How to make pretzel buns: 10 insider tips for your tastiest sandwich rolls ever

Classic street-food pretzels – served hot from a city cart – are deep golden brown, chewy, and generously topped with coarse salt.

Homemade pretzel buns – pulled fresh out of your own oven – are deep golden brown, chewy, and generously topped with coarse salt (or not).

They’re also loaded with your favorite sandwich filling – from ham and cheese, to tuna salad, to a big juicy burger.

A couple of summers ago pretzel buns hit the fast food circuit, with Wendy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts and Sonic all calling out their newest innovation in sandwiches. The craze faded a bit last year, but this spring and summer pretzel buns are back, headlining at both Wendy’s and Dunkin’.

And, as any enthusiastic baker knows, the next step is this: “Hey, I’ll  bet I can make those at home!”

Of course you can. Our recipe for Pretzel Sandwich Buns is your starting point. These pretzel buns beat their fast-food counterparts hands down, and they’re every bit as tasty as the metropolitan version. Plus they can be crafted for a variety of needs, from burgers to dogs to dinner rolls to sliders.

See how to make these buns, with some handy tips I’ve learned along the way. (Read this post all the way through before you begin, OK?)

Pretzel Sandwich Buns

Dough
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Water bath
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup baking soda

Topping
pretzel salt (traditional), coarse sea salt, everything bagel topping, or your favorite seeds

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

1. If it’s hot/humid out, reduce the amount of water in the dough.

The first thing we’ll do is mix and knead the dough ingredients. The dough above was prepared on a hot, sticky July day. Knowing that flour absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, and thus is “wetter” during the summer (and/or under humid conditions), I cut the water back from 1 3/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups.

How did I know to do that – might not the original recipe have been developed on a humid day?

Well, I took an educated guess; it’s more likely the original recipe was formulated during the 10 months of the year we’re NOT experiencing summer weather here in New England. And I guessed right: cutting back the water by 1/4 cup made a dough that’s soft and just a tiny bit sticky – which is what the recipe calls for: “a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

2. If you don’t plan to top the pretzel buns with salt, increase the amount of salt in the dough.

The recipe, as written, assumes the buns will be topped with salt; so there’s less salt in the dough itself. But not everyone loves salt-topped buns; some find that hit of salt on top overwhelming. If you decide to skip the salt on top (either leaving the buns plain, or topping with seeds), increase the salt in the recipe from 3/4 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Once you’ve kneaded the dough, let it rise for about 1 hour, or until it’s just about doubled in bulk.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

I divided my dough in half to test the “less salt, more salt” tip. Notice the retarding effect salt has on yeast dough – the dough on the right includes the greater amount of salt.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into roll-sized pieces.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

3. Use a scale to divide the dough.

What does it matter? Can’t you just eyeball it?

Sure, and that’s what I did for years. But I’m so pleased with the results when I use a scale: every roll is exactly the same size. Or, in this case, I make rolls in multiple sizes – and know how many I’ll get before I start.

The recipe says to divide the dough into 10 pieces. I weigh the dough: 934g. So that would be 93g each.

After breaking off a 93g portion of dough, I see that it’s quite large. How about if I make a dozen slightly smaller buns? Divide 934 by 12: each ball of dough will weigh about 78g.

Or what about hotdog buns? I pull off a piece of dough, and shape a ’dog-sized bun: 62g. 934g divided by 62g = 15 hotdog buns.

Sliders? Let’s make them half the size of those original large buns: 20 sliders, 46g each.

See how useful a scale is?

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

4. Try different size – and shape – pretzel buns.

There’s no rule that says every bun in your batch has to look exactly the same. Consider the crowd (or occasion) for which you’re baking. Maybe it’s a family cookout, and you know that Andy and Julia like hotdogs, and John and Tom like hamburgers, and Gabby is only 3 years old and she needs a slider bun.

Get out your scale (see above). Mix and match!

Once you’ve shaped your buns, place them on a baking pan (you’ll need two pans) to rest for about 15 minutes. Line your pans with parchment; this will help prevent the buns from sticking later on.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

5. Grease the parchment the pretzel buns rise on. Grease it well.

Since these buns go through a baking soda water bath (which releases some of their starch, and makes them sticky), they have a tendency to adhere to the pan as they bake. While you wouldn’t ordinarily think to grease parchment paper – isn’t it non-stick anyway? – in this case it’s appropriate.  Non-stick vegetable oil spray is the way to go.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflourHow to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

7. Drape resting buns with waxed paper, not plastic wrap.

Plastic wrap, even when greased, clings to rising buns; waxed paper doesn’t. Give a sheet of waxed paper a spritz with vegetable oil spray, then lay it gently across the buns. No clinging; no sticking.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

6. For flatter/wider pretzel buns, flatten the risen dough slightly.

Not everyone loves a tall, “bready” sandwich bun; some prefer more surface area (the better to hold a bigger burger, or lots of condiments).

If desired, use your fingers to gently “widen” some or all of the buns prior to sending them through their water bath. You don’t want to press out all of the CO2 they’ve generated; just grasp their edges and pull gently to make larger/flatter buns.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

While the buns are resting/rising, prepare your water bath. It’s this bath that will give your buns that signature pretzel look and taste – so don’t even think of skipping it.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

8. An electric frying pan works well for simmering.

A baking soda/salt/water bath yields dark brown buns with wonderful pretzel flavor. But there’s no need to seek out a large, deep kettle for simmering buns. Bring the water, salt, and baking soda to a boil in a 10″ electric frying pan, if you have one. It’s simple to control the water temperature; and there’s plenty of room, both depth and diameter, for several buns at a time.

Drop several pieces of dough into the water bath. Cook for 30 seconds, flip over, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Using a slotted spoon, return the buns to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining buns.

For that signature pretzel bun look, use scissors or a sharp knife to cut 1/2″-deep crosses into the center of each bun. This step is optional; I cut crosses in some of mine, not in others.

Sprinkle each bun with the topping of your choice.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

9. Not everyone loves salt. Try different toppings.

Coarse, bright white pretzel salt is classic. But coarse sea salt works, too, if you’re looking for a salty bun. Everything bagel topping includes seeds, onion, and garlic in a salt base – it’s both tasty and attractive.

To avoid salty toppings, stick to seeds: poppy, sesame, flax, and fennel (or a mixture) are all good.

How to make pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

10. Bake pretzel buns on a middle or lower rack to prevent over-browning.

Bake the buns for 20 to 24 minutes. Thanks to the baking soda water bath, they’ll brown more quickly than you may expect. You don’t want them to become too dark before they’re baked all the way through, though. Baking the buns in the middle to lower part of your oven will help prevent over-browning. If they still appear to be browning too quickly, drape a sheet of aluminum foil across the pan.

Bake smaller buns for the shorter amount of time; larger buns, longer. If you have a digital thermometer, the temperature of a perfectly baked bun will be 190°F at its center.

Since you’re baking two pans of buns, and they both won’t fit on a lower rack, it’s OK to bake one while the other sits. The water bath has stopped a lot of the yeast action, so the waiting buns won’t over-rise.

Remove the buns from the oven, and cool them on a rack.

Pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

I’d say these are perfectly browned – wouldn’t you? Ready for my favorite veggie burger or “saugy” (Rhode Islanders, you know what I’m talking about).

One caveat – salt-topped buns are best consumed the day they’re made, especially if it’s humid out. Within a day, the salt atop the buns will dissolve, drawing moisture to the buns’ surface and creating a puckered appearance.

Buns topped with seeds rather than salt hold better, though they still suffer a little bit of puckering due to the salt in the water bath.

Pretzel buns via @kingarthurflour

But that’s a small price to pay for the golden mahogany-like gleam of a properly prepared pretzel bun – to say nothing of its classic “street food” taste!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Pretzel Sandwich Buns.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Melissa

    These buns are great! I’ve made them before to good reviews and requests to make them again. I was intimidated by the baking soda/salt/water bath for the buns but it is so easy for the excellent result. One of my batches did suffer from disappearing salt but they were still tasty.

    Reply
  2. joan michel

    Please PLEASE translate the grams into ounces or whatever ….. my scale doesn’t show grams…. Thanks so much.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Joan, if you follow the link to the recipe, you can choose the option of having ingredients displayed in grams there. Susan

  3. Laura

    Thanks so much for this recipe. It produced chewy yet soft rolls. I spread the dough so the buns wouldn’t be so high. They freeze very well. This is a great addition to my sandwich bun recipe collection.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Bring the water, salt, and baking soda to a boil. Then bring to simmer and drop several pieces of dough into the water bath. Cook for 30 seconds, flip over, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Using a slotted spoon, return the buns to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining buns. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  4. Monica

    Have you every tried food-grade lye (cold solution) in lieu of the baking soda bath? I find the flavor to be much more authentic but would appreciate your opinion.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, that’s another option! We find most home bakers prefer the ease and comfort of a baking soda bath for their pretzels. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  5. Kathy

    Can you freeze these either before or after baking? I don’t need to make that many and it would be a crime to waste them so when would be the best time to freeze them? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’ve have best success freezing pretzel buns after they are baked through completely because it is tricky to preserve the effects of the water bath if the pretzels are not baked directly afterwards. Prepare the recipe as you normally would and then allow the buns to cool completely. Eat what you like and then store the rest in freezer safe bags. They will last for about 4-6 months (but they will taste better the sooner you eat them!). To serve, either allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge in their wrapping or at room temperature for 4-6 hours before serving. If you’d like to serve them warm, pop them in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until warmed all the way through. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We have a fabulous recipe for sourdough pretzels on our website here: http://bit.ly/1bCB7Vj Prepare the dough as instructed, but instead of dividing into 12 pieces, try making 8 pieces for small-medium sized buns or just 6 pieces for large hamburger sized buns. It’s a great way to use up unfed sourdough starter and adds a nice tangy flavor to your sandwiches! Kye@KAF

  6. "Midnite Baker"

    Hi, It has been awhile since I made pretzel bread but I seem to remember I used Non-Diastatic Malt Powder in the bath water. Anyone remember this?? Thanks for replying. M

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you would like to use non-diastatic malt powder in your water bath, use these ratios below:
      2 quarts water
      2 tablespoons non-diastatic malt powder
      1 tablespoon granulated sugar
      This will help give your pretzels a shiny crust. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We do not currently have a recipe for gluten-free pretzels or pretzel buns, but we hope to have one in the future! We often work on developing new recipes for the gluten-free community along with our regular recipes. However, there is a recipe for gluten-free pretzel buns that can be made using our gluten-free flour blend. I hope this helps! Happy gluten-free baking! Kye@KAF

  7. Gail B

    I learned about KAF while doing a 2yr culinary class in 2001. Ever since then I have bought products, and tried recipes with success. I truly believe in King Arthur Flour and would recommend this company to everyone I meet. Thank you KAF for your wonderful service and products.

    Reply
  8. Paul Richards

    Can I substitute the milk powder with real milk and reduce the water content? I live in Ireland and we don’t really have milk powders available commercially. Can’t wait to try these though, they look great.
    Thank you from Ireland.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes! Consider using 1 cup milk and 3/4 cup water for this recipe. It may help to remember that 1/4 cup dry milk powder plus 1 cup liquid equals 1 cup milk. You can use this substitution with many recipes. Happy Baking from Vermont! Irene@KAF

  9. Samana Mustafa

    As I am from India we do not eat bread as our staple food. I have been baking bread since one year. Recently I got into kingarthurflour.com and thanks I improved my baking especially bread and that too of different types. 2 days before I baked pretzel buns. It was too good. Thanks to KAF. Can I bake these with whole wheat flour? Guide me please.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Samana, I think it would work fine to substitute half the flour with whole wheat flour. I would recommend adding an additional tablespoon of water for each cup of whole wheat flour substituted. It’s also helpful, when using whole wheat flour, to allow the dough to sit for 30 minutes after mixing, but before kneading. This pause allows the bran to fully hydrate and will give you a more productive kneading process. You might also like to follow this recipe and adapt it to make pretzel buns. Barb@KAF

  10. yakturn

    Just made the pretzel buns. Two things I learned; always oil the wax paper and 10 rolls are huge. If you want them for dinner rolls I’d go for 12 or 14. After all that they are simple to make and yummy.

    Reply
  11. nov97az

    Bought KAF soft buttery pretzel mix and wanted to make pretzel rolls. There is a statement at bottom of box “for instructions on how to make pretzel rolls go to kingarthurflour.com”. I have logged on to KAF and cannot find the recipe to make pretzel rolls from the KAF soft buttery pretzel mix. Can someone help me with this. Thanks
    Barb m

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’ve come to the right place! Just click on the recipe in this blog and it will have instructions for making the rolls from our mix. Jon@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Consider making this bun recipe, replacing 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water in the dough with 1 cup unfed or discard starter. You’ll have the flavor of sourdough and the ease of working with pretzel dough for the best of both worlds! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  12. M Gatti

    I need to make some for tonight and some for an event tomorrow night. I don’t want to freeze for just overnight since then I have to take them out to thaw overnight the same time I need to freeze them, but I also don’t want disappearing salt pucker. Is there a good way to keep half the dough refrigerated until tomorrow?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Like bagels, you can hold the cut or shaped pretzels overnight. In the morning, heat the water and heat the oven. Don’t let the pretzels rise on the counter in the morning, but boil and bake right away. Laurie@KAF

  13. Sally

    Buns sound really good, is it possible to use this recipe to make a loaf of bread or do you have different re pie and instructions for Pretzel Bread?

    Reply
  14. Kay

    These sound Amazzzzzzzzzzzzzing & I can hardly wait to try them…..Using the scale to measure as you did in recipe, do you have the nutrient values??? Thanks so much!!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kay, if you search for the original recipe on our website–pretzel sandwich buns–you will find the breakdown of the nutrients in the box on the right-hand side of the page called At A Glance. Click on the orange link that says Nutritional Information. Bryanna@KAF

  15. V

    Thanks to KAF for the pretzel bun tips! They look delicious! I look forward to trying the recipe out. 🙂 Just to let you know, the numbers for tips 6 and 7 are swapped. Thanks again!

    Reply
  16. Paige

    I’ve made this recipe before and it’s always a hit. However today I made them and doubled the recipe but they seem to have come out flatter than I remember. I made two different sized buns and both batches are flat. Although they are still very tasty. Did I knead them too much?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Paige, I suspect that you’re experiencing “summer recipe shift” – in summer, when it’s hot and humid, flour absorbs moisture from the air like a sponge. Thus your dough was probably a bit slacker, and probably spread outwards (rather than upwards). Try cutting back the water in your yeast recipes by 1-3 tablespoons during the summer; I think you might have better results. Good luck – PJH

  17. Jon Young

    I wish to reduce sodium content as much as possible. I already use a sodium substitute (or none) for the dough. What amount can I reduce the baking soda in the the water bath by ( I have already deleted the salt) and still achieve a nice brown coat?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jon, you can reduce the baking soda and the salt in the water bath by about 25 percent. Any more than that and you risk drastically impacting the overall outcome of the recipe.
      Bryanna@KAF

  18. Michele

    Do you think a non dairy milk and butter would work in this recipe? I do vegan baking and looking to add this to the options. I have a recipe that suits me for 4 rolls but the yield with the KAF recipe is much more appealing!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you’d like to make this recipe vegan-friendly, you can use 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or vegetable oil of your choice instead of butter, and you can use 1 3/4 cup of your favorite non-dairy milk in place of the water. Just be sure to use an unsweetened, unflavored variety and omit the 1/4 cup of Baker’s Special Dry Milk. Happy baking, Michele! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rena, to make these pretzels dairy-free, you can use omit the Baker’s Special Dry Milk and instead use 1 cup of your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk and 3/4 cup of water (instead of 1 3/4 cups of water). Also, use 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil instead of butter. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  19. Mary Jo DePriest

    This recipe works beautifully. We haven’t actually eaten them yet–pulled park is still in the crockpot. Next time I will try with the non-diatastic malt and sugar.

    Reply
  20. Heidi

    If I want to put ham, cheese, spinach, etc. inside the buns is it best to do it before or after the bath? I am thinking after, but not sure.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, Heidi, definitely after; that way there’s less chance of any of the fillings falling out in the water bath. Good luck — PJH

  21. Jenny

    This is the first time I made pretzels. Wonderful recipe and well explained. Nice work! Everything I did was exactly as the recipe said. Even the weight of 78 g per Bun was perfect. Highly recommend!

    Reply
  22. Lillian

    I’ve enjoyed a pretzel bun with ham and cheese baked inside and I loved it. A friend gave me his recipe and now it’s lost. Do you have a recipe for that ? This was 20 years ago and I’ve been searching for a recipe. Thank you 😊

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lillian, we don’t have an exact recipe for this, but it does sound delicious! You could use the basic recipe shown in this post but then instead of shaping into rolls, you can flatten the dough into rounds and add a few ounces of cheese and ham to the center. Fold the dough inwards and pinch the seam shut to ensure all the deliciousness stays inside. Let the dough proof and then follow the steps shown here, starting with just one stuffed pretzel bun at a time in case you need to make adjustments. The baking time may vary slightly, so check for doneness early and often. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  23. Lisa

    I made a half batch and substituted half the flour for whole wheat (ran out of white), and they taste great. I can’t tell much of a difference at all in the flavor.

    Reply

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