Most of the ingredients you need to make pretzels are already in your kitchen. The simple list of ingredients is:
*Pretzel salt tip: If you can't find pretzel salt locally and don't want to order it online, try any kind of coarse salt, such as kosher or sea salt.
Follow our Soft Pretzels recipe to make the dough, knead it, and let it rise. Then you're ready to start shaping pretzels into that classic pretzel shape.
To start your pretzel shape, divide the pretzel dough into eight equal portions. Moving your hands from one end to the other for evenness, roll each dough portion into a 30-inch rope.
Shape one pretzel dough rope into a U shape (you'll repeat this with each piece of dough).
Overlap the two ends of your U.
Twist the overlapped ends once. (Work quickly to prevent dough from drying out.)
The final step to making the pretzel shape is simply to fold the twisted dough ends down to the bottom of your U shape. Leave some overhang of the ends to create a traditional pretzel look on your homemade pretzels.
Here's the crucial step to the signature dark brown, chewy exterior of a soft pretzel recipe: Use a slotted spoon to dip the pretzel dough into a hot water/baking soda mixture for 10 seconds. When you lift out the pretzel, let the water drain off before placing the pretzel on paper towels.
*The baking soda magic: Baking soda is an alkaline ingredient that, when used in a wash like it is here, creates an alkaline environment on the outside of the pretzel. During baking, a chemical reaction turns the pretzels a rich mahogany color in less time so the insides of the pretzels remain soft.
Place unbaked pretzels 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk mixture, add pretzel salt or other flavoring (try cheese, everything bagel seasoning, dill ranch mix, garlic, or whatever you desire), and bake at 450°F for 10 to 12 minutes. Let the baked pretzels cool; serve warm.
To store pretzels: Because of the hot water/baking soda dip, these pretzels have more moisture than other baked goods and may get wrinkly during storage. Be sure to bake long enough so excess surface moisture evaporates, then let baked pretzels cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month.