An easy homemade New York-style soft pretzels recipe. Each soft pretzel is perfect served warm with a side of yellow mustard or a cheese sauce.
Before I open up a new planner book with “2011” marked across its pages, I’d like to squeeze one last post into 2010- A New York-Style Soft Pretzels Recipe. It’s the kind of soft pretzel that many people crave after visiting the busy streets of New York. It’s what a native New Yorker would crave after moving into middle-of-nowhere New Jersey (at least in my case). It’s the pretzel that I remember my parents buying me and my sister when we were younger.
During the summer months, my sister and I would ask our parents for the full-of-sugar snow cones sold by elderly men scraping at huge blocks of ice at carts bombarded with lines of sweating people holding dollar bills in their hands. During the winter months, my sister and I would ask our parents for the warm, butter, soft pretzels sold on every corner between Penn Station and Times Square (onto this soft pretzel recipe in a minute).
Have you ever bought something from a pretzel vendor? It’s as if a drug deal is going down, but with pretzels. “I’d like some of your finest crack a pretzel please.” And then, you take a couple bucks out of your pocket, hand it to the pretzel dealer vendor, and he hands you a nice warm soft pretzel. You pick up the yellow bottle placed in front of you, squeeze a generous amount of fluorescent yellow mustard around the entire pretzel, and make your merry way around New York City, while the soft pretzel kindly (because pretzels can be kind, just like humans and cats) warms your fingers, as your other hand hides in your coat pocket from the gelid winter breeze.
Ingredients for New York-Style Soft Pretzels Recipe
- There aren’t many components to this recipe other than a bit of patience and some basic pantry ingredients you might already have on hand.
- Active dry yeast – I find this works best here. You can use instant yeast; you might want to cut the amount of yeast in half and keep an eye on how quickly the dough rises if you do. If you feel inclined, you can do a cold rise.
- Salt – you’ll need both fine-grain sea salt for the dough and pretzel salt to top the soft pretzels with. Because I know pretzel salt is not something everyone has on hand all the time, I find that coarse-grained sea salt or kosher salt works great here.
- Granulated sugar- white or natural cane will work here. This is just to add that tiny bit of sweetness to the dough and to help activate the yeast to ensure a perfect rise.
- Water – Luke-warm water is necessary here. You’ll need the water to be between 100ºF and 110ºF (37ºC and 43 ºC). Too hot and you can kill the yeast. Too cold and the yeast might not activate.
- Flour – you will need a combination of both all-purpose flour and bread flour. It creates a perfectly chewy soft pretzel, without being too much like a bagel. It’s all about the perfect balance of gluten here!
- Unsalted butter – you’ll need just a little bit, but this not only adds incredible flavor to the dough, it also keeps the soft pretzels soft and helps the dough become a little easier to work with.
- Oil – any neutral-tasting oil will do here… Canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut, vegetable, or soybean oil all work.
- Baking soda – you will need quite a bit here, about 1/4 cup (72 g). This shouldn’t be omitted as it gives the soft pretzels their unique color. Science is amazing!
- Egg – this gives the soft pretzels a beautiful shiny glaze that also allows the pretzel salt to stick to the top of them.
How to Make New York-Style Soft Pretzels Recipe
It all begins with activating the yeast. You’ll need to mix together the yeast, sugar, sea salt, and the luke-warm water and let it sit until foamy. This is perfect after about 10 minutes.
After that, it’s all about making the dough. The dough starts with a small amount of unsalted butter that is cut into two kinds of flour– all-purpose flour and bread flour. This combination is crucial to making the perfect chewy New York-style soft pretzels.
Once the butter is cut into the flour and it resembled coarse crumbs, the yeast mixture is poured into the flour and a dough is formed.
The dough is kneaded on a lightly floured surface for about five minutes until smooth and no longer super sticky.
A bowl is coated with oil and the dough is placed and rolled around in the bowl to coat it with some oil as well. From here, the soft pretzels dough is left to rest, covered with plastic wrap, for about an hour.
After resting, the dough is naturally deflated when dividing it into 12 equal pieces. I like to use a bench scraper to do this.
Then, roll each piece of dough into 18-inch long ropes. Form a U shape with 1 rope, cross both ends over one another, then twist the ends together twice.
Fold the twisted portion toward yourself to form a pretzel, then gently press the ends of rope onto the soft pretzel dough to seal the shape.
Transfer the formed soft pretzels onto a liberally oiled baking sheet and allow them to rise for 20 minutes. In the meantime, this is the time to preheat the oven and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Yes, you heard that right… We are boiling the dough.
Wait, You Boil Pretzels?
Like New York-Style bagels, soft pretzels also have to take a quick bath in some boiling water. The only difference here is that this water is heavily “seasoned” with baking soda. This is what gives the soft pretzels that signature pretzel color.
Once the boiling water has been seasoned, lower the flame just a bit and boil the pretzels in batches until puffed and slightly shiny. This takes only about 30 seconds per side.
Allow the pretzels to drain on wire racks. After draining, place the soft pretzels on a well-oiled baking sheet and prepare the egg-wash.
Glaze the tops of the boiled soft pretzel dough and sprinkle on your pretzel salt or coarse grain sea salt (or kosher salt).
After that, it’s a waiting game… Bake the soft pretzels for about 15 minutes until golden brown, and serve them right away. As we all know… soft pretzels taste best when they are warm!
How to Serve Soft Pretzels
After craving New York soft pretzels, I decided that it was time to re-create this soft pretzels recipe at home, but with less salt. And I was quite pleased with the results. The color and the taste were spot-on.
I like serving the soft pretzels with a variety of mustards- yellow and brown, but these New York-style soft pretzels are incredible served with a cheesy dipping sauce (maybe use the béchamel in this recipe as a starting point and add more cheese).
Megan GordonDecember 31, 2010 at 10:11 pm
Brilliant photos! Perfect end-of-the-year recipe. Happy New Year, Kam. I’ve so enjoyed reading all your posts this year and look forward to a full (and delicious) 2011!
Jennifer @ Licious FoodDecember 31, 2010 at 10:21 pm
Those pretzels look tasty!
You could have a job at Auntie Anne’s in your future, LOL!
I have made pretzels only once and after viewing your post it makes me want to revisit it.
RiaDecember 31, 2010 at 11:30 pm
Love your pictures, K! Wishing you a Very Happy & Peaceful New Year!
skip to malouJanuary 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm
OH NY won’t be the same without the scent of pretzels emanating from the street vendors… and yeah you’re so right,as I feel that way whenever I buy those pretzels, I feel like I’m buying some illegal stuff hahah coz they are so good and you have a certain “high” eating and holding the warm pretzels…haha!
I miss NYC (live there six years ago) but Im glad I coould re-create NY here in SD by trying your recipe. Im sure it’s going to wake my kids up! YUM!
CourtneyJanuary 1, 2011 at 6:42 pm
Whenever I’m in NY I have to get a pretzel, but the only problem is I haven’t been to NY in a little while. Thanks for sharing :)
Brian @ A Thought For FoodJanuary 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm
I spent a great deal of my childhood making trips into The City… to see my father at work, to go to a show, to eat an amazing meal. But the memory that sticks with me the most is the time I was given my first soft pretzel.
Now, I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of mustard, so I usually eat it naked (with salt of course).
WinnieJanuary 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm
Oh I think these look way better than the pretzels on the street! And I love mustard…
Absolutely gorgeous post and photos…I am new to your blog but will be back for sure :)
StefaniaJanuary 2, 2011 at 4:48 am
Happy New Year ♥
per uno splendido 2011
kamranJanuary 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm
New Year Wishes- Thank you!
Jennifer- No thank you to the job at Aunt Annie’s, but I do encourage you to make these. The dough is very easy to handle and is very forgiving.
Brian- plain pretzels are good, too :)
Winnie- why thank you!
LilyJanuary 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm
Beautiful!! Happy New Year!
NadiaJanuary 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm
gorgeous! Who would have thought anyone would use the word gorgeous to describe pretzels, but they really are. :)
Being a desi, I love spice- do you think adding some green chilies into the dough would work?
Your DadJanuary 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm
My son, your site looks more wonderful each time I look at it.
I remember when your mom and I would buy you and your sister those warm pretzels. And this recipe: I want you to make these pretzels when you come over. The last time I made one of your recipes, I made the bagel one for you and your sister. I forgot to boil the bagels, and you know what happened. They looked ok but, were hard as bricks.
This time, I’ll let the master baker in the family handle all of the baking.
kamranJanuary 5, 2011 at 3:07 pm
Lilly- Same to you!
Nadia- I don’t see why not. I love a little kick! But chili powder might work just as well… If you do add the chilies, I would suggest dicing them up finely.
Dad- Oh, now you’ve finally figured out how to comment on here? Kidding. Thanks so much for being so nice! What do you want, now? I’m kidding again. Sort of. Well, I’ll bring some stuff over to make these for the family . . . I’ll make a huge batch!
ShaheenJanuary 5, 2011 at 3:20 pm
Love the father-son banter.:)
I wish I could have one of those right now. I miss them so dearly. NYC is one of my fave food cities.
rebecca subbiahJanuary 8, 2011 at 12:51 am
oh wow they look perfect happy new year Kamran
JessJanuary 9, 2011 at 11:55 am
I’m digging these pictures! Very cool! When I was in third grade my brother and I would always make cinnamon and sugar pretzels.
Jess : )
kamranJanuary 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm
Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)January 13, 2011 at 10:59 am
Ahh those pretzels look gorgeous :)
I’ve never even eaten one! I feel like I’m missing out though, especially reading the sweet story you just wrote!
christinaalisonFebruary 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm
i’ve tried a few different pretzel recipes. these are most definitely my favorite! delish! i tried your bagel recipe as well…. sadly, those were a swing and a miss. :~/ not sure what happened, but i am going to try again for sure. i’m new to your site, but i’m enjoying it.
kamranFebruary 2, 2011 at 3:04 am
Hi there! I am so glad that these turned out well!
As for the bagels, I am surprised that they didn’t turn out well- my father (a non-baker) even managed to make the bagel recipe without my help or advice and they turned out beautifully. Maybe I can help you figure out what went wrong?
BillaFebruary 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm
I also started learning to write some recipes .. but when I saw your blog, I was very impressed … his writing is very detailed … I can learn from here, thank you.
LynetteOctober 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm
They sure look pretty on your screen, but mine turned out a total disaster. As soon as they hit the water they just uncoiled and turned into a slimy mess. Is there a trick to preventing them from uncoiling?
kamranOctober 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm
Hi Lynette- there really isn’t a secret or trick to prevent them from uncoiling other than pressing the ends of the dough together well (there’s no need to be overly-gentle with this step); the dough should stick together.
If you’re using flour when you’re taking the dough out of the bowl after it’s rested, while cutting the dough, or while forming the pretzels- that’s the cause of your pretzels uncoiling (it’s preventing the dough from sticking to itself); you don’t need any more flour other than what’s called for in the recipe.
I hope that helps!
MelanieApril 25, 2012 at 11:52 pm
These were (are) great! My hubby and I made them tonight. I brushed them with melted butter instead of the egg – otherwise following it exact, and they are ssooo yummy!
CapricilaOctober 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm
Soooo… i tried this recipe…. total failure. ._. After i boiled them, total disaster, fell apart in pieces. Then I baked those pieces, trying to save something, still failure. They taste… well… I’ll keep doing cupcakes.
KamranOctober 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm
Capricila- I apologize that this recipe didn’t turn out well for you. I did receive a couple emails from folks saying that after boiling, their pretzels fell apart. I adjusted the recipe; it now calls for a much shorter boiling time (30seconds per side).
theresaApril 28, 2013 at 7:48 am
Did I miss the directions for doing the pretzels in a standing mixer? I don’t have the strength in my hands to kneed. Thank you so much I can’t wait to try this.
SandyJune 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm
These look really good! I have to add them to my “To Make List”!!
JoanneFebruary 16, 2014 at 3:06 pm
Just as I thought. I made your bagels yesterday, and they were delicious. And today. I made these. After they were done, I brushed a couple with butter and sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top. And the rest with salt. They tasted just like a pretzel. I love your site. I found you while searching for something else. And now I’m hooked. I was very surprised to see a young man behind the recipes. Bravo!
MillieMay 12, 2014 at 9:31 am
Can’t believe I only just found your blog – everything looks so delicious!! I’m also in love with pretzels so will definitely try these out!!
EileenJuly 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm
Okay, so the bagels never sore but they did boil and float to the top. So I now have heavy chewy bagels. I think maybe I should add another 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to get the yeast excited since I had to add 1/3 more water? I just need to get them to rise and then I know they will be winners for sure, I am so close
RebeccaJuly 15, 2014 at 12:31 am
Has anyone tried this recipe but taking out the sugar?
MayMay 13, 2016 at 6:34 pm
Made these as a little rainy day snack for dinner! So good. Thanks for the great recipe.
Crystal BahrJanuary 1, 2017 at 5:15 pm
Just got a stand mixer and wanted to use it for the pretzels. You mentioned that you had instructions, but I am not finding them. Can you direct me to them? Thanks so much!
NatalijaJanuary 1, 2017 at 8:09 pm
Made them today. Tasted delicious and looked great!! Happy New Year!
Judy DewolfeFebruary 9, 2017 at 7:05 pm
These look amazing! I would love to have the directions for using a stand mixer. Thanks!
laGondaJune 4, 2017 at 2:30 pm
Hi I stumbled across this recipe after searching for Bagel recipes. I’m going to try both. Just two questions. As someone else asked, is there a place with stand mixer directions? And you stated that these will last 12 hours at room temperature. Is there a way to store them longer? If so, how?
Ok that was three questions.
nmharleyriderOctober 18, 2017 at 12:13 am
What I don’t seem to find are the instructions to make these in a stand mixer which you said you included. Did I miss something
Kelly BartoloMay 16, 2020 at 2:26 pm
These turned out amazing! I did some of the cinnamon sugar ones too! Loving all these recipes!
Kamran SiddiqiMay 16, 2020 at 6:38 pm
So glad you enjoyed them! :)
Julie BrueninMay 20, 2020 at 9:22 pm
OMG, something fun to try with all my quarantine time. Any insight on making these with gluten-free flour?
Thank you so much!
Kamran SiddiqiMay 21, 2020 at 5:05 am
Hi Julie- I do not, but if you do find that these work well using gluten-free flour, do let me know! I’d love to hear your feedback!
Mineshree MunienJune 29, 2020 at 7:10 am
We don’t get all purpose flour in South Africa. Just cake flour and self raising flour unless you go to a specialty store and then they can be really expensive.
Have you tried this using 00 flour? Made your bagel recipe with that and it was chewy and divine just the way I like it. Thinly sliced butter and chives inside was the perfect lunch ?