Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels are easy to make and so delicious. No need to head to the mall when you can make them for less at home. Only 16 cents a piece! I’m not sure anyone’s auntie can beat that.
Even better, these pretzels freeze and thaw beautifully. You may just want to bake a double batch and hide some away in the freezer for later.
Soft pretzels are a delicious treat. Whether you like yours with tons of crusty salt, no salt, dipped in mustard or cheese sauce, or sweetened up with cinnamon sugar, there’s a soft pretzel out there for everyone.
These little baked goodies are easy to prepare, but there are a few steps involved. Consider making several batches in a row so that you can eat your fill and still have some to freeze for later.
Why make this
They are delicious! Making them at home elevates them to a super-duper-outstanding level of deliciousness.
They are cheaper than what you can buy elsewhere. No trawling through the mall when you can make it yourself for less!
They are fun to make. Kids (of all ages!) will enjoy making these fun soft pretzels.
The ingredients list for soft pretzels is pretty straightforward. It’s all regular pantry staples for baking!
water and milk – These are the liquids used in this recipe. You can use any milk you like, but the higher the fat content, the richer the flavor will be. You can omit the milk and use another cup of water if need be.
granulated sugar – The addition of sugar effects the texture of the dough as well as adds a bit of sweetness. You can use honey, sucanat, or brown sugar if you prefer.
bread flour – A good quality bread flour can make a big difference in your yeast breads. I like Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur.
whole wheat flour – To make a heartier pretzel, I use a bit of whole wheat flour. You can use another cup of bread flour instead if you prefer.
salt – Salt is a necessary addition to yeast dough. Do not omit this. The flavor will be off.
dry active yeast – Yeast is necessary for this dough to rise. I buy it in bulk at Costco and store it in the freezer to keep it fresh.
water and baking soda for boiling the pretzels – Boiling the pretzels in a baking soda bath is what gives them a distinctive texture. You can skip this part but the end product will taste more like a roll than a pretzel.
coarse salt for sprinkling – The salt sprinkle at the end is characteristic of soft pretzels. You can also use Everything Seasoning if you prefer.
You might be used to seeing soft pretzels at the mall sprinkled with coarse salt. You can Enjoy Homemade Pretzels in Lots of Fun Ways, including buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar as well as topped with Everything Seasoning.
To make sweet pretzels: Do not sprinkle salt or seasoning on the boiled bagels. Bake them plain. Once they come out of the oven, you can brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar or cinnamon sugar. Allow them to cool slightly on a rack before serving.
To make more savory pretzels: If you like these whole wheat soft pretzels, be sure to try our Garlic Herb Pretzel recipe, too.
Step by Step Instructions
How to make the dough
Making the dough is super simple. You can do this in a bread machine, by hand, or in a stand mixer.
To make the dough in a bread machine:
Place the ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order listed by the manufacturer. Set the dough cycle and hit start.
To make the dough by hand or in a stand mixer:
In a mixing bowl, warm the water and milk slightly and combine it with the sugar and yeast. Let the yeast proof for 5 minutes. It should bubble and foam.
Then add the flours and salt. Knead the dough.
- If you’re making it by hand, stir until you have a sticky dough but all the flour is incorporated. Turn it onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes elastic.
- If you’re making it in the stand mixer, install the bread hook and knead into a smooth dough ball forms, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Set into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
While the dough is rising, prepare two rimmed sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper.
Once the dough has risen, you’re ready to form the pretzels! This process is super fun and one that kids will enjoy helping with.
How to form the pretzels
Divide the dough into 12 equal(ish) portions.
Roll each portion into a long snack, about 18 inches long.
Shape the snake into a U or horseshoe shape.
Cross the sides of the horseshoe, about halfway up.
Twist them again.
Flip the twisted ends over the top of the pretzel and press them into the bottom of the U. Continue until all the pretzels are shaped.
Next, it’s time to boil and bake them.
How to boil and bake the pretzels
Once all the pretzels are shaped, you can boil and bake them.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop.
- Add the baking soda slowly and carefully, this may cause lots of boiling and bubbling.
- Drop the formed pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time. You can fit 3 to 4 into the pot at once. Boil for about 30 seconds and remove to the parchment.
- Sprinkle them with coarse salt or everything seasoning, if desired.Once all the pretzels have been boiled, bake them for 9 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them to a rack to cool.
Cooled pretzels can be stored in an airtight freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw, wrapped, on the countertop at room temperature. Reheat in a warm oven for five minutes to refreshen, if desired.
Similar to bagels, soft pretzels are made from yeast dough that is shaped, risen, boiled, and baked. The resulting baked good is soft and chewy and packed with flavor.
Soft pretzels are delicious as a snack served plain, sprinkled with sugar or salt, or dipped into a sauce like mustard or melted cheese.
But pretzels aren’t just for snacking! They also make a fun addition to your dinner bread basket.
Consider serving them alongside a bowl of soup like this Spring Vegetable Soup for a fun side. For the full “Octoberfest” experience, serve them with Sauerkraut and Pork and a hearty beer. Soft pretzels are also a great addition to a Snacky Dinner.
Believe it or not, pretzels have a much more spiritual history than mere mega malls. In fact, it is said that medieval monks developed pretzels as a way to help children learn their prayers. The pretzel shape is supposed to be reminiscent of praying hands.
And, believe it or not, pretzels have their roots in the history of Easter. Since eggs and butter were forbidden foods during Lent — and since many pretzel recipes can be made without eggs and butter, pretzels were a permissible food during that time.
Eggs, a food that one would abstain from during Lent, would be hardboiled for longer storage. And eventually it came about that children were served two hard boiled eggs nestled in the hollows of a pretzel on Easter morning. That pretzel eventually evolved into “the Easter Basket.” Pretty cool, eh?
Who knew? Personally, I’d rather have a Whole Wheat Soft Pretzel than the basket!
The dough to soft pretzels is similar to a roll, so what makes them taste so… pretzely? It’s the baking soda bath!
Boiling the shaped pretzels in a hot pot of water and baking soda gives them texture and their distinct flavor.
Could you skip the boiling? You could, but you’ll miss out on the flavor and chewy texture. Unboiled pretzels will basically taste like rolls.
Knowing how much it costs you to prepare a recipe can help you decide if it’s the type of recipe to make regularly or one you might want to save for special occasions. Let’s crunch some numbers and see how this recipe pencils out.
- milk – $0.17
- sugar – $0.02
- bread flour – $0.87
- whole wheat flour – $0.22
- salt – $0.02
- yeast – $0.33 (if purchased in a single packet)
- baking soda – $0.25
- coarse salt for sprinkling – $0.04
At non-sale prices at a mid-range grocery store, it costs $1.92/dozen or 16 cents each to make your own homemade pretzels.
Alternatively, you can buy 6 for $3.69 (or 62 cents each) in the freezer section. Homemade will get almost 4 times as many for the same price!
How to save even more on this recipe
Here are some of the strategies you can use to make this recipe more economical:
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. When I find regular kitchen staples on sale, I buy a lot. I’m currently using a price book to track prices and that’s saving me money. For this recipe, keeping an eye on the price of flour can help keep the price down.
- Buying in bulk – Buying things in bulk such as yeast, baking soda, and flour will bring the price of this recipe down even more.
Other easy breads to bake
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Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels Recipe
- ½ cup water warmed
- 1 cup milk warmed
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3 cup bread flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 8 cup water
- ¼ cup baking soda
- coarse salt
To make the dough in a bread machine:
- Place the ½ cup water, milk, sugar, flours, salt, and yeast in the bread pan. Set the machine on dough. When the cycle ends, remove the dough to a lightly oiled surface.
To make the dough by hand:
- In a mixing bowl, add the warm water and milk slightly and combine it with the sugar and yeast. Let the yeast proof for 5 minutes. It should bubble and foam.
- Then add the flours and salt. Stir until you have a sticky dough but all the flour is incorporated.
- Turn it onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes elastic. Set into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
To make the dough in a stand mixer:
- Add the warm water and milk to the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the sugar and yeast. Let the yeast proof for 5 minutes. It should bubble and foam.
- Add the flours and salt. Install the bread hook and knead into a smooth dough ball forms, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Place the dough ball in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
Once the dough is ready:
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Bring the 8 cups water to a boil in a large stockpot.
- Transfer the dough to a floured cutting board or smooth work surface. With a dough knife or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions.
- Roll each portion into a long snake, about 18 inches long. Shape the snake into a horseshoe. Twist the sides of the horseshoe, about halfway up, around each other twice. Flip the ends over onto the U of the horseshoe. Press to seal. Continue until all the pretzels are shaped.
- Add the baking soda to the pot of water and continue to boil. Drop the formed pretzels, one at a time into the soda bath. Boil for about 30 seconds and remove to the prepared parchment with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with coarse salt or everything seasoning, if desired.
- Once all the pretzels have been “bathed,” bake them for 9 to 10 minutes or until golden. Remove them to a rack to cool.
- Store cooled pretzels in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Freeze them for longer storage.
This post was originally published on March 28, 2011. It has been updated for content and clarity.