Two weeks ago I decided to try to make my own sourdough starter from scratch. If you've ever attempted your own, you know that it's a miserable experience. Just kidding, but honestly, it just wasn't working for me! (EDIT: I've since successfully made a sourdough starter and I'm obsessed with using it! Lots more sourdough in the future!). While you're making a sourdough starter, you end up with a ton of sourdough discard that is either waste or can be used in other recipes. So in an effort to keep my discard from going to waste, I made Sourdough Discard Pretzels!
As always, I do include a few affiliate links in this post for products I truly use and love. This just means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I'll earn a little money (at no cost to you) to keep the kitchen up and running, which I promise to use to create more fun content like this! One of those affiliates is with Amazon, which requires a very clear disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about affiliates, please reach out!
As long as you have Sourdough discard, you likely have everything you need!
- Sourdough Discard: You will need unfed sourdough discard at room temperature for this recipe. This recipe is designed for a sourdough discard with a 1:1 ratio (1 part flour, 1 part water).
- Active dry yeast: Even though you're using sourdough discard, you will still need yeast in this recipe. The discard will give this some extra rise, and a little tang, and the added yeast will help this rise quicker.
- Dark brown sugar: This is to feed the yeast. You could also substitute this with granulated sugar, or honey. The dark brown sugar gives a nice depth of flavor.
- All-purpose flour: This is the base of our pretzel dough and will make a nice, soft pretzel.
- Flaky sea salt: Maldon Salt is my favorite for finishing the pretzels.
See full recipe below for detailed instructions.
These Sourdough Discard Recipes come together in just a few easy steps.
Combine warm water, brown sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy (if it doesn't foam, your yeast is dead and you'll need to start over with fresh yeast).
Add the sourdough discard, flour, salt and water and mix until well combined. Change speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth, 4-5 minutes.
Transfer dough to a large, oiled boil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (this doesn't have to be precise).
Roll each piece into a rope, approximately 18-24 inches long.
Create a U shape with the dough.
Fold the ends of the rope over like a heart, make one twist, the press the ends into the bottom of the pretzel.
Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds on each side and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Brush each pretzel with egg wash.
Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and bake until golden brown.
Let the pretzels cool fully on a drying rack before serving (if you can resist!).
Hint: The egg wash helps give the pretzels their signature color, but also helps the salt to stick to the pretzel. Be careful, though, if you brush too much egg wash on the pretzel and it starts to pool, that will become an eggy spot (it will taste like eggs). Not a terrible thing, but something to watch for!
Working with sourdough discard
This recipe is designed for a sourdough discard with a 1:1 ratio (1 part flour, 1 part water). If your starter has a different ratio, you may need to adjust some of the ingredients.
Make sure your sourdough starter is unfed and at room temperature for this recipe. This will help the pretzels rise appropriately.
Variation: Sourdough Pretzel Bites
An easy variation of this recipe is to make Sourdough Pretzel Bites.
Instead of shaping the dough into the classic rounded pretzel, follow the below directions for delicious pretzel bites.
Roll each piece of dough into an 18-24 inch rope.
Use a sharp knife to cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. They don't have to be perfect!
Boil the pieces for 30 seconds.
Transfer the boiled pieces to a lined baking sheet and separate into individual pieces. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
You will bake the pretzel bites in the same way as the regular pretzels. Just keep an eye on the time as they may not need quite as much baking time.
Top Tip: If you don't separate the pieces of dough, they will start to stick to each other as they're baking. It's not a bad thing and they'll be delicious, but they will clump together, so try to spread them out so they have some room on the baking sheet.
You'll likely have everything you need in your kitchen, but here are a few things I like to use:
If you're going to eat them quickly (the next day or so), 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 freezer-safe bag and freeze them for up to 3 months. When you're ready to reheat, place them in the microwave for 1 minute or until they're soft and warm.
These Sourdough Discard Pretzels are very forgiving and they're a recipe I've made several times with kids and family members at the holidays. They're fun to make, you can customize the shapes, and they come together in a short amount of time. Have fun with it!
This recipe is designed to be made with sourdough discard. Without it, you would need to adjust several of the ingredients.
Every sourdough starter is different. You may need to adjust the flour or water content of the recipe to reach the right dough consistency. If your dough is too wet, add 1 Tablespoon of flour at a time, mixing thoroughly, until you reach the desired consistency. If your dough is too dry, add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time, mixing thoroughly, until you reach the desired consistency.
You can use pretzel salt, too (of course!), but regular kosher salt or table salt is too fine and will melt right into the dough.
If you don't knead your dough long enough, it will look like it's not completely smooth. That will lead to shaggy-looking pretzels.
If your pretzels unravel when you boil them, you didn't press the ends into the bottom of the U enough when shaping them (you can press hard!). After they're boiled, you can still shape and press them together.
Sourdough Discard Pretzels
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons warm water
- 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- 20 ounces 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 for topping
- Combine the water, 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.
- Add the sourdough discard, flour, and 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 and continue to knead until a smooth dough forms, about 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 20-30 seconds on each side. Remove from the water using a slotted spatula and return to the baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
- 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.