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Bavarian Pretzels

makes 15 pretzels


  • FDA-approved lye (NaOH), available from
  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 4 g instant yeast OR 15 g fresh yeast
  • 20 cl warm water
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 20 g warm butter
  • 15 cl warm milk
  • Pretzel Salt


  1. Proof the Yeast. In 2 Tbsp. of the warm water, dissolve the yeast and the sugar. Let it sit for 20 minutes, until bubbles start to rise.
  2. Make the Dough. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add 4 Tbsp. of the water to the yeast mixture and dump into the middle of the flour. Mix a bit of the flour, from the side, into the yeast mixture and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the water, the butter, and the milk. Knead the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes, until the dough has doubled its size. Knead for another 10 minutes.
  3. Form the Pretzels. Split the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece out to about 30 cm in length, with the middle being significantly thicker than the sides. Form the pretzels and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. To help them retain their shape, freeze them for 20 minutes.
  4. Dip the Pretzels in Lye Bath. In a small glass or ceramic bowl, mix the lye bath. Add just enough water to the bowl that the pretzels can be submerged. Then, measure the water volume and add enough solid lye, so that it averages to 40 grams of lye per 1 litre of water. Using tongs or a spatula, submerge each pretzel in the lye bath for 30 seconds, placing it back on the cookie sheet.
  5. Add the Pretzel Salt. Pretzel salt is course salt, in size somewhere between sea salt and kosher salt. It may take a bit to find it, but you do need that granularity of salt. Add the salt to the top of the pretzels. With a sharp knife, cut a gash on top of the thickest part of the pretzel.
  6. Bake the Pretzels. Pre-heat your oven to 450 Fahrenheit. Put in the pretzels and reduce the temperature to 390 Fahrenheit. Bake for 30 minutes. After removing from the oven, let the pretzels rest on a cooling rack for 10–15 minutes. Serve with butter or cheese.


  • Be careful! Lye is highly basic and can give you a chemical burn. Use gloves. If you do get lye on your skin, wash it off immediately. The strength of the lye solution won't be too strong, but you still don't want to have it touch your skin.
  • You can reuse the lye bath many times. Just be sure to store it safely, since it is a toxic substance.
  • You can also freeze the pretzels to be baked at a later time. Freeze them fully after the lye bath, but before adding the pretzel salt. When working with frozen pretzels, let them thaw for 5 minutes and then add pretzel salt.
  • This recipe makes pretzels like you will find in southern Germany. If you would like to make pretzels like you will find in Philadelphia, you may want to follow the Good Eats recipe.