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Bavarian Pretzel | Traditional German Pretzels (Laugenbrezel)

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This Bavarian pretzel recipe is the perfect German Pretzel recipe. With a crispy outside a soft, bagel-like chewiness, delightful little bursts of saltiness, baked to beautiful brown perfection and gigantic. That is how I would describe these iconic traditional German Pretzels or Laugenbrezels.

A long, long, long time ago I was an Au Pair in West Berlin and fell in love with all things German! Their breads being the best, in my German heritage humble opinion! These Bavarian pretzels are easier to make than you might think and great for Oktoberfest or any fall celebration.

For other easy bread recipes, grab our favorites like Homemade Naan, Russian Black Bread or Easy Yeast Rolls and a must try are these simple Skillet Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

Bavarian Pretzels or Laugenbrezels stacked on top of one another on a wooden platter.

The people, the history, architecture, the landscape, but the food, oh the food! Strudels, schnitzels, Rote Grütze and the bread, oh the bread spoke to my heart. I am pretty easy to please!

I found this recipe years ago from Saveur, and I am pretty sure it’s from the same Hofbrauhaus beer hall in Munich where I first had these amazing pretzels! Soft, warm, GIANT pretzels eaten simply with soft butter. A true Bavarian Preztel!

Authentic German Pretzels aka Laugenbrezel

They are so easy to make too, with just a few simple ingredients and a little elbow grease, you’ll have GIANT, warm and soft, chewy pretzels in no time! It actually took me longer to write this post than it did to make the pretzels.

Holding large finished German Bavarian Pretzel.
Giant Soft, German Pretzel

What is a Bavarian Pretzel or Laugenbrezel?

Glad you asked! I had to look it up too, it has been a few years and mein Deutsch ist nicht gut! Loosely translated, my German sucks now! HA!!

Laugen means lye and brezel means, you guessed it, pretzel! I found German quite easy to learn since so many of our words are rooted in Latin.

Two Giant Pretzels stacked | www.thefreshcooky.com

Do I Need Lye to Make Pretzels?

So what is a Lye Pretzel!? Traditional German pretzels have used lye to achieve the classic crispy, browned crust and flavor. However; a great home baking alternative is using a baking soda wash! Not quite as alkali as lye, but I am not sure about you, I have not seen lye in the grocery aisles!

Basket of two Bavarian Pretzels Laugenbrezels or German Pretzels person holding the basket.

Ingredients for Bavarian Pretzels

Giant Bavarian Pretzels on wooden cutting board, also called Laugenbrezels.
You know you want one!

How to Make Bavarian Pretzel Recipe

Heat a baking stone in an oven to 450-500°. No baking stone? Place a sheet pan in the oven instead, make sure it’s a high quality pan, if it warps at high temps, then it’s best to used for low temp cooking. Investing in a baking stone is worth it; besides pizza, you can make crostadas, pastries, rolls, homemade calzones and so much more!

TFC TIP | Remember ovens vary significantly in temperatures, it’s okay to check early to make sure they aren’t baking too fast. I highly suggest purchasing an oven thermometer and if necessary increase or decrease oven temp until you get desired results.

In a large batter bowl, stir together syrup, yeast, and 1½ cups warm water, and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Ingredients basics for pretzels. Active Yeast, Barley Malt Syrup, Butter. 2. Tablespoon of Barley malt syrup. 3. Adding yeast to warm water and barley malt syrup. 4. Yeast bloomed in glass bowl.

Add butter, flour, and sea salt to the yeast mixture, stirring until dough forms. Can be made by hand with a spoon or as I did in my KitchenAid mixer. If using a mixer; incorporate ingredients on low until smooth and sticky, then attach your “J” hook and “knead” for about 6 minutes on low.

If not using a mixer, once mixture is combined, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Barley Malt Substitution

A unique part of the Bavarian soft pretzel is the barley malt syrup. But, I have had numerous people say they cannot find barley malt syrup, while I haven’t tried this, a couple of readers said it worked great, try substituting with 2 ½ -3 teaspoons of molasses instead.

Process shots: Adding barley, yeast and warm water mixture to mixing bowl. 2, adding butter. 3. adding flour. 4. using a dough hook and mixing until smooth and stretchy.

How To Shape Bavarian Soft Pretzels

  • Cut the dough in half and working with one piece at a time, roll dough into a 4′ rope, about 1″ thick.
  • Transfer rope to the bottom edge of a large sheet of parchment paper, and keeping the center of the pretzel rope on the paper, pick up both ends, cross one end over the other, about 2″ from the ends, and twist; attach each end to the sides of the pretzel.
  • Repeat with remaining dough, cover with damp paper towels or tea towel and set aside to rest and rise for 20 minutes.
Process shots showing left to right how to shape into pretzel shape. Roll into rope, Twist top together, and twist again, attach ends to bottom of pretzel.

How Do Pretzels Get Their Dark Brown Color?

Did you know it is the process of brushing (or dipping) pretzels in baking soda water that gives pretzels their traditional brown and tan look? Do not skip this step! Plus it adds to the chewy, bagel like texture.

Process shots, left to right. Baking soda bath for pretzels. Using a pastry brush brushing soda water onto pretzels, slicing into bottom of pretzel for unique German look. Adding pretzel salt to pretzel.

For the rest of the recipe, simply pop on down to the bottom of the post for the handy printable! You will not be disappointed! I can almost guarantee it!

Holding up a giant, baked German Bavarian  Pretzel.

Can I Make My Pretzels Smaller?

Yes, I recently made about 8-10 smaller but still decent sized soft pretzels using this same recipe, then slathered them with melted butter and pretzel salt.

Smaller German Soft Pretzels on cookie sheet with parchment paper salt.

Simply divide the dough into 8 or 10 equal portions, roll your dough ropes about 12-15 inches long, shape into pretzels, brush with baking soda water, sprinkle with pretzel salt; allow to rise 15-20 minutes; bake on stone or pan the same temp and amount of time as large pretzels.

If desired, just before serving brush with melted butter. If you brush with butter too soon, it will melt the pretzel salt and make the pretzels look all wrinkly, don’t ask me how I know! Haha!

Horizontal image for beer cheese soup with bowl of soup in wooden bowl with spoon on a black plate with soft pretzel beside sitting on a rustic wood surface.

Check out my collection of 15 Oktoberfest Traditional Recipes for ideas to go along with your pretzels, even better make a batch of these pretzels to accompany this heart-warming, comforting Beer Cheese Soup!

PIN this recipe to your favorite Oktoberfest or Bread Board!

Pin of traditional German Pretzels via @thefreshcooky

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have to say the hardest part was getting my knots to look as good as yours! The recipe is easy, I am just not coordinated LOL. I’m surprised I can tie my shoes at this point!! Even though they were ugly because I can’t tie, they were so delicious!

  2. 5 stars
    We are celebrating Octoberfest at home this year and my granddaughter helped me do an experimental run of this recipe. We had so much fun and they were delicious!

  3. We were in Munich 5 years ago and enjoyed many a pretzel! Adding this to the long list of Fresh Cooky recipes I NEED to make! Thanks friend