Homemade soft pretzels are wonderful (if you haven't tried my Sourdough Discard Pretzels recipe, you should!). But as a sweet version coated in cinnamon sugar? Even better! These Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels are a delicious treat or sweet snack. It's also a great recipe for beginner bakers or to make with kids!
And if you're looking for other sourdough discard recipes, check out these recipes for Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls, Sourdough Discard Pumpkin Bread, and Sourdough Discard Garlic Pull Apart Bread.
- Why you'll love this recipe
- Substitutions & Variations
- How to make Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
- Expert Baking Tips
- What is sourdough discard?
- Can you make this recipe with active sourdough starter?
- Passing the Float Test
- Recipe FAQ
- Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
Why you'll love this recipe
- Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels are easy to make and great for beginner bakers or making with kids and family!
- Pretzels freeze well so you can enjoy some now and save some for later.
- The cinnamon sugar topping makes these pretzels into a tasty dessert or sweet treat.
- This recipe is a great way to use up some sourdough discard. You can also make this with active sourdough starter, if you prefer!
There are only a few key ingredients you'll need to bring this recipe together.
- Dark brown sugar: This will help feed the yeast, but also adds a little bit of nice molasses flavor. You can also use regular brown sugar.
- Active dry yeast: Even though we are using sourdough discard, we still need to use a leavening agent (in this case, yeast) to make the dough rise predictably.
- Sourdough discard: The sourdough discard should be unfed and at room temperature for this recipe. This recipe is designed to be made with a starter using a 1:1:1 ratio (when you feed your starter, it's with 1 part starter, 1 part water, 1 part flour). If you use a different ratio, you may need to modify some of the ingredients in this recipe.
- Unsalted butter: Melted butter adds some much-needed moisture, flavor, and fat content to the dough of the pretzels.
- Baking soda: This does not go in the dough, but in the boiling water for boiling the pretzels! This is a crucial ingredient and step to get that classic pretzel crust exterior.
- Granulated sugar mixed with ground cinnamon: This will be the topping that goes on the finished pretzels!
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
Substitutions & Variations
This is a very adaptable recipe and below are a few easy substitutions and variations you can try.
- Use active sourdough starter - If you'd like to use active sourdough starter instead of discard, you can! To do so, omit the yeast and replace the sourdough discard with active starter. You may need to adjust the rising times for this recipe.
- Make pretzel bites - Instead of shaping the dough into a classic pretzel shape, roll the dough into ropes and then cut into bite-size pieces to make pretzel bites.
- Sourdough Discard Pretzels - If you're looking for a classic pretzel recipe, try these Sourdough Discard Pretzels.
I have not tested this recipe with other variations, but if you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments! I always love to hear how you're adapting these recipes and use those as ideas for future recipes as well!
How to make Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
This is a very forgiving recipe and great to make with kids! You'll have these Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels ready in no time!
Mix all dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon) until a shaggy dough forms.
Knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. The dough should not be sticky.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 60-90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces. This can be approximate, or you can use a kitchen scale if you want them to be perfectly equal.
Roll each piece into a 24-inch rope.
Make a U-shape with the dough rope.
Cross the ends over each other and twist once.
Pull the ends down and press into the bottom of the pretzel.
Boil each pretzel in the water mixed with baking soda for 20-30 seconds on each side. Boiling for a longer time will give you a thicker crust on the final pretzel.
Transfer the pretzels to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes.
Let the pretzels cool, then brush with melted butter.
Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve.
Expert Baking Tips
- Use warm water when making the dough. This is important to make the yeast rise correctly. If your yeast isn't foamy after sitting on the warm water for a few minutes, the yeast is dead and will not rise. You'll need to start over with fresh yeast.
- Make sure to knead the dough long enough. You want a smooth, soft dough (not sticky) before it goes into the bowl for the rise. This will give you beautiful, smooth pretzels. If the dough still looks shaggy after kneading, your final pretzels will also look shaggy.
- Every sourdough starter (and therefore, the discard), is different. If needed, add more water or flour to reach your desired dough consistency. The dough should be soft, smooth, and not sticky.
- Let the dough rise long enough. Dough will take longer to rise in a cooler room and will need less time to rise in a warmer room.
- Practice shaping! The pretzels can be a bit irregular, so don't worry too much! Also, make sure to press the ends of the pretzel rope into the base of the pretzel so they stick together (not just lying on top).
- Let the pretzels cool before sprinkling with cinnamon sugar. If you don't, the sugar will melt right in. It will still be delicious, but won't look as nice!
What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is what is left over after you feed your sourdough starter. You can either discard it (literally, throw it away or compost it), or use it in sourdough discard recipes like this one.
Sourdough discard is not as active as sourdough starter, so you need to use a leavening agent (in this case, yeast), to make the dough rise predictably. Don't worry, you'll still get some of the sourdough flavor and some additional lift from the discard!
Can you make this recipe with active sourdough starter?
Yes, you can! If you'd rather make this recipe with active sourdough starter, omit the yeast and replace the discard with active starter. You may also need to adjust the rise times, so keep an eye on the dough as it is rising.
Passing the Float Test
An important step in making pretzels is ensuring that your dough passes the float test.
After you have shaped the pretzels, boil the water with the baking soda. Add a "test" pretzel to the boiling water. A few things might happen:
- If it floats: If the pretzel floats right away, keep going! The dough has risen enough and will make a light and fluffy pretzel. Continue with boiling the pretzels and baking as directed.
- If it sinks: If the pretzel sinks to the bottom and does not come up to the surface, it has not passed the float test. Cover the unboiled pretzels with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rest for an additional 10 minutes, then try again. Often the dough just needs a few more minutes to rise!
- If the dough doesn't float and you continue with boiling and baking, these will be dense, thick pretzels and not as light and fluffy as they should be.
- If it sinks, but then comes up to float: If the pretzel sinks at first but then comes up to float, this counts as floating! Continue boiling and baking the pretzels as directed.
I like to use a KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer to mix the dough, but this is optional. You can also make the dough in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. I recommend measuring the sourdough discard with a kitchen scale.
You'll also need a large bowl for the dough to rise, a large pot for boiling the pretzels (I like to use a Staub Cocotte), a slotted spatula or spoon to remove the pretzels from the boiling water, and two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I also recommend a GIR basting brush for brushing the pretzels with melted butter.
Room Temperature Storage: If you're going to eat them quickly (in the next day or so), keep them in a paper bag at room temperature. You can reheat them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make them soft and warm again.
Freezer Storage: Transfer the fully cooled pretzels to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. I like to do this in individual bags so it's easy to take out one pretzel at a time. When you're ready to reheat, place the pretzel in the microwave for about 60 seconds or until soft and warm again.
Yes, you can! To do so, omit the yeast and replace the sourdough discard with active sourdough starter. You may need to adjust the rise time in the recipe.
Make sure to press the ends of the dough rope into the bottom of the pretzel when you're shaping - this will help your pretzel hold together. You can also slightly reshape your pretzel after boiling (before baking) if needed.
Yes, you do. Boiling the pretzels with the baking soda is what gives these pretzels their classic pretzel crust texture and flavor. And yes, you really do need to use the full amount!
There are a few things to consider here. First, make sure you are using parchment paper and not wax paper. I recommend this King Arthur Baking Parchment Paper, and it's suitable for use at this baking temperature.
It could also be that your dough is a bit too wet, making it sticky. Make sure to let any excess water drip off the pretzels after boiling. And when you're making the dough, make sure it's not sticky when you set it in the bowl to rise.
Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
For the Dough
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons warm water
- 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 200 grams (about ¾ cup) sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- 567 grams (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 10 cups water
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Combine the warm water (1 cup + 2 Tbsp) and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer* fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes or until the yeast begins to foam.
- Add the sourdough discard, flour, salt, and butter, and mix on low speed until well-combined. Increase to medium speed and continue to knead until a smooth dough forms, about 4-5 minutes (you can also knead by hand if preferred).
- If needed, add more flour or water (1 Tablespoon at a time) to reach your desired consistency. The dough should be fairly sturdy, smooth and not sticky.
- Oil a large bowl and transfer the dough in a ball to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 60-90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- 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 and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel while you prepare the next step.
- 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.
- Place the pretzels in the boiling water, one by one, for 20-30 seconds on each side. The pretzels should float (called "passing the float test"); if not, see notes section below. Remove the pretzels from the water using a slotted spatula and return to the baking sheet.
- Bake until golden brown, approximately 13-15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
- While the pretzels cool, melt the 4 Tablespoons butter for the topping and mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the cooled pretzels with melted butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve immediately.