These German Soft Pretzels are chewy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside! This recipe is easy to make and uses baking soda instead of real brine, so they are much safer to bake at home.
A Note from Nora
My recipe is easy to make with a simple and foolproof yeast dough. There’s no real brine happening here, just a solution of salt and baking soda to dip the pretzels in before baking – and they turn out absolutely perfect this way!
How to Make German Soft Pretzels
Read on for the detailed step-by-step ingredients and instructions, or scroll down for tips and the printable recipe card.
Watch the Video Tutorial for Homemade Soft Pretzels:
Ingredients for Homemade Soft Pretzels:
You don’t need any fancy ingredients to make your own pretzels at home – just a few basic pantry staples!
For the pretzel dough, you need:
- instant yeast
If you have it, you can use bread flour for this recipe. It works just fine with regular flour too, though!
Make sure to take your butter out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before making the dough, or it will not be evenly distributed. Alternatively, place the butter under a bowl you rinsed in blazing hot water (and quickly dried off) for 5 minutes.
You can make this with regular dried yeast, but the dough will take longer to double in size.
This recipe works as a plant-based version, too. Use a plant-based beverage in place of the milk (rice works just fine) and a neutral oil in place of the butter. You may need to add an extra tablespoon or two of flour if the dough feels very wet.
For the “brine”
This isn’t real brine like they use in bakeries, but a make-shift and much safer/available version for us home bakers.
For the “brine”, you need:
- baking soda
You need a lot of baking soda for this recipe, and there are no substitutes. Baking powder isn’t the same, so that’s not an acceptable substitute.
You’re also going to need something to sprinkle on your pretzels before baking – coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds… Whatever you like best!
The Key Steps to the Best Homemade German Pretzels:
1 Making sure the dough is started right:
Make sure the ingredients you’re using are at room temperature – including the milk. Don’t heat up the milk though, or it will kill the yeast.
Then, this yeast dough is super simple to make – once you have thrown everything into the bowl of your stand mixer, fit it with the hook attachment and knead on low speed.
The only way the pretzels turn out nice and fluffy though is if the dough gets kneaded long enough. In my mixer, it needs about 5 minutes.
2 The proofing:
To proof, shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel (so the dough doesn’t dry out).
Then, let it stand at room temperature until it has doubled in size and is puffy.
How long this takes will depend on a few factors:
- Your yeast: Instant yeast works fast, it will be done in about 40 minutes. Regular yeast needs a bit more time, about 1 hour. And organic yeast can take up to 3 hours!
- Your room temperature: Warmer room temperatures help the yeast to work faster.
- Your altitude: The higher your altitude, the faster the yeast. If you are at a high altitude and notice your yeast baked goods are always exploding, try using half the yeast a recipe calls for.
I’m sure there are other factors, too, but these are the ones I mainly notice to make a difference.
3 Shaping the pretzels:
Once your dough has finished its first proof, it’s time to shape your pretzels.
I highly recommend using kitchen scales to make sure you divide the dough into 12 even portions.
And I love using my dough scraper to divide the dough, it works so well!
Then, shape the pretzels as so:
4 Second proof:
The second proof is shorter, about 20 minutes or until the pretzels are slightly puffed up.
Don’t skip it, or your pretzels will explode in the oven and lose their shape. But don’t let them proof too long either, or the yeast doesn’t have any power left and they won’t get big and soft in the oven – you just want them slightly puffed up.
5 Dipping the pretzels in a baking soda solution
Once your shaped pretzels are nice and puffy, it’s time for the last active step: Dipping them into a solution of baking soda and salt.
Bakeries use a real brine, so the taste of your homemade pretzels will not be exactly like a bakery pretzel. If you ask me, they actually taste better because they’re homemade 😉
This makeshift “brine” is much safer to make at home, other than the fact that it’s boiling water and you can severely burn yourself with it. So… Don’t do that.
Bring 1 quart of water, 1/2 cup (yes!) of baking soda and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. This will be quite foamy, so make sure to use a pot with higher sides.
Take the pot off the heat, then use a slotted spoon to dip each pretzel into your brine for 15-20 seconds.
Make sure you submerge them fully, then let them drain on the spoon for a few seconds before placing them on a lined baking sheet a few inches apart from each other (you need two baking sheets, 6 pretzels per sheet).
6 Giving the pretzels a nice look
Before you bake the pretzels, sprinkle them with your favorite topping: Coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds… Or Everything But the Bagel seasoning, whatever you like best.
Bake the pretzels until they’ve reached pretzel color – a deep golden brown.
Take them out and IMMEDIATELY brush them with water, milk or half and half to make them shiny.
Then move them to a wire rack to cool.
How to store soft pretzels:
On the counter:
These store well at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Please don’t store them in an airtight container, or they’ll get soft and damp.
Instead, wrap them loosely in a clean tea towel. They are best eaten on the day they’re made though!
Can you freeze soft pretzels?
Yes, you can freeze your homemade pretzels for up to 4 months.
Let the baked pretzels cool completely on a rack before packing up for the freezer. I prefer to freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet for 1 – 2 hours before transferring them to a freezer bag. That way you can take them out individually!
Place the flash-frozen pretzels in a freezer-friendly bag or container and label with the name and use-by date (freeze for up to 4 months).
To defrost, place the pretzels unwrapped on a rack on the counter (this is important, or your pretzels will get soggy) and let come to room temperature for a few hours. You can warm them in the oven at 300F or for a few seconds in the microwave if you like.
What to serve with Soft Pretzels:
Soft pretzels are a great alternative to bagels for sandwiches!
But they’re also a really cool thing to bring to a football party – a cheesy dip works great with these.
Print the Soft Pretzel recipe here:
Homemade German Soft Pretzels
For the Dough:
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon instant dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 1/4 cups milk preferably at room temperature
- 1 quart water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Your favorite toppings (sea salt sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cheese… Anything goes!)
- Stand Mixer
- Kitchen Scales
- Slotted Spoon
- Baking Sheet
Make the Dough:
- Mix dough: Place flour, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and combine well. Add butter, then start the mixer on low and slowly pour in the milk as the mixer works. Let the dough knead on low speed for 5 minutes, or until it forms a smooth dough.
- First proof: Shape into a tight ball, place back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Let sit at room temperature until doubled in size (about 40mins – 1 hour).
Shape the Pretzels:
- Divide dough: Once dough is ready, punch it down and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
- Shape: Roll each piece into a roughly 20inch long strand that's slightly thicker in the middle. Twirl the ends together 3x, then fold down to shape a pretzel (see post or video for visualization).
- Second proof: Shape all pretzels and place on 2 lines baking sheets. Cover with tea towels and proof for another 20 minutes, or until slightly puffed up.
"Brine" and bake:
- Prep: Preheat oven to 360°F.
- Make "brine": Combine 1 quart of water, baking soda and salt in a high-sided pot. Bring to a boil, then take off the heat.
- Dip pretzels: Using a slotted spoon, dip each pretzel into the solution for 15-20 seconds, making sure it's fully submerged. Drain well on the spoon, then place back on the lined baking sheets.
- Bake: Sprinkle the "brined" pretzels with sea salt, sesame, poppy seeds… Whatever you enjoy, then bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven until deeply golden brown.
- Brush for shininess (optional to make them shiny): IMMEDIATELY after taking the pretzels out of the oven, brush them with water, milk or half and half.
- Cool: Transfer the pretzels to a wire rack to cool completely.