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These pretzel buns are soft, chewy, and easy to make! This pretzel bun recipe starts with an easy yeast dough that’s made with just 6 ingredients, then get boiled sprinkled with coarse salt and baked giving them their signature pretzel crust.
Ok I have a thing for some homemade pretzels around here – from these easy homemade soft pretzels, to these cinnamon sugar pretzels that I love dipping in caramel sauce (please no judgement here), and then these pretzel dogs that are so much fun to bring to a summer party. And today we are upping our pretzel game and making these pretzel buns!
I’m using the exact same dough for the soft pretzels for this pretzel bun recipe, but instead of all that fussy shaping of making pretzels we are making these easy pretzel buns instead – aka soft, chewy pretzel rolls, You can eat these buns on their own, or slice open and create slider sandwiches out of.
The pretzel dough is an easy yeast dough that I make in my stand mixer with my dough hook attachment but you can also make the dough in a bowl by hand. After the dough rises, you will shape the rolls, boil the pretzel in a baking soda water bath, sprinkle with coarse sea salt, and then bake. These homemade pretzel buns come out soft, chewy, and we just couldn’t get enough of them!
Why do you put baking soda in the water when making pretzels?
Adding baking soda to the water is what will give your soft pretzel rolls the soft and shiny crust. When you drop the pretzel buns in the water, it will cause the dough to puff and help to create that crust. It will also give the pretzels a beautiful color.
Adding baking soda to the water creates an alkaline solution, which means it will cause the browning reaction to happen more rapidly. It also adds that distinctive flavor.
Baking soda = chewiness, color, and flavor. In other words, don’t skip the baking soda bath.
Why These Are The Best Pretzel Rolls
- Only 6 Ingredient To Make The Pretzel Dough – The best part of making your own homemade pretzel buns is that you don’t need any fancy ingredients to make the dough!
- Real pretzel flavor! – Boiling the pretzel buns in a baking soda bath gives these buns their signature pretzel chewy crust and flavor.
- Can Be Made Ahead Of Time – You can make the homemade pretzel dough the day before and then bake the next day. You can also freeze the rolls unbaked or baked as well.
- Water – You need to use warm water to activate the yeast in the dough. I like to use a thermometer to make sure it’s between 105 – 110 F and it’s not too hot. If your water is too hot, it can kill the yeast.
- Brown Sugar – Traditionally barley malt syrup is used to give the pretzel buns their flavor and golden brown color, but that is not something I ever have on hand or want to get just for this pretzel bun recipe! So I used brown sugar instead to give these buns their sweetness and golden brown color.
- Instant Yeast – You can also active dry yeast to make the dough, but the rising times will increase for the dough.
- All-purpose flour – I know some pretzels buns may call for bread flour, which has a higher protein content but I found all purpose flour worked great in the dough and gave a bit of a fluffier texture.
- Milk – I recommended and used whole milk for this pretzel bun recipe for the added fat, which provides richness and tenderness. You could use low-fat milk. I haven’t tested with a plant-based milk so I can’t say for sure if it would work.
- Salt – You need to use some salt in the yeast dough recipe. I like to use sea salt, rather than kosher salt which doesn’t dissolve as easily into the dough, and table salt which doesn’t have as a pure salt taste (and is smaller in size, so use less). Before baking the buns I like to use a coarse salt to sprinkle.
- Baking Soda – This doesn’t go in the recipe, but is used in the boiling water bath. Boiling the pretzel rolls in the baking soda bath gives them their chewy signature brown crust.
- Butter – You can as an optional step brush on melted butter onto the baked pretzel buns when done baking (butter not shown in picture below).
How To Make Pretzel Buns
Make The Pretzel Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir together warm water, brown sugar, and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes. You can also make the dough by hand in a mixing bowl, and stir together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Add 5 cups all purpose flour, milk, and salt, and beat at low speed until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 6 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup of flour, a few tablespoons at a time, if dough is too sticky. Dough should be still somewhat sticky.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough in bowl, turn the dough to grease top.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F) until doubled in size, about 1 hour. If your kitchen is colder, it make take longer for the dough to rise. If using active dry yeast, rise times will be longer.
Shape Pretzel Buns
- Prepare oven and pans. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
- Shape pretzel rolls. Turn out dough, and divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Bring the edges of each ball up into the center and pinch together. Then flip over, and roll the dough into a smooth ball. I do this by making my hand into a claw and rolling the buns around under my hand. Let the pretzel rolls rest while you prepare the baking soda bath.
Baking Soda Bath
- Prepare baking soda bath. Bring a large pot (5-6 quart saucepan) of water to a boil over medium-high heat, and add baking soda. (Make sure pot is deep enough. Once you add baking soda, the water will expand an additional 2 inches.)
- Boil pretzel rolls. Drop each pretzel roll into baking soda water bath for about 30 seconds on each side (they should be in the water about 1 minute total, if you continue to let the buns boil they will be very chewy in the end). Boil only 3-4 rolls at a time. Remove the pretzel rolls from the water using a slotted spoon so the excess water drips into the pot and place onto your prepared lined baking sheet, spaced a couple inches apart.
- Finish pretzel rolls before baking. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 horizontal slits into the top of each of the buns. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
- Bake. Bake the buns until deep golden brown, 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and all the pretzel rolls to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. I like to brush with melted butter while they are still warm, but this is optional. These are best enjoyed the day of but can be warmed up in the microwave.
Heather’s Baking Tips
- Check Your Water and Milk Temperature – If your water or milk is too hot it can kill the yeast preventing the dough from rising. If you don’t have a thermometer, stick your finger in the liquid – if you can’t hold your finger in the liquid for 10 seconds then it’s too hot! If your water and milk are too cold, then your dough may take longer to rise.
- Check Your Yeast Expiration Date – If your yeast is expired the dough won’t rise. Check the expiration date on your yeast package to make sure it’s not expired. You can also make sure your yeast is foamy in step 1. If you don’t see bubbles that means your yeast was expired, or the liquids were too hot. There’s no point in continuing with the recipe because the dough won’t rise and it’s best to get new yeast and start over.
- Rising Times May Vary. If your kitchen is cold (or it’s winter) you may find your dough may take longer to rise. I like to place my dough covered in my oven, with it off and only the oven light on to make it a little warmer to help my dough rise.
- Don’t Boil For Too Long – If you boil the pretzel buns for too long, they will become overly chewy in the end. Set yourself a timer and don’t try to guess.
- Boil Only A Few Pretzel Buns At A Time. When boiling the pretzel rolls, boil only a few pretzel rolls at a time. Use a large slotted spoon to remove them so the excess water can drip off.
You can. However you will need to use about 2-3 times as much. Which means about 3/4 cup for this recipe. I don’t know about you but I don’t have that much baking powder on hand, but it is an option. Baking soda is cheaper than baking powder, so if I were you I would stick with baking soda.
Your baked pretzel buns will be good at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Just keep them covered so they don’t dry out. You can also freeze baked and cooled pretzel buns in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container and should keep for up to 3 months. You can reheat them in the microwave or in 350F oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through.
Yes, the pretzel dough can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge covered with plastic wrap. You can then shape, boil, and bake the pretzel buns the next day. You can also freeze the pretzel dough for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw the dough overnight in the fridge, then shape the next day. You will need to allow extra time (up to an hour) for the dough, especially if it’s cold while shaping) for the dough to puff up before boiling and baking.
This pretzel bun recipe makes 16 small rolls, but if you want to make these into more of a burger bun size, you can simply divide the dough into fewer buns (12 rolls) and make bigger rolls. You may need to increase the baking time slightly.
More Bread Recipes To Try
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Homemade Pretzel Buns
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water warmed to 105 to 110F
- 1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 5 – 5/12 cups (625- 688 grams) all purpose flour *spooned and leveled
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk warmed
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup baking soda for boiling
- coarse sea salt for topping
- melted butter optional, for brushing on top once baked
To Make The Pretzel Dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir together warm water, brown sugar, and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add 5 cups (625 grams) flour, milk, and salt, and beat at low speed until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 6 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup (63 grams) flour if dough is too sticky.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
To Make The Pretzel Buns::
- Prep oven and pans. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
- Shape buns. Turn out dough, and divide into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a round ball. I do this by bringing the ends up together and pinch together, then turn over and roll on the counter with hand in a claw position to form a ball. Place buns on parchment lined baking sheet and let buns rest while you prepare the boiling baking soda-water bath.
- Prepare baking soda bath. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat, and add baking soda. (Make sure pot is deep enough. Once you add baking soda, the water will expand an additional 2 inches.)
- Boil pretzel buns. Drop each pretzel roll into the boiling baking soda water bath, for about 30 seconds on each side (they should be in the water for about 1 minute total – if you leave them in too long they will become very chewy). Boil only 3-4 buns at a time. Remove the pretzel buns with a slotted spoon and let the excess water drain. Place buns on prepared baking sheets.
- Cut slits into buns. Cut 2 slits into the top of each bun using a sharp knife. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
- Bake buns. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Brush with melted butter, before enjoying.
- Storage: Your baked pretzel buns will be good at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Just keep them covered so they don’t dry out. You can also freeze baked and cooled pretzel buns in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container and should keep for up to 3 months. You can reheat them in the microwave or in 350F oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through.
- Make ahead: The pretzel dough can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge covered with plastic wrap. You can then shape, boil, and bake the pretzel buns the next day.
- Freezing: You can also freeze the pretzel dough for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw the dough overnight in the fridge, then shape the next day. You will need to allow extra time (up to an hour) for the dough, especially if it’s cold while shaping) for the dough to puff up before boiling and baking.
- Larger Buns: This pretzel bun recipe makes 16 small rolls, but if you want to make these into more of a burger bun size, you can simply divide the dough into fewer buns (12 rolls) and make bigger rolls. You may need to increase the baking time slightly.
- Boiling step: You can skip the boiling step. But be aware the boiling in baking soda step is what gives the pretzels their distinct flavor and chew.
- Yeast: I used instant yeast, but you can also use active dry yeast but proof time may be longer.
- Room Temperature Is Key! – How cold or warm your kitchen will always play a role in how fast your dough rises. Ideally dough should rise in a warm environment, about 75-78oF. If your kitchen is cold like mine I like to move my dough to warmer spot. The top of your fridge is a good spot. Or in your oven with the light on but the oven is OFF.
- Don’t Use Too Much Flour! – Too much flour will result in dry, tough pretzels. It’s best to WEIGH your flour, rather than use cups. If you don’t have a kitchen scale yet, then be sure to spoon and level your flour into your cup. You most likely won’t use all of your flour. I like to err on the side of a slightly sticky than too dry and adding too much. Also be careful when dusting your countertops, a little goes a long way.
- Set A Timer When Boiling – You don’t want to boil each pretzel bun for too long. Each pretzel bun should boil for 30 seconds on each side. I set myself a timer so I know when to flip them and take them out of the water.
- Boil Only A Few At A Time – You don’t want to overcrowd the pot otherwise it can be hard to flip them over. I boiled 2 at a time. I would boil 3 pretzels at the most, no more.
- Recipe adapted from Bakefromscratch.com
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