Soft pretzels are an all-time favorite at our house, but if you add a little German beer to the batter? Even better! And it's the perfect game day treat! These German Beer Soft Pretzels are sure to steal the show. Pretzels are also very easy to make and great for a crowd or for baking with kids -- they're very forgiving!
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There are just a few key ingredients you'll need for these German Beer Soft Pretzels.
- German beer: you guessed it! I like to use a whitbier, but a lager, kölsch, or an amber ale will also work well. A good rule of thumb: if you like to drink it, it's good to cook with (if you don't want to drink it, don't cook with it). Also, you'll want this to be room temperature - you need some warmth to help the yeast activate.
- Active dry yeast: since you're letting the dough rise, you'll want to use active dry yeast (rather than instant yeast).
- Dark brown sugar: to feed the yeast. You could also substitute this with granulated sugar, or honey, but the dark brown sugar gives a nice flavor that pairs well with the beer.
- Flaky sea salt (Maldon Salt is my favorite to use here) for finishing the pretzels
See recipe below for detailed instructions.
Combine the beer, dark brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the yeast and let bloom for 10 minutes until foamy. If the yeast does not foam, your yeast is dead and you'll need to start again with fresh yeast. Add remaining dough ingredients and mix until a smooth dough forms.
Transfer dough to a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces.
Roll each piece into a rope about 18-24 inches long. Form a U shape.
Cross the ends of the rope over each other to form a heart shape.
Twist the ends once and press the ends of the rope into the bottom of the pretzel.
In a large pot of water mixed with baking soda, boil each pretzel for 30-60 seconds.
Transfer the boiled pretzels to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If needed, you can reshape them at this step.
Brush each pretzel with egg wash, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
Bake the pretzels until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool fully.
Top Tip: Make sure to mix and knead the dough until smooth. If the dough is not kneaded long enough, your pretzels will be shaggy.
German Beer Soft Pretzels are best fresh, but if you have any leftover, there are a few options. If you're going to eat them quickly (the next day or so), you can keep them in a paper bag at room temperature. If they harden, you can put them in the microwave for 30 seconds to make them soft and warm again.
Alternatively, you can put them in a ziplock bag and freeze them. When you're ready to reheat, place them in the microwave for roughly 1 minute or until they're soft and warm.
I like to use a witbier, but a lager, kölsch, or an amber ale will also work well. As I mentioned, if you like to drink it, it's good to cook with. If you wouldn't want to drink with it, then don't cook with it.
Don't skip this step! This helps to give the pretzels their crispy crust. The longer they boil, the thicker the crust will be.
You can use pretzel salt, too, but if you don't have any coarse or flaky salt options, you're in a bit of a tough spot. Regular kosher salt or table salt is too fine and will melt right into the dough. It won't taste bad, but it won't give you that salty pretzel flavor that everyone knows and loves.
If your dough isn't completely smooth, it just means you didn't knead it long enough. They'll still taste good, but it's just for aesthetics!
If your pretzels are unraveling when you boil them, you didn't press the ends into the bottom of the U enough when shaping them (you can press quite hard!). Don't worry, you can still save them! After they're boiled, you can still shape them back and press them together. Regardless, they'll still taste good even if they're not a perfect shape.
German Beer Soft Pretzels
For the Dough
- 12 ounces German beer about 1 ½ cups, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour about 4 ½ cups
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 10 cups water
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon water to make an egg wash
- Flaky sea salt for topping
- Combine the beer, sugar, and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the yeast begins to foam (the beer will be foamy as well).
- Add the flour and butter and mix using the dough hook attachment until well-combined. Change to medium speed and continue to knead until the dough is smooth, 4-5 minutes.
- Oil a large bowl and transfer the dough in a ball to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 half-sheet baking trays with parchment paper and set aside. Bring 10 cups of water and ⅔ cup baking soda to a boil in a large pot.
- In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a smooth, dry work surface (no need to flour or oil, you'll want some traction). Divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, then cross the ends of the rope over each other like a heart. Twist the ends together and push down at the bottom of the U. Place on the parchment-lined baking pan.
- Place the pretzels in the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds each. Remove them from the water using a slotted spatula and return to the baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
- Bake until golden brown, approximately 13-15 minutes. If your oven heats unevenly (like mine!) you may want to rotate and switch the pans halfway through so they all get even color. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool. Serve with a mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.