Sourdough. Pretzel. Buns. Enough Said. Ok, but for real, these Sourdough Pretzel Buns made with sourdough discard are just as delicious as soft pretzels, but with the added benefit of being buns that are perfect for sandwiches or burgers. What could be better?
These pretzel buns are made just like regular soft pretzels, but the changes really come in as you're shaping and baking them.
- Warm water: The temperature of the water really does matter, as it's necessary to help activate and dissolve the yeast. This should be warmer than bathwater, but not so hot that you're pulling your hand away.
- Brown sugar: This is to feed and activate the yeast. You could also use granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, or honey.
- Active dry yeast: Make sure your yeast is still active. Once you add it to the water and sugar mixture, it should be foamy after a few minutes. If it's not, your yeast is dead and you'll need to start over with a fresh yeast.
- Sourdough discard: If you have a sourdough starter, you have discard! This is the part that you "discard" each time you feed the starter. It's great to use in recipes like this. The discard should be room temperature and unfed for this recipe.
- Baking soda: You will add ⅔ cup baking soda to the water when you're boiling the pretzels. This helps give them their classic chewy and flavorful exterior.
- Flaky sea salt or pretzel salt: You do not want to use regular (or even coarse) salt as it will just melt into the pretzel. Use pretzel salt or I like to use a flaky sea salt like Maldon Salt for soft pretzels.
See full recipe below for detailed instructions.
Just like making regular soft pretzels, these Sourdough Pretzel Buns only have a few key steps.
Mix your dough and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 8-10 equal pieces (8 pieces will give you larger buns; 10 pieces will give you smaller buns).
With the dough resting in one palm, cup the other hand over the dough and roll to make a ball. Your flat palm on the base will help shape the base of the bun.
Boil each bun for 30-45 seconds on each side.
Score each bun with a sharp knife, bread scoring tool or pair of scissors.
Brush each bun with egg wash, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt and bake.
Once the pretzel buns are baked, they should be a deep, golden brown color (like that classic pretzel exterior!).
Hint: Boiling the buns starts the cooking process and gives them that classic chewy pretzel exterior. The longer they boil, the more chewy the exterior will be.
Scoring the pretzel buns
Scoring the buns is mainly for aesthetic purposes. Without scoring, they'll likely crack on their own (much like a soft pretzel would), so this controls where that happens.
You can score the dough with a very sharp knife, scissors, or a bread scoring tool. I like to make an "X" on the top of the buns, but you can make whatever shape you like! A single line, double lines, as long as you're scoring the dough, it will work well.
As you're scoring, you just want to break the seal of the top layer of the dough. You don't need to cut deep but you also don't want to just scratch the dough without breaking the seal.
There are a few things you'll need to bring this recipe to life. First, I recommend using a stand mixer (I like the KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer), but you can also make this dough in a large bowl using a wooden spoon (the dough will likely be too thick for a hand-held mixer). Use a kitchen scale to measure the sourdough discard. You'll also need a large pot to boil the buns (I use a Staub 5.5 Quart Cocotte, but any large soup pot will work well), and a slotted spoon or spatula.
You can use a sharp knife or scissors to score the buns. You can also use a bread scoring tool (this is what I used!).
Working with Sourdough Discard
This recipe is written for 1:1:1 sourdough starter (when you feed your starter, you use 1 part starter, 1 part water, 1 part flour). If you have a sourdough starter that is a different ratio, you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly.
Also, remember that every sourdough discard is different. You may need to add more flour or more water (1 Tablespoon at a time) to the recipe to create the smooth dough that is needed for these buns.
Like with any homemade bread, these Sourdough Pretzel Buns are best fresh. If you're going to eat them within 1-2 days, store them at room temperature in a paper bag. If you'd like to keep them for longer, freeze them! Once the buns are fully cooled, transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, pop them in the microwave for 30-60 seconds and they'll be warm and fresh again!
Kneading the dough is one of the most important parts of this recipe as it will help make the buns the correct texture and shape once finished. After kneading, the dough should be soft and completely smooth (not shaggy or uneven), which will make for nice, smooth finished Sourdough Pretzel Buns.
This recipe is designed to be made with sourdough discard. Without it, you would need to adjust several ingredients.
If you don't have any on hand when you start, it's not something that you can make in time to include in this recipe.
Sourdough discard is what you have left over when you're feeding a sourdough starter. To "feed" the starter, you will "discard" about half the volume, and you can either literally throw that away, or you can use it in recipes like this one! You can read more about how to feed sourdough starter here.
Pretzel salt is great, or you can use a flaky sea salt, such as Maldon Salt. I do not recommend using regular table salt, or even coarse table salt - the flakes are too small and they will just melt into the dough and taste overly salty.
Use either a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to make a line or an X on the top of the buns. This doesn't need to be deep, just deep enough to break the surface.
Sourdough Pretzel Buns
For the Dough
- 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon warm water
- 1 Tablespoon 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 with 1 Tablespoon water beaten for an egg wash
- pretzel salt or flaky sea salt for topping
Making the Dough
- Combine 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon warm water, salt, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment*. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast begins to foam. If the yeast does not foam, your yeast is dead and you'll need to start over with fresh yeast.
- Add the sourdough discard, flour and butter and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough comes together in a smooth ball**. You may also find that kneading by hand is easier. If needed, add more flour or more water 1 Tablespoon at a time to reach your desired consistency.
- Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Shaping & Boiling the Pretzel Buns
- Preheat oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
- Turn the dough onto a smooth, dry surface. Divide into 8-10 equal-sized pieces (8 for larger buns, 10 for smaller buns). Holding the dough in one palm, cup the other hand over the dough and rotate in a circle to create the bun shape, pushing against the friction created by your palm. Place the buns on the prepared baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap to let rise for 20 minutes.
- Bring 10 cups of water with ⅔ cup baking soda to a boil. Boil the buns for 30-45 seconds on each side, then remove with a slotted spoon or spatula (you can likely add more than one bun to the pot at a time, but make sure they have room to float freely). Return the boiled buns to the prepared baking sheets. Brush each bun with egg wash and sprinkle with pretzel salt or flaky sea salt.
- Use a sharp knife or scissors to score an X or a line on the top of each bun. This does not need to be deep - just enough to break the surface. It will expand as the buns bake.
- Bake for 14-16 minutes until a deep, golden brown (that classic pretzel color). Remove from the oven and let cool fully on a cooling rack before serving.