Are you looking for a tasty, sturdy, gorgeous bun that can hold it’s own against your messiest burger creation? Then these perfect pretzel buns are exactly what you’re looking for!
Pretzel buns have always impressed me. Somehow they seem both exotic and humble at the same time. Up until a couple years ago I assumed they were hard to make… like they’d require some mysterious ingredient or labor intensive process to create those glossy, salt-speckled tops and chewy pretzel scented interiors.
But nope! Making pretzel buns at home is really pretty simple. They take a couple hours start to finish but only about 30 minutes of that is hands on.
And after you’ve made them once? You just might become the official “Pretzel Bun King or Queen” of your social circle 🙂
What Ingredients Do You Need?
Nothing exotic here, you probably have everything you need already!
- All Purpose Unbleached Flour
- Active Dry Yeast
- Salt (kosher for the dough and Coarse or pretzel salt for the tops)
- Baking Soda
- An Egg
Do You Need Special Equipment?
The dough can be completely prepared in a stand mixer with a dough hook or you can mix it by hand. Since it isn’t a sticky dough, it’s the perfect first-time-kneading-by-hand recipe if you normally use a mixer and want to give it a shot. Personally, I love the way dough feels under my hands so I usually start in the mixer and finish with a few minutes of baking-therapy countertop-kneading. So satisfying 🙂
So, mixer? By hand? A combination of both? It’s up to you!
You’ll also want a large slotted spoon or a skimmer for the poaching part.
Once you’ve mixed your dough you’ll let it rise until doubled, punch it down and shape it into buns. Let them rise another 30 minutes and they’re ready for the next step…
What Makes A Pretzel Bun “Pretzel-y”?
So, what’s the secret to achieving the gorgeous dark brown, glossy exterior and chewy interior pretzel buns are known for? Similar to the way bagels are prepared, it’s a quick poaching in water and baking soda before slipping into the oven.
While the buns are finishing their final rise, you’ll bring a pot of water to a simmer. When you’re buns are ready, stir 1/4 cup of baking soda into the water. Be prepared for the water to bubble up vigorously! If it looks like it might bubble over, turn the heat down (or off) for a few seconds and it will go back down.
Now, using a slotted spoon or a skimmer (my preference) slide 2-3 buns into the simmering water. Count to 30, carefully flip and count to 30 again. Remove them from the water and blot bottoms dry on a clean towel or set on a wire rack to drain the water. Move buns back to your lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining buns
What’s a pretzel without a salty crunch?
The official answer to that question is “disappointing”- pretzels require salt. Crunchy, coarse salt. A pretzel without it just doesn’t seem like a pretzel to me. You don’t have to run to the store and buy special pretzel salt (But if you want to? Go for it!), I like coarse sea salt but you can use Maldon flakes or kosher salt, too. Coarse seas salt and Maldon flakes are bigger than kosher so you can use more without getting overly salty. If you use kosher you’ll want to use a little less.
You’ve poached the buns and they’re on your baking sheet. You’ve got one more step before slipping them into the oven. Brush each bun with egg wash and sprinkle the salt over top. Take a very sharp knife or a lame and slash a shallow “X” across the top of each bun.
Now they’re ready to bake!
Get Ready For a Magical Transformation!
They look a little funky on the baking sheet, don’t they? They’re kind of lumpy and pale and it’s hard to believe that they’re going to be tall, round, dark, glossy, pretzely-smelling PRETZEL buns in a matter of minutes. I was a doubter the first time, too.
…But have faith…
Make sure your oven is completely preheated to 425°f. Don’t trust the “beep”. Heat it up for a good 30 minutes. Place your buns on the middle rack. Close the door. Set the timer. Don’t peek for 15 minutes.
Suddenly your house will start to smell like…pretzels! You can peek now, but quickly so you don’t let the heat out. If they’re evenly dark brown take them out, but they’ll probably need another 5-9 minutes. If they’re browning unevenly you can quickly rotate the pan and check again in a few minutes.
Take them out when they’re evenly browned. All ovens are different, they should take 20-24 minutes.
Remove to a cooling rack when they’re done so the bottoms don’t get too dark. How gorgeous are they?!?! Gahhhhh 😍
Storing and Making Ahead
Pretzel buns are best the day they’re made. The salt on the tops will pull moisture into the buns when they’re kept longer than a day (or two, max).
I was searching for a solution and found this great blog post on How to Keep Soft Pretzels Fresh. I don’t see why the tips wouldn’t work for pretzel buns, too. I’m going to try them out myself next time we have extra (which might take a while because they’re usually gone in 24 hours).
If you try these methods first, I’d love to hear how they worked out for you!
What About Making The Dough Ahead?
Sometimes the timing of a recipe like this is tough to fit around other things you have going on in your day. Well, I have a solution for that!
You can make the dough up to the point where you’ve shaped the buns but they haven’t risen yet. It’s important that they haven’t risen. Cover them with a clean towel and then with plastic wrap (over the towel) so they don’t dry out. Refrigerate up to overnight. Get them out an hour before you want to poach them, remove the plastic but leave the towel over them. Let them warm up and rise for an hour ( if they don’t seem to be rising or aren’t room temperature to the touch, let them sit another 30 minutes). Now you can proceed with the recipe, starting with the poaching.
Now, Build That Burger!
These buns will stand up to your juiciest, messiest burger creations! This BBQ Bacon Burger is one of my favorite combos: Chipotle Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, leaf lettuce, bacon, all-beef patty, white cheddar, heirloom tomato slice, a little more bbq sauce… yummmmmm!
And after you make these buns, check out our other family favorite, rich and buttery brioche buns! They’re perfect for when you want a softer, buttery bun that’s still sturdy.
I hope you love these Perfect pretzel Buns and use them for your own delicious burger combinations!
As always, I love to hear how my recipes turn out for you and I especially love to see your pictures! Tag me on IG or FB @breathingandcooking with your creations!
And don’t forget to breath, trust yourself…and enjoy the process!
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 package (2 and 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 and 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 2 quarts water
- coarse sea salt/pretzel salt
- egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp of water)
This dough can be made completely in your stand mixer using the dough hook. If you prefer to do it by hand follow the same process, using a wooden spoon for the initial mixing and then kneading the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
- Place yeast and sugar in large mixing bowl. Pour warm (not hot) water over and let stand 5-10 minutes or until foamy. ideal temperature for the water is between 105-110°f.
- Add flour, salt and melted butter and mix using the dough hook to combine well. Once all of the flour is incorporated scrape bowl and continue kneading with the dough hook for several minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will crawl up the hook a few times during this process, just stop the mixer and pull it back down.
- Remove dough from mixing bowl and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover and leave in a warm, draft free place to let rise 1 hour or until doubled.
- Deflate dough and scrape onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 8 even pieces and roll into smooth balls. Place on lightly floured* parchment lined baking sheet with space in-between rolls and cover with a clean towel. Let rise another 30 minutes or until about 1 1/2 times their initial size..
- While buns are rising Preheat oven to 425° f. Have egg wash and pretzel/coarse sea salt ready along with a pastry brush, a large slotted spoon and a sharp knife. Bring 8 cups of water to a simmer in a pot wide enough to hold 2- 3 buns with room to move around.
- When buns have risen and water is simmering add baking soda to water. It will bubble vigorously, so be careful not to let it bubble over.
- Gently slip 2-3 buns into the water. Simmer 30 seconds, flip over carefully and simmer another 30 seconds. Lift out with slotted spoon, straining any excess water (see notes for tips) and return to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining buns.
- Once all of the buns have been poached, brush tops and sides with egg wash, sprinkle generously with coarse salt and slash a shallow "X" across their tops.
- Bake on the middle rack of your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, checking towards the end, until they're evenly dark, golden brown. You may want to turn the baking sheet halfway through if they are coloring unevenly. Remove from baking sheet immediately and let cool on a wire rack.
Preparing Baking Sheet- To keep buns from sticking dust parchment lined baking sheet with flour or cornmeal. You can also use a silicone mat (like Silpat)
Draining excess water from buns before placing on the pan to bake is important so that the final buns don't have any soggy spots. There are two ways to do this:
- Have a clean towel close by and slip each bun onto the towel as you remove them from the water, and then quickly move from the towel to the prepared pan. Don't let them sit on the towel for more than a few seconds or they may stick.
- Place buns on a cooling rack as you remove them from the water. Again just long enough to remove the remaining buns from the pot. Move to the prepared pan.
To make the dough ahead- make the dough up to the point where you've shaped the buns but they haven't risen yet. It's important that they haven't risen. Cover them with a clean towel and then with plastic wrap (over the towel) so they don't dry out. Refrigerate up to overnight. Get them out an hour before you want to poach them, remove the plastic but leave the towel over them. Let them warm up and rise for an hour ( if they don't seem to be rising or aren't room temperature to the touch, let them sit another 30 minutes). Now you can proceed with the recipe, starting with the poaching.