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Sourdough soft pretzels in traditional shape, brushed with butter, black and white sesame seeds and kosher salt, on blue and white enamel plate red and white cotton towel, wooden bench

The Best Sourdough Soft Pretzels

Buttery, salty, and topped with delicious sesame seeds, these chewy yet tender, golden brown sourdough soft pretzels are truly the best.

Course bread
Cuisine Appetizer, Snack
Servings 8
Calories 291 kcal
Author Rebecca Lindamood

Ingredients

Ingredients for dough:

  • 4 cups bread flour 1 pound 1 ounce by weight
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons SAF or instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unfed sourdough starter

Ingredients for pretzel boil:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda

Ingredients for toppings:

  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • pretzel salt

Instructions

To Make the Dough by Hand:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Set the whisk aside and switch to a sturdy wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and sourdough starter until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a generously floured surface and knead, for 15 minutes adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from adhering to the counter. You do not want a firm dough… it should be fairly slack, a little tacky and soft, yet smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.

To Make the Dough by Stand Mixer:

  1. In the work-bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix on low about 30 seconds, or just to combine dry ingredients. With mixer still on low, carefully pour in the milk and sourdough starter. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.

To Make the Dough by Bread Machine:

  1. Add the milk, sourdough starter, flour, sugar, and yeast to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “Dough” or “Dough Only” cycle and hit start. Allow the cycle to complete.

To Form the Pretzels:

  1. Line three half sheet pans with silpats. Set next to your work area.

  2. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface.

For Traditional Pretzel Shaped Pretzels:

  1. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of a Kindergarten pencil (or your index finger.) Lay the snake of dough in a u-shape. Twist the two ends together twice, keeping the base of the "u" open, then fold the twisted ends down onto the base of the "u" and gently press in place. Transfer the pretzels onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between them. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.

To Form Easier Pretzel Rods:

  1. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of a Kindergarten pencil (or your index finger.) Transfer the pretzels onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between them. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.

To Cook the Pretzels:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enameled cast-iron, tempered glass, etc…) When water simmers, add the baking soda. Gently lift the pretzels or pretzel rods one at a time into the boiling water. (You can boil more than one at a time, but be sure not to crowd the the pan as they will expand as they boil. Let simmer for about 45 seconds, flip the pieces and simmer for another 45 seconds-1 minute. Use a slotted spatula or spoon to drain and return each piece to its place on the pan. Continue until all pieces have been boiled and returned to the pan.

  3. Sprinkle each pretzel with about a teaspoon of sesame seeds and pretzel salt to taste. Place pans in oven and bake the pretzels at least until golden brown (at least 18 minutes), but you can bake until they are deep brown which is my preference (closer to 22-24 minutes in my oven.)

  4. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before eating. These are best enjoyed warm, but can be stored in non-airtight container such as a bowl covered with a clean tea towel or a paper bag that is cinched or clipped shut at room temperature for a couple of days. They can be quickly reheated prior to serving.

Nutrition Facts
The Best Sourdough Soft Pretzels
Amount Per Serving
Calories 291 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 5%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 1212mg 51%
Potassium 145mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 53g 18%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 3g
Protein 10g 20%
Vitamin A 1%
Calcium 8%
Iron 5.9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.