Pretzels are one of the world’s oldest snacks. These soft and chewy brown treats that are shaped like an open knot are a well-loved standard found at bars and cafes in Trentino-Alto Adige and of course all over Germany. The bretzel, usually called pretzel in English, is known for its salty goodness and often served alongside a brimming stein of cold beer.

What is a pretzel and where did it originate?

Pretzels, or bretzels, are made with just a few simple ingredients including flour, butter, yeast, water and salt. They are shaped into a large, open knot and then first boiled in water with baking soda or lye and then baked in the oven until brown. Pretzels are a symbol of Germany and well known in the German-speaking world as well as Eastern France and Northern Italy.

How do pretzels get their deep brown color?

Pretzels owe their deep brown color to a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction. This reaction happens when they are first boiled in water that has either lye or baking soda and then baked in a hot oven. The outside, which has been treated, turns a crunchy deep golden brown, while the inside stays white, soft and chewy.

What kind of salt should I sprinkle on my pretzels? 

The most frequent flavoring for soft pretzels is simply coarse salt, which is salt that has larger crystals than fine salt. If you are making pretzels from scratch, here is an explanation of different types of salt that you might want to sprinkle on top:

Pretzel salt –  yes, there is a salt that is sold specifically for making pretzels! It is large-grained and doesn’t melt easily so you can still see it on the top of the pretzel after baking.Kosher salt – a salt that is free from additives and is large grained, it is less salty than other types, so recommended if you want a little less flavor, but it melts quicker than pretzel salt so it might not be as easy to see.Sea salt – a more expensive salt that comes directly from evaporating seawater, be sure to use the larger-grained types only as it comes fine as well.Rock salt – this salt looks more or less like the others, but it is not recommended for making pretzels. Rock salt is less refined and has minerals that are usually removed from table salt.


Soft Pretzel

The perfect aperitif snack to be enjoyed with a cold beer.
Course Aperitivo
Cuisine Italian
Keyword bretzel, pretzel, snack
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 6 pretzels
Calories 225kcal
Author Nonna Box


Ingredients for dough:

340 grams all purpose flour2 grams active dry yeast15 grams butter room temperature5 grams fine salt185 grams water room temperaturePretzel salt as desired

Ingredients for cooking:

35 grams baking soda2 liters cooking water


Sift the flour and put it in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on.
Add the yeast and the room-temperature butter.
Turn the mixer on low to mix the ingredients together, adding in the 185 grams of room-temperature water slowly.
Mix on low for several minutes until the dough is uniform and compact.
Add the fine salt and mix on medium speed for a few minutes.
Turn off the mixer and remove the dough from the bowl and place on a cutting board.
With your hands, roll back and forth to create a long oblong shape.
Cut into five equal parts.
Start with one part and roll back and forth until you form a long, thick cord of about 50 cm. The ends should be thinner than the middle.
Form an open knot, pretzel shape and attach the ends, pinching to attach it firmly.
Place each formed pretzel on a sheet covered with flour, and leave all 5 to rise for 30 minutes.
After rising for 30 minutes, place them in the fridge to rest for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 430° F.
Put a large pot with 2 liters of water over medium heat and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the baking soda.
Prepare a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
Using a slotted spoon, place the first pretzel into the boiling water and cook for 30-40 seconds.
Drain the pretzel well and transfer to the baking tray. Repeat for all the other pretzels.
Slice a long line in the fattest part of each pretzel. Sprinkle them with pretzel salt.
Cook in the oven at 430° F for 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
Serve the pretzels warm.


Serving: 150g | Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 1955mg | Potassium: 64mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 62IU | Vitamin C: 0.002mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 3mg


How long can I keep pretzels for?

There are lots of different types of pretzels, and of course the small, hard, commercially-baked pretzels will keep in an airtight container for a very long time. However, the soft pretzels in this recipe need to be eaten within a day or two of preparation. They are of course best eaten warm from the oven!

Is it true that pretzels have Christian symbolism?

Pretzels are said to have been invented by a Christian monk as a treat for children who learned bible verses and prayers. The pretzel shape is said to represent a child whose arms are crossed in prayer, and the three “holes” are said to represent the Trinity.

What are the different pretzel toppings or dippings?

A standard salt pretzel with nothing else is certainly delicious, but if you want to make things a little more interesting there are all kinds of toppings or dips you can use. If you are in the mood for something sweet, you can sprinkle the top with cinnamon and/or white sugar, instead of salt, before baking. Another popular way to eat pretzels is by dipping them in mustard, melted cheese or chocolate.