homemade German pretzels

Let me show you step-by-step how you can make delicious German pretzels. They have the distinct color and flavor you might have come to love!

Have you had German pretzels before?

Maybe you have visited an Oktoberfest in your area.

Or you have visited or lived in Germany and tried them there.

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When I was growing up in Germany, I always loved them but certainly took them for granted. As kids in Stuttgart, we would walk by these little “huts” or stands that solely sold pretzels. You could also get them cut horizontally and spread with butter (FACT: Germans never eat their pretzels with mustard!).

Since having moved to the US, I have missed pretzels. Probably because they’re not so readily available.

I have found some good sources but the pretzels tend to be expensive. Sometimes, I see them in stores. They’re either packaged or frozen. But guess what? They are way too sweet! I mean, for a German pretzel.

As with many foods, if I can’t get them here, I’ll just learn how to make them.

Here’s a picture of my first attempt from a decade ago:

first attempt German pretzels

They weren’t bad but they weren’t what I was looking for.

Since then, I have been working on perfecting my recipe and my methods.

What is a German Pretzel?

German pretzels are made from a yeast dough that is not sweet. Yes, sometimes a bit of sugar or malted barley flour is added to feed the yeast. However, when you take a bite, there shouldn’t be any obvious sweetness.

Also, German pretzels are lye pretzels. That means, that they have been dipped in lye. Food grade lye is what gives them their reddish-brown color and typical pretzel taste. This is called “maillard reaction”: a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction)

Thus, in Germany pretzels are often called lye pretzels (Laugenbrezeln).

At first, I was intimidated by using lye but with a few safety precautions, I soon found that the distinct pretzel flavor and color was worth the extra effort.

basket of German pretzels

Ingredients for German Pretzels

ingredients for German pretzels

Here are the ingredients you need to make German pretzels:

3.5 cups or 500 g of flour (wheat, spelt, or a bit of whole wheat)

1 1/6 cup or 300 g lukewarm milk

2 tsp dry yeast

2 tsp or 10 g of salt

3 TBSP or 40 g of soft butter

1 TBSP malted barley flour or sugar

food grade lye or baking soda

coarse pretzel salt

Notes about the ingredients:

I do recommend that you weigh the ingredients if you have a kitchen scale. You can make these pretzels with regular AP or bread flour. Often, I replace about 1/3 of the white flour with whole wheat flour. You can also use spelt flour.

The malted barley flour (find it here) is a typical ingredient for German pretzels. The enzymes help the dough become more elastic and add a nice subtle malted flavor. You can also simply use sugar instead.

To create the authentic pretzel flavor and color, you’ll want to use food-grade lye (find it here). Yes, it is also used for making soap but it is not only perfectly fine for pretzel-making, it is THE ingredient that creates this authentic color and taste.

If you are using lye, you will have to use it carefully: always wear gloves and googles, add the water to your pot first and THEN add the lye, and keep children away from it!

Otherwise, you can use baking soda which will not give you the same results, though.

Pretzel salt is the coarse salt that you typically find on pretzels. You can use something like this.

How to make German Pretzels

Making the dough

Measure your flour and add to a large mixing bowl. Create a deep well in the flour, add dry yeast, malted barley flour or sugar, and the lukewarm milk. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

Then add the remaining ingredients and work into a smooth dough that releases easily from the bowl. You can also do that in your kitchen machine with the dough hook.

Cover the bowl and let your dough sit in a warm spot for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

To make your pretzels the same size and have them bake evenly, you’ll want to weigh dough balls. I usually make them weigh in at about 3 oz or 85 g. It doesn’t have to be super exact. However, I find that I am often way off. Therefore, I prefer using a kitchen scale.

Form all the dough balls into long shapes.

Shaping the pretzels

Now, we’ll shape the pretzels. Different regions in Germany prefer slightly different shapes. The one I like has a thicker bottom and thinner arms. To make them, you’ll roll your dough into a long strand with a thicker part in the middle (about 18 inches long).

Next, you form a U-shape.

shaping pretzels

Fold the long “arms” over once.

making pretzels

Fold the long arms over a second time.

creating pretzel shape

Now, you bring the ends back and press them onto the pretzel body.

forming German pretzel

It might take a bit to get the hang of it but just keep on trying. Also, don’t worry if your first pretzels turn out a bit funny. Again, you might have to make a few batches to see how the turn out in the end.

Place your shaped pretzels onto a baking tray. I like to put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to make them a bit stiffer. This helps with the lye dipping!

The lye bath

Now is the time to mix your lye bath or baking soda bath in a pot. ALWAYS add 1 oz of lye to 1 quart of water, not the other way around. Or mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1 quart of water. Gently heat the lye/baking soda bath over medium heat until scalding hot but not boiling.

Set your oven to 435˚F.

Take the pretzels out of the freezer or refrigerator when the time is up. Put on gloves and goggles (if using lye), and with a slotted spoon dip one pretzel at a time in the lye or baking soda bath. You can leave them in there for up to 30 seconds. Take them out and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of them have been dipped.

dipping pretzel in lye

With a sharp knife cut a little bit into the pretzels at the thickest part.

baking pretzels

After that, sprinkle each pretzel with pretzel salt.

Bake at 435˚F for 13-17 minutes or until nice and brown.

Let the pretzels cool on a rack.

Saving the lye:

I like to save any left-over lye. I carefully pour it into a quart-size mason jar, put a lid on, and LABEL it very obviously so that everyone knows it’s lye.

saving food-grade lye

Enjoy your pretzels!

The best way to enjoy your German pretzels is with butter. You can also serve them with your favorite (white) sausages. Should you have any leftovers, just put them in a plastic bag into the freezer.

You can crisp up your pretzels in a hot (about 420˚F) oven for a few minutes.

German pretzel with butter
German pretzels
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

German Pretzels

You will love the distinct flavor and color of authentic German pretzels
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Resting time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: German
Servings: 14 pretzels
Calories: 190kcal
Author: Our Gabled Home
Cost: $9


  • 3.5 cups or 500 g flour
  • 1 1/6 cups or 300 g lukewarm milk
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 TBSP malted barley flour or sugar
  • 2 tsp or 10 g salt
  • 3 TBSP or 40 g of soft butter
  • food-grade lye
  • coarse pretzel salt


  • Add flour to large mixing bowl, make a deep well in the middle, add yeast and malted barley flour/sugar, then pour warm milk over it.  Let stand for about 10 mins.
  • Add remaining ingredients and work into a smooth dough. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour or until double in size.
  • Measure out dough of about 3 oz/85 g each and roll into long shapes.  Then form into pretzels: roll out into long strands of about 18 inches with a thick part in the middle.  Form strand into a U.  Fold the ends over once and once more.  Bring ends back and press into pretzel body.  Repeat until all the dough balls are shaped into pretzels.
  • Add 1 liter/quart of water to a pot, THEN add 1 oz of food grade lye or 1/4 cup of baking soda.  Heat over medium heat until hot but not boiling.  Preheat the oven to 435˚F.
  • Freeze the pretzels on a baking tray for about 15 mins or place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour until firm.
  • Take pretzels out of freezer or refrigerator. With a slotted spoon and one by one dip the pretzels into the hot lye/baking soda bath for up to 30 sec.  Place back onto baking sheet.
  • Cut each pretzel horizontally at the thickest part.  Sprinkle each pretzel with coarse pretzel salt.
  • Bake at 435˚F for 13-17 mins or until nice and brown.  Let them cool on a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy with butter and/or with (white) sausage or your favorite sides!
    German pretzels

Other recipes you might enjoy:

How to make your own sourdough starter

Easy sourdough starter: No feedings, no discards

German Cheesecake

No-knead artisan sourdough bread

Sourdough Easter Cake

German-style whole grain bread

German Christmas Stollen

I’d love to hear your comments or questions below!!

Pin for later:

German Pretzel pin

16 thoughts on “How to Make German Pretzels”

  1. I was just talking to my SIL this weekend about how I need to make some soft pretzels at home…now I have a recipe for it! Thanks, I can’t wait to try it!

  2. Question: do you happen to know how to make the German Brotchen? I would really love to learn. I lived in Efdorf Germany for 3 years and loved them (Bitburg area) and I ask my German landlord how to make them and she said you buy them. I have tried a few recipe but they are not like what I remember. Any way I would really love to learn. Thanks can’t wait to try homemade cream cheese, I been making buttermilk, kefir and sour dough for years.

    1. Yes … Brötchen. I have been experimenting with some recipes but hadn’t been happy enough with them to bring them to this blog. I will post a recipe once I have a good one. Stay tuned ~ Anja

  3. Andrea Bader Dowdell

    Hallo Anja,
    I came across your website and signed up researching on how to effectively grind flour. I have since watched a few of your very informative videos. Thank you!
    Ich bin 1992 von Stuttgart nach LA gezogen/ eingereist, habe zwei erwachsene Kinder und einen lieben Mann. Ich mache viel im Garten, backe viel mit Sauerteig, fermentiere, usw.
    Meine Brezeln liebe ich auch. Ich wurde von einer super Website inspiriert, http://www.the perfectloaf.com
    Nochmals danke für viele Tips,

    1. Hallo Andrea, das ist ja nett!! Ich bin übrigens in Stuttgart geboren und habe da knapp 10 Jahre gelebt. Und es freut mich, daß Dir meine Videos gefallen. Liebe Grüße ~ Anja

  4. Anja, thank you for sharing your recipe for pretzels! My husband is of German descent and I know he will love them. Your photos are beautiful and instructions are very clear.

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