Freshness is key if you’re after soft pretzels and the freshest pretzels are simply the ones you bake yourself. This easy-to-follow, recipe for soft spelt pretzels is a firm staple in our home because you can’t beat the taste of freshly-baked pretzels with a generous lashing of butter. A delicious quick snack, easy lunchbox addition, or filling side for traditional German dishes.
In Germany, pretzels can be found at every corner, especially in the South, much like a baguette in France. They make a great quick snack and are typically served in beer gardens and the world-famous Oktoberfest.
Traditionally pretzels are boiled in a diluted lye mixture before baking to create an authentic dark brown color and soft, chewy texture. This recipe uses a baking soda water bath instead as a safer, widely available alternative without compromising on color, taste, or texture.
- Spelt flour – White spelt flour has a mild, slightly nutty flavor. Being a light grain, it also adds to the pretzels’ soft texture. You can substitute it with all-purpose flour 1:1.
- Milk – Milk gives the pretzels extra richness. You can use leftover whey instead which will give you even chewier pretzels.
- Butter – I recommend using unsalted butter for this recipe but you choose salted as well and simply reduce the additional salt in the dough by 1/2 a teaspoon.
- Yeast – Active dried yeast or a cube of fresh yeast work best for this recipe.
- Sugar – The sugar is required to help activate the yeast. You can use alternative sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup instead.
- Salt – I recommend using fine sea salt for the dough and a coarse grind as a topping for half of the pretzels.
- Baking soda – Boiling the spelt pretzels in a baking soda and water mix gives the pretzels not only their unique color but it also helps with the soft and chewy texture.
- Sesame seeds – I love adding white sesame seeds to pretzels because they add great flavor and make them less salty.
- Make sure your yeast is fully activated before adding it to the dry ingredients. Don’t skip this step or the dough won’t rise and will be dense, rather than soft.
- Check out this video by German Pretzel Maker Ludwig Neulinger on how to create the traditional pretzel shape.
- This recipe makes 4 large pretzels, 8 medium-sized ones, or 16 snack-size pretzels. The images show snack-size pretzels which make a great side, lunchbox addition, and fit perfectly into little hands.
- Pretzels are best enjoyed warm and I recommend eating them within a day as they easily get stale. Head to the FAQ section for some storage tips.
While coarse salt is the traditional topping of pretzels, sesame seeds, cheese, ham and cheese, and even sweet additions such as cinnamon sugar are also popular.
You can form the dough into traditional pretzel shapes or shape the dough into pretzel knots, sticks, rods, or braids.
Soft spelt pretzels are best enjoyed straight from the oven with a generous spread of butter. Obatzda is a traditional German cheese dip that’s served with pretzels alongside weißwurst and a maß (large 1 liter jug) of beer. Prost!
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Soft Spelt Pretzels
- 4 cups white spelt flour
- 7 gr active dried yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup butter unsalted, softened
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cups water filtered
- 3 tbsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds white
- 1 tsp salt coarse
- Heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave until it is lukewarm (98F/37C). To activate the yeast, add it to the milk alongside the sugar. Stir gently until the yeast starts to foam lightly.7 gr active dried yeast, 1 cup milk, 1 tsp sugar
- Combine the white spelt flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well with the back of your hand.4 cups white spelt flour, 1 tsp salt
- Add the activated yeast to the well alongside the softened butter. Combine everything by slowly stirring in the flour from the edges of the well. Create a lump-free dough. Be careful to not over-knead the dough.1/4 cup butter
- Add the dough back into the bowl and cover it with a tea towel. Let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. It will significantly increase in size.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/356F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Form 4 large pretzels, 8 medium-sized ones, or 16 snack-size pretzels. Add them to 1-2 baking tray(s) and rest them for another 15 minutes.
- To make the baking soda water, bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the baking soda and bring it to a boil again. Reduce to a simmer and add the pretzels to a ladle one by one. Boil them in the baking soda water for 20 seconds each. Transfer them back to a lined baking tray.3 tbsp baking soda, 4 cups water
- Add your topping of choice. I add sesame seeds to one half and coarse salt to the other. Score the pretzels with a sharp knife on the thickest side.1 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp salt
- Bake the pretzels for 20-25 minutes until they've reached the typical dark brown pretzel coloring. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack if you have one. Serve with a generous x of butter while warm!
While baked pretzels are not suitable for freezing, unbaked ones freeze exceptionally well. Simply prepare the dough, shape them into your preferred shape, and freeze them in a freezer-proof container. Defrost them on a baking tray and give them their second rise before baking.
Pretzels dry out easily due to their soft texture and unique shape. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature but you’ll need to toast them briefly. They won’t be as soft but still very tasty.