Looking for the best homemade soft pretzel recipe? We tested 9 popular recipes in search of the easiest, softest and most flavorful pretzels!
Unlike my last dinner roll bake off, I found the search for the best soft pretzel recipe to be both delicious and relatively easy! Most of these pretzels can be made in under 2 hours with around 6 ingredients. A quick dip in a boiling baking soda bath transforms the yeasted dough into a fragrant, nostalgic treat that will easily rival your favorite mall pretzel.
While I tried to time this bake off for the Superbowl (mini pretzel bites with beer cheese dip, anyone?), I’m team soft pretzel any time of year. Let’s dive into the recipe comparison!
- 49 total tasters
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to King Arthur (unless the recipe specified weights)
- I used the overnight rest for any recipes that offered one (Serious Eats, Sarah Kieffer, New York Times and Martha Stewart)
- All recipes were boiled and baked the day of tasting
- Each taster ranked each soft pretzel on a scale from 0-10 for flavor, texture and overall as a whole
- King Arthur all-purpose flour
- King Arthur bread flour
- Red Star active dry yeast
- SAF Red Instant yeast
- Trader Joe’s unsalted butter
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Imperial granulated and brown sugar
- Pretzel salt: I purchased mine online. If you’re in NYC and want to shop local, many people have reported that Kalustyan’s carries it! Others have mentioned that Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma may carry pretzel salt (I’d call to check if your local store has it.)
After analyzing the data from nearly 50 tasters, results of the crowd favorites are below. As always, I recommend reading through the entire blog post to understand the profile of each recipe and decide which sounds best to you.
My favorites in each bake off don’t always match the top-rated recipes (see bottom of the post for my picks). These pretzels ranged from a more classic German-style to a more buttery, fluffy American style. When describing the latter, I’m picturing an Auntie Anne’s mall pretzel.
My personal favorite soft pretzel recipe did, in this case, align with the winner of this bake off (Martha Stewart), but that’s not always the case!
Please always take the results with a grain of salt as any issues could be my own baker error rather than the fault of the recipe. Because all of these pretzels were tasted at room temperature, the tasting notes were definitely different than they would be with fresh, hot pretzels.
I do truly believe all of these recipes are worth trying and would be delicious standalone and fresh out of the oven!
Technique for Making the Best Soft Pretzels
After extensive research and then testing 9 different recipes, I feel like I’ve taken an accelerated masterclass in soft pretzels. Here’s what I learned!
What’s the best flour for soft pretzels?
Of the recipes I tested, 3 out of the 9 recipes used bread flour (the rest used all-purpose). Interestingly, the most highly-rated recipes all used all-purpose flour.
It’s important to note that I specifically used King Arthur flour for this test as it has a higher protein content than most other flours. King Arthur’s all-purpose flour has 11.7% protein. As a reference point, Gold Medal’s all-purpose flour contains 10.5% protein. Meanwhile, King Arthur’s bread flour has a 12.7% protein content while Gold Medal’s bread flour has 12.3%. If in doubt about the protein content of the flour you’re using, it’s safer to use a bread flour to ensure a higher protein content.
My takeaway is that while bread flour can help provide a chewier texture, it’s not necessary for making the best pretzels. Many other factors, including the kneading/fermentation/other ingredients/bake time will shape the texture as well.
When shaping, roll out your dough first
Most recipes call for dividing the dough into balls and rolling them out into long ropes (typically 18-24″). This can be quite the arm workout! For a much faster method, I prefer NYT’s technique. Once your dough has risen, use a rolling pin to roll it out into a rectangle. Simply slice the rectangle into 1″ strips and roll the strips into your pretzel ropes. So easy and quick!
In my research, I learned that Bavarian pretzels are specifically rolled out with tapered ends. This allows for a variety of textures with the thin, tapered ends baking up crunchy while the thicker belly of the pretzel remains soft and fluffy. Personally, I prefer an evenly rolled pretzel rope so that the entire pretzel has a soft and fluffy texture.
Use lye or a boiled baking soda solution for the best-looking pretzels
And now for the burning question–does lye really matter when making soft pretzels? Many people insist that it does. And if your goal is to make the most authentic-looking and tasting pretzel, I’d agree that lye is unparalleled. Both Dirndle Kitchen and Serious Eats (the only recipes that used lye) achieved a glossy skin that no other pretzel was able to replicate.
However, I don’t value that glossy, almost leathery finish as much as I prize a fluffy, chewy pretzel interior. You can still achieve a fairly close imitation of a lye finish with a boiled baking soda solution.
Sugarologie’s soft pretzel video has a great illustration on the different techniques. In short, the most alkaline solutions will create the most authentic pretzel crusts. Among soft pretzel recipes, the main techniques for creating pretzel crusts are:
- Dipping in lye (the most alkaline with a PH of 12-14): Serious Eats, Dirndl Kitchen
- Baked baking soda added to boiling water (PH 9-10): New York Times
- Baking baking soda transforms it from sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate, which is a stronger alkaline.
- Plain baking soda added to boiling water (PH 8): Martha Stewart, Sarah Kieffer, Cook’s Illustrated, Alton Brown, Food & Wine
- Baking soda added to warm water: King Arthur
- The weakest–boiling water helps break down baking soda into sodium carbonate.
If you’re wondering whether you really need to boil pretzels before baking them, King Arthur was the only recipe that used a non-boiling solution of baking soda and water. This resulted in the lightest-colored pretzel with barely any crust. I wouldn’t recommend this technique unless this is the look and texture you’re going for! Boiling (with baking soda) is key to getting that chewy pretzel texture.
How do I safely use food-grade lye at home?
I read through many articles before attempting this at home! I know lye is an intimidating ingredient for most home cooks to use (as it was for me). Here are my top tips:
- Use a pair of dishwashing gloves: You never want the lye solution to touch your bare skin, so gloves are a must. Some people specifically recommend rubber gloves over latex gloves which are thinner and more porous.
- Wear long sleeves and pants: Again, you never want lye to accidentally splash onto your bare skin.
- Wear glasses: If you have safety goggles, go ahead and wear them! But if you don’t, glasses should be sufficient for shielding your eyes against any fumes.
- Wear a mask: This may seem like overkill, but Dirndl Kitchen suggests wearing a medical grade face mask to be extra safe.
- Use good ventilation if you have it: If you’re able to work with lye next to an open window or a gentle fan, it’s best to waft the fumes away from yourself. I did not have this luxury and simply opened the door for some ventilation while I was working.
- Add the lye TO the water, not the other way around: This prevents unwieldy splashing and a potential violent reaction if you were to pour the water into the lye.
- Use a non-reactive container like glass, Pyrex or stainless steel: The lye can actually degrade even a container like glass over time, so it’s best to minimize the amount of time working with the solution.
- Dispose of the lye solution down the sink: Once you’re done working with the solution, simply pour it down the drain while running water from the tap. Continue to run the water for 10-15 seconds afterwards.
Bake soft pretzels on a silicone baking mat to avoid sticking
Among the 9 recipes I tested, there were a number of different baking methods. For example: greased foil, greased parchment, ungreased parchment, a greased baking sheet, and silicone baking mats.
By far, the best methods for preventing the pretzels from sticking were a plain greased baking sheet and the silicone baking mats. I prefer using the mats to help keep the pretzel bottoms from scorching, especially if you’re using a thin baking sheet. They’re also easier to clean than scraping bits of pretzel dough off a baking sheet.
Under no circumstances would I recommend using foil or parchment, even if greased! The likelihood for sticking is quite high.
Enriched doughs yield a more desirable flavor (but not necessarily texture)
In general, the pretzels with no fat (Serious Eats, King Arthur) received lower flavor marks. Cook’s Illustrated was an anomaly with a 6.7 flavor rating (I’m guessing the honey helped this recipe with higher marks). Meanwhile, the more enriched doughs tended to garner higher flavor marks. For example: Martha Stewart (high fat and sugar content), Sarah Kieffer (enriched with sugar, butter and egg), Food & Wine (high ratio of sugar and includes oil), and America’s Test Kitchen (high ratio of honey).
Tasters tended to prefer the milky/sweeter/eggier flavors, which is reflected in our winner (Martha Stewart). This is absolutely softer, fluffier and breadier than a traditional pretzel. There was also a clear segment that preferred a more traditional, more plain flavor, which helped Dirndl Kitchen (the platonic ideal of a pretzel) rise to second place.
Personally, I prefer a softer, fluffier pretzel and so I generally preferred the more enriched pretzels. However, for a more authentic German-style pretzel, I’d look for the recipes that are less enriched (Serious Eats, Dirndl Kitchen, New York Times).
What’s the secret ingredient that makes a pretzel taste like a pretzel?
If you read ask any pretzel expert, they’ll tell you the secret ingredient to that signature pretzel flavor is lye! Some recipes also suggest using malt syrup in the dough for a more authentic flavor.
If you’re hesitant to commit to lye, you can easily achieve at least the malt flavor by adding beer to the boiling baking soda solution. This technique from Martha Stewart will help impart a subtle malt flavor to your pretzels.
Analysis of the Best Recipes
King Arthur: a buttery soft pretzel with a focaccia-like crumb
King Arthur was one of 3 dough recipes that didn’t include any fat. With just bread flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water, this recipe was similar to America’s Test Kitchen (but no honey). This was the only recipe to call for boiling water combined with baking soda that then cools before dipping the pretzels. (Per Sugarologie’s video, I knew this would lend the lightest overall exterior color). This was also the only recipe that got brushed with melted butter after being baked.
The buttery aroma of these out of the oven was absolutely irresistible when they were fresh! However, as they cooled, the texture got a little rubbery. Instead of cooling into a classically smooth, leathery exterior, the pretzels simply had a kind of bouncy, slightly tougher skin. The interior was one of the breadiest with a crumb that felt more like focaccia than the tight snap of a pretzel.
Interestingly, the final brushing of butter was quite divisive among tasters. Some loved the buttery flavor and compared it favorably to a mall pretzel. Others found it too overwhelming or greasy. I personally liked the flavor but agree the amount is excessive–you could easily halve the amount of butter. Overall, I’d agree that these didn’t feel like a classic pretzel.
Note: several people have commented that their version of King Arthur’s pretzels turned out much darker than mine. If you try this recipe, try flipping the pretzels halfway through baking and baking slightly longer for a darker color. Many in the reviews confirm that these are delicious!
- Super buttery and chewy and salty and tasted like pure deliciousness! The kind of thing I could eat 25 of and be super happy after.
- I like how soft, salty and fluffy it is. Almost like focaccia but not really pretzel-like
- Buttery, SALTY. Texture and flavor is great, but perhaps too much salt. If the salt was dialed down slightly, I would say this pretzel is giving auntie Auntie Anne’s!
- Super spongy and buttery in flavor. Slightly greasy mouthfeel, which I didn’t love. It’s a good bread but not a pretzel!
- Slightly too salty and too buttery. Not what I think of when I think of a pretzel.
- Very bready and lacking pretzel flavor and crust. Had a weird buttery and/or baking soda aftertaste. Would be acceptable as a dinner roll.
- The insipid color is unappealing next to its neighbors. No flavor except butter? Like pillsbury pizza crust. Open crumb with not much chew.
New York Times: a thin, chewy, deeply bronzed pretzel
I was excited to try the NYT’s recipe for its baking soda technique. As an alternative to lye, many sources recommend baking baking soda to make it even more alkaline. Once added into boiling water, this helps approximate the effects of lye but in a much more approachable way. Overall, this recipe had similar proportions to Alton Brown (but uses bread flour instead of all-purpose).
I loved the shaping technique of this recipe. It calls for rolling the dough out into a rectangle and cutting into strips before rolling the pretzel ropes. (This greatly reduces the overall time needed to shape the pretzels.) However, I didn’t find it easy to “roll each strip into a rounded rope without making it longer.” As a result, these pretzels ended up a little thinner and longer than they ideally should have been.
These clearly showed off the power of baked baking soda. With a deep mahogany hue, these were by far the darkest pretzels (which also could have been due to an overly hot oven). I liked the chewy texture but generally prefer a fluffier, fatter pretzel. To me, the flavor was a bit bland aside from the salt. Overall, I doubt I’d go to the trouble of baking baking soda regularly to make soft pretzels, but these were a fun experiment.
- This is what I want a pretzel to be. This tates the most like an NYC street pretzel or a baseball game pretzel. I bet it’s amazing fresh out of the oven
- Flavor was good! Tasted like a true pretzel pretzel (like if it was hard, it could be in a Snyder’s bag). But the outside was a little dense/ thicker than I liked.
- I love the texture of this one. Stiff on the outside, and though I wouldn’t call the inside soft, it doesn’t feel dry. The flavor pales in comparison to the others though – a bit bland, and tastes overdone.
- Salty, outside has that pretzel flavor, smooth leathery outside
- Liked the exterior but a little dry, not very soft, enjoyed the slightly sweet flavor
- Tastes like Cheesecake Factory brown bread
- No discernible flavor besides salt and acrid. Very unpleasant styrofoam-like texture.
Food & Wine: bready, slightly floppy pretzel sticks
Hailing from chef Grant Achatz of Alinea, this recipe caught my eye for its use of oil and a high proportion of sugar in the dough. The grand majority of pretzels use butter as the fat (if any), so I was curious how this would affect the dough. This was the only recipe that called for rolling the pretzels into sticks instead of the classic shape.
Unfortunately, the very soft dough was hard to roll into clean 9″ sticks. They were also hard to neatly boil in a “high-sided skillet.” Next time, I’d boil the stick shapes in a large skillet with more surface area. These came out of the oven rather misshapen and with a limp bite compared to the other taut-surfaced pretzels.
These had one of the highest ratios of baking soda to water and it showed in the soapy aftertaste, which I couldn’t get past. These felt much softer than the other pretzels with a limp chew that made me wonder if I made an error in the proofing. The flavor of the interior didn’t stand out to me, though many tasters commented on the sweetness. Overall, these didn’t stand out to me texturally or taste-wise.
- Texture is amazing, certainly ideal soft pretzel. Makes me wonder if it’ll make it to next day without being tough. Soft like fresh bread but sadly the flavor lowered my rating. I dislike the sweetness of it, which was an imbalance, maybe if there was salt dipped it would be better – kind of a clash between a croissant and bread.
- Delicious pretzel. Perfect thickness, texture and chew. This is a bit different than a street or mall pretzel. This pretzel had a dark color and a strong flavor from the glaze that tasted both of lye and a hint of something sweet, like molasses. I loved this pretzel!
- Bitter taste makes it hard to eat more than a few bites. I appreciate the salty sweet taste.
- Slightly sweet, airy and chewy toasty exterior, tastes more heavy on the baking soda.
- Good chew, but why is the inside so sweet?? The outside doesn’t have enough pretzel-y bite.
- I felt like the flavor was missing and the texture was a bit too airy and soft for my liking. Metallic aftertaste.
Serious Eats: clean, classic German pretzels with a leathery bite
With a fermented dough, this was by far the most labor-intensive recipe. This starts with making a poolish (simply water, yeast and flour) 24 hours before mixing the dough. After adding additional bread flour, water, butter and salt, the dough sits for 8-24 hours before shaping. The shaped pretzels can then sit overnight (an option I took) before baking. They also need to sit uncovered in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before getting dipped in lye. Note: I did forget to spray these with water before baking for the high-gloss sheen.
Was all of the fuss worth it? These were definitely some of the best, classic-looking pretzels! They had a nice snap to the bite with a tight, white crumb that looks exactly how I expect a soft pretzel to look. Many commented on the authentic pretzel-y flavor and texture of the outside of these pretzels.
As you may know by now, my preference for fluffy, enriched pretzels means I didn’t love the lean bite of these. Disappointingly, I didn’t notice a notable fermented or more complex flavor from the poolish process. However, I do think the lye gave these a very distinctive, classic appearance and skin. For a more classic German-style pretzel, these are a great option.
- The best of the bunch. Outside coating is significantly different than the inside which I like. Flavor is what I want out of a classic tasting pretzel. Could use slightly more salt in my opinion but I like things salty
- Looks, texture and taste are all exactly what I expect from a soft pretzel. would like to see the outside a little darker but love the “leather” pretzel skin and fluffy interior
- Good leathery outside, perfect inner texture–light with some chew. A bit lacking in flavor but the chewy exterior and softer center felt like the correct pretzel mouthfeel
- This one is the only one that has that almost plasticky skin that I associate with pretzels, which makes me want to guess that it might be the one that used a lye dip. This is the most like what I think of when I think of a generic pretzel, which I usually do not care for: nothing of note in flavor, weirdly stiff and difficult bite.
- This was so hard to chew and it gave me a bit of a workout. I also didn’t like the flavor it was bland.
- Too firm and salty
Alton Brown: chewy, slightly spongy pretzels with a good salt level and a forgettable exterior
As a practice for this bake off, I randomly selected and made Preppy Kitchen’s pretzels and LOVED them. Alton Brown’s recipe was highly requested and is very similar to Preppy Kitchen (but with slightly more butter). These were the only pretzels to get finished with an egg yolk + water mixture. This was ever so slightly different from a plain egg wash, and I don’t think this made any visible difference.
These were easily one of the largest and fluffiest pretzels, which immediately stole my heart. This had more of a bready, spongy texture since there’s a generous amount of the fluffy interior. These looked the most appealing straight out of the oven. Unfortunately as they cooled, the exterior seemed to sog more quickly than others as the salt melted into the pretzel skin. (This could be due to how I stacked the pretzels.) Many tasters noted that the skin wasn’t as pronounced or chewy as they would have wanted.
Still, this stood out as one of my favorite pretzels on average. It had a solid (if not outstanding) bready, salty flavor with a great fluffy texture. I’d be curious to try these with lye for a more defined exterior!
- Love the classic, salty buttery pretzel taste and chewy texture
- Buttery, nice tang, moist. Great pretzel flavor and a perfect amount of salt. Chew is like a springy pillow.
- Good salt level and interior texture but not very pretzel-y or otherwise notable in flavor otherwise. On the bready side, didn’t have as much of a shiny/chewy exterior crust as would have expected in a soft pretzel.
- I liked the texture and crumb structure but wished it had more flavor. Outside texture was slightly softer than I’d prefer, would’ve liked the “skin” to be more defined and smooth
- Best malt flavor but the texture was a bit too thick, slightly dry and the outside texture was one of the worst.
Sarah Kieffer: soft, egg-enriched pretzels with a crumb similar to milk bread
Next to Serious Eats, Sarah’s recipe is the next most involved. The recipe starts with making a tangzhong, or flour and milk roux. Tangzhong is a method popularly used in milk bread to help keeps the dough soft and tender for days. With a high ratio of butter, this dough promised to be quite soft and tender. I used the optional overnight rest for these pretzels before boiling them in a weak baking soda and solution and baking.
Upon first bite, these pretzels immediately rose to near the top for me both texturally and flavor-wise with buttery, salty notes. These also had a unique (but not overly strong) eggy flavor that I enjoyed. There’s an incredible level of fluff to the texture–so much so that many tasters compared these to dinner rolls or milk bread. If you’re looking for a classic pretzel, these will probably disappoint. But for a mall-style, bready pretzel, these are really delicious.
- On the sweeter side but I’m here for it. the salt helps to balance things out. The softer outside doesn’t bother me on this one with the flavor profile
- Very pillowy and moist, reminds me of pizza dough and very buttery. Great sweet-salty balance.
- This pretzel was a bit more bready than pretzel-y. It was lacking a bit of the spring that the other pretzels exhibited. However, it did have a delightful buttery flavor!
- Brioche-like. Buttery/eggy? Yummy but does not taste like a pretzel
- The doughiest of the bunch but still airy, kind of a pretzel roll vibe. Love it but not necessarily when I’m craving a pretzel.
- Enjoy the fluff and sweetness but tastes more like a dense Parker House roll than a pretzel
- Not pretzel-y. Too similar to challah in flavor, seems like it has eggs in it or something or honey. Texture is fine but not bready enough.
Cook’s Illustrated: a salty-sweet honey-enriched pretzel with a springy bite
This was one of 3 recipes to use bread flour and the only recipe that was enriched with honey. I liked the direction to boil these smaller-sized pretzels in a skillet rather than a saucepan, which provided more surface area. These called for quite a long rise time (1-1.5 hours) and was the only recipe to call for deflating the dough before letting it rise again. Typically, you punch down the dough for breads that have a tighter crumb. This step helps redistribute yeast cells for an improved rise that will help with shaping the dough.
It’s tough to say whether the punching down really improved the overall crumb of these pretzels vs. others. These did have a delightfully springy, chewy texture with a nicely golden exterior. I also liked the light sweetness from the honey. Overall, these felt like well-balanced pretzels that nailed a bready, chewy texture without being overly fluffy and a decently seasoned dough. These would make a fantastic base if you wanted to make homemade cinnamon sugar pretzels. (But could also be good as a cheesy pretzel! She’s a versatile base.)
- This one has an obvious overtone of honey! But even still, it’s not too sweet, just very obviously not classic pretzel. Chewy and fluffy but not dry so the texture is ok!
- Really tasty mall style pretzel. Nice thick, springy texture with a delicate sweetness in the flavor. I like sweet so I’m biased. I think this would taste great rolled in sugar and cinnamon!
- Actually like it as a bit of a sweeter dough, great sweet/salty combo. Like the Hawaiian roll of pretzels?!
- I really like the sweet and salty flavor of this one. The texture is slightly too doughy for me but the flavor makes up for that.
- Too sweet for me. Texture is bouncy and has the bite that I like when having a soft pretzel, omg so sweet!! The sweetest of all of them
- Missing the shiny/chewy crust that I associate with soft pretzels. Nice hint of sweetness and okay interior chewiness but otherwise not super pretzel-y.
- 5 had a strong honey flavor that was off putting and the texture was so chewy and a little tough.
Dirndl Kitchen: dense, chewy pretzels with a classic flavor
This was the only other recipe to use lye as the dipping solution besides Serious Eats. Developed by a German recipe developer, this recipe was unique in that the dough doesn’t take any time to rise after mixing. She immediately calls for shaping the pretzels, then letting them “develop” for 30 minutes at room temperature, then 30 minutes in the fridge or freezer (I used the former) so the pretzels are par-frozen before being dipped in lye.
To me, these easily tied with Serious Eats for the most classic-looking pretzels. The bake temp (355 degrees F) was significantly lower than all other recipes (most around 450 degrees F). I did bake these for slightly longer to get sufficient color on the surface. Similarly to Serious Eats, I could appreciate the perfectly leathery exterior and lean bite, but generally prefer a fluffier pretzel. I agreed with the tasters who called this flavor a little bland. Overall, I think this goes to show the difference between a true German-style pretzel (lean, shiny and chewy) vs. the more American-style pretzels (softer, sweeter and fluffier).
Between this and Serious Eats, I’d make this recipe every time. I think it’s slightly more flavorful and far easier and quicker. The only thing I’d change is increasing the bake temp to at least 400 F (on par with all the other recipes) for deeper color.
- This is my winner and choice!! When I think of a soft pretzel, this is what comes to mind. The crumb is perfect, not too fluffy where it’s close to a roll-like texture. Not too hard where it’s unpleasant to chew. The flavor of this one is also perfect – salty, but not too salty with a bit of bitterness with how it was cooked.
- This tastes like a pretzel you would get from a stand on the street in NYC. Straightforward pretzel flavor, no sweetness or anything else going on. This one is also slightly less moist than the other ones, which is also reminiscent of a street pretzel.
- Crust has lots of pretzel-y flavor and good chew/shine. Good pillowy texture inside, good salt level. Nothing super mind-blowing but it is pretty much exactly what I would expect in a good soft pretzel.
- This is the first one to feel like it’s decidedly a savory pretzel in that the bread itself is saltier and doesn’t have a whole lot of sweet going on to balance it. Also has the toughest skin so far, but not in an unpleasant way — it has a good bite to it.
- More of a classic pretzel texture but the flavor fell flat for me. The flavor of the actual pretzel is pretty bland, but there’s lot of salt on top that overpowers it.
- A bit too light and bland, wish there was more open structure or chew
Martha Stewart: the flavor winner with a soft, fluffy, bready texture
IMPORTANT NOTE: The recipe states “4 tablespoons coarse salt” but I’m nearly positive this should be 4 teaspoons coarse salt. (4 tablespoons would make the pretzels inedible.) I used 1 tbsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and felt like the salt level was perfect.
This highly requested recipe features assistance by Lina Kulchinsky of Sigmund’s Pretzels. With one of the highest ratios of both sugar and salt, I was eager to see how this recipe would turn out. This recipe does call for an unusually long initial rise–8 hours to overnight. (Note: I’ve made them again with just an hour of rising time and they worked well!) Luckily, it doesn’t call for any proofing after you shape the pretzels, so this is a great dough to prep ahead and quickly bake off when you need it. It also calls for the most unique boiling solution–a mixture of baking soda, beer and dark brown sugar.
The high ratio of brown sugar lent the interior of the pretzels a slightly caramel hue which some tasters mistook for whole wheat. Despite complaints that this pretzel was a little too soft, fluffy and bready, this was hands down the most flavorful pretzel to me (and most tasters agreed).
This was easily one of the most buttery-tasting pretzels with a light malt flavor lent by the boiling liquid. I loved the salty sweet flavor, though a few tasters found it too sweet. If you’re trying to recreate an Auntie Anne’s pretzel, I’d brush these with melted butter after baking for a perfect buttery mall pretzel. Overall, a triumph! If you’re trying to streamline the recipe, I think they’d still be good even if you boil them in just baking soda and brown sugar sans beer.
- Amazing excellent squishy texture, my favorite consistency. Salty, sweet, the type of pretzel one dreams of
- Very soft, like a pillow. But also had the best complex, slightly malty flavor. This tastes the most similar to what I would expect out of a pretzel. I would want to dip this in something and enjoy it.
- Decent balance of hard and soft in this one, albeit a little dry. This one has a bit of a slightly overdone flavor that I LOVE. Perfect amount of salt/butter coming through.
- Dense and chewy like a bagel, quite sweet.
- Thick tight crumb, medium chew, moderate flavor. The inside is still a little too sweet for me and would have liked a more bouncy pretzel.
- Overall a bit too bready and soft. Crust is on the soft side and there is a slight sweetness in flavor which is fine, but wish it had more pretzel flavor.
Recommendations for the Best Soft Pretzels
Erika’s picks: Martha Stewart, Sarah Kieffer, Alton Brown
Best classic Germany-style pretzels: Dirndl Kitchen, Serious Eats
Best fluffy mall-style pretzel: Martha Stewart, Sarah Kieffer, Alton Brown
For a sweeter pretzel base: Cook’s Illustrated, Martha Stewart
Easiest to make: King Arthur
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and happy baking!