Are you all knotted up when it comes to the thought of making pretzels at home? No worries. I'll show you how to easily make perfect pretzels that taste just like the ones you buy at the mall or ballpark.

By Jackie Freeman
Updated September 15, 2020
baked pretzels on a baking sheet
Credit: trkeillor

Making and Shaping Pretzels Step by Step

Mix It Up

Soft, fluffy, chewy pretzels start with a simple yeast dough — think "bread dough." You can mix your ingredients by hand, but I think it's easier to use a stand mixer, if you have one. Just like with bread dough, you want pretzel dough to be smooth and elastic after a good kneading.

Try this top-rated recipe for Buttery Soft Pretzels

Rise Up

Once you mix your dough, let it rise in a warm place, covered with a bit of plastic wrap, until it doubles in size. This could take an hour or so depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Knotty Knotty

This is where we often get ourselves tied into knots. Which is a good thing, because shaping pretzels isn't as tricky as you think. If you've ever played with clay in kindergarten (remember those coil snakes?), you're halfway there.

1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces and roll each piece into an 18- to 24-inch rope, using a bit of flour if things get too sticky. (If the dough "fights" you, let it rest for 10 minutes after rolling, then finish the shaping.)

rolling pretzel dough into long ropes
Credit: Meredith

2. Twist the ends of the rope together one or two times, creating a large loop on the bottom and two little pretzel "ears" on top.

loop and twist pretzel dough
Credit: Meredith

3. Bring the pretzel "ears" down to touch the bottom of the big loop and press firmly to secure.

twist, turn, and press pretzel dough into a classic pretzel knot shape
Credit: Meredith

Dip or Boil

To achieve a golden brown color, you can first cook or brush your pretzels with an alkaline solution. Traditionally, lye is used. (Yep, that stuff that makes soap!) However, we think it's a little easier and safer to use baking soda and water. You'll need about 1 tablespoon of baking soda for every cup of hot water you use.

For an even richer color, toast the baking soda in a 300 degrees F oven for about an hour before adding it to your water. For added flavor, toss a little barley malt syrup or brown sugar in the water, as well.

Once the solution is mixed, simply brush it on the raw pretzel dough or fill a bowl and dip the dough.

Dip Pretzel Dough Into Baking Soda Solution
Credit: Meredith

Instead of brushing or dipping, some recipes have you boil your pretzels in the baking soda solution before baking (just like a bagel). Add a few pretzels at a time to your boiling water solution (don't overcrowd the pan!). Cook the pretzels for about 30 seconds on each side. Carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a lined baking sheet.

Flavor Time

For savory pretzels, brush the pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle heavily with a coarse salt (such as kosher or sea salt). If you want a sweet twist, brush them with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

At this point, some recipes have you pop the pretzels straight into the oven, while other recipes have the pretzels rise one more time, until nice and puffy. When in doubt, follow your pretzel recipe.

Bake It Like It's Hot

Bake your pretzels in a hot oven, about 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), until they're a deep golden brown, usually 10 to 15 minutes. After they cool a bit, then it's time to serve them with your favorite dipping sauce, like mustard or cheese sauce. Or if your pretzels are sweet, try a warm caramel dipping sauce.

Check out this video for shaping and flavoring homemade pretzels:

Ready? Set? Pretzel!

Here are a few of our favorite pretzel recipes to bake and share:

This recipe skips the boiling stage, but dips the pretzels in a baking soda solution instead to achieve the perfect golden color. Top with a bit of garlic salt or cinnamon sugar for added savory or sweet flavor.

homemade baked pretzels on a cooling rack
Credit: Coolcat84

This recipe includes a brief boil in a baking soda solution before baking. Some reviewers felt the oven temperature was a bit too high, so keep an eye on these pretzels when baking.

salted soft pretzels on a red tray
Credit: villatha

If you want homemade flavor, but don't want to spend time waiting for the dough to rise, this might be a good option for you. Instead of making a yeasted dough, this pretzel recipe uses a traditional Irish soda bread as the base.

salted pretzels on baking parchment
Credit: joy-of-jesus-smileymom

If you're really in a rush and don't want to make pretzel dough from scratch, using store-bought pizza dough is the next best option. Watch the video to see how to make them.

More: Browse our entire collection of pretzel recipes.