philly-style soft pretzels 18

philly style soft pretzels

For some reason, I’ve been subconsciously avoiding the task of figuring out how to create some fantastic soft pretzels. Sure, I’ve taken a stab at pretzel rolls, but those were mostly just rolls in a pretzel-y shape. In fact, the reason I even thought of making pretzel rolls was because my first attempt at soft pretzels ended up puffy and round rather than lanky and chewy like they should be. So I guess I fell off the pretzel horse for awhile, and I’ve been overdue to get back on it. (Don’t worry, I did, there’s a recipe soon).

One of the reasons I have such a deep-set perfectionism about pretzels is because I happened to spend a good part of my life in the 30% of Pennsylvania that likes to think it’s Philadelphia. As a result, I have a few deep and confusing instincts that prompt me to be extremely opinionated about some things, in particular cheesesteaks and soft pretzels (and sometimes sports teams, and New Jersey). If you haven’t had a pretzel from Philly or New York, then you’re destined to read a lot of snotty blog posts from the rest of us who have, and you’re also missing out on an amazing bready experience you can’t find elsewhere.

The pretzels I have here aren’t shaped quite like the giant rows of squished ovals you can find in Philly, and I won’t claim that they’re quite as good as the real deal, but they’re fantastic and about as good as you can get from your own kitchen. They’re what a pretzel should be: dense with a firm and almost crispy skin, yet soft and chewy inside, with a ton of flavor despite their humble breadiness.

The recipe came from a post on Philly Soft Pretzels from the Reluctant Gourmet blog (adjusted slightly), and it’s fantastic. If you don’t like the traditional shape I chose in this recipe, use this same dough anyway if you go for a bigger or differently-shaped pretzel. The second time I made it, I left it in the fridge to rise overnight, and I’d say that definitely helped the flavor develop even more. But this is a fast recipe if you want it to be, so don’t let yourself procrastinate like I did– go make some pretzels.

Philly Soft Pretzel Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups bread flour

11/2 cups water

11/2 tsp yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tb brown sugar

2 tb melted butter

coarse salt (or pretzel salt) for on top

for the soda bath:

2 quarts water

1/3-1/2 cup baking soda

The dough: This dough is pretty easy; you can honestly just slam it all together and start kneading if that’s what you’re in the mood for. If you want something more methodical, start by mixing the water, butter, yeast and sugar together and let sit for a couple minutes:

philly style soft pretzels

Then, mix in the salt and add the flour gradually. This dough actually works better on the dry side, so I’d adjust it to be a little stiffer (more flour) than I typically would for something like a pizza dough. Other than that it’s the same process as always. (If you need pointers on getting doughs together and kneading them, check out my post on kneading dough).

philly style soft pretzels philly style soft pretzels

Great. When your dough is smooth, shape it into a tight ball and leave in a greased bowl to double in size. That might take about an hour, but this is one of the few recipes where you can skimp a little on the rise if you’re in a hurry.

philly style soft pretzels

philly style soft pretzels


Next, divide up your dough into even sections. I got about 12 medium sized pretzels, so you could probably get 6-8 of a street-style size if you wanted to go bigger.

philly style soft pretzels

Stretch and roll your sections into long ropes of dough. If the dough is too rubbery and springs back or starts tearing, just give it a few minutes to rest and come back to it. Shoot for at least 18 inches in length if you can.

philly style soft pretzels

Shape the snakes into a classic pretzel shape (or whatever you want). Set them aside, but you don’t need to let them rise a second time unless you’re looking for more of a dinner-roll texture. 

philly style soft pretzels

Meanwhile, bring the 2 quarts of water to a boil. Once it’s there, add the baking soda and reduce to a lively simmer (but not a full boil). The soda will fizz up in a surprising manner, but it’ll calm down in a minute. The goal of an alkaline bath, by the way, is to help give the pretzels a browner and crispier outer crust.

In batches, drop your pretzels into the simmering water. Give them about 30 seconds in the bath, flipping them over halfway through. Remove them and drain them briefly, then set on a baking sheet.

philly style soft pretzels philly style soft pretzels

Also meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375-400°F. Once you have enough pretzels for a pan, sprinkle them with salt and bake them until they’re golden brown and kind of crispy looking. If you want even darker color and for the salt to stick better, you can mix an egg with a little water and brush it on before adding the salt and baking.

philly style soft pretzels philly style soft pretzels

Once they look good, take them out and cool on a rack, then eat! You’ll thank yourself for it.

This is also a great food to freeze, by the way. I made a double batch and froze almost all of them once they had cooled, and they heat up pretty fast and taste just as good as they did in the first place. Definitely a huge improvement over freezer-section boxes of soft pretzels. Try it, it’s one more little way to make your life a little simpler.

Thanks, and enjoy!

philly style soft pretzels

18 thoughts on “philly-style soft pretzels

  1. Reply Autism United May 1, 2012 11:50 am

    I love homemade pretzels, the house smells wonderful, and damn they are way better than anything you can ever buy. Thanks for your recipe and I look forward to trying a batch.

  2. Reply little daisy Jul 2, 2012 8:34 pm

    I’ve made pretzels once before and kind of time consuming. But reading yours, it sounds as easy as making everyday bread. I think I give the pretzels another try today, using your recipe for a change. Thanks for those easy to follow pictures! ^_^

  3. Reply Matt Jul 22, 2012 2:00 pm

    These look amazing and I am going to give them a shot. What is the traditional dipping sauce to accommodate? Do you have a recipe?

    • Reply Todd Jul 22, 2012 2:25 pm

      From my experience, I’d say just plain old ballpark yellow mustard. I think the sky’s the limit though, maybe cream cheese or cheese sauce or other things would work well. We often gravitate toward honey mustard, but I can’t say that’s authentic.

  4. Reply Matt Jul 23, 2012 7:18 am

    Thanks, Todd.

  5. Reply Eva Aug 11, 2012 6:44 pm

    Easy and DELICIOUS! My S.O. and I went to a baseball game the other day and were so disappointed with their pretzels after trying this recipe. The ballpark has nothing on Todd’s philly-style soft pretzels!

    Thanks Todd!

  6. Reply Sarah O. Aug 21, 2012 7:52 pm

    These look incredible. Also, where in Pennsylvania did you live? I’m in Ambler myself. And obviously I say I’m from Philadelphia to sound cooler.

  7. Reply Ash Aug 30, 2012 7:10 am

    I’ve been reading over your recipes for the past couple hours and I just wanted to say that I’m so very impressed! You break down complicated stuff (like pretzels!) into something that I think I can do. So excited to try it out, especially this pretzel recipe. My husband and I had the most delicious homemade (not by me lol) pretzels on our honeymoon (stuffed with cheese and served with a homemade marinara…) and we’ve been dying for some good pretzels ever since.

    • Reply Todd Aug 30, 2012 7:38 am

      Thanks Ash for the kind feedback. I’m pretty sure this recipe would work well for any stuffing/dipping/flavoring you come up with, so please experiment and let me know what you find out!

  8. Reply Doug Feb 4, 2013 3:20 pm

    Todd -
    Made your Philly-Style Soft Pretzels last night for the Superbowl and they were delicious!!!! First try at making these and can’t wait to do it again. Thanks.

  9. Reply Luis Apr 7, 2013 5:35 pm

    I was looking for a Philly soft pretzel recipe and came across this one. I have tried several before and none turned out quite right. This one pretty much nailed it.
    I did replaced half the flour with whole wheat. It still tasted great.
    Thank you for this amazing recipe. I will be making them again and experimenting with different flavors.

  10. Reply Kathy Aug 2, 2013 2:57 pm

    First batch came out great – second batch stuck to the pan. Is it supposed to be greased? Thanks.

  11. Reply Sid Aug 8, 2013 9:10 am

    I’ve tried a similar recipe and the pretzels did not have the crispy outer crust. Should I leave the pretzels in the alkaline bath for more than 30 seconds? Do the pretzels change color in the bath?

    Thank you.

  12. Reply Damon Sep 1, 2013 6:23 pm

    Thanks Todd,

    I made pretzels for the first time today. I used a store kit version of a national pretzel vendor. They were ok. But I’m lucky to have lived in New Jersey and to know the taste of a real soft pretzel. I will be making your version next week for the NFL opening games next week. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

  13. Reply Charles Bolger Sep 16, 2013 3:23 pm

    Your recipe sounds very good. As a matter of fact, it sounds so good that I’m about to try it now. The picture of them left me craving a Philly style pretzel.

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