Easy Soft Sourdough Pretzels

These soft sourdough pretzels are not only easy to make but they are everything you want from an authentic German pretzel.

Whether you are just looking for a good sourdough pretzel recipe or trying to change up your soft pretzels, you are in for a treat!

Growing up in Germany, we ate pretzels often. The idea of using sourdough instead of yeast to make pretzels might cause Germans to raise an eyebrow. However, I am here to tell you that they are just as good if not better than regular yeast-based soft pretzels.

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What you’ll love about this recipe:


  • Easy Recipe – While this recipe may have many (unfamiliar) steps, it is actually very easy, even for beginners
  • Full of Flavor – by adding sourdough to these pretzels you get a much better, more complex taste without an overwhelming sourdough flavor
  • Healthier – sourdough cultures convert the starches in flour and make the final product easier to digest, especially for people with gluten-sensitivities

What are the ingredients

You actually only need 5 basic ingredients for these homemade pretzels (not including the lye but more about that below):

  • Flour: I just use regular all-purpose flour
  • Milk: this definitely adds moisture to the dough while adding color and flavor
  • Butter: another ingredient that adds good flavor, and homemade butter would be perfect
  • Salt: my favorite is using sea salt for the dough and pretzel salt for sprinkling the top
  • Sourdough starter: I recommend using an active sourdough starter; if you don’t already have one, check out my super easy method to make a sourdough starter from scratch

Helpful tools and equipment

There are a few tools that will definitely help get the best results:

Substitutions and variations

  • Flour: you can try different flours such as spelt flour, or add some rye flour or whole-grain flour to this soft pretzel recipe
  • Milk: if you’d like to make your vegan, you can use plant-based milk instead
  • Butter: instead of butter you can use lard or a neutral oil (such as avocado oil)
  • Sourdough starter: if you’d rather use your sourdough discard, I recommend adding 1 tsp of commercial yeast to your dough to ensure a good rise
  • Pretzel salt: instead of pretzel salt you can use flaky salt or any other coarse salt
  • Other flavors: there are many other flavors or ingredients you can add to your homemade sourdough pretzels such as sprinkling them with cinnamon, brown sugar, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or your favorite toppings
  • Lye bath: if you are not using a lye bath, you can make another alkaline solution by making a baking soda bath; simply add ¼ cup of baking soda to 1 quart of boiling water
  • Stand mixer: if you don’t own a stand mixer you can absolutely mix this dough by hand, it will just take a little longer
stirring bowl icon

How to Use Lye Safely

  • What gives pretzels their distinct flavor and color is the lye bath. I know that using lye can sound scary but I will show you how to use it safely. Once you do, I am sure you will agree that it’s well worth the effort!
  • ALWAYS add the lye to the water, not the other way around!
  • ALWAYS use gloves and goggles since lye is caustic!
  • Keep small children and pets away from your stove while you’re working with lye
  • NOTE: once you have dipped your pretzels in the lye bath, you can safely touch them with your hands.

Other shapes:

This sourdough pretzel recipe is very flexible and it’s so fun playing with other pretzel shapes.

  • Pretzel sticks: simply roll the dough into long shapes and cut them diagonally 3 times
  • Pretzel knot: roll about 45g of dough into a long rope and tie it into a knot, then fold the ends under and in
  • Pretzel buns: roll a piece of dough into a round ball and cut an “X” into the top
  • Pretzel bites: divide 90g of dough into 3 pieces, roll them into small balls, and cut a small “x” into the top
sourdough pretzel shapes in basket with sourdough starter in background

How to serve

Traditionally, Germans eat pretzels with butter (not mustard … ) or alongside a Weisswurst.

However, you can serve them any way you like. Americans like to eat them with mustard. While I am partial to butter, I think that a honey mustard or mustard dip is a great way to enjoy these sourdough pretzels.

You can also serve them with a beer cheese dip or cheese fondue.

Make ahead of time?

Homemade sourdough pretzels are always best fresh!

If you’d like to save them for later or make a double-batch to save some time, I recommend you transfer the pretzels to a freezer bag or airtight container while they are still slightly warm and freeze them right away.

Then you can crisp them up in a hot oven for a few minutes. That way they will almost be as good as just baked.

How to make

1. Prepare the pretzel dough:

Add the flour, salt, soft butter, milk, and sourdough starter to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed for 5-10 minutes. The dough should be soft and coming off the sides of the bowl.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 8 hours or overnight. If your house is cool, you can keep the dough on your kitchen counter. Otherwise, place the bowl in your refrigerator.

The next day, transfer the sourdough pretzel dough to your clean work surface and knead it into a round ball.

2. Divide the pretzel dough:

Using a sharp knife and your kitchen scale, divide the dough into equal pieces of about 90 grams. This recipe should make 14 pretzels. Roll each piece into an oblong shape and pinch any seams.

3. Create the pretzel shape:

Working one piece at a time, use both hands and roll it into a long rope. Many Germans love their pretzels to have a bit of a “belly” (thicker piece right in the middle) while most Bavarians prefer their pretzels to have a more uniform thickness. Now create a “U” with the ends of the dough. Twist these ends twice and then press them into the sides of the pretzel. Transfer the pretzels onto your baking sheet with the parchment paper. Freeze the pretzels for about 15 mins to stiffen them. Alternatively, you can place them in the refrigerator for about one hour.

4. Prepare the lye bath:

Add 1 quart (or 1 liter) to a large pot, add 1 oz (30g) of lye, carefully stir, and bring to a soft boil. Turn off the heat.

5. Dip the pretzels:

Once the pretzels have firmed up, use the slotted spoon to dip them in the lye bath or baking soda bath for up to 20 seconds. Remove them and return them to the baking sheet.

Next, cut the “belly” of the pretzels with a sharp knife or bread lame. Sprinkle them with pretzel salt or your favorite toppings.

6. Bake the pretzels:

Bake the pretzels in a preheated oven at 430˚F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy while they are fresh!

soft sourdough pretzels in basket

Other recipes you might like

Authentic German pretzels

Cheese Fondue

Easy No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

soft sourdough pretzels in basket
Print Recipe
4 from 6 votes

Soft Sourdough Pretzels

These soft sourdough pretzels are not only easy to make but they are everything you want from an authentic German pretzel.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
rest time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 35 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: German
Servings: 14 pretzels
Calories: 238kcal
Cost: $11

Ingredients

  • 700 g flour
  • 350 ml milk
  • 15 g sea salt
  • 40 g butter, soft
  • 100 g active sourdough starter

Instructions

  • Add the flour, salt, soft butter, milk, and sourdough starter to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed for 5-10 minutes. The dough should be soft and coming off the sides of the bowl.
  • Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 8 hours or overnight. If your house is cool, you can keep the dough on your kitchen counter. Otherwise, place the bowl in your refrigerator.
  • The next day, transfer the sourdough pretzel dough to your clean work surface and knead it into a round ball.
  • Using a sharp knife and your kitchen scale, divide the dough into equal pieces of about 90 grams. This recipe should make 14 pretzels. Roll each piece into an oblong shape and pinch any seams.
  • Working one piece at a time, use both hands and roll it into a long rope. Many Germans love their pretzels to have a bit of a “belly” (thicker piece right in the middle) while most Bavarians prefer their pretzels to have a more uniform thickness. Now create a “U” with the ends of the dough. Twist these ends twice and then press them into the sides of the pretzel. Transfer the pretzels onto your baking sheet with the parchment paper. Freeze the pretzels for about 15 mins to stiffen them. Alternatively, you can place them in the refrigerator for about one hour.
  • Add 1 quart (or 1 liter) to a large pot, add 1 oz (30g) of lye, carefully stir, and bring to a soft boil. Turn off the heat.
  • Once the pretzels have firmed up, use the slotted spoon to dip them in the lye bath or baking soda bath for up to 20 seconds. Remove them and return them to the baking sheet.
  • Next, cut the “belly” of the pretzels with a sharp knife or bread lame. Sprinkle them with pretzel salt or your favorite toppings.
  • Bake the pretzels in a preheated oven at 430˚F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy while they are fresh!

Notes

  • this recipe works best with an active sourdough starter
  • if you’d like to use your sourdough discard, just add 1 tsp of yeast to the dough
  • be sure to use gloves and safety goggles when using lye

Nutrition

Calories: 238kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @ourgabledhome or tag #ourgabledhome!

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How to Make Soft Sourdough Pretzels

16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We made these over the weekend. They were a huge hit. Will definitely make again. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. Hi Anja! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I love your site, YouTube videos, etc.! I have 2 questions.
    1. Should the milk be cold or room temp?
    2. For pretzel sticks, could you please share the recipe width and length that the dough should be in after cutting and prior to baking and boiling?
    Thank you so much!😊

    1. Room temp milk will be better for your sourdough. You can make your pretzel sticks any length and width you like but I often make mine ab out 6″ long ~ Anja

  3. Hello,
    Thank you for share all your wisdom and passion. I am new to bread making and really appreciate all the tips and tricks you so freely share. Thank you!!
    Just made these.. the taste is amazing but I have lots to learn still to make them awesome.. can you please clarify the oven temperature. I beaked mine on 425F convection and they did not open up so the inside is very doughy and underdone. I baked Second tray at 430F without conviction, they opened up but stayed small. Dough was made last night and it was in the fridge overnight.
    Also, can I bake both trays at the same time? Perhaps I made my shapes on a fatter side, could you perhaps recommend the length and a rough diameter I should be aiming for. Thank you again for such a lovely website.

    1. Thank you so much and I am glad to hear you’re loving the pretzels! You can absolutely experiment with their size (I make mine about the size of a hand), the baking temperature, and baking 2 trays at one time ~ Anja

  4. 5 stars
    Can I use freshly milled flour for this recipe? If so, how would adjust and is there a specific berry you would recommend? I have hard red and white berries.

    1. If you want to use fresh-milled flour, I would recommend wheat or spelt. You will most likely have to add a bit more liquid. Also they might be a bit more dense than white flour pretzels ~ Anja

  5. Hello Anja,
    Fantastic recipe, wonderful taste, German Bretzel heaven!!
    Followed exactly your steps and the pretzels turned out beautifully.
    Your recipe will replace my “schaebisch” one without no doubts.
    Liebe Gruesse aus Montreal#Canada
    Claudia

  6. Sounds like a fun new baking project I need to do with my daughter! She loves baking so I include it as part of her school for the day, and we all love pretzels.

  7. I was just looking for a sourdough pretzel recipe this morning to make for family night tonight!! Thanks for sharing!

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