Pretzel Bites

published Nov 10, 2021
Pretzel Bites Recipe

If pretzel bites are your go-to mall snack, you'll love these warm and salty bites.

Serves6 to 8

Makes56 bites

Prep30 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 22 minutes

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Credit: Perry Santanachote

While the humble pretzel’s roots go way back to the Middle Ages, its American history began in 19th-century Pennsylvania when Dutch immigrants commercialized this popular German treat. Anne Beiler, the founder of Auntie Anne’s, got her start slinging soft pretzels at a farmers market in 1988 and the company now has locations in almost every state in the country. When I think of pretzel bites, I think of Auntie Anne’s, and this recipe gets dangerously close to the original.

What Makes Pretzel Dough Different?

A brief dip in an alkaline solution before baking is what separates pretzels from bread. Traditionally, pretzels are dipped in a lye solution — yep, the same stuff that cleans your drains — and while it’s highly diluted and deemed safe for consumption after it’s baked, we prefer to use baking soda for our alkaline solution.

What Makes Pretzels Brown and Shiny?

Soft pretzels are chewy, salty, and have a shiny brown crust made by boiling the dough in an alkaline solution before baking. A chemical reaction happens during this brief boil that alters the ratio of proteins and sugars and amps up the dough’s Maillard reaction in the oven (the process responsible for browning and crusting). That chemical transformation is also responsible for the irresistible pretzel aroma that wafts through the air at the mall. 

Credit: Perry Santanachote

Do You Have to Boil Pretzels Before Baking?

Without the dip in alkaline water, pretzels would be white and without the chewy texture we associate with them. The boiling step essentially gelatinizes the exterior of the pretzels, preventing them from rising during baking, and gives them that dark crust.

Pretzel Bites Recipe

If pretzel bites are your go-to mall snack, you'll love these warm and salty bites.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 22 minutes

Makes 56 bites

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon room temperature water, divided

  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet

    instant dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 quarts


  • 1/4 cup

    baking soda

  • 1

    large egg

  • 3 tablespoons

    coarse sea salt or pretzel salt

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • Cheese sauce, for serving (optional)


  1. Pour 1 cup room-temperature water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 packet instant yeast, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Mix with the dough hook on low speed until a shaggy dough forms, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-low speed and knead until the dough pulls away from the bowl and is soft, slightly tacky, and can hold a ball shape, for 5 minutes. If the dough looks very sticky, add up to 1/2 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

  2. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray and add the dough. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Divide it into 4 pieces with a bench scraper or knife. Roll each piece into a 16-inch-long and 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, transferring the pieces to the baking sheets as you work.

  4. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until puffy, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 425°F. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.

  5. Reduce the heat as needed so the water maintains a simmer and add 1/4 cup baking soda. Working in 3 batches, gently drop the dough into the water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Boil for 30 seconds, flip the dough pieces, and boil for 30 seconds more. Remove with a slotted spoon and return to the baking sheets.

  6. Whisk 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; brush over the dough. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt or pretzel salt (about 1 pinch per pretzel bite). Bake until deeply brown and glossy, 13 to 15 minutes.

  7. Place 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted. Brush over baked pretzel bites and serve warm with cheese sauce if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The pretzel bites can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes if frozen.