Sourdough discard soft pretzels are amazing, so what's even better? Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites! The recipe to make these pretzel bites is very similar to making full-size pretzels, but the method varies a bit so you get delicious, bite-sized pretzel morsels. I like to top them with flaky sea salt or everything bagel seasoning, but you could get creative with your toppings!
These are delicious served with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce or your favorite dips!
As long as you have sourdough discard, you are well on your way to making these Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites!
- Sourdough discard: This recipe is designed for a 1:1: sourdough discard (when you feed your sourdough starter, it's with 1 part flour, 1 part water, 1 part starter). If you starter uses a different ratio, you'll need to adjust the ingredients in this recipe. The sourdough discard should be unfed and at room temperature for this recipe.
- Dark brown sugar: The sugar is to feed the yeast, and using dark brown sugar gives a great deep flavor to the pretzel bites.
- Active dry yeast: Even though we're using sourdough discard, we still need to use some yeast to ensure a predictable and consistent rise with the pretzel bites.
- Warm water: Make sure the water you use is warm, as this is what will make the yeast bloom.
- All-purpose flour: Using all-purpose flour means you'll have light and fluffy pretzels.
- Baking soda: You will boil the pretzels in water with ⅔ cup baking soda. This starts the cooking process and also gives the pretzels their quintessential outer crust and color.
- Egg: This recipe uses an egg wash to help adhere the toppings to the pretzel bites. If you are not using eggs, you can use melted butter or even water.
- Toppings: I like to use Maldon Sea Salt as a nice, flaky sea salt to top pretzels. They're also amazing with everything bagel seasoning!
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
There are only a few key steps to make Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites.
Combine all dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl until a shaggy dough forms.
Increase speed to medium or knead by hand for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth. The dough should not be sticky.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for one hour or until doubled in size.
Turn the dough onto a work surface, then divide into 8 equal-sized pieces. This doesn't have to be exact.
Roll each piece into a 12-14 inch rope. Then use a knife to cut into individual pieces about 1 ½-inches long.
Roll each piece into a small ball. The dough ball should be about the size of a quarter (you can make these larger if you like, also!).
Boil the pretzel bites in a pot of boiling water and baking soda for about 30 seconds. Transfer the boiled bites to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread them apart so they're not touching.
Brush each bite with egg wash.
Sprinkle the bites with your chosen toppings.
Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool fully.
Remember that the dough will expand. If you make dough balls that are about the size of a quarter, the final bites will be about the size of a ping pong ball. You can make these smaller or larger if you like!
Hint: After boiling the bites, spread them on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet so they're not touching. While they're wet, they'll be easy to move and separate. If you let the water evaporate, the bites will become sticky and harder to move.
What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is what is left over after you feed your sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is an active fermentation of flour and water that is generating natural yeast.
The sourdough discard should be unfed and at room temperature to make this recipe. It's also important to know that every sourdough starter (and therefore, the discard) is different. This recipe is designed to be made with a 1:1 sourdough discard (one part water, one part flour). If your sourdough starter uses a different ratio, you will need to adjust the ingredients in this recipe.
If you find that your dough feels too wet or too dry when kneading, add more water or flour (1 Tablespoon at a time) to reach the desired consistency.
Why do you need to use yeast with sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is not as active as sourdough starter, so it still needs a leavening agent (in this case, yeast) to make the dough rise predictably. You'll still get some of the sourdough flavor, as well as additional lift from the discard!
Shaping pretzel bites
While you're shaping, keep in mind that this doesn't have to be perfect! Part of the fun of soft pretzels is that they're a bit irregular, so embrace it! You want the bites to be roughly the same size, but again, this does not need to be precise. I also like to roll the bites into a ball as I think that makes a nicer final shape.
How to serve Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites
These Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites are delicious on their own (especially with those toppings!), but you can also serve them with a dipping sauce. I like to pair these with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce or with a simple mustard (they're great with Dijon mustard or a grainy mustard), a cheese dip, or even marinara sauce.
There are a few easy substitutions you can make to suit any dietary needs or food preferences:
- Substitute for eggs - If you're not eating or baking with eggs, you can use melted butter, or water in place of the egg wash.
- Substitute for butter - If you're not eating or baking with butter, feel free to use a vegan butter substitute.
Variation: Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites
Coating these pretzel bites with cinnamon sugar is a great way to make a sweet variation of this recipe! There are only a few small adjustments you'll need to make.
Prepare the pretzel bites according to the recipe directions. After boiling, omit the egg wash and bake the pretzel bites. Let them cool completely, then brush with melted, unsalted butter and toss in a cinnamon sugar mixture (I recommend using ¼ cup granulated sugar + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon).
Hint: If you don't let the pretzel bites cool before coating, the cinnamon sugar mixture will melt and soak into the dough. It'll still be delicious, but may not look the way you want it to.
I like to make the dough in a KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer, but this is optional. You can also make the dough in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Use a kitchen scale to measure the sourdough discard. You'll also need a large bowl for the dough to rise in.
Use a large pot to boil the pretzels, using a slotted spoon or spatula to remove them from the water. Bake the pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then let them cool on a cooling rack. I also use a silicone brush for the egg wash.
Room Temperature Storage: These Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites are best fresh. If you're planning to eat them within 1-2 days, store them at room temperature in a paper bag. If they harden, you can reheat them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make them soft again.
Freezer Storage: Make sure the pretzel bites are fully cooled, then store in an airtight container or bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you're ready to eat them, reheat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds until they are warm and soft again.
The secret to making great pretzels is making sure that you have kneaded the dough long enough. You want a soft, smooth dough that is not sticky at all before you put it in the bowl to rise. If your pretzels end up looking shaggy after they're boiled and baked, then the dough was not kneaded long enough.
These are soft pretzels, and they will not be like hard pretzel bites that you may buy at the grocery store. If you want a thicker, chewier crust on the pretzel, boil them for a longer time (perhaps 60 seconds instead of 30 seconds).
I recommend boiling the pretzels for about 30 seconds. If you want a thicker, chewier crust, let them boil for up to 60 seconds.
If you want a stronger sourdough flavor, let your sourdough discard sit for a few days in your fridge before using it to bake. The longer the discard sits (within reason), the stronger the sourdough flavor will be.
Sourdough Discard Pretzel Bites
For the Dough
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons warm water
- 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 200 grams (about ¾ cup) sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- 567 grams (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 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
- everything bagel seasoning
- Combine the warm water (1 cup + 2 Tbsp), dark brown 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. If the yeast does not foam, your yeast is dead and you'll need to start again with fresh yeast.
- Add the sourdough discard, flour, and melted butter and mix using the dough hook attachment until well-combined. If needed, add more flour or water (1 Tablespoon at a time) to reach your desired dough consistency. Change to medium speed or knead by hand for 4-5 minutes until a smooth dough forms. The dough should not be sticky.
- Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 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-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-14 inch rope. Cut the rope into bite-size pieces about 1 ½-inches long. Roll each piece of dough into a ball (roughly the size of a quarter) and place on the prepared baking pan.
- Place the pretzel bites in the boiling water mixture for about 30 seconds. Remove using a slotted spatula or spoon and spread on the baking sheet so they're not touching and have room to expand. The bites will be easier to spread while they're still wet; they'll become stickier as they dry.
- Lightly brush each pretzel bite with egg wash* and sprinkle with your chosen toppings (flaky sea salt, everything bagel seasoning, etc.)
- Bake until golden brown, approximately 13-15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool fully. Serve with a mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.