Soft Pretzels (Beer's Best Friend)

What goes better with gameday festivities than a batch of warm, chewy soft pretzels?

Photos by Michelle Norris

I am a bona fide soft pretzel addict. Whether I’m at the mall, at a sporting event, or at a restaurant serving Oktoberfest specials, chances are that I’m going to order a soft pretzel.

There’s something so satisfying about that distinctive chewy exterior paired with the warm, soft inside of a pretzel that makes them irresistible. It’s a snack food that transcends seasons – whether you’re enjoying a baseball game on a warm summer evening, partaking in Oktoberfest festivities during the fall, catching a hockey game in the dead of winter, or strolling the mall any time of year, you’ll see people enjoying soft pretzels.

Making soft pretzels at home is easier than most would think, and totally worth the effort. They do require yeast and one short rise time, but the recipe is incredibly forgiving. You don’t have to be an expert at baking with yeast to turn out some fantastic soft pretzels! Before long, you’ll be twisting and shaping dough like a pro!

Once you have this basic recipe down, you can use it to make all sorts of adaptations: mini pretzels, cinnamon-sugar pretzels, cheddar pretzels, or even pretzel dogs!

  Soft Pretzels

Yield: 8 pretzels

  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cups baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together (for egg wash)
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling

1. Combine the water, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

2. Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with the vegetable oil; set aside.

5. Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot (a Dutch oven works perfect for this). Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.

6. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. (See the gallery below for a visual).

7. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 2 or 3 at a time (or however many will fit comfortably given the size of your pot – don’t crowd them), for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.

8. Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

(Recipe adapted from Alton Brown)

Ready to pair your pretzels with the perfect craft brew? See our 'Burgh Beer Bible.

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