Pretzel Pillows with Bird’s Eye Chili Cheese Dip

published Feb 9, 2023
Pretzel Pillows with Bird's Eye Chili Cheese Dip Recipe

Cute and extremely snackable mini pretzel bites complete with a hot cheesy dip.

Serves6 to 8

Prep1 hour

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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pretzel bites and dip on baking sheet.
Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Pretzel bites are small, cute, and crowd-pleasing. They’re kind of like the snack version of kitten videos. This dough is simple and straightforward, with minimal ingredients and uncomplicated bread mixing techniques. And because it only needs to rise once, the process is surprisingly fast and easy. Rather than dealing with fussy pretzel-twisting, you’re just cutting the dough rope into small bites — or, as I like to call them, pretzel pillows. Even my toddler was able to help! 

No pretzel bite is complete without a dip, and a hot cheesy dip at that. I grew up in Bombay, and chili cheese toast was all the rage (that’s chili as in “chili pepper” and not “bean stew”). Because I love the flavor profile so much, I wanted to see if it would lend itself well to a dip setting. Spoiler alert: The results are incredibly good! A warm, soft pretzel bite dipped into a spicy and hot, cheesy dip, what could make game day better? No matter how your team is doing, you’ve got pretzel bites and dip — it’s going to be alright!

Pretzel Pillows with Bird's Eye Chili Cheese Dip Recipe

Cute and extremely snackable mini pretzel bites complete with a hot cheesy dip.

Prep time 1 hour

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the pretzel bites:

  • 6 tablespoons

    (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 cup

    whole milk

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet

    active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    room temperature water

  • Cooking spray or vegetable oil

  • 3 cups

    water

  • 1/4 cup

    baking soda

For the chili cheese dip:

  • 6 ounces

    white sharp cheddar cheese

  • 3 ounces

    Monterey Jack cheese

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/4

    medium green bell pepper

  • 3 to 5

    Thai or bird’s eye chilies, divided

  • 2 sprigs

    fresh cilantro

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

  • 1 (12-ounce) can

    evaporated milk

Instructions

Make the pretzel bites dough:

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup whole milk and heat until just warm to the touch (about 110ºF). Add 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate and bubble up.

  2. Place 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the dough hook attachment on low speed for 10 to 20 seconds to combine. Add the milk mixture and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup room temperature water and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and very slightly tacky, 8 to 12 minutes.

  3. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the baking soda solution and prepare the dip ingredients.

  4. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat. Add 1/4 cup baking soda and stir to combine. Let cool to lukewarm or just a little above room temperature.

Prep the chili cheese dip ingredients:

  1. Grate 6 ounces white sharp cheddar cheese and 3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese on the large holes of a box grater (2 heaping cups cheddar, 1 heaping cup Monterey Jack).

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you complete it: Mince 3 garlic cloves. Finely chop 1/4 medium green bell pepper until you have 2 tablespoons. Trim and finely chop 3 of the bird’s eye chilies (about 1 teaspoon).

  3. Trim and finely chop the remaining 2 bird’s eye chilies for garnish if desired for a spicy topping. Coarsely chop 2 fresh cilantro sprigs and reserve for garnish.

Shape and bake the pretzel bites:

  1. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 400ºF. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Coat the parchment lightly with cooking spray or brush with vegetable oil.

  2. Gently punch the dough down. Divide into 4 portions (about 6 1/2 ounces each). Roll one portion out into a rope about 24 inches long and 3/4-inch wide. Cut each rope crosswise into 16 (1 1/2-inch) pieces (cut in half, then keep cutting each piece in half until you have 16 pieces).

  3. Add the pieces to the baking soda solution and let sit for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, roll and cut out the next portion of dough. Transfer the pieces in the solution to the baking sheets with a slotted spoon or spider, spacing them 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.

  4. Repeat cutting and soaking the remaining portions of dough. Sprinkle the pretzel bites with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

  5. Bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from front to back and between racks. Bake until shiny and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes more. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons unsalted butter on the stovetop or in the microwave. Finish making the chili cheese dip.

Make the chili cheese dip and finish the pretzel bites:

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic mixture and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Sauté for 30 seconds.

  2. Add 1 tablespoon cornstarch and stir to combine. Add 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk and bring to a full simmer, stirring constantly. Add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth (do not let it come to a boil). Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

  3. When the pretzel bites are ready, immediately brush with the melted butter. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl and garnish with the chilies and cilantro. Serve with hot or warm pretzels for dipping.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pretzel dough can be refrigerated for a few hours after proofing or frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. The cheese sauce can be made up to a few days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container; reheat over low heat.

Storage: Leftover pretzels can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Leftover dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat over low heat.