pretzels, you can create the same smooth, golden exterior by brushing the pretzel dough with an egg wash prior to baking.
- Egg wash takes less than a minute to apply.
- It saves you the mess of an extra large pot and hot baking soda water splashing all over your stove.
Egg wash also makes this soft pretzel recipe easy for kids to assist.
How to Make Homemade Soft Pretzels
This recipe is my go-to easy soft pretzel dough.
- It only rises once for a fast 30 minutes, instead of twice.
- You don’t need to boil the soft pretzel dough.
- It uses whole wheat flour for a nutritional boost.
The kid in you will love the fun of rolling and shaping the dough; the adult in you will love their subtle whole wheat notes and ease of preparation.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: you’ll need to use yeast to make soft pretzels.
Don’t freak out! Yeast is an ingredient just like any other.
- Take the temperature of your water, make sure your yeast isn’t expired, and you’ll be just fine.
- I include a step to proof the yeast before adding it to the dough, so you’ll be sure it’s nice and active.
Once you have this basic pretzel dough down, you can add mix-ins or toppings.
Personally, I love creating a copycat Auntie Anne’s soft pretzel recipe inspired by my childhood favorite flavor, Glazin’ Raisin.
See more soft pretzel flavor ideas below.
- Yeast + Water. The combination of active dry yeast and warm cups water (temperature is very important here!) is critical for the pretzels’ fluffy, chewy texture.
- Honey. A touch of sugar helps further activate the yeast. Plus, it adds a subtle sweetness to the dough.
- Flour. I used a blend of white whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. While the white whole wheat flour boosts the soft pretzel recipe’s nutrition content (hello, added vitamins and protein), it doesn’t negatively impact the light and fluffy texture.
- Egg. Using an egg wash creates the perfect golden pretzel exterior and helps toppings stick to the pretzel.
- Stir the water, yeast, and honey together in medium bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Add the salt.
- Slowly stir in the flours. Add any mix-ins in mixture.
- Knead the dough, then transfer it to a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with towel or plastic wrap.
- Let rise for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into pieces.
- Roll the dough pieces into thin ropes on a lightly floured work surface, then twist each 16 inch rope into a shape of a pretzel.
- Dip each pretzel into the egg before transferring to a baking sheet. Bake homemade soft pretzels at at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes until golden brown.
- Brush each pretzel with butter and finish with desired toppings. DIG IN!
Sweet Soft Pretzels
- Drizzle with Icing. Make an easy vanilla icing by combining 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, and a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Drizzle it over the finished pretzels.
- Add Chocolate Chips or Raisins. Knead 1/2 cup into the dough. Use raisins and drizzle with icing for a copycat Auntie Anne’s Glazin’ Raisin.
- Cinnamon Sugar Stuffed Pretzels. After baking, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- Spread with Nutella. Or try with peanut butter.
Savory Soft Pretzels
- Cheesy Soft Pretzels. Sprinkle with Parmesan and garlic powder prior to baking.
- German Soft Pretzels. Brush the finished pretzels with melted butter. Sprinkle with pretzel salt, (or coarse sea salt) on the top of each pretzel.
- Everything Soft Pretzels. Sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning prior to baking. Spread with cream cheese.
- Traditional Soft Pretzels. Sprinkle with pretzel salt prior to baking. Dip with cheese sauce (try this Vegan Queso) or mustard. A beer cheese dip would be awesome here, too or any kind of dipping sauces.
- Soft Pretzel Bites. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
- To Store. Store pretzels in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or gently in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze pretzels in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw and enjoy as desired.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, prepare the recipe as directed through Step 5. Cover and refrigerate the dough until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Stand Mixer. I love using my stand mixer to prepare the soft pretzel do
- Wooden Spoon. Great for stirring the pretzel dough.
- Silicone Baking Mat. I love these for easy cleanup after baking.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t have any white whole wheat flour on hand, you can swap it for additional all-purpose flour.
Try slicing them horizontally for a sandwich, toasting them for breakfast, cut them into pieces and toast them to make croutons, or make a French toast casserole like this Blueberry French Toast.
Yes, you can shape your soft pretzels however you please! Pretzel sticks are great for dipping. Form your pretzel dough into “x” and “o” shapes for a fun Valentine’s Day treat.
Soft Pretzel Recipe
For the Soft Pretzels:
For Topping (optional):
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- Pretzel salt
- Cinnamon Sugar (I use 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon for each tablespoon sugar)
- Finely grated Parmesan + Italian herbs
- Everything bagel seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set aside two baking sheets covered in parchment paper or a silpat mat.
- Make the Dough: In a large bowl (or the bowl of stand mixer), combine the warm water, yeast, and honey. Stir and let sit for 1 minute. The yeast should be foamy. (If it is not, the yeast did not activate properly and this step must be repeated). Stir in the kosher salt.
- With a wooden spoon (or the mixer’s paddle attachment), slowly stir in 2 cups of the white whole wheat flour and the all-purpose flour.
- Continue to stir in the remaining 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky and bounces back when poked. (I used nearly 8 tablespoons, or the full 1/2 cups, but the amount you need may vary based on your flour brand, the moisture in the air, or what mood the flour is in that day). Stir in any desired mix-ins (they will continue to incorporate as you knead the dough).
- With the dough hook, knead the dough for 5 minutes. Lightly coat a clean bowl with nonstick spray. Place the dough into the bowl, turn to coat the dough on all sides with the spray, then cover and let dough rise for 30 minutes.
- Once dough has puffed, lightly flour a knife or bench scraper and cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Then, cut those 4 parts into 2 parts each.
- Gently roll each piece of dough into a thin rope of even diameter on a lightly floured surface (the longer the rope, the larger your pretzel will be and it will have more of a classic pretzel "chew." Thicker ropes will yield fluffy, bread-like pretzels that are more soft and puffy. I rolled mine to be 16 inches.) To form the pretzel, lay the rope horizontally, then pick up each end and draw them upwards as if you were forming a circle, cross the ends, then draw them down to form a pretzel shape. Lightly press the dough ends of the rope to hold the shape.
- In a shallow bowl or pie dish, beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water to create an egg wash. Dip each entire pretzel into the egg wash and coat both sides. Place each pretzel on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, Watch closely to prevent burning. Let cool slightly.
- Brush the warm pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle with desired toppings. Enjoy!
- NOTES: If you’d like to make raisin pretzels, or add other mix-ins of choice, stir them into the dough after it is mixed but just before kneading; I’d recommend between 1/2 and 3/4 cup.
- TO STORE: Store pretzels in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze pretzels in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw and enjoy as desired.
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