Soft Pretzels


These tender German soft pretzel sticks have a dark golden salt-crusted exterior and chewy centers.

German Soft Pretzel Sticks
Photo: © Lucy Schaeffer
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 45 mins
2 dozen pretzel sticks

This soft pretzel recipe comes from chef Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next restaurants in Chicago. These pretzels have a tender chew with a lightly crispy exterior. The yeasted dough gets shaped into pretzel sticks. After a quick rise, the pretzels are blanched in simmering baking soda water to help create the post-bake exterior texture. The egg wash gives the pretzels a bit of sheen but also helps the flaky salt adhere. "I've always been a fan of any food high in salt and starch," Achatz says, "and soft pretzels right out of the oven are awesome."

How to make pretzel sticks

German pretzels were originally boiled in an alkaline solution of lye and water. Lye is a corrosive agent that can be dangerous if not handled correctly. This recipe mimics the technique by blanching the pretzels in baking soda water instead. The alkaline (low pH) solution is what gives the pretzels their dark golden, crisp exteriors and soft, chewy centers. You can eat these slightly sweet pretzel sticks plain, with mustard, or — as Achatz prefers — with ranch dressing.


  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar

  • 2 cups warm water, plus more for alkaline solution

  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 5 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing

  • 3/4 cup baking soda

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

  • Flaky salt, such as Maldon

  • Yellow mustard, for serving


  1. In a large bowl, stir the brown sugar into 2 cups of warm water until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 3 cups flour. Knead in the remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour; the dough will be slightly sticky.

  2. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until silky, about 3 minutes; if the dough is very sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour. Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F and position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Using softened butter or cooking spray, grease four large baking sheets, line them with parchment paper, then grease the paper. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Flatten the dough and cut it into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch stick about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer the sticks to the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Let stand uncovered until puffed, about 25 minutes.

  4. Place a rack in a large baking sheet. In a large, high-sided skillet, stir the baking soda into 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate. Using two fish spatulas, carefully transfer six pretzel sticks at a time to the simmering water for 30 seconds, turning once. Add about 1 cup of hot water, if needed, after cooking the second batch of pretzels. Transfer the pretzel sticks to the rack-lined baking sheet to drain, then return them to the parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them evenly.

  5. Brush the pretzel sticks with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake, one sheet at a time, on the center oven rack until richly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with mustard.

Related Articles