Ready for the oven in less than an hour, this Bavarian pretzel is the perfect German pretzel recipe with a crispy outside and a soft, chewy, and fluffy inside. This is an authentic Laugenbrezel recipe that will become a favorite for Oktoberfest.
A little Bavarian Pretzel history
A long, long, long time ago I was an Au Pair in West Berlin and fell in love with all things German! Their bread is 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.
The people, the history, architecture, the landscape, but the food, oh the food! Strudels, savory soups, schnitzels, Rote Grütze, and the bread, oh the bread spoke to my heart. I am pretty easy to please!
I enjoy giving precise details in my recipe posts to lead my readers through any questions. If you’re just here for the printable recipe, you can Jump to Recipe to head straight there!
Why You Will Love This German Pretzel
- Bread | Hello, bread is life! To handmake something so delicious is the best.
- Easy | You might think that working with yeast is hard, but it’s really not and this Bavarian pretzel will become a favorite for you too.
- Family Fun | Bring the family back to the table with these giant German pretzels, they will come running!
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 Pretzel!
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.
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 or in Bavarian brezn, means, you guessed it, pretzel! I found German quite easy to learn since so many of our words are rooted in Latin.
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!
Simple Ingredients for Bavarian Pretzels
- Organic Barley Malt Syrup (or sub with molasses)
- Active dry yeast | Yeast gives these Bavarian pretzels their rise, lift, and deliciousness!
- Butter | the real stuff, please!
- All-purpose flour | I used organic unbleached, all-purpose flour in this recipe
- kosher salt & Baking Soda
- Coarse salt, for sprinkling or go a step better and buy some pretzel salt.
How to Make Bavarian Pretzels
Heat a baking stone in an oven to 450-500° F (230° C).
No baking stone?
- You can place a sheet pan in the oven instead, and make sure it’s a high-quality pan; if it warps at high temps, then it’s best to used it for low-temperature cooking. Investing in a baking stone is worth it; besides pizza, you can make crostatas, pastries, rolls, homemade calzones and so much more!
Step 1 | Activate your yeast
In a large batter bowl, stir barley malt syrup, yeast, and 1½ cups warm water, and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. If it doesn’t foam, either your water was too hot (you killed the yeast) or your yeast has lost it’s oomph.
Step 2 | Make pretzel dough
Add butter, flour, and kosher 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 too dry, add a teaspoon of warm water a time, if too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time.
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, try substituting with 2 ½ -3 teaspoons of molasses instead.
Step 3 | 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.
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.
Step 4 | Baking Soda Wash for Pretzels
While the soft pretzel rises, combine the baking soda and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Once the pretzels have risen, brush them with baking soda wash and using a sharp knife slash the bottom for an authentic traditional Bavarian pretzel look. About 6 inches horizontally.
Do this after brushing the wash for the classic brown and tan look as the baking soda wash will dark wherever it was brushed.
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.
- 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!
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Bavarian pretzel, often referred to as a “bretzel” in Swiss, “brezel” in High German and Brezn in Bavaria and Austria. Bavaria is a region in Southern Germany.
It’s known for its distinctive knot-like shape and slightly chewy texture. Bavarian pretzels are typically larger and softer than traditional pretzels, with a deep brown, crispy crust and a soft, fluffy interior.
Bavarian pretzels are often served with various accompaniments. Common toppings include coarse salt; some may have cheese, seeds, or other flavorings. They are also frequently paired with dips such as spicy mustard, cheese sauce, or Obatzda, a Bavarian cheese spread. These toppings and dips add extra flavor and enhance the pretzel-eating experience.
Check out my collection of 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 or to dip in this beer cheese dip.
Best Main Dishes to Serve with German Pretzels
Any stew or soup is fabulous with these pretzels, you will love my German Goulash soup and this easy pot roast or these warm and creamy beer cheese soup.
Bread and Butter Pot Roast
A slow-cooked wonder. This pot roast is so simple; fork-tender, flavorful beef, soft and creamy carrots, caramelized onions and rich potatoes, the perfect Sunday dinner…or for any weeknight.
Authentic German Goulash Soup Recipe (Gulaschsuppe)
This Authentic German Goulash Soup recipe is so stinking good! It's comforting and has complex flavors that balance out one another, like sweet, savory, sour, and subtle optional spices. Warm and meaty, it's perfect for the chilly months when you need a bowl of comfort.
Best Beer and Cheese Soup (with Sharp Cheddar Cheese)
Beer Cheese Soup is the best comforting, fall soup to make. This recipe does take a little time, as you develop the flavors by reducing your stock, beer and mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot mixture), but it's not hard and the end results are spectacular!
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- 1 ½ tablespoons barley malt syrup or substitute 2 ½ – 3 teaspoons of molasses
- 1 ½ cups water warm
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast 1 (¼ ounce) package
- 3 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted butter, softened, plus more for serving
- 4 cups flour unbleached all-purpose flour (I used organic), plus more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- pretzel salt for sprinkling or coarse kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 cup water boiling
- Heat a baking stone on the middle rack of oven 450-500° (230° C). No baking stone? Place a sheet pan in the oven instead, and make sure it's a high-quality pan, if it warps in high temps, best to use for low-temperature cooking.
- In a large batter bowl, stir together barley syrup (or molasses), yeast, and 1½ cups warm water, and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- 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.
- 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 in a warm place for 20 minutes. (See notes)
- Bring baking soda and 1 cup water to a simmer in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until baking soda dissolves. Careful it can foam over quickly and make a mess!
- Brush each pretzel generously with the baking soda solution, sprinkle with coarse pretzel salt, and make a 6" slash, about ¼" deep across the bottom edge of the pretzel using a sharp paring knife.If you want the traditional brown and tan look, make sure you slash AFTER you have brushed with the baking soda solution, the baking soda solution is what "browns" the pretzel.
- Working one at a time, slide pretzel on parchment paper onto the stone; bake at 450-500° until dark brown, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining pretzel. Let cool for about 10 minutes; serve warm with butter.
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!