These homemade cinnamon pretzels are fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside, buttery and have a crunchy and sweet cinnamon sugar dusting. An easy yeasted dough starts the process and then the dough is shaped into a traditional pretzel shape. They take a quick dip in a baking soda bath for that quintessential pretzel flavor. After baking, the pretzels are brushed in melted butter and generously dusted with cinnamon sugar.
How to proof yeast
To start the cinnamon pretzels, you will "proof" your yeast. This simply means that you are making sure the yeast is alive before combining it with the other ingredients.
To do this, warm the water in the microwave until it reads 110-115 degrees. Add the water and the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over top. Stir it into the water and let it stand for about 5 minutes until it is foamy.
The foam tells you that your yeast is good and you can proceed with the recipe. If for some reason the yeast didn't foam then you would want to start over with new yeast. This would happen due to the water being too hot or the yeast being too old.
How to make pretzel dough
After proofing yeast, add the flour, salt and melted butter and let the mixer do the work. Start the mixer on low until the flour is incorporated and then increase the speed and knead the dough using the dough hook for about 5 minutes.
If the dough is too sticky, more flour can be added by the tablespoon until the dough no longer feels sticky. It will still be slightly tacky, but not so sticky that it won't come off your fingers. Add a few drops of water to add extra moisture if the dough feels dry.
Weigh the flour using the grams provided in the recipe card if you have a kitchen scale. This is the scale I use. If not, then scoop the flour into the measuring cup and then level it off the top. Do not scoop with the measuring cup into the bag or canister of flour as that will pack down the flour and result in too much and a dry dough.
The dough needs to rise after being kneaded, so place it in an oiled bowl and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour until it's doubled in size. If your kitchen is on the cooler side, then turn your oven on and let the bowl sit near the oven for a warmer environment.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and form it into a rough rectangle. Use a pizza cutter or a knife to cut it into 8 equal parts. If you want to use a scale, each piece should be around 118 grams.
How to tell if the dough is kneaded enough
Kneading dough develops the gluten from the flour. This cinnamon pretzel dough should take 5-7 minutes to knead using a stand mixer.
To tell if the dough has been kneaded enough, there are a couple of tests to try. One is the windowpane test. To do this, tear off a piece of the dough and stretch it apart using your hands. If it breaks then it needs to be kneaded more. If it stretches and doesn't break and forms a thin sheet, then you are good to go.
You can also push a finger into the dough ball. If the indentation fills back in quickly, then it's ready. If it stays indented, then it should be kneaded a little more. Don't over-knead the dough so check it around 5 minutes to see if it's ready.
How to shape soft pretzels
After dividing the dough into 8 pieces, spray your surface with some cooking spray and start with one piece of dough.
- Roll the dough into a long, even rope about 20-22 inches long.
- Form the dough into an upside down U shape.
- Cross the ends over once and then again.
- Flip the twisted ends up to the U shaped curve, pressing each end onto the dough.
Do this with each pretzel and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprayed liberally with cooking spray.
Baking soda bath
There are two ways to achieve the traditional pretzel flavor: lye or baking soda. Traditionally, lye is used and helps form a deep brown color and also that slightly metallic taste that pretzels have.
The problem with using lye is that it's not as accessible as baking soda which most people have in their panty and it is also dangerous if not used correctly. Lye is actually sodium hydroxide and can cause burns or internal damage if ingested before baking.
For these reasons, most home cooks use a baking soda bath instead. After forming the dough into a pretzel shape, they are boiled for 30 seconds in baking soda and water. Because the baking soda and water bath won't brown the pretzels as much as a lye bath would, egg wash is brushed over the pretzels before baking to help with browning.
To learn more about using lye to make pretzels, check out this article from King Arthur Baking.
A traditional baking soda bath combines baking soda and water in a large pot or saucepan until boiling before dipping the pretzels in it for 30 seconds.
I've come across a few recipes that just used warm or hot tap water combined with baking soda and dipped the pretzels before baking. I love a good short cut so I wanted to test this out with 2 different pretzels, one dipped into a baking soda/water mixture and one boiled in the same amount of baking soda/water.
Both were brushed with the egg wash before baking as well. You can see from the pictures below that the one that was boiled vs dipped was clearly more golden brown. It also had more of that traditional pretzel taste. In my opinion, boiling in a baking soda bath is the preferred way to create the best pretzel. The dipping method doesn't save that much time for sub-optimal results.
Does pretzel dough need to rise?
I also came across a few recipes that skipped the rising part of the process. I was interested in those results as well, compared to a more traditional rise as that would save at least an hour of the process.
One pretzel was formed right after the kneading process while allowing the rest of the dough to rise until it was doubled. Both were brushed with the egg wash for browning however the unrisen dough was dipped in the baking soda/water mixture while the others were boiled.
See the picture above for the comparison. The results speak for themselves in turns of looks (aside from the browning which is attributed to more time spent in the baking soda). The unrisen pretzels were more dense and tough while the risen ones were fluffier, chewy in a good way and overall just better.
So, this is one step you don't want to skip!
How to make these into pretzel bites
If you would like to make these cinnamon pretzels into pretzel bites instead of full pretzels, just slice them into 2-inch pieces after forming each rope. Boil them for 30 seconds in batches in the baking soda bath and brush with the egg wash prior to baking.
They will need less time baking than full pretzels, so check them at about 7-8 minutes. Once slightly cooled, brush them or dip them into melted butter before coating them in the cinnamon sugar.
Yes, these cinnamon pretzels can also be made into regular salty pretzels. Follow the recipe as written, except reduce the brown sugar from 3 tablespoons to 1. After boiling in the baking soda bath and brushing with the egg wash, sprinkle them with pretzel salt or another coarse salt. Bake them the same amount of time and skip the cinnamon sugar dusting. You can still brush them with butter after baking for a more buttery flavor.
Yes, if using rapid-rise yeast, skip the proofing step and add the yeast with the flour. The water still needs to be warm so don't skip this step.
See the post above and the pictures! I tested this because I saw a few recipes using this method of dipping into hot water and baking soda, but that quintessential pretzel flavor was lost. I highly recommend boiling them briefly in the baking soda and water mixture for the best flavor!
Yes! If you don't have a stand mixer, just use a large bowl and a wooden spoon to initially mix the ingredients together according to the recipe. Once a shaggy dough has formed in the bowl, dump it onto a very lightly floured counter and knead until it passes the tests mentioned in the post above. This will likely take a bit longer than kneading with the stand mixer so be prepared for an arm workout!
The pretzels are best warm from the oven however leftovers can be reheated. For the best results, use the oven vs the microwave. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and wrap the pretzels in aluminum foil. Bake the pretzels for 5-7 minutes until warmed through. If you want to use the microwave, wrap the pretzel in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave until warm.
How to store the pretzels
The cinnamon pretzels are best eaten the same day they are made, ideally warm from the oven. If you still have leftovers, store them in a zip-top bag or another covered container at room temperature for 2-3 days at most.
For more yeasted dough recipes, check out these:
- Brioche Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- Blueberry Cream Cheese Babka
- Apple Cinnamon Babka
Tag me on Instagram @themarblekitchenblog if you make this and leave a star rating and comment below! Thank you and enjoy!
- 1 ½ cups warm water 110-115 degrees
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar packed (light or dark is fine)
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 4 ½ cups 500-563 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup baking soda
- 1 large egg (for the egg wash)
Cinnamon Sugar Topping
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the dough hook, combine the warm water, brown sugar and yeast. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes until foamy.
- Once it has foamed, add the flour, salt and melted butter to the bowl. Mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated and then turn the mixer to medium and knead the dough for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be smooth, bounce back when indented with your finger and not be sticky. If the dough is sticky, add more flour by the tablespoon until it is not sticky but still slightly tacky.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and either clean and oil the same bowl or oil another bowl and place the dough into it to rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Once the dough has risen, punch it down and scrape it onto a lightly oiled (or use cooking spray) surface. Form the dough into a rough rectangle and then divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (about 118-130 grams each if using a scale) using a knife or pizza cutter.
- At this point, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and cooking spray. Prepare the baking soda bath by placing 8 cups of water and ½ cup of baking soda into a large deep saucepan, roasting pan or large dutch oven.
- Roll out each dough piece, one at a time, to about a 20 to 22 inch long rope.
- Shape the rope into an upside-down U. Cross the ends over each other and then twist them once. Take and ends and flip them up to the bottom of the U shape, pinching each end onto the U to stay. (See the pictures in the post!)
- Do this with each dough ball, placing them onto the baking sheets.
- Bring the baking soda/water mixture to a boil and one or two at a time, place each pretzel gently into the boiling solution and boil for 30 seconds. There is no need to turn it. Use a large slotted spoon or slotted spatula to lift them out of the baking soda bath, shaking off any excess water and placing them back onto the baking sheets.
- Combine one beaten egg with a teaspoon of water and use a pastry brush to brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash.
- Bake the pretzels for 9-11 minutes until deep golden brown. Let the pretzels cool for about 5 minutes and then brush each with the melted butter. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the tops, shaking off any excess.
- The pretzels are best eaten warm from the oven.
- Store leftovers in a zip-top bag or covered container at room temperature for 2-3 days (they are best from the oven though).
- To rewarm the pretzels, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the pretzels in aluminum foil and bake for 5-7 minutes until they are warmed through.
- To make these into regular soft pretzels, reduce the brown sugar to 1 tablespoon. After boiling in the water bath and brushing with the egg wash, sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt or pretzel salt and then back as directed. Omit the cinnamon-sugar coating but brush with the melted butter if desired.
- See the post for detailed information on the dough and pretzel forming process.