The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts



pretzel shapingThe other day I was reading Jeffrey Hamelman's recent book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes when I came across his pretzel recipe. His recipe requires a pate fermente overnight, a long fermentation, and a bath in a solution of water and lye, which means rubber gloves and goggles are required.

"Rubber gloves and goggles and caustic fluids to make a batch of pretzels?!? You've got to be kidding me," I thought.

The next day I found myself flipping through another baking book when I stumbled across another pretzel recipe. No caustic bath. No preferment. Not even an initial fermentation: simply mix everything together, shape the pretzels, and bake them; beginning to end, under an hour.

So which is it? Is it necessary to make the preferment and use lye to make decent pretzels at home? Do you even need to ferment the dough to make passable pretzels, or can you just jam them into the oven?

Find out below.

By the way, the other baking book I was looking at was Breaking Bread with Father Dominic 2. Not a bad little book. I gather that it is out of print, but if you see a cheap used copy at the local bookstore it might be worth picking up.

I didn't follow his recipe exactly, but it provided a nice balance to Hamelman's recipe.

The Experiment

There was no way I was going to try the lye bath at home. Maybe to make world class, authentic German pretzels that is necessary, but for a half dozen pretzels at home? Forget about it.

I decided to try make pretzels with an initial fermentation and without. I also tried boiling them briefly in water, egg washing them, and just baking them dry. If any of those methods could produce something reasonably like the soft pretzels I've had before I'd be happy.

The Recipe

I buy my yeast in a jar so that I can measure out as much or as little as I want (well, that and it is cheaper when you bake as often as I do). If you are using yeast from a packet, you can either use half a packet or double the recipe and use an entire packet (at least the packets they sell in the grocery stores in the US... international bakers will have to do their own conversion).

If you are using instant (AKA Rapid Rise or Bread Machine) yeast, you can just mix the yeast in with the rest of the dry ingredients before adding the warm milk and it'll activate fine. If you are using active dry yeast, mix it into the warm milk along with the malt powder (or brown sugar) and give it 5 to 10 minutes to activate before incorporating it into the dry ingredients.


Makes 6 large pretzels
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave)

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it forms a ball. I start with 2 cups of the flour and mix it together until it forms something like a thick batter, then add more flour a handful at a time until it'll form a nice ball that I can knead by hand.

Either use an electric mixer to mix the dough for 5 minutes or remove it from the bowl and knead it by hand for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough begins to get smooth and satiny.

If you are going to ferment the dough (more information on whether this set is necessary below), return the ball of dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately an hour.

If you fermented it, degas the dough gently before moving on to the next step.

Before shaping, start preheating the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel, and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. After it has relaxed you should be able to roll it out and stretch again fairly easily.

pretzel logs

After taking this photo, I let them relax again and then gave each a third roll and stretch session before they were as long and thin as I wanted (about 15 inches long and about as big around as my index finger). They'll nearly double in width while baking, so it is ok to roll them out quite thin.

pretzel shaping

Shaping pretzels is simple, once you get a hang of it. Place a rope of dough on the work surface in front of you. Take each end in a hand, loop the dough away from you, and bring the ends back toward your stomach, crossing them about an inch above the rope. Apply a little bit of pressure to make the loops stick together, but not too much because you don't want then to flatten out.

Pretzels don't appear to need to rise again before baking, so you just need to figure out how you want to prep them for the oven. Here are the options I tried:

To boil them: If you want to boil them, bring a pot of water to a boil. Dunk each of the pretzels into the boiling water for 5 seconds, then place them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt (I use the kosher stuff that is easy to find at the grocery store) or other toppings.

pretzel shaping

I used a pair of spatulas to hold the pretzel in place while holding it under water.

To eggwash them: Simply place them on a baking sheet, brush them gently with an egg that has been whisked, then sprinkle with coarse salt or other toppings.

To bake them (mostly) dry: Sprinkle or spritz them with a little bit of water so that the toppings will stick, then sprinkle with coarse salt or other toppings.

Place the baking sheets into the oven. It took around 15 minutes for my pretzels to get golden and brown. Remove from the oven and eat immediately.


pretzels done

We definitely thought the boiled pretzels (on the left) were better than the pretzels that had just been spritzed with water (on the right). The spritzed ones were dry and had a slightly french bread like crust. Crust like that is good on french bread but not so good on soft pretzels.

I liked the boiled pretzels more than the eggwashed pretzels, my wife preferred the eggwashed pretzels better. The eggwashed ones rose considerably more in the oven than the boiled ones, so they were quite soft and fluffy. The boiled ones were still soft, but they were a little denser and chewier.

Truthfully, I couldn't tell the difference between the batch that I let ferment for an hour and the batch I baked immediately. If I were tasting them side by side with no toppings I probably could detect a slight difference. But at least when I eat soft pretzels they are a medium for other flavors (salt and mustard), either method produces an adequate pretzel.

pretzel alone

And the lye bath? At least for the home baker I can say with confidence that you can skip it.

Defender of the lye bath? Or have any other insight into proper pretzel making? Please comment!


scarlett75's picture

I completely agree with your assessment on the necessity of a lye bath. It's unnecessary for the home pretzel baker. In fact, I called my cousin, who owns an Auntie Annes Pretzel Store and she said that she'd heard about lye-baths for pretzels, but always considered it a very old-world, hard pretzel tradition.

I've made countless pretzels using a recipe similar to the one here. And, like you, I've found that boiling them first gives them a significant edge over dry baking. :) I used to egg wash mine, but I gave it up when the kids couldn't notice a difference.

stephen198's picture

I found the fermentation was helpful; not so much for taste, but in my small kitchen it gave me time to clean and prep for the shaping.

Cascabel's picture


I'm an absolute fan of Hamelman's bread book. Everything I tried turned out great. I made the Pretzels with real lye (NaOH) and they tasted absolutely authentic. I should know that because I'm from Germany ;-) You can see the result in my blog Chili und Ciabatta

Floydm's picture

Good to know.

I have to admit, when I spent a couple of weeks in Koln a few years back I ate a ton of bread (mostly rolls), but I never got around to trying pretzels there.

Without the lye bath the pretzels come out like the soft pretzels that are commonly found in the States at places like baseball games, but I bet they are a lot different than authentic German pretzels.

I added a link to your blog to the link section. I remember looking at it when you first joined this site... you bake some beautiful stuff!

Cascabel's picture

Thanks for adding the link to my blog :-)

Pretzels (or Bretzeln, Brezeln as we call them) are very typical for the southern part of Germany, for Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg. My brother, who lives near Koeln, has to import them from the south ;-)

christilyn's picture

Wow! I made these this afternoon and they are simply amazing! I let them rise (outside in the warm sun) for about 30 minutes, used the egg bath...they baked up to be fabulous! I am considering making pretzel rolls, using this recipe, later tonight.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That's interesting, I thought lye was KOH or Potassium Hydroxide. NaOH is Sodium Hydroxide.

Here is something:

Maybe one could look under Potash rolls for lye recipes.

I would not use lye, something here got stronger in the translation! The soda bath sounds better. :) Mini Oven

RichmondJim's picture

Actually, both are right. Lye started as many alkalis produced from rainwater filtering through wood ashes. It then became KOH, but in modern times is now commercially produced Sodium Hydroxide with a pH around 14 (baking soda is only 9... remember neutal (like water) is 7). Used to cure olives, in making hominy, pretzels, lutefisk and other foods.

I disagree that Baking Soda produces the same results. You can't add enough baking soda to water to get the amount of alkalinity needed to produce the rich brown crust and even dark color of a good soft pretzel.

Granted, food grade lye (caustic soda, NaOH) is needed, and it can be dangerous if handled improperly, but so can the gas range, the lawnmower, the car, even the vacuum cleaner for that matter! The lye is just a tool used to obtain a desired result. I'd rather teach my 3 kids respect and proper use for any of these things than to "not have them around my house" because they might be dangerous.


joek's picture

see my reply below... joek

guerrillafood's picture

Cascabel Haben Sie Fotos von Ihre Brezen? Ich bin ein Amerikaner, aber ich habe fast 5 Jahre in München gelebt. Ich vermisse Brezen so sehr. Ich habe immer wieder versucht authentische deutsche Brezen in Amerika zu backen, aber sie werden immer zu weich und einfach nicht so gut wie in Deutschland. Ich habe immer diese Natrion Lauge verwendet. Bevor ich diese Hamelman's Brot Buch kaufe, haben Sie ein Foto von Ihre Brezen?

Vielen Dank!

meenleen's picture

I watched an episode of "good eats" where Alton Brown made pretzels, instead of Lye, he used baking soda, it had the correct properties to have the same effect as lye, and much safer. There are my two cents.

mduane's picture

just made a batch of soft pretzels with baking soda and one with with lye.  Baking soda - good tasty pretzel like you would find at a food court of a middle American mall.  With Lye - like the pretzel your buy on the corner in NYC on the way to the Thanksgiving parade from the guy with the cart roasting chestnuts and you feel like you are tasting the embodiment of salty bready perfection.    

madeingermany's picture

Cascabel, thanks so much for your post on Chili und Ciabatta. I took that recipe and translated it for my American friends (kind of Ironic *g):

And thanks to Floyd for the original post that got me thinking about Pretzels again. I tried your recipe first and I found the results pretty good with a quick boil in the Baking Soda solution. But for a German that's missing the tastes of home, a lye bath is the way to go :)


PS: Results:

flournwater's picture

Ich finde diese Version von Ihrem Blog ein wenig einfacher zu handhaben|en|Endlich%2520habe%2520ich%2520es%2520geschafft%2520und%2520meine%2520Eintr%25C3%25A4ge%2520hier%2520komplett%2520in%2520mein%2520neues%2520Blog%2520%25C3%25BCbertragen.

I found this version of your blog a bit easier to handle.

Very nice...




sbrimo's picture

I tried this tonight with the recipe above and the baking soda boil that Alton Brown describes.  INCREDIBLE results.  I like the idea of using lye for more traditional results (and may next time for kicks) but for ease-of-use decided on baking soda for my first run.  I actually did both baking soda AND egg wash.  The pretzels had a wonderful crispness to the crust and the best chewy, tight crumb.  I also used bread flour which helped.  THIS IS A KEEPER! 

JoniB's picture

I made this recipe yesterday as two loaves of pretzel bread; I used my bread machine to make the dough, which included the rise, and took them immediately out of the machine, formed into loaves, sliced an "X" in the tops, boiled them in the soda water for 30 seconds each side and they were wonderful.  Didn't need to proof them again!  Today, I made pretzels the same way and they were also very good.  I thought they were a little dark on the bottom, not sure if I should reduce the temp:  they were up in the top third of the oven.  Really delicious.  

Cascabel's picture

As my blog moved some years ago the link above is broken. You can see the recipe and photo here.

llstuffed's picture

I recently saw on Good Eats that the pretzels were boiled in a 10 cups of water with 2/3 cup of baking soda solution, as well as painted the pretzels with an egg yolk wash (1 yolk + 1T water) before baking for approximately 14 minutes.

Erithid's picture

I brushed them with melted butter before salting and baking :-)

noah's picture

Hey! How can you say with confidence that you can skip the lye bath if you didn't even try it?
A good pretzel isn't for the timid! Real German pretzels have a distinct taste and texture. Chewy -- almost bagel-like, but with a tough "skin". They also have an odd, bitter taste. Mmm! Goes with beer.

A dilute lye solution isn't hard to handle. All the recipes I've seen call for a VERY weak solution. I've been burned by concentrated lye a few times with no permanent damage (so it did make my skin peel and bleed). A weak solution should be even easier to handle. It burns skins very slowly, so if it is washed off quickly you should be fine. I'd be more concerned about having it splash in my eyes.

I'm also looking for a recipe for Lye Rolls, but this seems to be even harder to find than mercury cake frosting. You can't find everything on the internet.

Floydm's picture

Hey! How can you say with confidence that you can skip the lye bath if you didn't even try it?

I don't deny for a second that you might be able to get better, more authentic pretzels with a lye bath. But I don't strive to make authentic German pretzels: I strive to make something my family will enjoy munching on. Many of the people who read this site have similarly humble goals. Those who want to take it to the next level, more power to them.

dstroy's picture

I can say with confidence that you CAN skip the lye bath, because when you have small children in the house, the option of only the fanciest schmanciest pretzels that can require a hazmat team at the ready or no bagels, this makes a damn good compromise. I think the point here is that you can still do this at home even without bringing in stuff that will make your skin "skin peel and bleed" ;)

SylviaH's picture

They diffinately take priority over the lye... save the skin peel for the cosmetic surgeons.
Your a good Mom.

hillman321's picture

My grandmother taught me to bake. She was full German extract, her father and mother came from near Nuremburg. She used baking soda in place of the lye bath. You can wash the pretzels with 1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda in a cup of boiling water. Sodium Bicarbonate is a mild base as compared to Sodium Hydroxide (lye), for the chemists amongst us. You can put 4 Tablespoons in a quart of water and actually boil them similar to the way you do a bagel before cooking. This gives the more authentic feel to the pretzels.

lofstudio's picture

I've used baking soda several times as well. It works fine. Even though this is probably common sense and everyone knows it already, if you do want to use lye in pretzel-making, don't use the stuff from the hardware store. It's not chemically pure enough for cooking. You can get food-grade lye.

Laura Jones's picture
Laura Jones

I found this site through my friend Markalope and his delicious-looking pictures of these pretzels.

I made them last night with a lovely little twist - I stuffed brie in the middle before baking! They were absolutely divine and we named them "brietzels". 

I followed the instructions up to rolling out the separate sections. Once that was done, I used a sharp knife to slice halfway through, the entire length of the roll, and spread the dough apart. I sliced brie into 1 cm by 1 cm strips and laid it in the dough, then pinched the ends back together over the brie and twisted it into pretzel shape. I used the eggwash and kosher salt, but I bet cinnamon/sugar would be a great topping with this as well. They baked just fine and only a bit of the brie bubbled out here and there.

And really, oh my goodness, they were SO delicious. I'm now plotting other things to stuff into these pretzels. What a recipe, mmmm, and a delicious site in general! Thank you so much!

Laura Jones
Fan of Bread (and Cheese)

flournwater's picture

Try coarsely ground nuts (your choice)

I like cashews or pistachios.  Pistachios with mustard; das ist gute

johnm's picture


I tried pretzels last night. They were edible, but they stuck to the pan. Once they've been dunked in boiling water they go on the baking sheet. Does the baking sheet need to be greased or have corn meal on it? I used a light covering of olive oil. Maybe I didn't let the water drip off good enough before placing them on the pan...

Any ideas on why my pretzels stuck to the pan?

Thank you,


flournwater's picture

I'd use a sheet of parchment, lightly dusted with white flour or corn flour, to eliminate the sticking problem.

malo's picture

I actually did use a lye bath to  make pretzels, or "pretzel bread" from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible

I'm not sure that it was worth it, but I'm glad I tried it once.

HUGO's picture


flournwater's picture

Peanut butter and honey

Ranch dressing

Melted (clarified) butter or browned butter

Olive oil with cracked black pepper

Mustard (sweet or deli.)

Soft cooked egg yolk

Horseradish mixed with a bit of mayo.


cptvideo's picture

Instead of lye, I use barley malt (dry malt extract), like you'd use in beer making or as a replacement for sugar in bread making (malt is a simpler sugar and easier for the yeasties to eat). I probably use a half cup or a cup of malt disolved in water and then brought to a boil -- watch for boil-overs (it can be a sticky mess)! The malt gives a great sheen, a deep dark brown color, and real tough skin texture. I just throw the pretzels in the boil, turn them once after a minute or so, take them out to drip dry for a couple mins, then throw salt on them and toss them, still moist, directly into a 500 degree oven on the stone - sizzle!


I prefer the flavor of sourdough pretzels made by just taking a good sourdough sponge and adding enough flour to make your dough -- which is the same recipe i use for pizza crust and rustic crackers -- super simple, naturally tasty :)


... but the real trick to making pretzels: shaping by just grabbing the ends of the rolled out dough, and with one quick flip, getting them to twist up and flop down in the perfect pretzel shape :)

vegasvicki's picture

I just wanted to share with you just how much I love this pretzel recipe.  I've made it twice this week already.  I only use 2 1/4 cups of flour, boiled them in baking soda/water, used regular table salt to flavor the tops.  My husband dipped them in cheese sauce. 

How wonderful thank you!


sqpixels's picture

This recipe rocks!! I just made a batch and it's so easy and so so deliclous!! I boiled mine in water with a teaspoon of baking soda. 
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!

Rehhausser's picture

I've tried the pretzels both ways. With the lye bath you get a strong "bite" and a great texture reminiscent of "real" german pretzels. Without the lye, parboiling with (or without) soda, you get a pretzel that's also good, but more reminiscent of the soft pretzels from a streetcorner in Philadelphia. My best luck with coating a sheet is both oil and corn meal. Parchment paper works, but the lye dip will burn holes in it.

The lye is a fairly weak solution, but you must be careful to get food grade lye. Drain cleaner is a big no-no. You can often find food grade lye inexpensively at soapmaking supply shops.

Jimbosox04's picture

Ok, In my and my wives opinion...the only way to make a true "Bavarian Bretzeln" as they call them is with the lye wash.  I am still trying to perfect the proper way to bake it but I can say if you are looking for the crisp dark brown color you won't get it any other way.  Food Grade lye is used at a 3% dilution which is still enough to which you should use gloves and glasses.  Food Grade Lye is available by mail order at for a reasonable price.  I mix 4 Tablespoons with 8 cups of warm water in a non-reactive bowl, seems to work great.  I am gonna experiment with maybe spritzing it with a spray bottle and see if that will also work.


BTW, the picture at the top of the page, those pretzels are lacking the twist that makes a pretzel a pretzel.


Just for the record, my wife is from Bavaria and also from Munich, very close to where they hold the Oktoberfest each year, I have gotten approval from her and also my father-in-law to make these in America.  LOL !!!  Good Luck all and please try it at least once.  By all means if you haven't had an Authentic German Pretzel, then make the trip, and yes, they are much different than those things we call pretzels.

joek's picture

i have intimate knowledge of the pretzel ... i made them at the same bakery that jeffery H. learned how to make them... and i ate them for years... supposedly the harmfull effects of the lye get negated in the baking process... i am still researching that... we refered to them as stutgart pretzels.... the matron was from westphalia... they are soft and meant to be soft... they are refridgerated over night after a slight rise...and dipped pretty much out of the cooler... there is a whole special peice of equiptment used to dip them and get them in the oven....theres some other secrets that i'll hold on to....lye is also used to make hominy... but who eats that any more....

markus's picture

The refrigeration is to allow them to be dipped without losing their shape (risen dough is ordinarily too soft).  As a convenient side effect, you can store them "ready for baking" overnight.  Saves time in the morning.

Sodium hydroxide is not particularly toxic, but extremely corrosive. It turns into something else during baking though.

As for who eats that any more?  Lye-dipped pretzels at least, south Germans do, in huge quantities, and have for centuries, and it ain't done killed anyone ye...gaaaa, internal pain.... whump.

DaviMack's picture

Just a quick comment: when's the last time anybody ate a corn tortilla?  Or a tortilla chip?  That was most likely processed with lye.  As is the cereal known as "grits," which is eaten all over the Southern U.S.

madeingermany's picture

I got 4lbs of NaOH from AAA Chemicals now - Next years of Pretzel supply is secured :)

vegasvicki's picture

This is in response to the sticky pretzel question.  I made one batch of pretzels that stuck to the pan because I didnt add enough flour.  The recipe is a little unclear of just how much flour to add exactly and 1 cup can make a big difference. 

The second batch I made I added like 2 1/2 cups of flour and they didnt stick.  I am going to have to experiment to find the best flour consistency for my preferences.

Anyhoo, hope that helps.

johnm's picture


Thank you soooo much! I've been waiting for awhile to get some pretzel advice!

With your handle: 'vegas'vicki ... do you ever play VP at Mainstreet Station DT?

Thanks again! Pretzels this weekend! Pretzels this weekend!


vegasvicki's picture

I made another batch of these pretzels.  I used exactly 2 1/4 cups of flour and they turned out wonderful.  #1 Really make sure that water is boiling like crazy before you dunk them in.  #2 Make sure your pretzels are dry on the bottoms before placing them on the pan #3  I used a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. 

Hope this helps JohnM...oh and cant say I've ever played VP at mainstreet station :) 

caribbaker's picture

I just made this recipe  (I actually have 1/2 of them in the oven right now)  and regarding sticking, I used my silpats to bake them on and it worked great, no oil and no drying the bottoms.  I use my silpats whenever I bake bread and I never have any problem what so ever.

I am loving these pretzels!  I just hope ther are some left for my husband when he get's home they are, after all his valentines gift! 


selttes's picture

Somebody please help me.
What is the difference in ingredients or prep or technique that makes a soft pretzel versus a crispy hard pretzel?

markus's picture

You can make pretzel-shaped pastries out of whatever you want, but if it's a south Germany type pretzel, it has to have the lye dip.

This is widely thought to just give a brown colour and a particular skin texture, but that is minor compared to the flavour.  The lye, the baking heat, and the surface of the dough combine in a reaction that makes for the unique - and to those who have grown up with it, absolutely indispensable - pretzel flavour.

In fact, look in the ingredient list on a bag of hard crunchy cocktail pretzels.  Sodium hydroxide.  Baking soda, egg yolk, hot water... they don't produce the same flavour.

Having just made a batch last night, I can tell you how nasty 3% NaOH solution (the correct lye - and it HAS TO BE FOOD GRADE to avoid harmful impurities) is.  If it dries up on a standard laminate countertop (getting concentrated in the process and leaving a white powdery residue) it will very slightly etch it - about comparable damage to scouring with the green side of a new dish sponge.

It does not react with iron or copper.  It does react with aluminum.  It reacts very slowly with glass... concentrated pretzel lye kept in a glass container will eventually make that container not quite clear any more.  Keeping a 3% working strength solution in a normal glass jar with screw metal top is unproblematic.

If you touch it, it feels soapy.  If you expose your hands to it for a minute - I did that while hand dipping some buns - they will itch for two days, and the top most layer of skin will peel.  Not recommended.  Don't get it in your eyes under any circumstances.  A simple cheap pair of tongs to grab the unbaked buns/pretzels to dip them is sufficient.

Yes, it's nasty stuff, but you need it.

I got mine from an outfit called "Lentia" in Toronto, Ont. that still sells it.  Dilute the powder at a rate of 36 grams per liter of water (carefully - adding the powder to the water, NEVER the other way around).

I read that it's hard to find in the USA because of its use in making illegal drugs.  Figures.


bytowneboy's picture

I found these really cool shaping videos on a German site. I've got a translated link here for y'all.

kraut frau's picture
kraut frau

I don't doubt that this pretzel recipe may be quite tasty, but if you are talking about the dip being what makes the pretzel, it is absolutely different from a bavarian pretzel.  Sholdn't need anything, except perhaps, real unsalted butter. 

dschloss's picture

We love this recipe. We made this at my daughter's school - preK class, ages 3-6, and it was a simple fun and tasty.  Does anyone have a source for the malt powder?


mikekilian1947's picture

You can get malt powder, or dry malt extract, at any homebrew supply store, just look in the Yellow Pages or online.  Good luck!



BROTKUNST's picture

How does one dispose of a lye bath ... is it safe for the plumbing to flush this down the toilet or sink ?

I'd like to try a cold, food grade lye batch but I don't want to store the solution in the house.


redivyfarm's picture

I've been making pretzels lately and note that some descriptions talk about holding the dough between two spatulas in the boiling water bath. (I use baking soda 1T per cup of water). I use a simple French bread type dough recipe and the second rise makes them puffy enough to float and still firm enough to use tongs for handling.

I experimented with a tomato-herb pizza dough that I had frozen and found that although the pretzels were okay, they did not float and were kind of gloopy to handle. Point being, using the right dough makes it easy and fun.

coralstrr's picture

If you add about 1/2 to a teaspoon of celery seed to the dough mixture you get a bite more like real pretzels. I made pretzel rolls using a similar recipe, they were yummy. I had a little trouble finding the correct dough consistency though, does any one have any photos of what the dough looks like before you let it rise?

Atropine's picture

I tried making pretzels once....what a disaster.

 How do you boil them without them instantly turning into noodles?  The outside got immediately soft and mushy.  Then I thought "well maybe this how it is supposed to be" and tried to bake them--you ever try to bake a soggy noodle? <roflolol>

How stiff does the dough have to be?  and how do you keep them from turning noodly?


albertines grand daughter's picture
albertines gran...

My Grammy Albertine was an amazing cook, and cooked professionally in a hotel kitchen in Switerland before emigrating to America.

Her pretzels were legendary, and her recipe differs substantially from the one printed here. First of all-- no sugar in dough, a little salt. A cup & a half of lard in the dough. Dough allowed to rise for an hour before shaping. Once shaped, left overnight, in a cool place, on baking sheets. (I live in a small Manhattan apartment, with a small Manhattan refrigerator, so I put them on my fire escape, covered in Saran.)

No boiling! Lye bath? ABSOLUTELY. Kosher salt, obviously.

The result? Glossy, dark-brown pretzels with frissuring on the outside... MUCH less puffy than those shown in your photos... crispy outside, tender inside. Very distinctive taste to the "crust".

It's a little strange to buy a cooking ingredient at the hardware store (I use "Red Devil" brand lye), but it's not as dangerous as you all seem to think. I've never worn gloves-- and certainly not GOGGLES-- while making them. I've even dipped them with my fingers occasionally, instead of tongs-- mildly irritating, until you rinse your hands. (I've learned not to use teflon-coated baking sheets, though-- it'll remove the teflon, DON'T try it.)

All who've sampled my grandmother's recipe are blown-away, and they immediately demand that I manufacture these commercially. Alas, like all beautiful things, they're short-lived and will harden to rock within about twelve hours or so. Covering them will Saran makes them soggy, due to the salt.

heidet's picture

so, will you send the recipe please? I think although i Have used salt baths, I have not used lye because it has always been hard to justify using something abrasive for food (and i am a baker/patisseur ,ironically). But I must give it a go as living in Japan has pushed me o the edge when the local german bakery is not consistent but my appetite is. i would appreciate trying your recipe.

RebelBakingCompany's picture

Wow! No sugar...I'm very curious! Is the recipe top secret or can I give it a try? The lard idea is really tempting! Thanks!

emburns's picture

Would you care to pass along your grandmother's recipe?  Looking to impress my significant other who was born in Munich.  

albertines grand daughter's picture
albertines gran...

Lye is sold for the sole purpose of unclogging drains (if you discount home pretzel-making) so dump it into any household drain that would benefit most!

albertines grand daughter's picture
albertines gran...

Is there such a thing? Sounds like a superstition, to me....



Elzbeth's picture

I have been trawling the web for the perfect German pretzel but most seem too complicated for a simple girl like me and a lot of them had a ridiculous amount of sugar (I am from Australia and our bread doesn't contain much sugar compared with the US), so was excited to find the above - and woohoo - it worked!!  I couldn't wait to make them and even used out of date yeast and they were still wonderful!  Thanks for the recipe - they are the closest I get to German pretzels here in Australia!

P.S.  I also added the baking soda to the boiling water instead of just plain water in lieu of the lye.

quirkyalabaster's picture

My sister and I tried these and they were amazing.  We stuffed them with a combination of spinach, (precooked) pork sausage, and pepper jack cheese, and they were quite incredible.

aminet's picture

Thanks for the instructions & the recipe. They were great!!! I brushed them with melted margerine (I think butter would have been better) and topped with cinnamon sugar. yumm

Khanyau's picture

My(X) hubby was stationed in Germany, 4 years in Munich and 6 years in Stuttgart and we stayed an additional 4 years in Stuttgart. Soft pretzels and pretzel rolls were sold on the street daily as a main staple. While there I had the opportunity to attend a Volks Schule where they taught basic recipes. While traditionally they indeed used lye (many still do)in pretzels, many now use a couple teaspoons of baking soda in the boiling water instead. They used enamel pots instead of aluminum pans or other metal pans because the soda will cause discoloration. I used a glass pyrex "pan". They allowed the dough to proof after shaping for 10 or 15 minutes...and after boiling for a couple minutes, they had them drain on a baking rack. While on the rack they brushed an egg wash and salted them-then placed them on the baking sheet, Thats about it. I make them often with great results.


johnnybgood's picture

Food grade lye is not a superstition or urban legend.  It is a government dictated standard regarding the amount of impurities in the lye. 

Regarding the necessity of the lye bath...define "necessary"...

If your goal is to recreate an ancient bakery product that has been made for hundreds of years and to recreate that product in the Southern German need the lye bath.

They really do taste better with the lye.  And they look better too.  I have to imagine that if you are a member of this site that authenticity and quality of appearance mean something to you.  

That said, there is nothing wrong with taking on a pretzel project as a fun family activity.  In that case I recommend the boiling baking soda as a substitute. 

If that is still too much for you, at least dip them in a cold baking soda solution like Auntie Ann's does.  

The higher PH of the lye/soda will greatly assist in the carmelization of the crust.

As a final note, I guess I don't understand the hostility regarding the lye bath.  Like I mentioned previously, if you are so into baking that you are a forum subscriber here, should you not care at least a LITTLE about authenticity?  It is irrefutable that the lye bath is a critical component to traditiional Bavarian/Swabian German pretzels.  

Quit looking for a shortcut and do it right.  It is worth it.   

zhi.ann's picture

Here's my experience (I am a very very novice baker) with this recipe.

tamraclove's picture

I feel that I must add my 2 cents to this heated lye debate. I haven't made pretzels either with or without lye, but I do know a thing or two about lye itself.

Way up near the top someone asked wether lye was Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide. I must tell you that it is both. Sodium Hydroxide is a relatively new type (within the last 150 years or so) that is distilled out of sea water - hence the sodium. Potassium Hydroxide is the old-timey kind that is leached out of ashes.

As a soap maker, I have used sodium hydroxide (Red Devil lye). For soap making, it is used in much higher strengths that for boiling a pretzel, I'm sure. If splashed on clothing, it may leave a bleashed spot or a hole. If splashed on the skin, rinse thoroughly with cold water immediately and you'll be fine.

After making soap in an iron pot over an open fire at an 18th century Fort for a summer, believe me - it won't kill you. Even without gloves and goggles. I was constantly splashed with raw soap...  At one point I cleaned out my iron pot with bare hands.  NO- it wasn't my brightest idea. YES- It stung, quite a bit. YES- I figured out a better way to do it in the future.  NO-I didn't lose any of my skin.  That being said, I agree with every other poster - DON'T GET IT IN YOUR EYES!!

Also - about wether lye 'deactivates' in the oven. The reason that no one has singed their skin off with real lye soap is because the chemical does evaporate over time. That time is shortened with heating. Soap that is boiled before pouring will be ready to use almost immediately after hardening. Soap that is not boiled will need to cure for about 6 weeks. That being said, dipping your pretzel into already boiling lye water and then baking it, should be more than sufficient at remove any traces of the lye from your food.

I also think that "food grade" lye may be a bit of a stretch. 100% lye is 100% lye... if there are and dangerous additives, it can't be listed as 100%.

I hope this has been helpful in the way of a lye explanation, to alleviate a few fears and myths. Now - I just have to try the pretzel recipe so I can decide which way I like them better!!

tamraclove's picture

I couldn't wait after re-reading the posts, so I jumped right into pretzel making. If you've read all the way down these posts to mine, you must be pretty interested in pretzel making, so I'll share the details.

I decided to make 3 kinds - Plain, Cheddar and Dessert - 2 of each. After I proofed the dough for an hour, I divided it into 6 pieces. 4 I rolled into long snakes, and 2 I kneaded together with 1.5 t. cinnamon. (it took a while, but it all went in - ended up streaky like cinnamon swirl bread!) Then I cut the cinnamon dough into 2 and rolled those as well. By that time, the first 4 were ready to be rolled and stretched again. When they were all 15" long and the size of my finger, I followed someone's idea and split the cinnamon and 2 of the plain rolls open longways with a serraded knife. The dough was a perfect consistancy, and opened nicely, without sticking. To my surprise, they were a little bit hollow - perfect!

For the dessert pretzels, I filled the cavity with brown sugar. For the cheese ones, I took 3/8" x 3/8" strips of very mature, strong cheddar, broke them into short pieces, and pushed them into the crack. For both kinds, I wet the edges of the dough before sealing. Then, I pinched up a high ridge, wet the whole ridge, and folded it over to seal it down to the dough, rolling it seam-side-down for a bit to ensure a good seal. I formed all into pretzels as instructed.

I didn't happen to have any lye available, so I used the "1 qt. water with 4 T soda" approach for the boiling. I boiled them for about 30 seconds on each side, then removed to a cooling rack and immediately sprinkled with salt while still slimy. I boiled the cinnamon ones last in case the cinnamon got into the water (which it did) and did not sprinkle those with salt.

By the time they were all done, they were actually firm enough to pick up and place on my pre-heated baking stone. I removed the stone from the oven, placed all pretzels on, then put it back. In my convection oven, they only took 7 minutes. The cinnamon ones were immediately removed to a cooling rack and brushed with my dessert topping - 1T butter melted with 1T brown sugar. Both the sugar and the cheese boiled out some, but I didn't lose much.

The dessert ones tasted very nearly like my homemade cinnamon rolls - and were a lot less work!! Next time I plan to toss raisins with the brown sugar, then stuff the rope with teh raisins.

My husband nearly lost his power of speach when he bit into a cheddar one. All I got was "Oh... wow..." And then the pretzel was gone. Anyone who's ever made bread with chunks of cheese in it knows what happened. When cheese cools inside bread, it clings to the bread, leaving a hollow place in the middle. They were outstanding!

We are too stuffed to try the plain ones, but from tasting the dough of the cheese ones, I can tell you that they will be awesome.

The outside of the pretzels was firm and chewy - the indide soft and tender. My husband declared that this recipe was "a keeper", and I will continue experiment with fillings - Sooooooooo good!

djmacnyc's picture

I made sourdough pretzels recently and bought some "food grade lye" online from AAA Chemicals.  It only takes 1 Tbs of lye to 1 quart of cold water to make them up, so it's very dilute and couldn't have been simpler.  If you refrigerate them first, they keep their shape.

The lye breaks down the flour into sugars that brown nicely - it also firm and restricts the outer skin so they don't puff up too much.  They should remain fairly dense. Also, I used high gluten flour, which helps. De-lic-ious!


Zeldog's picture

I can't add much to the excellent posts describing the science and advantages of using a hot lye bath when making pretzels.  I came to the same pro-lye conclusion while trying to perfect my bagel recipe.  Traditional bagel recipes also call for a lye bath, and I find it really makes a difference.  You will never get that beautiful mahoganny color (see madeingermany's post) with baking soda.  And it does make a harder, sweeter crust.  Is working with hot lye dangerous?  Sure is.  I don't even let my dogs in the kitchen when I'm using lye, and I wear safety glasses.  Some folks might prefer the taste of pretzels or bagels made with baking soda (I agree, they can be quite tasty), but for me the extra effort is worth it.

Little Alex's picture
Little Alex

I also tried this recipe and I skipped the lye bath. No no, not affraid if getting burns or anything, it's just hard to find that around here (Israel), so I used baking soda in the bath... and I got mixed reviews from the family.

Though the pretzels came out beautifully (and very much pretzel like!), I just could not bare the taste on the crust. It tasted like baking soda... or maybe not... it had that after taste of monosodium glutamate. So while we were all trying to get over that ever present crust, the crumb was pretty good. I ended up washing my pretzels with a little water and putting them in the toaster... which was an improvement.

While not quite over my minor mishap, I did another batch, this time, I made a bagel style dip, with honey. Well, it's good to know that the results where amazingly different... I got some really nice bagels! The crust was fine, but softer and it didn't nearly brown as with the soda bath. Just amazing in the toaster with some cream cheese... yum.

What this all made me wonder is... will lye leave that same taste on my pretzels? Perhaps even worse? What kind of taste does lye give to the crust anyway?

kanin's picture

How much baking soda did you use? I typically do 1/3 cup for every 5 cups of water (that's a lot) in my bath and it works well. Also, is the baking soda fairly new?

I don't think lye does anything to make the crust taste a certain way. It's supposed to gelatinize the outside and help give it that shiny brown appearance.

SaltyDog73's picture

My son and I made these over the weekend.  We let them ferment to use the time to clean up.  We baked one with a light egg wash as a test.  It came out pale but still good.  We washed the rest heavier and coated 3 with the traditional kosher salt and 3 with cinnamon and sugar.  Great recipe.  Its fairly simple, quick and forgiving which works well for making with kids.

jonquil's picture

Wow, I never knew Auntie Annes used cold baking soda. No wonder they don't taste like German pretzels.

NaOH reacts with the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the oven to form sodium carbonate, NOT sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). So there should be no NaOH left on the pretzel.

 Food grade (FCC) lye would be analyzed for trace amounts of nasty stuff, like heavy metals or PCBs (or melamin) that you don't want to eat.

There are recipes calling for 100 grams of sodium carbonate in 3 liters of boiling water and I'd like to try that. I tried the lye bath and it is essential for German-tasting pretzels. Afterwards, I diluted the lye with vinegar and poured it down the drain with plenty of water.

That being said, it's perfectly alright to make pretzels with any dough and in any manner you wish. Pretzel refers to the shape. "Laugenbrezel" refers to salty dough dipped in lye and sprinkled with salt.

Jennifer McGavin

Your Guide to German Food

I have a step by step guide on homemade pretzels with lye and a pretzel recipe on German Laugenbrezel

Sparkie's picture

I have eaten soft pretzle's in Philly, and on streets of NYC for years upon years as well as real Deutch Brau, Bier Halls in Queens, (they had the SS party song and Altercammarade,(Luftwaffer theme song)  in the juke box I kid you not).  I am very much American, of Eyetalian descent, this place was very deutche, the owners were a recent import. The food was authentic. The pretzles were mahogany, and the ryes were superb.

Pretzles need lye, period. You can make due with soda , but color and mouthfeel suffer, as well as a tiny part  of the taste.

Ever notice how if you wet a hard pretzle with your tougnge if it slides on your lips it is slippery soapy even. That is due to the reaction of a relatively strong base with the flour, lower potency caustic, makes less of impact on the pretzle skin.

Causic plus liquid fat and heat make soap that is called saponification. Homemade diesel fuel (yep it can be done)from deep fryer/whatever fat, is made by keeping the temp at a certain level with water and lye, then it "cooks" for an hour , then it separates and is rinsed out , water, glycerin and oil separate, the rinsing removes residue. Your homebrewed diesel, or home heating oil(same stuff actually), may smell like french fries or whatevr was fried, but cleaning helps.

You do not get the level of saponification if you use soda water, but, it does make a mild pretzle like crust., but it was a rather dull event when I did it last, (a few years ago and I lost the recipe). I have bought a bottle of draino (yep) like caustic.  I looked for the anaylsis (100%) and am calling the company to be sure. The place I bought said it was banne for sale in some states becuase of kids poisoning them selves or disfiguring them selves, not drug manufacture. There are other things they track because of drug manufacture this isn't one of them. You shoould wear a mask and gloves and remember



 We were taught this the first day of biolab when I was in freshman year of HS. We used powerful reagents (acids/bases(caustic)), there were eyewashinh stations in the lab. from the time a caustic hit you, you have six seconds to wash it off. The eyes get less then six. MY lab teacher then made a mistake and burned himself on both arms and his face, just a bit, but he was reddened after smearing what looked like water but was a diluted acid solution splattered on the soapstone lab tables.

 BUT I have a question, and request, when telling peo0ple to use malt, please tell us if it is DIASTIC MALT or SWEET make  a "malted milk".

 The Reinhart book on whole grain breads explains a lot but knowing what your recipe wants is a good first step.

 Also I have a malt syrup that is meant to put in milk, so what kind of syrup is needed? Is my malt syrup crap, or real who can tell?  So if you have a brand, please tell me/us.

Things are not what they were 40 years ago. If you ask for a malted today, you will get a milk shake unless you are in  the right place. My kids heard the term malted and requested one, I made them one, they gagged.  Over a few years they relaxed and educated their palletes, malted are now de riguer, when dad is in the generous mood to make them.  And they want me , not the wife to make them, cause I make them very thick ,very malted and very very very chocolatey, else, what's the point.

The reason I bake breads are because the general use of crap in food, (not talking "healthfood") is staggering food is getting inedible, tasteless, homogonised to the point of wax.

They put seaweed and mono-diglcerides in heavy cream now, they started doing that about 10 years ago. If you are lucky were you live they do not, but, in most stores from NYC to Boston, pick up a container of heavy cream, look at the ingredients, you will find cream, milk, Mono diglceride, carregean(sea weed extrcts to make pudding).  The sea weed may even be natural, but when I want make a batch of good sour cream/creme fraishe/mascapone, I now MUST go to healthfood store, where they sell me raw  dairy, at a huge cost. This is insane.


This easily one of the top 5 sites on the net. I appologise for the rant at the end, look at a container of cream, or a loaf of bread, read the labels.




krustykato's picture

O.K. great discussion on the lye or soda debate but what about how gluten content affects the stretchyness and final chew of the dough. Should or could wheat gluten be added to all purpose flour to aid in rolling out the dough nice and thin. I know that gluten content is essential to bagel and pizza dough. would these doughs if available from a local shop make more ideal pretzel dough? Is the high gluten flour uneconomical if not difficult to obtain? My pretzels seem to wither and waterlog when dipped in boiling water, would a stiffer dough or higher gluten help them tolerate the dipping with less drooping? Quaker from P.A marooned in C.A.

DaveRSTL's picture

I made a batch of these and they disappeared fast!  Truly excellent.  I used a teaspoon of baking soda in about 3 cups of simmering water and let the pretzel stay in about 15 seconds to fluff up and get sticky.  Baked on a Silpat mat, no sticking problems at all, and they had a thin crunchy shell and were soft with a good chew on the inside.  I saved one for the next day and it had that good street pretzel density to its chew.  Maybe not perfect, but by far the best pretzel I've ever made; some previous efforts from other recipes were really more like bread sticks with salt.  Thank you very much!

TroutEhCuss's picture

My wife has been making pretzels lately.  It was a request i had made of her for my birthday as a snack.  They looked perfect and tasted just as perfect as they looked.  She does the quick boil method... no lye or ferment.  I've never had a pretzel that could compare... Best of all, she thought it was super easy to make.  Guess, I have no need to learn to make them.  :)

carolita's picture

 My Grandmother always used lye when making pretzels.  I have used both methods and prefer the addition of the lye although it is time consuming to make (water through hard wood ashes). I have not used the store variety.  Family lore says Arm and Hammer Washing Soda can be used but I have not tried it.  If you heat the lye before dipping the dough it will have a stronger flavour.  I was told that the origin of lye (ashes) in pretzel use was for religious symbolism as was the twisted (cross) shape of the dough.  Pretzels were traditionally made at Easter.  Lye imparts a slightly bitter taste... delicious with salted butter.  I'm new to the's wonderful!

mnmspencer7299's picture

These were DELISH! I boiled them in baking soda and water as suggested, and they came out wonderfully!

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

So, the verdict here seems to be that dipping in lye is good, but at least dipping in baking soda makes a big difference.  One thing I didn't see in this thread is any consensus on whether to dip the preztels in a cold lye/baking soda bath, or a boiling one.  The original post has dipping in plain water or boiling in plain water, and several people have recommended boiling here, and some cold water.  Hamelman's formula calls for a cold lye bath, I know.  Anyway, I did an experiment.  I made the recipe from Hamelman's book, with the preferment and fermentation time, and used a baking soda solution, 2 tbs in 2 cups water, as others have suggested.

Boiled and cold-dipped pretzels

As you can see, even with baking soda in the water (maybe especially so?) boiling does make a big difference in color.  The cold-dipped ones were very good, and weren't particularly french-bready, but the boiled ones were something else.  Thinner crust and a much more "preztel-y" taste. :)

BreadMakersApprentice's picture

I tried this recipe and want to let everyone know that the boiling time should be around 1:30-2 minutes per pretzel (in the baking soda solution).

I normally make a solution of  4 tablespoons baking soda + 1 quart of water and then boil the pretzels around 1 minute per side.

I found that for the flour ammount you can use around 2-2 1/4 cups if you use 1 cup of milk.  

Measuring in cups is a bit tricky and you can have a vairation of 15-20g per cup....



kipcat's picture

OK - this is going to be my first attempt at making authentic bavarian pretzels.  Found this recipe here:

I decided after a visit "home" (second generation German) to Bavaria last summer that I just HAD to figure out how to make those wonderful bretzie's!  OK, so now I have everything I need to make them, including the food grade lye, which I found online and was not expensive.  I am going to attempt them today.  I'm just still not sure about certain points, most importantly, whether or not to boil the lye solution.  I think for this first attempt I will dip them in the solution cold, since I have never worked with lye before.  Also wondering about correct oven temp, and whether to use a baking stone or parchment paper.  I think next time I go home, I will ask the baker there if I can observe how SHE makes them!  Crossing my fingers...   here goes!!  :)

Owlette's picture

I just tested this recipe, and it's super easy.  I used bread flour and found that it would have been a bit easier to handle the dough if I made 8 instead of 6 pretzels. I fermented for about an hour or so because I had the time.  I did the 3x stretch and roll, resting 5-10 minutes in between.

I boiled them in 4T baking soda in 1 quart of water for about 60-90 seconds.  I just slipped them into the pot with a spatula and pressed them lightly down, and lifted them out with the single spatula as well.  I used flaked sea salt to top them.

Baked on parchment paper at 425 for 13 minutes - I just watched closely after 10 minutes to see.  They didn't stick at all.

Results?  Dense but light, chewy with a crisp crust.  Amazingly delicious and authentic.  The leftovers kept well, tasted great warm or cold.  But they are best right from the oven, when the salt is still crisp.

Slaquer's picture

I haven't made real pretzels yet but I have made pretzel rolls several times.  I found that they tend to cement to the baking tray.  Acht du leiber! Vie gehts?  Here is my analysis.  The rolls were formed and left to rise on a floured bread board.  They were then dipped in the alkali bath, and plopped on the cookie tray.  I think the loose flour formed a paste in the bath which tended to fuse to the metal.  The alkali solution contributed by chemically cutting the film of grease on the bake tray.  So, what is to be done?  Perhaps a more generous coating of lard or, spend some money on no-stick bakeware.

Tara's picture

I have only tried pretzels at home once, but I want to try them again!  Your trial and error saves me a lot of time, thanks!  As for Lye, I can't even believe some people still make soft pretzels with this poison!  I would never use it!  I have heard of boiling the pretzels before, but I heard it more as a bath in warm water, and with baking soda (to give it the chewy texture and shiny exterior) I think I will try to boil them with baking soda, AND eggwash them!  Since you said the eggwash didn't really make a difference, but you did say they seemed to puff up higher, I think I will do both and see how it turns out!  It's good to know that they really don't have to rise for 10 years like other recipes I have read, too.


I want to figure out how to stuff some with cheese, any ideas?  I was thinking maybe I could take some precossed cheese and somehow shape it into a thin log, and then roll the pretzel dough out thin, and sort of wrap it around the cheese stick (ooo maybe you could use a string cheese stick!!) and then shape into a pretzel.


I also wonder how it would turn out with whole wheat flour?


Can't wait to try this recipe, thanks again!

Luana's picture

I made his Pretzels for sale at farmers market last summer plus more for home consumption.  My grandmother (German heritage) had made Pretzels when I was growing up and used Lye I believe but I have been very happy with the baking soda solution hot water method.  I do also like the egg wash and I bake them on GREASED parchment paper. (Might try the silpat next time)   Crisp on the outside and soft inside. I did purchase Pretzel Salt online (shipping was more than the product) and it does work even better than Kosher Salt.    Luana in Vermont 

PretzelMore Pretzels

bvz2007's picture

I have a question about your sale of pretzels at the farmer's market.  I would like to try this in my area.  I am using Alton's recipe with great success but... how can I get the pretzels to the farmer's market as crisp and delicious as they are when they come out of the oven?  and how can I keep them tasting great at the market for 3 - 4 hours? 

Norahm's picture

Hi!  I found this site when searching for bagel recipes (it is annoying that, if you want multigrain, you can only get it plain, not like the everything bagels I love, so I wanted to create my own); haven't made the bagels yet, but I ran across the pretzel recipe.  I just moved to Ohio from Philadelphia, PA, so I have the same multigrain pretzel problem.  I am originally from New York City, so that explains the bagel fetish.  

I made the recipe with half chickpea flour and half whole wheat pastry flour, using the baking soda bath, and they were delicious!  I am thinking it may have been too grainy with just regular ww flour, but the pastry flour was great!

gerop's picture


I didn't actually boil them.. just dipped them into a baking soda bath (1/4 cup baking soda + 2 cups hot water). I think it turned out pretty well though :) I brushed butter all over it once it came out from the oven and sprinkled with cinnamon+brown sugar. It was lovely :)

my problem was that it stuck to the pan .. does boiling help with this? Why do you need to boil it anyway?



4shveden's picture

At melink building services the dough has nottummy tuck abdominoplastia usa turned out, I am upset :-(

hs3144's picture

I learned to make pretzels in Paris at the Hotel de Crillon from Christophe Felder.  Check out his books, which are quite nice.  He is a very famous pastry chef from Alsace and he had some interesting tricks.  We did use lye and it does make a huge difference.  30g per liter (and I use Rooto 100% lye , NaOH, that is sold as drain cleaner).  The pretzels were formed, left to rise briefly and then frozen.  This allowed for uniformity as they weren't misformed while trying to boil raw dough. After they are solid they were taken off trays and put in a plastic bag, to save space. When it was time to bake, we simply dipped the frozen pretzels in the lye solution, using latex gloves, salted them while they were still wet and baked them in a very hot oven on parchment paper.  No bother to thaw them at all.  We made hundreds at a time.  I tend to make 50 at a time and keep them frozen and bake as many as I need. 

copyu's picture

'Proper' German pretzels (Brezeln) are boiled briefly in a solution of NaOH—Sodium Hydroxide—also known as Caustic Soda. It has a bitter taste, but will NOT cause any bitterness to bagels or pretzels.

If you cannot get, or wish not to use, Sodium Hydroxide, that's fine; just forget all about it. (It *could* be a little dangerous, if you don't know what you're doing...) You can still do the boiling and you can put the baking soda in if you want to, but it is basically just a waste of good baking soda. It will have no chemical or physical effect, whatsoever. (Psychological effects are different...)

The key is the word 'caustic' as in "caustic soda". This is drain cleaner—or paint stripper, if you prefer—and it is now sometimes used in soap-making, as others have observed.  [The traditional 'lye' (as in alkaLI) for soap-making is Potassium Hydroxide.]

'Baking soda' and even 'washing soda' are only about as caustic ['alkaline'] as wouldn't need 'chemical spill goggles' and rubber gloves to boil dough in seawater, would you?

However, if you DO use caustic, please make sure you use ONLY glass or stainless steel. Black, cast-iron dutch ovens have a "seasoned' surface that will almost certainly create soap, which won't help the flavor of your pretzels at all. The same goes for any other cooking oil or fat that adheres to your cooking pots.

IMPORTANT: Please *STRICTLY AVOID ALUMINUM* (and most other metals) even if coated with Teflon®, etc!

I hope this helps someone.


chirobliss's picture

Chem students at Ohio State have done a detailed scientific study of each of the techniques suggested above.  It can be found here:

The reason a lye bath produces the best pretzels (colour, crunch, depth of crust, sweetness) is something called the Maillard reaction.  In short, lye and less so, baking soda, cause (simplifying) a caramelizing reaction on the surface of the dough that is then acted on by the heat of the oven.

To quote "All of these characteristics were in some way related to the browning of the pretzel surface. Pretzels brown due to complex reactions called Maillard reactions. In the case of the pretzels, heat from the oven acted as a catalyst for the reaction of reducing sugars with free amino groups of amino acids that were part of protein chains. A compound called glucosylamine was formed, which then underwent a reaction called the Amadori rearrangement. Reactive cyclic compounds were formed as a result of the Amadori rearrangement. These reactive cyclic compounds polymerized at pHs greater than 5 to form insoluble, dark-colored, nitrogen containing compounds called melanoidins. In addition to the formation of brown color, aroma and flavor compounds are also produced as a result of Maillard reactions."

Long story short, the ONLY way you can make a true German pretzel is to use lye. Scientifically proven fact!!

If you are interested in finding out how they tested, you should have a look at the article.  It is really interesting, only a few pages long and the science isn't very complex.

A couple of things are worth noting, importantly, it is not necessary to heat the lye bath.  In fact boiling a pot of lye is a very dangerous thing and shouldn't ever be done in the home.  If you use just a room temp bath, lye works very quickly, about 30 secs dip is all you need.  The reason baking soda needs to be boiling is that it is less reactive and you cannot produce a similar effect to lye at room temp before the dough begins to dissolve.  Heat speeds up the reaction so you can dip it.

Any technique other than lye or baking soda will basically produce a bagel.  You won't have the important caramelisation, other than a slight sheen.  An egg wash may look okay but is only for looks, not flavour.

As to ingredients, I have tried brewers (barley) malt, a dark liquid similar to molasses. It gives a nice white interior and a slightly smokey flavour.  Eden Organics produce it in the US and Canada- You will need to add a little sugar as per the recipe below. Barley malt can be hard to find so I've also used molasses. Used in the same volume, it gives a slightly darker bread with a caramel sweetness. Don't add any sugar! I like them both so it is just what I feel like at the time.

I keep my lye in a glass bowl that has a plastic lid on which I've stuck a big label that says "Lye - Do Not Open".  Don't get it near your eyes, and wear gloves, otherwise your hands will be as slippery as soap on everything you touch.  It won't burn your skin but it can sting in a cut.

The time that lye is dangerous is before it is mixed and diluted.  Open your supply in a well ventilated space.  Add lye pellets to water NOT the other way around.  If you add water to the lye, there is a very fast, hot reaction that will produce fumes that can overwhelm you (if you've used draino you will know what I mean).

When you mix the lye into your cold water (always), as the lye dissolves the water will become hot.  You should do it well before you want to use the lye dip to allow it to cool.  You can and should reuse the dip.  I have found that after about ten uses for 8 pretzels at a time, I need to make a new solution.  You can tell by your pretzels not being so brown out of the oven.  Again, at this dilution if you pour it down your sink, and have cold water running at the same time, you won't have to be concerned about damaged plumbing.

I buy my NaOH (Sodium Hydroxide, they may not know what lye is) at a pharmacy as small pellets. You'll need to go to  a real pharmacy, not a drug store chain.  You can also buy food grade online.  Half a pound will keep you going for about six months or so. As has already been mentioned don't get your lye from a hardware store.  Even at 100% bulk for concrete cleaning, you cannot guarantee there are no metals in it. Draino and other drain cleaning products add aluminium and other reaction accelerants that are dangerous at any concentration.

Just finally, it IS important to weigh your lye.  My measurements are metric as concentrations are simple to calculate. If you do it by volume, you could easily take the concentration up to around 10%, in which case you are getting risky. A litre of water weighs 1000g, then a 3% solution (3% of 1000) is 30g.  It is that easy! A litre is all you need as you are going to hold the pretzel under, count to twenty and put it on your tray.  Hold it above the lye for a few seconds to drain it off. It won't kill you but if you don't drain it, you can taste it after the pretzel is cooked.

Here is a recipe I use.  You can easily cut your start to finish time down by proofing in the microwave.  I use 2 for 2. Second LOWEST setting for 2 minutes and your dough will rise in 30 mins, hey presto!

One last thing, I have found baking the pretzels on baking paper on a baking tray to be best.  It doesn't stick and gives you a nice crisp underside.  I have used Silpat but if the pretzel is not well drained there can be a very mild residual taste or softness.  The baking paper soaks it up.

This is the recipe from the video:


500 g White bread flour

1 tbsp Salt

1 tbsp Sugar

1 1/2 tsp Dry Yeast


280 ml Water

1 tbsp Butter melted

1 tbsp Barley Malt  (or 1 tbsp Molasses, omit sugar)


– Combine dry ingredients, add wet and knead.

– After dough has risen knock it down and divide into eight.  Roll each into a short sausage.

– Take each sausage of dough and roll it out moving your hands apart to make a long rope, thin at each end.

–After all have been rolled pick up each rope at the ends and spin it so that it twists into a braid.  Place on bench with fat middle at the top, fold each tip up and press into middle of the loop.  The video shows it really well.

–Dip each pretzel in 3% lye 30 sec and drain.  Arrange on baking tray.  Sprinkle with Kosher or rock salt.

–Rest for 5 mins

–Bake in a 425° oven for 15 mins or until browned.

guinnessface's picture

I wanted to thank everyone for their great advice on making pretzels. I've been spoiled by going to Munich for Oktoberfest over the past few years and have enjoyed the pretzels there immensely. I've been doing my best to recreate the taste back here in the states and so far I've gotten close.

I originally used the recipe from with the baking soda bath and the results were close, but not quite there. Last week, I got some food grade lye and used it with the same recipe with much more authentic results.

I've found that there's no "golden" recipe for the perfect pretzel, rather, you have to find one that suits your preference. I love the brown, crusty bavarian pretzels, which I've found definitely need a lye soak. If you prefer the lighter american style pretzel, then I suggest baking soda and lower heat/baking time.

In any event, I've had a great time learning about the process and I look forward to trying more variations. For now, thanks again for all the great input and I wish you all well. 


Matthew H's picture
Matthew H

Does anyone know where I can get food-grade sodium hydroxide in the UK?

ckwig9's picture

No lye bath here!

These pretzels are amazing, though!  Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse salt
melted butter

Check out photos and baking instructions here:


WholeGrainNut's picture

I'm a relative newcomer to this site and quite an inexperienced baker (though I first started baking nearly 30 years ago, I've only just picked it up again). I was inspired by the recipe given above by the first author and so attempted them myself.

Here's what I did differently, for good or for bad:

1.  I have a brand new Kitchenaid food processor with a dough blade. I used this to mix the dough. I was a little skeptical, but the dough seemed to turn out just fine.

2.  I didn't use instant yeast, but instead proofed my yeast in the warm milk with a half teaspoon of added sugar.

3.  For sweetener, I used just under a T of malt syrup.

4.  For the flour, I used about a cup and a half of white whole wheat flour and a cup of high gluten flour.

5.  I boiled them for about 20-30 seconds each side in a quart of water with 4T of baking soda (would I lye to you?...), then drained on a wire rack and sprinkled lightly with kosher salt.

It's entirely possible that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, or that I made any number of mistakes, but the pretzels were delicious, easily the best I've yet attempted, with good flavor and texture. The kids loved them, at least, and they're pretty demanding little gourmets. Thanks, everyone, for all the great inspiration!


ehanner's picture

Looks great!

jereth's picture

i just made pretzels last night using a lye bath and in all honesty its not bad the solution used is litterly so weak its no worse then diluted bleach


the recipe i used was


1 pkg dryied active yeast

1 cup warm water

2.5-3 cups plain flour

1 tbs white sugar

1tbs brown sugar( a malt flour substitute)

2 tbs veg oil or any salad oil



mix yeast into the warm water

then add the oil sugars to it

mixin the flour 

until a dough is formed 

knead it a bit adding a bit more flour


pop it off to rise


the lye solution was easy. get food grade caustic soda, ask a pharmasist or chemist to order it in.


you want a 3 % solution so heres the math


1 gram is equal to about 1 cubuc centimeter which is one mililiter


so 30 mililiters per liter of water

shape the dough freeze for 10-15 minites 

dip in solution using spatula for about 8 seconds

put on baking sheet sprinkle with course sea salt bake 20 minites at 425 ish 

my german friend said they were authinitc and and they turned out very nice and easy so dont worry about the lye

BuffaloHunter's picture

My Grandpa came to the USA around the early 1900's and eventually made soft pretzels by hand with a brick type oven using a lye bath so after the dough rose the pretzels went into the lye bath and sunk awhile before rising to the top when they were salted and put into the oven.  He had a very successful business always giving a "Baker's Dozen."  During the Depression in the1930's any overage baked went to the soup line and those that hardened after shelf life given to farmers for their hog feed. I don't know anyone who has died using this lye process and was used then as well as now by small bakeries and large ones.

Thereis no need to wear goves or eye protection.  The lye bath is only set at a slow rolling simmer not vigorous boiling water.  Rolling pretzels is an art unto itself as well as twisting the pretzel not forming mere "Angel Wings."  Mechanized Pretzel twisters for high capacity production has almost extinguished the art of hand twisting pretzels properly where the soft pretzel is uniform.  Stick pretzels area "cop out."  Using "Red Devil" lye to open clogged drains is more dangerous than using simple common sense for a soft pretzel water bath.  Don't use sugar--how people integrate it and get a soft pretzel is questionable including veggie oils.  But if it works, matches real authentic pretzels, go for it but my history has experienced extreme gravitation from "Old Country" recipes work and minor tweaks work whatever the goal.  Flour, water, and yeast maybe with a dash of baking powder makes better sense than baking soda--introduction of an alkali in dough unless an off setting ingredient is used makes sense.  Butter is optional--salted or unsalted--or a dash of salt both exist in many old recipes from the "Old Country."  Who in the world would allow children or pets to be around while making pretzels using a lye bath need to re-evaluate priorities.  Woodworking and many hobbies are dangerous so follow the rules of caution and soap making uses more Lye and thus is more dangerous than soft pretzel making.  Question is for soap makers is where do you make soap? In the dairy barn with ignitable hay? Many more questions abound with soap making when mixing oils to emulsify if not done right can explode hot water--use the common sense in soap making whether to add acid to water or water to acid.  Anyone know that answer?  So the DIY'fer uses muriatic acid to decorate concrete have more to account for than dumping mild lye solution.

OK after the dough is kneaded to proper consitency you roll it out evenly and twist it out to a pretzel use a flour coated poplar board for the dough to rise.  Understand if you have a bakery the room can reach 120 degrees F especially when the soft pretzel oven is turned on.  I know, I worked in my Dad's bakery.  But the home enthusiast must know you need space not cramped up and don't take a cell call or telephone call when working. Keep focused and use a Lye bath which will allow the puffed dough due to yeast at first will float below the water line.  When the pretzel floats, salt it and put it into the oven.  The lye bath will actually turn the dough of the pretzel with a small yellow coating allowing a crust to form keeping the inside pretzel soft.  If you gobble them up fast and not let them sit for 8 hours the next challenge is to extend the shelf life of the soft pretzel fresh and soft with different ingredients.  Using a brick or ceramic baking stone putting the pretzelson this eliminates any reason to use oils, baking sheets and neveruse non-slip coated pans and utensils are prohibited.  Compare the shelf life of a butter coated pretzel vs. a lye bath pretzel not to mention taste.  This website has a plethora of recipes but too much misinformation and panic about lye use in pretzels being dangerous prompted my post.  Especially when I see drivers text messages and zoom in a hurry as if they are at the Indy 500!--then I ponderif these guys whine about lye. Above all the lye bath can be neutralized and hopefully soap makers buffer their soap so it doesn't burn the eyes when washing.  So everywhere there is dangers. Certainly if simmering lye bath if splashed will hurt and cause harm but most of the damage isn't lye as much as it is the hot water causing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns and the addition of lye certainly doesn't help. 

But if there is one caveat here is plain boiling water or hot Olive oil if in contact to skin will cause burns and the oil as it goes into the skin continues to cook.  Therefore if an accident happens take the oil pan off the hot burner and turn off the burner and run to the shower to allow tepid--not cold water to affected areas for at least 15-30 minutes.  Call 911 but chances are they will tell you that you did what the ER would have done.  The time for an ambulance comes and gets to the ER I'd opt for the shower--and I did with a hot olive oil spill! Then see your doctor.  Enjoy food, cook, share, and be happy.  Nothing is totally safe and carries with it a variable level of danger.  This includes the cutting board and an unsharp knife.  There's no "lye" there.

lkreisz's picture

Wow, that was a long post! I went through a long research process and did finally do the authentic pretzel recipe from Chili und Ciabatta (translated by Marco) using a pate fermentee the day before, fresh yeast and lye from AAA Chemicals. If you're German like us, this is the ONLY real way to get an authentic German pretzel. Not dangerous - I even put my hands in it to no effect. Unlike what chirobliss said above, I get no noticeable heat reaction to the water when I add the sodium hydroxide granules.

I do have a couple tips to add. Because they're only REALLY good on the day they're baked, I make up a double batch the night before. I take the dough to the point of shaping and immediately freeze half. The other half I let rise for another half hour and then refrigerate overnight. In the morning I bathe and bake the ones for that day - beats getting up at 4 a.m. if you want them for breakfast! The next time I want pretzels I put them in the fridge to thaw overnight, bring to room temp and final rise for one hour and then bathe and bake. You can re-refrigerate them for easier handling too.  I've also experimented with storing the lye bath in a glass jar at room temp for a week and reusing with the next batch. This worked like a charm. At the rate that I'm baking them I'll be through my 2kg bottle in no time. (I use 50g to 1250ml of water).

I also don't do any boiling. I dissolve the lye in cool water and leave in for several seconds. If you still think lye is dangerous you should watch how the professionals do it on YouTube.

BTW, I'm in Canada and was unsuccessful at finding food grade lye in small quantities so I had AAA ship it to a U.S. address in Bellingham and picked it up.


chirobliss's picture

In Vancouver you can get pharmaceutical grade lye pellets (NaOH) from Finlandia pharmacy at Broadway and Spruce.  500g for $25. The spam filter here won't let me post the active URL but it is

lkreisz's picture

Thanks. Since posting this I found another local source for food grade lye at Voyageur Soap & Candle Co Ltd at 15-19257B Enterprise Way, Surrey, BC. My hubby travels to Germany quite often and shipped some home as well so I'm good for a year! Lately I've been baking them without salt and then freezing them. I put them in the fridge to thaw overnight and warm them in the oven in the morning after adding salt. He says they taste the same as fresh!

GirlMeetsCookery's picture

If you don't feel comfortable using lye (which honestly I don't think I would want to use something that's used in soap on food), you can always do a warm baking soda bath. I find it gives the pretzels dough itself a pleasantly salty taste.


Fill a large, shallow pot with about two inches of water (I use a deep skillet) and bring the water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup baking soda (be careful, it will foam and if you put too much water it will foam over) and two tablespoons of sugar (the sugar helps the pretzels get that dark, glossy color on the surface that most people find desireable) and reduce the water to a simmer. Then just float your pretzels in that - one at a time if baking large pretzels, two or three at a time if making small ones - for a minute or so on each side. Then transfer to baking tray and proceed as desired. :D

AaronWP's picture

I use olive oil when I make soap and I don't have any problem putting it in my food.


Don't be silly.

charisma's picture


im extremely new to baking...I was so enthusiastic to make pretzels for my hubby, who loves them....and the dough didnt double!!!! i used dry active yeast... can anyone please help me, my batch is a disaster :(

evth's picture

I think that you probably used old yeast or killed it. Check the date. Just try the recipe again. I've had good results with Lina Kulchinsky's Sigmund Pretzelshop recipe that's posted on Martha Stewart. No lye. Great slight chewy texture with excellent flavor. Only would add less salt. Just do an online search and you'll find this recipe. Good luck.

Talever's picture

Growing up in Philadelphia I have yet to find a good replacement for true Philadelphis Pretzels.  I am close to what I consider a Good pretzel.  And I do use a lye bath.  Baking Soda Boil is just not the same.  It is hot here in Nevada so I make these outside on the grill keeps the kitchen cooler.  I make the dough a day ot two ahead.  Then Roll, Rise boil and bake.




BBQ pretzels

AaronWP's picture

If you don't use some sort of strong alkaline in your pretzel boiling solution you just aren't making pretzels. The signature flavor comes from the denaturization of starches caused by a dip in alkaline solution. If you don't use lye at least use baking soda, otherwise you aren't making pretzels.

ph_mom's picture

People are always so worried about soaking things in lye.  My husband is from Baden-Wuertenburg in southern Germany and it wasn't until I soaked my pretzels in lye that he really felt they tasted like home.  Corn is soaked in lye to release the vitmains and make tortillas in Mexico. 

I buy food grade lye online in bulk because we make so many pretzels.  I use 1 oz per quart of cool water and let them soak for about 30 seconds.  I do wear gloves but I have been told that the bakers in Germany don't bother to.  It really makes a difference.  You can smell the difference as they bake.

Dillbert's picture

gorgous Bretzeln! 

for some odd ball reason people hear "lye" and run for the hills.  baking soda can be used, not exactly "gleich"

in the ounce/qt concentration you really don't need gloves.

GlutenMaximus's picture

The New York Times has a recent article on increasing the alkalinity of baking soda by baking it.  The full article may be found at

The method is to spread a layer of soda on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake at 250 to 300 F for an hour.  Baked soda must be kept tightly sealed to prevent absorption of moisture. Avoid touching or spilling baked soda: it is not lye, but it's alkaline enough to irritate.

The article explains baked soda is  a good lye substitute for pretzels to get the distinctive flavor and deep brown color.  Dissolve 2/3 cup baked baking soda in 2 cups of water and soak the raw dough pretzels in the solution for three to four minutes, then rinse excess solution in a large bowl of plain water, and bake.

kgmom's picture

The concentration of the baked soda bath seems much higher than I have seen. Anyone know if this (2/3 c. of baked soda for 2c. of water?) is correct?  Also - should the "baked soda" bath be hot or cold?  I appreciate any help.

cridowu's picture

I come back to your page when I need to bake pretzels, because it is easy, they come out perfect and I kinda feel like in NY if it would be possible. I egg wash mine now, but I tried the water bath with baking soda and the results are a better crust, more like the real ones. 

CrymsonX's picture

I recently discovered that the main commercial provider (at least in the US) of pretzels uses a lye (sodium hydroxide) bath in their production line. I found out when watching a television show called Unwrapped. The show has been running for a few years now and goes behind the scenes at various food companies to show how different foods are made. This was a revelation to me as up until only a few months ago the only pretzels that I enjoyed were superpretzel brand. They are the pretzels you generally get at ball games, movie theaters, at disneyworld as well as your local grocery store. Then a few months back I was in Vegas and my brothers friend took us to the Hofbrauhaus there. They had giant pretzels the size of dinner plates and super thick and dense. They were absolutely delicious. Same taste, chewiness, and texture as a SP but supersized! I have had pretzels from mall vendors like auntie annes but they taste more like browned bread. I have also had pretzels shipped to me from Philly and they just don't have that same taste and chewiness that you get from superpretzel. Good, just not the same. So it's got to be the lye solution that does it. If you have ever had a superpretzel and wet it with your tongue so the salt would stick you know what I mean. That almost baking soda-esque taste (which I believe is sodium carbonate, the chemical result of the lye and the baking process).

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

As if this thread was long enough it hasn't said it all about pretzels.  Ok, I got a 50% hydration dough and I did it all different.  I combined almost all the flour and all the water and let the just blended dough rest overnight in a small covered container.  Next day I added the rest... dissolved yeast with egg white, salt and brown sugar (wished for malt) and last but not least worked in the rest flour and oil.   Wondered if I'd have trouble blending but it kneaded into a nice smooth dough.  I was impressed.

Now the soda bath is cold.  Mixed as much into it as I could and had soda crystals on the bottom of the plastic box.  After shaping the pretzels and knots, I threw them into the cold soda water to proof half an hour turning and splashing them around and rolling them over for a good soaking.  Removed and placed on parchment.  Heated up the oven and in they went. 

Not bad, in fact good!  Very dark chestnut brown crispy caramelized crust and soft fine white crumb.  They are soft rolls with unmistakable pretzel taste.  It was a hard roll recipe and interesting to compare the bakes as I split the dough.  The unsoaked hard rolls could take more heat in the oven.  The soaked rolls browned much faster and I turned down the heat quickly... almost thought they were underbaked until I cut them open.  The taste is not as strong as Lye but pretty darn close and they didn't dissolve in the cold bath.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Pretzel Roll ready to rock!


...and the boys love 'em! 

Same recipe as above: 50% hydration kaiser roll dough, Nov 10,2010.   I don't know if to call them soft pretzels or kaiser pretzel rolls.  You judge for yourself. 

I folded them kaiser style and let them rest about 30 minutes (folds down) then carefully floated them rolling them over in a shallow dish of luke warm baking soda water all the time using my fingers!  After 10 minutes I pulled them out, they wanted to stick to each other (should have played with them more) but they separated just fine (they were stacked) and put them fold side up on parchment.  Covered with a damp cloth to finish the rise (15 min.)

The oven was too hot at 210°C so I reduced it to 200°C steam.  They browned so fast it was scary!  Great oven spring!  Total baking time about 15 minutes rotating the pans at 7 minutes releasing steam.  100g dough in each.

fresh & hot from the oven!

Crispy crust, Soft white tender bread inside. 

Mini O in Korea

Floydm's picture

Those look great, Mini.

There is a bakery here, little t, that makes these really cute pretzel breads.  They are about 8 inches long and look like little baguettes.  If only I could just conjure up a picture for you. Let me see....

(thank you, internet!)

Your rolls remind me of them: dark on the outside, light and tender inside with just the right amount of maltiness... Yum!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hubby wanted pretzels.  Dark on the outside & krispy middles.  So, when cutting dough to shape,  I cut little 20g dough pieces and rolled them into little snakes about 5 inches long and tossed them into the soda solution and stirred gently with a chop stick, often, about 10 at a time.  After they floated to the top, 5-10 minutes, I removed them one by one and stretched their slimy little forms into long strands of pretzel dough between my fingers. 

This soaking makes it very easy to make long strands.  Very elastic little worms!  Did some of those cute twisting actions seen on many videos and laid my Bretzels on parchment to rise in a plastic bag.   After a 10 min. rest, I stretched the shapes some more.  Sprinkled with salt when I thought them puffy enough (they were also so relaxed I thought I had liquid dough) baking pre-heated at 200°C  Steam first 4 minutes brings them well rounded forms.  Dry bake (180°C) another 5 minutes and turn each upside-down to dry out the bottom sides.  Remove when crispy and before they get too dark.   

They didn't last longer than 10 minutes.

comat0se's picture

I've made a couple batches using Lye but otherwise with Alton Brown's recipe, and they've turned out great.  I've been using a 3% lye dip solution (which I also intentionally dipped my finger in, and then washed to no detriment BTW), but many recipes call for a 4% lye dip, and there's a NYT recipe that calls for a 5% lye solution. 

Anyone experiment with using higher strength solutions?

4redwings's picture

Sodium carbonate lies between sodium bicarbonate and lye in pH, and you can easily make food grade sodium carbonate yourself.  Just bake the baking soda for an hour at 350 degrees F on a baking sheet.  It is caustic, but less so than lye.  Keep it in a lidded jar as it will absorb water from the air.

Just found the ultimate reference! See:

By the way, sodium carbonate is also known as washing soda, and can be found in the grocery store on the detergent aisle, but it isn't food grade.

comat0se's picture

I made the pretzels with Sodium Carbonate (baked baking soda) the first few times I made pretzels and while it was pretty good, I really think that the lye has stepped it up to the next level.  I read somewhere that the plain baking soda can activate one group of flavors, while the Sodium Carbonate can activate two groups, but it requires the lye to activate three groups.  Sorry I don't remember the names of these flavor groups, but I think one was phenols.

Dragonbones's picture

If you are having trouble finding food-grade sodium carbonate (washing soda) and don't want to bake your baking soda to get it, if you have a Chinese market nearby you might be able to get this by asking for jian (3rd or dipping tone) in Mandarin, or showing them this: 碱. I asked today and was shown a bag marked 'sodium carbonate, made in USA' here in Taiwan, and was told that it is for use in food such as some noodles and dragonboat festival dumplings (zongzi).


e-manhunt's picture

the taste of pretzels without using the lauge/lye  is like eating a slice of Wonderbread and thinking you've just tasted a fresh, French baguette.  Sure you can pretend you are getting the flavor and aroma, but not really.

My mother comes from the Black Forest. I ate pretzels made by her grandmother, my grandmother and my mother.  If you do not use the lye you are not getting the taste.  You might as well go to a pretzel shop at the mall.

We have relatives send lauge from Germany, but I would like to find something state side-- where can I find food grade lye? thanks.


comat0se's picture

I bought mine from AAA Chemicals.  Seem to be the cheapest as well.

JodyBead's picture

Christmas Eve dinner this year was German - I choose a different theme each year - and this first time Pretzel maker did your recipe!  YUMMMMMMY.  **I did boil them, and brushed all but one with egg wash (one relative is allergic to eggs).  Everyone was amazed and all went back for more!  Thank you!

giacamo11's picture

I understand those who do not think it worth it to use a lye bath in preparing pretzels but if you've never had a pretel prepared this way then you can never realize that the taste difference is quite noticeable. I'm from NY and the best NY pretzels I've ever had were purchased from a street vendor on the corner of Wall St and Broad St. - only 3 for a quarter, fat with kosher salt and a distinct delicious flavor. Alton Brown recommends substituting baking soda for lye. Haven't tried it yet but if you haven't had a lye bathed pretzel then you haven't had a great pretzel



lolalive2day's picture

I love that this thread started in 2005!  I made these today using the baking soda boil and egg wash method and it made lovely, delicious pretzels.  Since I'm snowed in I couldn't go for lye but I look forward to trying it.  In a pinch I highly recommend using baking soda!

1simmon3's picture


Thank you so much for posting all these recepi.  I do love baking so much and thank you for sharing all these recipes.  However,I find 3 cups of flour to a cup of liquid (1/2 c milk and 1/2 water) will give a consistency of cake batter.  Unless you are adding something else to the recepi, I found the dough to be very wet.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

(like the one for the flour where a straight edge can level or scrape off the excess) than a liquid measuring cup?  Or did you use a liquid measuring cup to measure the flour?

davep83's picture

Hi all

A quick question if anyone can help. This is my first time trying to bake. I'm trying to make soft pretzels using the recipe below:

3.7ml of Yeast

187 ml warm water

1/2 Tablespoon Sugar

550ml of Plain White flour

1 teaspoon of salt

3 Tablespoons of melted butter.

Then i use a dough mixer and mix for 9 minutes before letting it rise for 1 hour.

(this recipe makes about 4 pretzel around 4.5 oz each)

When i go to dip the pretzel in boiling water and baking soda they go really soft and stretch out of shape.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what I'm doing wrong. Too little flour, too much water? Maybe need to refrigerate before dipping (although at pretzel shop like wetzels etc they seem to dip straight after shaping them.

Also what would be the difference any difference using vegatable instead of the melted butter, and how would malt change the taste?

Too many question I know. Sorry.

Any help much appreciated.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thus reducing the hydration to 50% instead of 56%.  This should give you a stiffer dough that handles better.  Malt leads to darker crust color and adds a particular flavor, a light sweet nutty touch.  

One doesn't have to use a boiling bath.  Save the soda water (there will be some crystal sediment on the bottom) (if not add more soda) and put the pretzels in the cold solution, let them swim about 10 minutes and remove to parchment paper.  


Sophiebeth23's picture

I made these one Thursday they were delicious  


mimifix's picture

This is my basic pretzel recipe. I use half whole wheat flour and make the dough using a breadmachine, then shape and boil (no lye) before baking. My grandaughter loves these! I've given up trying to add a picture. Apparently I'm doing something wrong. (Can't get the pics small enough.)


phortoes's picture


I tried to make these pretzels yesterday with Non-Diastatic malt extract but it did not have the pretzel taste, was too salty and flavourless. I made another batch increasing the malt to 2 tbsps and added 1/2 cup sugar. It was sweet but did not taste like pretzels and had a bitter after taste. I am trying to make pretzels that taste like Auntie Anne's.


Today, I tried the exact recipe but with Diastatic Malt Flour and I got a sticky and tasteless product.

Can someone please tell me which type of Malt this recipe calls for?

Is Malt flour the same as Malt powder?

And is it ok to add sugar to this recipe to make it really really sweet?


I am in London (UK) and wonder if our flour is different to the American one though I have tried with both plain and bread flour.  Thanks.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Let's back up!  I take it we're talking about the recipe at the very top.  

I don't know Auntie Anne's pretzels like but if you want sweetness, try adding it to the soda bath.  Some like to add malt (either kind) or syrup to the soda bath because the outside of the pretzel hits the tongue first ... sweet, not salty.  That would be the place to tweak. If you really want them sweet, sprinkle the outside with sugar instead of salt before baking.  It turns my stomach but if that's what you like, who am I to argue.   I would also try looking for a formulated recipe that contains more sugar.  That way the dough is more balanced and hopefully has been tested, the chances for a good outcome are better.  

Now to the questions...  

You want diastatic malt in the recipe (which means malt that contains active diastase enzymes which cause a breakdown of starches into maltose, a sugar) and that makes them sweet enough without all the complexities of adding lots of sugar.   What happened with your pretzels is logical.  Too much sugar in the dough.  Either use diastatic malt or an equal amount of brown sugar.    Reduce the salt, no problem.  Reducing salt will also make the product taste sweeter.    

You did not mention your bake.  Letting them get a nice dark crust in a hot oven is secret to good flavour.  

Note: raising the amount of sugar in the dough may also require a lower oven temperature.

Malt is made from sprouted and dried grain (barley is most common) and then ground into a powder.  So it can be a powder or a flour.

cheflisamarie's picture

I am trying to use the baking soda that is baked to create a lower pH. I started with 460 g of Baking Soda and baked on a sheet pan for about an hour at 275 degrees. It now weighs 378 g.

My questions are:

1. How much of this "baked baking soda" should I use per quart of water?

~I saw 2/3c per 2 cups water but, 2 cups water. If I am boiling them (if this is necessary) this doesn't seem like enough water. Also, in other recipes with just Baking Soda I have read 2/3 c soda for 10 c water.. so the amount to use is my issue.

2. Does the water need to be boiling?

~Since the reason for boiling water was to get the chemical reaction to take place, hasn't the baking already facilitated the chemical reaction? If not what will further take place if I boil the water then add this new compound?

3. How long do you leave them in the boiling water if so?

~I have read that the lye bath just needs to be dipped. Does baking the baking soda to lower the pH reduce the amount of time it needs to be boiled or dipped depending on if it needs to be boiled. Or is boiling part of the cooking process as well as facilitating the chemical reaction?

4. Should I "rinse" them after soaking them... this seems wrong. I have only seen this in one other recipe.

~This I don't understand especially if the dough gets dipped why would you immediately rinse off the solution it was dipped in.


Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I'm going to try to make a few variations on the recipe. I'm trying some left overnight to rise and some with varying rise times.

 I am also going to try freezing some and then dipping them, topping, thaw/rise, bake.

mrfrost's picture
cheflisamarie's picture

I read the article posted above that's where I originally got the idea but it only says:

"Baked soda does a much better job of approximating true lye-dipped pretzels. Just dissolve  2/3 cup (about 100 grams) in 2 cups of water, immerse the formed raw pretzels in this solution for three to four minutes, rinse off the excess dipping solution in a large bowl of plain water, and bake."


So I'm still curious about my above questions:

It doesn't answer if the solution should be boiling and doesn't resolve that  2 cups of water isn't nearly enough to boil and submerge a pretzel in let alone 8 or more (if they soak up any solution in the process)... and this seems like an aweful lot compared to the other recipes I have read here that have varied in amounts from 2 tsp/ 2 cups water. And why the rinse after dipping?

Anyone else have any ideas on this?

patricia hains's picture
patricia hains

What a fun exchange about lye vs.soda...I took a two month master baking program in Germany last year and we made lye pretzels. Yum!

I have the pleasure of hosting one of the instructors from the academy in Germany for a class at my house next month.  He will be teaching the class how to make lye pretzels...and yes, there is a difference.  The pretzels posted here without lye look very good...Anyone wanting to get in on a last minute deal...go to   I had a recent cancellation and would love to fill the class...the class will also feature other German breads, including stollen, all in a wood fired oven.   I am willing to reduce the one more person can get in on this unique opportunity!

keegan's picture



It loos so amazing!

Tesro's picture

The reason Lye is used is because you would require quite a high alkalinity solution to coagulate the flour protien. Allowing the prezel like browning and also allows the salt to stick to them better. Since Lye is farily unsafe to use for the home cook one could use baking soda. Not quite as strong but much safer to use and almost the safe result.



kymanne's picture

I used barley malt syrup and baking soda in my boiling water and I had some beautiful coloring on my pretzels. Next time I will use lye, as soon as I can find it here in remote Australia ( I am an American Expat). My husband is from Augsberg , and enjoyed these!

makebreadnet's picture

Those look amazing!  Can you share your recipe?

freshginger's picture

after reading the entire list of comments and having purchased my food grade lye on amazon for $3 for 2 lbs., I am ready to bake. has anyone on this forum attempted a gluten free version? before any of you naysayers say you can't do it without gluten or why would you try, I assure you I can and will.  I miss the taste of bretzeln and laugen brotchen from my year in Germany. but if anyone else has had trials listen free trial and error, please comment. 

oregoncrepe's picture

I posted this in the general forum, but maybe that was the wrong place.  I apologize in advance for the kinda-cross posting but really in searchof advice.  Thanks

makebreadnet's picture

Bought lye and made a batch - delicious!

People, I was really troubled with the 'should I buy and use lye?' question.  After some internal debate, I wanted to know what it really could do for my baking.  So, I went for it and am never going back.  Lye all the way.

Watch some youtube videos and you'll learn about safe handling and proper use.

Lye pretzels

Purim's picture

So easy.    

Love it  (very much) when there's no "fuss" about / around it.   

Thank you for sharing !!!      

* (am going to bake it to my family, endlessly) ;-) 

bakerkevin's picture

I love good pretzels like the rest of us but for some reason the idea of putting something into my body that was soaked in a substance used to clean drains seems insane. 

I wonder if anyone has come across any research into the long-term health effects of eating gobs of lye-soaked pretzels? (For instance, are people in south Germany prone to stomach cancer, etc?)

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

It is not like you are eating the lye.Baking the lye changes the properties, which is why you don't see your skin peeling off after you eat the pretzel, and they only wear gloves when dipping the pretzel but not when eating it.


timboulay's picture

I just made these following the recipe above, more or less.  I cut the dough into 16 pieces and rolled it out to about the width of my pinky finger. 

Just before putting them in the oven, i dipped them in a bath of 1 liter boiling water with 60 grams baking soda.  I gave them each about 4 or 5 seconds and then flipped them over and gave it another 4 or 5 seconds.  

Baked them at 400F for 14 minutes and they came out perfect.  Dark brown crispy crust and chewy and soft inside