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Cook up a batch of our favorite soft pretzels, and you’ll be instantly popular with adults and children alike. Naturally vegan recipe with lots of variations.

a big pile of vegan soft pretzels on a table with mustard and beer
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Why we love this recipe

I’ve been making these soft pretzels for years, since our older kid was one year old, and the dozen moms in our playgroup used to elbow our own barely mobile children out of the way for a pretzel to eat with our strong, strong coffee.

They’ve got:

  • The perfect chew, from bread flour and a short stint in a hot baking soda bath
  • Lots of flavor on their own
  • The ability to take on flavorful toppings if you like (savory or sweet)
  • Just the absolute best vibe

Here’s the bottom line. These pretzels make people ridiculously happy. You should make them for the people you love.

I first published this recipe here way back in 2011, which was already seven years into our obsession. I’ve since updated the post for clarity and tweaked the recipe a bit.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe. It’s not much!

ingredients in bowls
  • Years ago I started using bread flour in this recipe. It has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which gives the pretzels a little extra chew. If you don’t have bread flour, it’s okay to use all-purpose. You can even substitute up to half the total weight in whole wheat flour if you like.
  • Use water that’s a little bit warm to the touch — ideally about 100°F, but don’t worry if you don’t have a thermometer.
  • There are two types of salt in this recipe. The fine sea salt is for the dough. The coarse (or pretzel) salt is for sprinkling on top before baking.
  • The baking soda isn’t for the dough. You’ll add it to a pot of simmering water and quickly poach the pretzels before baking them. This helps create their characteristic outer layer and overall chewiness.
  • There’s a little bit of oil in this recipe. You’ll use some of it to coat the proving bowl and the rest to brush over the pretzels before baking. You can use olive or safflower oil, whichever you prefer.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a great batch of soft pretzels. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll mix the sugar into the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so. The yeast will eat the sugar and begin to foam.
  2. Stir in one cup of the flour along with the salt. Then mix in the rest of the flour. Knead in a stand mixer with the dough hook or by hand until smooth.
  3. Let the dough prove until it’s doubled in size. Divide into 16 pieces, shape each into a pretzel (see the video and the section below for shaping details). Prove the shaped pretzels for 15 minutes before proceeding.
  4. Poach the pretzels in simmering water and baking soda. Brush them with oil and top with salt or other toppings, and then bake at 450°F for 16-20 minutes.

How to shape pretzels

Here’s a step by step tutorial on shaping pretzels. It’s easy to get the hang of once you’ve seen the steps in action.

step by step
  1. Divide the dough into 16 roughly equal pieces. Roll them out, one at a time, into a snake that’s about 18 inches long.
  2. Make the snake into a U shape.
  3. Twist the ends together twice.
  4. Fold the twisted top down so that the ends meet and slightly overlap the bottom of the pretzel. Press gently to adhere. That’s it!
homemade soft pretzel bites on a black plate and pretzel cheese dip in a white bowl

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I use this recipe to make pretzel bites?

You sure can. Instead of twisting the ropes into pretzel shapes, roll them out a little thicker and cut into 1-inch pieces with a bench scraper or sharp knife. Everything else stays the same.

Can I make vegan soft pretzels in advance?

This recipe is best consumed on the day it’s made. Pretzels will still taste good on subsequent days, but their gorgeous texture is a fleeting joy.

If you have leftovers, store them in a paper bag at room temperature for 24 hours, or pop them into the freezer, individually wrapped, for up to three months.

How do you reheat leftovers?

Wrap leftover soft pretzels in foil and heat in a 300°F oven or toaster oven until warmed through. You can remove the foil for the last minute or two to crisp up the exterior if you like.

a big pile of vegan soft pretzels on a table with mustard and beer

Soft pretzel cheese dip

To serve these gorgeous pretzels with silky, dreamy cheese sauce, you’ve got two options:

Variation: cinnamon sugar soft pretzels

To make cinnamon sugar soft pretzels, here’s all you have to do:

  • On a dinner plate, mix together 1/2 cup granulated sugar and two tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • After removing each pretzel from the water bath, brush it with vegan or regular butter instead of oil and dip in cinnamon sugar before baking.
  • Alternatively, you can bake the pretzels first and dip in butter and cinnamon sugar while hot. This version more closely resembles Auntie Anne’s pretzels — I leave it to you to decide whether this is a pro or a con.

Variation: buttery soft pretzels

Instead of brushing the pretzels with oil before baking, you can melt two tablespoons of butter (or vegan butter) and brush them with that instead. It makes a big difference in flavor, so if you’re into buttery pretzels, this is the way to go. butter also browns a bit more deeply than oil due to its lower smoke point.

Variation: sourdough discard pretzels

If you are working on a sourdough starter and looking for ways to use up discard, this is a great place to do so. You can swap in up to one cup (224 grams) of unfed 100% hydration starter for 1/2 cup of the water and 1/2 cup of the flour in this recipe. Add it with the first addition of flour, and use the full amount of commercial yeast called for in the recipe.

For more ways to use up sourdough discard, don’t miss our crackers, banana bread, and scallion pancake.

More topping suggestions

These pretzels have a delicious but neutral flavor profile that takes well to a wide variety of toppings. In addition to the suggestions above, you could try:

  • Everything bagel seasoning
  • Sesame seeds
  • Poppy seeds
  • A few tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • Truffle or herb salt
  • Egg wash (one egg mixed with a teaspoon of water) instead of oil or butter brushed on top before baking

More favorite (vegan) kid-friendly snacks

Make sure the water isn’t too hot (which would destroy the yeast) or too cold (which wouldn’t dissolve and activate it quickly enough). Aim for 105°F to 110°F for best results.

a big pile of vegan soft pretzels on a table with mustard and beer

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a big pile of vegan soft pretzels on a table with mustard and beer
4.88 from 8 votes

Vegan Soft Pretzel Recipe

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This pretzel dough is forgiving and easy to work with. You can knead it in a stand mixer or by hand. Soft pretzels get their appealing chewiness from a quick poaching in water and baking soda before heading off to the oven. This extra step may seem like a bit of a hassle, but it’s a small price to pay for the magic it creates.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 16
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Ingredients 

  • 2 cups (475 ml) warm water (105°-110°F)
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons 8 grams/1 packet active dry yeast
  • 5 ½ cups (660 grams) bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive or safflower oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) baking soda
  • Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water and sugar and stir to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle yeast overtop and set aside for 10 minutes in a warm spot in the kitchen. Yeast will be foamy.
  • Add one cup of flour to the bowl and stir with a spoon or on low with the dough hook until incorporated. Then add salt and remaining flour. Stir with a spoon or the dough hook until combined, about one minute.
  • If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface (no need to flour it), and knead until it loses most of its stickiness and becomes quite elastic, about ten minutes. (To knead, hold the dough in place with one hand and stretch it out in front of you with the heel of your other hand as shown in the photos above, then roll it back up on itself and repeat.) If using a stand mixer, turn machine to speed 2 and let the dough hook knead for about eight minutes.
  • Wash and dry the bowl, then pour about two teaspoons of the oil into it.
  • Place the dough back into the bowl and roll it to coat lightly with the oil on all sides.
  • Place a clean kitchen towel over the top of the bowl and set aside in a warm spot in the kitchen to rise. Dough is ready when it has approximately doubled in volume, which will take an hour or more depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
  • Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into sixteen equal pieces.
  • One at a time, roll out each piece with your hands into an approximately 18-inch "snake," and then twist into a pretzel shape. See the video and step-by-step photos in the post for more details on shaping. See note 10 below if you'd like to make pretzel bites instead.
  • Set each pretzel on one of the baking sheets, leaving two inches of space on all sides. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover baking sheets with kitchen towels and set aside for 15 minutes while the pretzels complete their final rise.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F with one rack 1/3 of the way up from the oven floor and another 1/3 of the way down from the top. If you have a convection oven, it's great to use here — just set it to 425° instead.
  • Fill a large, heavy pot with four inches of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour in baking soda. Lower heat to maintain a slow simmer.
  • In batches of four to six depending on the size of your pot, gently place pretzels into the simmering water and poach for about 30 seconds, until they puff up and float. Transfer to prepared baking sheets.
  • Gently blot any excess off each pretzel with a paper towel and place back on the baking sheets. Brush each pretzel with a little oil and then sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt.
  • Place one baking sheet on the lower rack and one on the upper rack of the oven.
  • Bake pretzels for eight minutes, then reverse the positions of the baking sheets and bake eight to 12 minutes more, until pretzels are golden brown and cooked through.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably the same day they're made.

Notes

  1. Bread flour gives these pretzels a little bit of extra chewiness, but you can substitute all-purpose flour if that's what you've got. You can even use up to half whole wheat flour if you like.
  2. This recipe is best consumed on the day it's made. Pretzels will still taste good on subsequent days, but their gorgeous texture is a fleeting joy.
  3. If you have leftovers, store them in a paper bag at room temperature for 24 hours, or pop them into the freezer, individually wrapped, for up to three months.
  4. Wrap leftover soft pretzels in foil and heat in a 300°F oven or toaster oven until warmed through. You can remove the foil for the last minute or two to crisp up the exterior if you like.
  5. To serve these gorgeous pretzels with silky, dreamy cheese sauce, you've got two options: Make our favorite vegan cheese sauce or the cheese sauce from our epic vegetarian nachos.
  6. To make cinnamon sugar soft pretzels, here's all you have to do: On a dinner plate, mix together 1/2 cup granulated sugar and two tablespoons ground cinnamon. After removing each pretzel from the water bath, brush it with vegan or regular butter instead of oil and dip in cinnamon sugar before baking.. Alternatively, you can bake the pretzels first and dip in butter and cinnamon sugar while hot. This version more closely resembles Auntie Anne's pretzels — I leave it to you to decide whether this is a pro or a con.
  7. For buttery soft pretzels: Instead of brushing the pretzels with oil before baking, you can melt two tablespoons of butter (or vegan butter) and brush them with that instead. It makes a big difference in flavor, so if you're into buttery pretzels, this is the way to go. butter also browns a bit more deeply than oil due to its lower smoke point.
  8. If you are working on a sourdough starter and looking for ways to use up discard, this is a great place to do so. You can swap in up to one cup (224 grams) of unfed 100% hydration starter for 1/2 cup of the water and 1/2 cup of the flour in this recipe. Add it with the first addition of flour, and use the full amount of commercial yeast called for in the recipe.
  9. These pretzels have a delicious but neutral flavor profile that takes well to a wide variety of toppings. In addition to the suggestions above, you could try: Everything bagel seasoning, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, grated parmesan cheese, truffle or herb salt. If you're not vegan, you could use egg wash (one egg mixed with a teaspoon of water) instead of oil or butter brushed on top before baking.
  10. To make pretzel bites, roll out each rope of dough to a length of about 10 inches, which will leave it thicker. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to cut each rope into 1-inch segments. Proceed with the recipe as written. Pretzel bites take 15 to 16 minutes in the oven.
I first published this recipe here in 2011, many years after having adapted it from Martha Stewart.

Nutrition

Calories: 190kcal, Carbohydrates: 33.7g, Protein: 4.5g, Fat: 3.9g, Fiber: 1.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Snacks and Starters
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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10 Comments

  1. very nice umami girl! i love home baking, puts that xtra oomph. Maria’s baking classes rock! i am one of her students.
    I will definitely try the pretzels! been looking for the recipe

    will let u know how it went :0)

  2. Just printed the pretzel recipe. You have convinced me (and you didn’t even realize it either) to make these pretzels!! This will be my FIRST attempt to bake any type of dough product from scratch, YIKES! Keep your fingers crossed :)!! I stink at baking but am going to give it another shot with my fancy new stove :)I will let you know how they turn out! xoxo!

  3. I love soft pretzels and these looks so yummy! I never want to make them because I worry that I will not be able to eat them at their peak–I eat some plain and make sandwiches out of others. How do you eat them all up? Does this recipe freeze well?

    The Dinner Belle for Kimberlybelle.com

  4. Heya!

    What a wonderful post – love the way your story unfolds…I want to make the soft pretzels and take a baking class….

    Your new london friend, Isabella!

  5. Where’s the picture of your new haircut? What a teaser! I did not know about Maria when I lived in London and now I am sad. I also am sad I never managed to get in a class at Leith’s with Ottolenghi. (I took a good baking class at divertimenti though and another at cucina caldesi).