The secret to a perfect soft pretzel recipe is a little food science. It's all about the baking soda. Follow along as we show you how to make pretzels at home starting with the pretzel ingredients, shaping the dough into that classic pretzel twist, mastering the baking soda bath, and baking to chewy perfection. You'll be running a pretzel factory from your kitchen in no time.

By Sheena Chihak
December 20, 2017
Classic Soft Pretzels

Most of the ingredients you need to make pretzels are already in your kitchen. The simple list of ingredients is:

  • Milk
  • Water
  • Active dry yeast
  • All-purpose flour
  • Butter
  • Sea salt
  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • Egg yolk
  • Cold water
  • Coarse salt (or pretzel salt*, which can be found in gourmet food stores or online)

*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.

Make the Pretzel Dough

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.

Shape the Pretzels

How to roll pretzel dough

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.

pulling pretzel dough into U shape

Shape one pretzel dough rope into a U shape (you'll repeat this with each piece of dough).

crossing ends of pretzel dough

Overlap the two ends of your U.

twisting ends of pretzel dough

Twist the overlapped ends once. (Work quickly to prevent dough from drying out.)

folding pretzel over bottom of U shape

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.

dipping pretzel dough into baking soda bath

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.

Bake the Pretzels

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.

More Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipes

Italian Parmesan Pretzels

If you want a seasoned pretzel recipe, sweet pretzel recipe, a Bavarian pretzel, or more inspiration, here are a few pretzel recipes to get you started.

Comments (1)

September 20, 2018
My husband loves soft pretzels. I'm excited to try these. I am going to make beer cheese dip to go with them.