Soft, scrumptious, and sourdough: pretzels from your “discard” starter.

What is it about feeding sourdough starter that makes so many of us nuts?

Discarding that initial cup of perfectly good starter to get the process going, right?

I mean, it just doesn’t feel right, throwing away this starter you’ve been feeding, and coddling, and nursing into maturity with regular meals and draft-free, comfortably warm counter-time.

Why is it, anyway, that feeding sourdough requires you to discard a cup of perfectly good (albeit unfed) starter as part of the process?

Well, most people say it’s “so your refrigerator won’t be overrun with starter.”

But that doesn’t make sense. Since you’re going to remove a cup of fed starter to bake with, why not just count that as the “discard,” rather than remove an additional cup?

Here’s what I think: it all has to do with the yeast’s desire to eat and grow.

If you add flour and water to your starter without removing any of the starter first, the flour won’t feed as many hungry little yeast cells. But if you remove some starter first, before feeding, there’s more new food, proportionally, for the yeast.

So why not just leave the starter as is, and feed with MORE flour and water than normal, to accommodate all the yeast?

Because, unless you’re making some really major sourdough recipe, you’ll be feeding with more flour/water than what you’re removing to bake with – usually about a cup.

Keep that up for very long, and you WILL have to deal with The Starter That Ate Manhattan.

So, we’re back to ”I hate to throw away starter.”

And you don’t have to. Take that cup of “discard,” and make pancakes or waffles. Or cinnamon-apple flatbread. Or sourdough pizza crust.

Multigrain sandwich bread is a great use for your sourdough discard, as is sourdough carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Sourdough Pretzels, anyone?

OK, does your sourdough ever look like this?

Mine does – regularly. Dark liquid on top, kind of a pitted appearance to the solid matter underneath…

It’s OK; really. I pour off most of the liquid; it’s mostly alcohol. You can stir it in if you like, then add less water than you normally do when you feed the starter.

Stir any remaining liquid into the starter. Remove 1 cup, and either bake with it (re-read suggestions above), or discard. Transfer the remainder to a bowl.

Add equal parts unbleached all-purpose flour and lukewarm water by weight – which is about 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.

Stir to combine. Cover.

Several hours later (if your starter is pretty vigorous to begin with), or the next day, it should be nice and bubbly again.

If it’s not – remove 1 cup, and feed the remaining starter again.

Once it’s bubbly, store in the refrigerator until the next time you’re baking something sourdough – or until you forget it, remember it, your conscience finally gets the best of you, and you feed the poor thing!

At last – we’re ready to make those pretzels.

Put the following in a mixing bowl:

3/4 cup lukewarm water*
1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator (or use fed starter if you like)
3 cups Sir Lancelot Unbleached Hi-Gluten Flour* or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) non-diastatic malt powder or 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
*Add an additional 2 tablespoons water if you’re using high-gluten Lancelot flour.

Mix until you’ve made a cohesive dough.

Knead the dough – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – until it’s smooth.

It should be slightly sticky, like this; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.

Shape the dough into a ball, and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 45 minutes.

It isn’t going to rise a lot; but it’ll definitely grow a bit. Check out the rivet marks in the bowl, on the upper left of the dough…

See the difference? Two of the rivet marks have disappeared. It’s definitely growing.

Now, start preheating your oven to 350°F.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface; a silicone rolling mat work well. Fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then shape it into a rough rectangle.

Score it once lengthwise, and five times crosswise, to make 12 pieces.

Gently cut the dough into pieces; you don’t want to cut into the silicone mat, if you’re using one.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap, so it doesn’t dry out as you’re working with the individual pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope. Keep the finished ropes covered, so they don’t dry out.

You may find it easiest to roll all the ropes partway, then go back and roll them the rest of the way. That way, each has a chance to rest (and the gluten to relax) as you’re working on the other ropes.

Now we’re going to shape pretzels.

First make a loop.

Then grab both ends, and bring them over…

…then tuck them under.

For an extra twist, make the loop…

…twist its ends…

…and bring down and under.

Place the shaped pretzels on two parchment-lined (or lightly greased) baking sheets. Once they’re on the sheets, gently tug them into as nice a shape as you can.

You’re going to bake the pretzels right away, so don’t bother covering them – unless it’s taking you a REALLY long time to shape them.

Dissolve 1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder (or sugar) in 2 tablespoons lukewarm water.

Brush this solution onto the pretzels; it’ll help them brown.

Why don’t we use baking soda dissolved in water, as so many recipes do?

Because darned if we could ever get the baking soda to fully dissolve, no matter what we tried. And the resulting solution gave the pretzels a splotchy, messy look.

Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse pretzel salt, if desired.

Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove them from the oven, and brush with melted butter, if desired.

I desired. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as hot bread and butter.

Hot, chewy, golden pretzels and butter? I’m there.


Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Sourdough Pretzels.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

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!


  1. JenSchall

    These pretzels look incredible! I was just thinking that pretzels would be a great use for some of my sourdough starter… Glad to see you beat me to it! 🙂

    1. Heide

      I too am from the school that a baking soda bath in the absence of a sodium hydroxide bath is necessary for them to be called Pretzels. At least the Bavarian kind. They add chew as well as flavour.
      I really liked this recipe and mine âme out quite stunning. So happy my excess sourdough found a happy home.
      THank you for a recipe i will reuse.

  2. "sandra Alicante"

    They look delicious! I may have found a new project for when I’ve mastered Tiger Bread! Younger son came back from the States raving about soft pretzels, it would be nice to be able to make them for him when he visits.

  3. fran16250

    My husband has been asking me to make pretzels lately but I do not have any starter. Can this be done without the starter or can I make my own starter without waiting for a KAF delivery? These look so yummy!

    Fran, for immediate gratification, try our non-sourdough Hot Buttered Pretzels – yummy! PJH

  4. khkremer

    I never had a problem with dissolving the baking soda: You do it in hot water, and it just disappears.. There is a reason for the baking soda – it creates the typical pretzel flavor, it’s not just for the color. “Real” pretzels (that is the ones that come from Bavaria) are actually made by dipping them into a cold lye solution. That changes the outside of the dough. Because handling lye is a bit dangerous, the way to do that at home is by using a boiling solution of baking soda in water. The effect is not as strong as with lye, but it’s still close enough to the original that I don’t bother with lye.
    I will definitely try these sourdough pretzels, but I will boil them for 10 seconds in a baking soda solution. Otherwise they don’t deserve to be called pretzels 🙂
    BTW: Here is my pretzel recipe (without sourdough):

    1. Carl

      I followed the recipe for these sourdough pretzels (using unfed starter) and khkremer’s cooking technique. They browned up like traditional pretzels and the baking soda in hot water worked like a charm!

      I’m not getting a sourdough taste in this mix, but the texture is really nice—a great blend of crunchy exterior and chewy interior.

      This was a great hybrid recipe!

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      To enhance the sour taste, try letting your pretzel dough rest in the fridge overnight before shaping. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    3. Brooke Carlson

      I totally agree. I followed the recipe as far as not doing the baking soda water and I seriously regret it. I KNEW they wouldn’t taste like pretzels and I am seriously annoyed. The only things going for them is that I didn’t do the yeast and did JUST starter & a 19 hour ferment and they taste so sour and SO delicous! But, I have sourdough bread baked, I wanted pretzels.

    4. The Baker's Hotline

      The secret to the classic pretzel flavor is the baking soda water bath! Try this step next time, and we think you’ll be pleased with the result. Kye@KAF

    5. Linda of London

      I’ve made these twice now, but boiled them quickly in baking soda solution instead of just brushing them. They came out beautifully!

    6. Ada Ardito

      Do you boil them 10 sec per side, or just one side? Mine are baking now. I boiled them on one side only and then flipped them when placing on the baking sheet, so that the boiled side is up….no clue if that is right or not. Will let you know how they turn out in a bit. Thanks for the technique.

  5. nelll

    Whenever I arrive in the train station in Frankfurt or Crakow, there’s always someone (or several people) selling these (often with poppy seed or sesame seed versions as well as salted). I always want to buy one. I never do. I’m sure if I make them they’ll be so good that I won’t want to try them from a vendor. I’m sure that they can’t be sourdough, and being from California, I’m all for sourdough anything.

    Question, though: If I have all-purpose flour and vital wheat gluten, how much vital wheat gluten should I add to the all-purpose to get the same effect as high-gluten flour?
    Try adding about a teaspoon of gluten per cup of flour to raise the protein level. ~ MaryJane

  6. Todd

    I’ve always made these by boiling them in water with baking soda like you do with bagels. You said that you had trouble dissolving the soda, but I’ve never had trouble when the water was boiling (same as with salted pasta water: dissolve the salt after the water is boiling).

    The pretzels are still soft, but the crust is chewier.

  7. milkwithknives

    Ooh, these are really good. My husband and I made them last Sunday to take to Easter dinner, and I didn’t even get one they were gone so fast! Luckily, he gave me a bite of his. (grin) I did use half white whole wheat flour (it’s just my favorite) and they still puffed up beautifully and were so soft and delicious. The shaping part was really easy and fun, too. Everyone liked these so much that I don’t even feel the need to try other pretzel recipes, I’m just going to stick to this one in the future.

  8. ColleenMI

    I know that, ideally, you’d eat these still warm from the oven. (With mustard and a cold beer. Yum.) But how are they the next day? Can they be made in advance?
    You can definitely make these a couple of days in advance and briefly reheat them in the oven before serving.
    ~ MaryJane

  9. michelescott

    How do these pretzels differ(texture/taste) from the method that are first boiled before being baked? (And could these also be boiled first for the “big pretzel” texture?) It looks like it is similar to breadsticks that are folded — which is not bad at all — but just curious as to how texture may differ from what I think of as big pretzels.

    Boiled pretzels are stiffer/chewier; these are a bit softer/more tender. You could certainly boil these, if you like… PJH

  10. merj

    I’m wondering if you could make these as a roll (to use for a sausage for example)? Also, milk allergy here so what to do about the milk powder? Maybe substitute soy milk for the liquid and omit it?
    I think a pretzel roll would be amazing! Keep it hot dog bun sized for best results. You can use soy or rice milk instead, one of our dairy free bakers does it quite frequently. ~ MaryJane

  11. Brenda

    PJ, don’t you mean “Score it once lengthwise, and 6 times crosswise”? 2×5=10, not 12!
    I thought the same thing at first, but 5 cuts will give you 6 pieces, 6 cuts would give you 7 pieces.
    ~ MaryJane

  12. pcstirn

    Fantastic use of sourdough! Can’t wait to try ’em!
    Here’s a question about sourdough starters in general. Why does my starter, when made with whole wheat or white whole wheat flour, fail after the first week or two, but doesn’t when made with all purpose flour? By fail, I mean it smells bitter, not like the slightly sweet, yeasty aroma of AP batches. It won’t bubble much, it has much more alcohol-laden water on it, and it’s a dark murky liquid. Could it be the germ and hull of WW and WWW flours that mess it up? I’ve been able to revive an almost-failed batch before, but I had to use AP flour only.
    The reason I wanted to use WW or WWW is my belief that the process of being immersed in liquid is what tenderizes the whole grain, that it is not so dry and heavy when the baked good is pulled out of the oven. Isn’t that why KAF’s WW Brownie recipe needs to rest at least over night??? Thanks so much for all you’ve taught me these last couple of years! Wish I would have found you decades ago!!!

    Rather than make a whole-grain starter, which is more difficult to maintain due to the effect of the increased minerals (and bran) in whole grains – why not make your whole-grain doughs as “soakers,” where you soak the flour or flaked grains overnight before using in your recipe? If what you’re after is tenderizing, this would accomplish the same thing without you having to worry about maintaining a whole-grain starter. Worth a try? PJH

  13. "John VN"

    I have never tried using sourdough for pretzels. Sounds like a great thing to do with the excess starter. I always try and use the starter for some thing (rolls, pancakes, quick bread, etc) when I feed it on its monthly basis. I have been using the same San Francisco starter for over 30 years and have never had to add yeast to a recipe. My starter is active usually within 1 hour and produces a good rise. Are you adding the yeast to reduce the rise time?

    Yes, exactly, John. You can leave it out, but your rise times will be MUCH longer, especially if the sourdough hasn’t been fed. PJH

  14. kaf-sub-klutzygirlsfarmette

    I have never used sourdough, partly because I’m afraid I won’t maintain it and partly because I hate the waste of starter! But I was wondering why you add yeast to the dough. I thought the starter was the leavening agent.

    You can definitely go without yeast – it just prolongs the rising time a lot if you rely on the wild yeast in the sourdough to do all the “heavy lifting.” For some, the point of sourdough is its flavor, rather than its rising qualities, so yeast is added to speed things up. And don’t worry about maintaining starter- it’s very flexible and quite forgiving. I pay attention to mine once every 3 months or so, and it just keeps plugging along… Give it a try – I’m betting you’ll find it interesting and quite a lot of fun. PJH

  15. robynb

    pcstirn: I’m having a much different result with my starter – it’s a KA starter, and for almost a year now, I’ve fed it pretty much exclusively with KA Organic White Whole Wheat flour, and it’s thriving! A few times I neglected it in the fridge for too many weeks unfed, and it got cranky, so I used some KA First Clear flour either with the white whole wheat or by itself for one feeding only. Perked it right up. I also had a “child” of the original KA that I fed with their OG Whole Wheat flour for a while, and it did fine too – I used to have that one and a regular starter, but got tired of maintaining two so I just use the white whole wheat one now. I wonder if something else was the issue with your starters?

    Thanks so much for the input, Robyn – I’m glad to hear your whole-wheat starter is thriving. I’m wondering if organic has something to do with it – I know yeast prefers organic flours. When I use the organic white wheat, my bread rises higher than when I use non-organic white wheat or red wheat… PJH

  16. Julie

    Any tips on using barley malt syrup instead of the powder?

    Sure, Julie, just mix it with the water as directed. Since it’s already liquid, you could probably cut the water in half, and still have it be “brushable.” PJH

  17. LeeB

    I’ve been keeping a whole grain starter (made from the directions in the Whole Grain Baking book!) going for a couple years now and have discovered that a blend of grains works best for me on this. My starter is mostly whole wheat, part rye and part spelt. Just had it out this week making sourdough baguettes, your Rustic Sourdough recipe and some great sourdough crackers. Now it’s time for pretzels! My question is this: which grain is the highest in gluten since I’m usually using my freshly milled flour – I have hard white, hard red, spelt, rye or kamut – to sub for the high-gluten flour?

    Kamut is the highest protein, with spelt next highest, and the hard wheats third. No whole grain will bake up as well as AP flour, due to the bran in whole grains, which tends to cut and destroy the developing gluten; but I’d guess kamut would be your best choice of the three. PJH

  18. dawnfz

    This post prompted me to search the site and find how to start a sourdough starter, and saw that it apparently keeps for months and maybe even years?? But was wondering about the upkeep. I see where you said you feed it about every three months. Do you have a blog on what that means and what you should do? I apologize if I missed it. Also, how do you add to it when you use it so that you still have plenty on hand? Any information would be appreciated. If it’s more in-depth and something I should research elsewhere, that’s fine, too. Thanks!
    Hello dawngfz – We have quite a bit of information on sourdough and maintaining a starter. You came to the right place! Yes, it can keep for months and even years, and will you believe for over 200 years??? The starter we maintain here for mail order is that old! Our Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter is available for purchase. Instructions for maintaining your new friend can be found on our site. All in all, it is quite easy. Sourdough starters are much more resilient than most people think. I subscribe to feeding it when I use it which ends up being once a week or once every 2 weeks. In many cases, it can be neglected for weeks at a time and be revived with only a few feedings. For more information on sourdough we have a page on our site called, Sourdough Essentials and do check out all the sourdough blogs. Send us an email, call our Hotline or join a discussion on our Community page. We have lots of resources! Elisabeth

  19. dariawalton

    I have ignored my sourdough starter for months, and my secret to keeping it alive is to never stir in the dark liquid. I did once and killed it – luckily my mom gave me a new sample of hers so I could start a new batch. Since then, I always pour off the ichor.

    And YUM, pretzels, I have to make these!

  20. boilerbaker

    I made these this morning and substituted some traditional whole wheat flour (about 2/3 to 3/4 C) for some of the all purpose flour. The dough was so easy to work with, and baking the pretzels couldn’t be easier. After sampling some, to make sure they were edible :), I froze the rest and will reheat them so they will taste fresh.

  21. danny16450

    We made these yesterday and they are delicious! We didn’t have the malt powder so substituted sugar in both the recipe and the brushing on top. I was afraid they would be too sweet but they weren’t at all. I also forgot to form and pull them into shape after placing on the baking sheet. They did rise straight up so my finished product looks more like the last picture than the one above it with a perfectly formed twist!
    I always try to bake something with my discard. Usually it is a pizza dough that I freeze for a quick dinner. These will definitely stay on my list! We finished them quite late in the evening and had them with lunch today just zapped in the microwave for 15 seconds. They were perfect!

    Danny, glad we could add to your stockpile of “discard” recipes. I like your tip for freezing pizza dough, too; you can’t go wrong having pizza dough ready in the freezer, can you? PJH

  22. shellyfcohen

    I’ve noticed a couple recipes that, like this one, call for either Sir Lancelot High-Gluten Flour or AP Flour. I’m curious about why you would use AP flour rather than bread flour as a substitute for high-gluten. Isn’t the bread flour closer in gluten content? What would happen if I used bread flour in this recipe?

    Shelly, we’re just trying to keep these recipes as accessible as possible; most people only stock AP flour regularly in their pantries, so we always like to list that as an option. Bread flour is certainly a good choice; use it as you would AP, adding 1 tablespoon additional water (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon). The higher the protein, the more water you need to add; and bread flour is just about midway between AP and Lancelot. Good question – thanks for asking it! PJH

  23. The Café Sucré Farine

    You have the best recipes! And what a great idea for using the starter. These look fabulous. What a fun snack for the beach this summer! Thanks, can’t wait to try these.

  24. sandylee6

    These look SOOOOO delicious and my daughter Loves pretzels – unfortunately mine looked great but were Very Tough! I kneaded in my stand mixer but you did not indicate how long? Could I have needed too short or too long? Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly (using the sugar instead of malt). Hope to try these again with better results.

    With just a tablespoon of fat, these are supposed to be chewy, rather than soft/tender. Maybe you’re mistaking chewy for tough? If they’re really unpleasantly tough, try baking for a bit less time; and you could definitely increase the fat to 4 tablespoons; that would make them softer. Good luck – PJH

  25. "bread lover"

    I made these last Sat. They are very good. I never throw away any of my sourdough, as I use milk instead of water. I can’t imagine how you can get a real good sourdough taste with just water and flour. If I don’t use my sourdough for a week, I feed it a teaspoon of sugar. That keeps it healthy and bubbly and stops it from separating.
    When I have some milk that’s gone sour, I can use it to feed my sourdough. I even used some rye flour to feed it recently. It’s just as healthy as ever.
    Another time, I would put grated, aged cheese in the recipe. Or maybe some fried onions. Sounds yummy to me.

  26. Singer4660

    These look amazing, but I am perplexed about the starter. My starter is about 2 months old now. I have fed it every 1 – 2 weeks exactly as directed by removing one cup and adding 1/2 cup luke warm water and 1 cup flour. I do keep it in the refrigerator if that makes a difference. By now it’s a dough not a batter because each time I feed it, it gets thicker. Should I reduce the flour each time? I don’t pack the flour down at all and could easily switch to weighing if that would help. Thoughts?
    Your sourdough starter should be the consistency of a thick waffle batter. If it is too thick and becoming more like a dough than a batter, then there is probably too much flour in it. Measuring by weight is always ideal, but otherwise, we suggest using this method for measuring flour: ~Amy

  27. pcstirn

    Thank you, PJ, RobynB, Daria, etc, for all the excellent info and suggestions! I am going to try all of your suggestions. It may take me a while, but I’ll try to report back on my progress. I appreciate a forum like this to “think outside the box!”

    You’re very welcome – I love this community for the support we all give one another. Baking is creating – and sharing. Thanks for joining the fun here! PJH

  28. thefiverogers

    I have read and re-read KA instructions for feeding (and discarding) sourdough starter and continue to be confused. Perhaps this is because before purchasing the KA starter I used a starter handed down from family. The thing is I never have a cup of starter left when I am finished baking. I purchased the KA starter several months ago and have baked and fed it many times and gone back to KA Sourdough tips to re-read the instructions. I even called and talked to a KA employee. Then I get even further concerned when I read more talk about discarding sourdough starter as in this blog. Here is how I have managed my starter over the past 20 years: Remove from refrigerator, stir and allow to come to room temperature. Feed starter and leave at room temperature for 8 – 10 hours. REMOVE 1 CUP FED STARTER AND RETURN TO REFIGERATOR. Now I can use the remaining starter for baking without worrying about having some left to put in the refrigerator. Immediately I bake items that require fed starter, then if I have left over starter the next day I can either bake items which utilize unfed starter or discard the remaining starter. Really – this is driving me crazy, is there any benefit to one method or the other?

    Sourdough is a huge subject, with so many variables… Bottom line, whatever works for you is the way to go. There is absolutely right or wrong. Let me stress this: there’s no right or wrong way to deal with sourdough. Short of killing it, which would probably be considered “wrong,” each of us takes care of sourdough in our own chosen way, a way that works for our lifestyle and baking preferences. Even within King Arthur, each of us approaches sourdough slightly differently. For instance, one of my fellow bakers is appalled that I leave my starter for months without feeding it; he feeds his every day. Mine works for me; his works for him. So, my suggestion is relax; do what you’ve always done with your sourdough; and if you want to make a change for some reason, go ahead, try it, and see what happens. ALL good. PJH

  29. Jan

    I don’t have any dry milk in the house. But I do have a starter that’s been a bit neglected. Can I make these without the dry milk?

    Sure, Jan, they’ll just be a bit tougher/chewier. Or, substitute liquid milk for the water. Either way – go for it! PJH

  30. thefiverogers

    After you remove 1 cup to discard (or use for pretzels) approximately how much starter do you have left to feed usually? 1/4 cup? 1/2 cup? 1 cup?

    Personally, I’ve built my starter to where I probably have about 2 cups left to feed. To increase the amount of starter, give it double feedings (2 cups flour/1 cup water) a few times, or until the volume is where you want it. PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for catching that, Marie. We’ve updated PJ’s response to reflect our standard recommendation of feeding your starter equal amounts of flour and water by weight (which is equivalent to 2 cups of flour to 1 cup of water). Kye@KAF

  31. Nanciew

    I’ve made these twice in the past week – the first time because I was curious about the recipe and the second because I got such raves on the pretzels that I had to make them again! I had all the ingredients on hand from making bagels, so didn’t have to make any substitutions. Really an excellent recipe and if you already are maintaining a starter, it’s super easy! I stored the leftovers the first time in a Tupperwear-type container and the consistency of the pretzels changed a little – the salt dissolved and the pretzels got denser – still good but not as good as the first day. This time the couple that were left went into a paper bag. This time the salt stayed intact and my husband said the insides stayed more like the out-of-the oven density.

    And you can always reheat those paper-bag-stored pretzels n the oven, or VERY briefly in the microwave, to refresh them – PJH


    Oooh… I’m experimenting with thin crust pizza dough today, but the next time I feed my starter: Pretzels it is! These look great!!

  33. mandi628

    These pretzels look so great! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I was wondering if the additional yeast is necessary? I’m sure it speeds up the rising, but can it be done with just sourdough and add a rising time before baking?
    As PJ said in an earlier comment: “You can definitely go without yeast but it will prolong the rising time a lot if you rely on the wild yeast in the sourdough to do all the “heavy lifting.” For some, the point of sourdough is its flavor, rather than its rising qualities, so yeast is added to speed things up.” You got the idea! -Jessica

  34. mandi628

    Jessica – Thanks for the reply. I did read the comments, but I guess I missed that one! I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe this week! The pretzels look beautiful!

  35. MJRankin

    This is the first item I’ve made with the sourdough starter I bought at KAF a week ago! The pretzels are fantastic; only bad thing is having to resist eating them all while they’re still warm! I admit, I skipped the water/sugar wash and instead boiled my pretzels in a water/baking soda solution; it gave them a fantastic chewy crust like a bagel. Next week, sourdough bread! 🙂

    There are great sourdough bread recipes on our website – the Rustic Sourdough Bread is on my weekly baking list to help with sourdough maintenance! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  36. bettybrzoska

    I’m new to baking and starters just plain scare me. Not as much as spiders, but it’s a little daunting to think of this living breathing organism lurking about my refrigerator, making friends with those odd bits of leftovers I forgot about, plotting and planning, eager to either make their escape or make me their minion. Remember the movie Ghostbusters? Sigourney Weaver had an evil overlord living in her fridge that was once a cute little sourdough starter. Or at least that’s how my admittedly overactive imagination sees it.

    Think about it: you feed it, hoping it will attract other yeast beasties in your neighborhood, then you slay it and throw half of it to the dogs. It’s practically medieval.

    And yet. I love making bread. I never knew I could feel such a connection to it, such a sense of pride and accomplishment. There is just nothing like pulling a steaming hot creation out of the oven, with the scent of it wafting all through the house, and knowing that your two hands (and a kitchenaid) pulled it together out of practically nothing!

    I wonder if there’s a name for an irrational fear of starters? Poolishphobia maybe? One of these days I’m just gonna do it and not look back. I don’t wanna be scared of no starter.
    Sooo funny! If you do get a starter, you’ll definitely have to name it Zuul! ~MaryJane

  37. Nanciew

    I’ve made these pretzels quite a few times now because the family loves them.This afternoon when I made them I used Sir Lancelot Flour instead of Organic High Gluten Flour, figuring that they were basically the same thing. I could not figure out for the life of me why the dough was so darn dry. I kept adding water . . . and more water . . . and more water until I eventually got the balance right. I made the pretzels and they turned out great. I was thinking that I would email you to ask about the two types of flour . . . but my son just walked in to tell me that the water I put in the microwave was done. Argh! Mystery solved. I had put the water filled measuring cup in the microwave for just a few seconds to warm it up just a tad (because our hot water faucet isn’t filtered) and I forgot to add it to the dough. I *wish* I could say that this was the first time I’ve done this. I need to adjust my process! LOL
    Well, that was easy! Mystery solved! Sorry, you were left frustrated, though! You obviously did a great job on adding enough liquid to achieve the right “feel”. I am glad to hear the pretzels came out great. Elisabeth

  38. mlqueen54326

    Question — I created my own sourdough starter from scratch last winter. Used it and fed it regularly to keep the starter going. However, I have not baked bread all summer but have left the sourdough starter in frig. It appears to be darker. Is it okay to begin feeding it again or should I toss and start over? Thank you!
    If the starter just has darkened and has liquid on top, it can come back to life with several feedings and some TLC. Pour off most of the liquid and start feeding just about 1/4 cup of the old starter. If there is any visible mold, or pink/orange tint, that indicated harmful bacteria and you should discard the starter. Hope it works out! ~ MaryJane

  39. Weevil

    Thanks for the recipe, I really enjoying making them. And eating the results 🙂 I have posted my adaptation of the recipe and my results on my blog, with a link back to here so others can find the original recipe.

    I love that I can use up surplus unfed sourdough mother like this, thanks for sharing.

  40. kswebster

    The pretzels are wonderful! How would you make this into a loaf – pan size and time to bake? Also, how would you make pretzels to freeze for later use? Any help is appreciated. Thanks

    You could make this into a freeform loaf on a baking sheet; or it would probably fit in a 9″ x 5″ pan. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 45 minutes. For pretzels, I’d bake fully, then freeze; thaw overnight, then reheat for about 10 minutes in a 350°F oven, tented lightly with foil, just before serving. Should work fine – PJH

  41. kswebster

    PJH- Used the bread maker for the dough and first rise. Kneaded it gently 7 times and placed in a lightly greased 10″ loaf pan. Let rise 45 minutes, spread the water/sugar per recipe, then sprinked with coarse sea salt and baked 45 minutes at 370 degrees. Tented with foil the last 10 minutes. Removed from oven and spread the melted butter (again, per recipe). This bread is increadible!!!!!!!!! We now have a pretzle bread that is better than the bread that was purchased from a German bakery from the Atlanta area. YAHOO!

  42. Rhoda

    I came across this link when I was searching for tips on reviving an unfed sourdough. Thank you for offering such detailed explanations and pictures. The instructions I had been following didn’t suggest that I feed by weight, so I had been feeding equal amounts of flour and water. Now I understand why it was so wet. I followed your instructions for getting it bubbling again, and it worked! Thanks 😉 I am an American living in New Zealand, where doughy pretzels are not part of the food culture. For the first time, I was able to enjoy a warm, baked pretzel and the fact that it came out of my own oven made it all the tastier!! I had to use rock sea salt, since there’s no such thing as pretzel salt in our stores. Nor is there non-diastatic malt. I used sugar, as suggested. But can you offer any other info on the malt, so I can see if it might exist by another name? It is just malt powder? Thank you again!

    Rhoda, you could easily substitute brown sugar for the non-diastatic malt – malted milk powder would be fine, too. Don’t stress about finding an exact substitute; it’s not that critical. Glad you enjoyed the pretzels – PJH

  43. kswebster

    I divided the dough in half and took half the dough and formed into round balls placed in a 9″ round cake pan. I let it rise, following the recipe, brushed it with butter and sprinkled with sea salt, then baked at 375 for 20-25 minutes. These made the best rolls! I froze 1/2 and took it out today – these are terrific without reheating. The salt melted somewhat with freezing, but provided a great flavor.

  44. Rhoda

    one final query …. How do I store the pretzels so that they are fresh but so the salt doesn’t melt? I’ve seen here that some people freeze them. That’s fine for long-term but for short-term? Thanks for the help!

    Rhoda, if you use coarse salt, it shouldn’t melt – be sure to keep the pretzels airtight and DRY and COOL (not refrigerated), if possible. PJH

  45. Rhoda

    Thanks PJ =) This is where not having the standard products here in New Zealand, which are readily available stateside, undermines me 🙁 I’ve only seen rock salt here in NZ, which must be more susceptible to melting. Oh well. I might try freezing the dough and then only baking them as wanted. Thanks again for the great recipe!!

    Or maybe butter and salt them just before serving, Rhoda? PJH

  46. Rsegrwr29

    These are really good, but I think the next batch I’m going to wait to butter and salt them right before we eat them. I used coarse salt and they tasted GREAT….but the next day we opened the container we’d stored our leftovers in and the salt was all blotchy and made the top of the pretzels soggy so we had to throw them out. The fresh ones from the oven were really tasty though, definitely going to save this recipe!

  47. tinasquirrel

    I just made these with our discard sourdough starter (that we got from KAF last year) and I have to say that I am very disappointed. They taste like very yummy bread sticks but they don’t taste like pretzels. I guess it’s my fault for not being more skeptical about the lack of boiling. This is the recipe that my husband uses, adapted from the Baking Illustrated book to use sourdough. These taste more authentic and are usually devoured within a day.

    Sorry these didn’t work out the way you would have liked them to, Tina. And thanks for sharing your husband’s recipe – much appreciated. PJH

  48. J.D.

    I was reading through the blog entries and was wondering where I can find the directions to parboil the pretzels before baking?

    I do not believe we have a blog post that delves into this topic! However, it is pretty simple. Bring your water and baking soda solution to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow your pretzel to boil for about one minute on one side before turning it over to boil for another 30-45 seconds. Transfer to a baking sheet using a slotted spoon or spider.-Jon

  49. Lily

    I’ve made these pretzels a few times now. They are so easy and incredibly tasty! Thank for this, I’ve bookmarked it for repeated use.

  50. Susan Richcrick

    If I would dehydrate the pretzel after baking would it result in a hard pretzel instead of a soft pretzel?
    Thank you for the recipe.
    S. R.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Unfortunately I do not believe this will work. However, there are several hard pretzel recipes out there. I would give one a try that is tailored to making this type of pretzel!-Jon

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Your theory is spot on! Shape and bake the pretzels – cool completely then freeze. You can thaw in the refrigerator, then warm in the oven or thaw and rewarm all at once in the oven. Brush with butter while they’re warm for best results. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  51. David

    These came out wonderful. My starter has not been refridgerated yet, and reliably doubles in 4-6 hours or so. Fed it last night and measured out a cup plus, without stirring. I think it was 115 grams or so, but don’t quote me.

    I used the boiled water and baking sod solution and made some very golden brown pretzels. They were done 5 minutes early, but I preheated to a higher temp.

    These pretzels had quite a bit of oven spring, and the crumb was great. Will definitely make these again. Two pinches of kosher salt was enough to season the entire batch.

  52. colleenconnors

    Made these for the first time using my sourdough starter from KAF. They are great! My sister was ready to get on a plane to come try them!
    Any suggestions on how to make them less “chewy” and softer?

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Colleen, the more fat you add to the dough, the softer and less chewy it’ll be. Try substituting 2/3 cup milk for the 3/4 cup water, and increasing the fat to 3 tablespoons; and being sure to use AP flour, not high-gluten. This should produce a softer, more dinner roll-like pretzel. Enjoy – PJH

  53. Marissa S.

    Excellent recipe! Delicious sourdough flavor with relatively low prep time. I usually use my starter for bread exclusively, but I will need to start throwing these pretzels into the mix more often. I used regular AP flour and oil in the dough instead of butter (I saved that for the top). It came out very sticky, so I can’t picture kneading it by hand, but worked beautifully in a stand mixer.

    Instead of brushing with the water mixture, I brushed them with melted butter and topped with fresh rosemary, parmesan cheese, and kosher salt. Topped again with melted butter after baking.

  54. Midwinterknits

    Like several others, I prefer to boil mine for the crust, but instead of using baking soda/water I sometimes boil with honey/water when I am making cinnamon/sugar pretzels. It gives you just a hint of sweetness. I do the same for blueberry bagels.
    My starter is a very very old one as well, passed down through family since roughly 1840’s. It has such a wonderful flavor. We call it “Uncle Rufus” (I don’t know why, but that has been it’s name for generations apparently) and the kids like to take turns feeding and playing (baking) with Uncle Rufus on the weekends and cold winter nights.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Katie, you could probably add maybe up to 1/2 cup almond flour to the pretzels, but don’t substitute it for the flour. I wouldn’t make starter with almond flour; it doesn’t have the starch the yeast needs to grow and develop. Good luck – PJH

  55. John Bottini

    These pretzels look incredible. I am always looking for a good use of my extra starter. Yes, pizza dough, bagels, waffles and pancakes are the norm but, with all of the yummy fats and sweets that are required for the end product, I need to cut back. These look like they will do the trick, but as with any first time recipe, I follow it to the letter. It is just my wife and I and the recipe makes more than we can eat fresh. Is it better to freeze them raw or par-baked. Will the end result be the same?
    Also, I live in the San Francisco area and my 4 year old starter is very healthy and strong. Is it necessary to add the commercial yeast? I normally don’t.

    1. Amy Trage

      It’s not necessary to add yeast, but the dough will be slower to rise. Since you don’t need a second rise with the pretzels, you may either freeze them raw or par-baked. ~Amy

  56. Julia S

    I have never made bread, let alone pretzels! A friend of mine loves to bake and shared his “starter” with me. Browsing through recipes I stumbled upon this and was thrilled because I didn’t want to waste the starter either!!! They came out beautiful and DELICIOUS!

  57. Vanessa

    I made these yesterday.To give them that pretzel chew, I boiled them in baking soda and water for 30 seconds and brushed them with an egg wash before baking. When they came out of the oven, I brushed them with butter. My family RAVED about them. This recipe is a keeper!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      They sound delicious, especially with that extra chewiness added in! Thanks for letting us know how everyone enjoyed them! Jocelyn@KAF

  58. Kay from Columbus Ohio

    Made these with no modifications. Baked 25 min. on Convection Bake…should have done 20 min. Other than that, they were WONDERFUL!! Next time I will omit salt on some of them.

  59. NL

    This was my first venture making and using sourdough starter and it was wonderful! I used the baking soda boil method and baked them for just 22 minutes. They came out perfectly!

    Thanks so much for the easy-to-follow recipe and all the comments and suggestions 🙂

  60. Joy from Santa Rosa, CA

    I’m about to make these sourdough pretzels and wondered about using diastatic barley malt powder instead of nondiastatic. I also have the barley malt syrup, which is nondiastatic. Thanks for the suggestions.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Joy, go with the syrup, for sure. Diastatic malt can negatively affect bread’s rise, if you use even a pinch too much. Good luck – PJH

  61. Elizabeth from Chalmette, LA

    I made the pretzels yesterday and brought them to my daughter’s house. My 6-year old granddaughter(with the sincerity of an adult) said, “mom you have got to try these. They’re delicious!” When you get the approval of a somewhat finicky 6-year old, I think that says it all.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Elizabeth, what a lovely story; and to us here at King Arthur Flour, that’s at the heart of all baking: the sharing and love that accompanies it. Thanks for sharing – PJH

  62. leslie wilson

    At a time when food waste is a serious issue, I am horrified by advice to discard sourdough starter and cannot see the point anyway. I am glad to see you suggest things to do with excess. I use my grandmother’s German technique and there is nothing there about discarding anything. I make a sponge to start the baking process off, and then save a few tablespoonfuls of the sponge for the next time. It rises very well and keeps well in the fridge when I don’t need to use it, and there is NO WASTE! Someone worked very hard to make that flour that you might throw away.

  63. thutmacher

    How do you boil the pretzel dough? Put the pretzel shaped dough on a spatula and dip it in the water? Doesn’t it take awhile to get them all boiled before you can bake them?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You actually only boil them for a very brief period to just affect the outer-most crust of the pretzel. There are specific directions for the boiling step in this recipe that you could apply to the sourdough pretzels: If you have any further questions, please feel free to call our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-2253 and we’d be happy to answer them at this time. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  64. Skater

    These were fun, and easy. I need to work on my pretzel shaping skills, mine looked weird after I baked them. Also my my dough didn’t want to roll out to 18″. It was tight, and hard to roll, any suggestions?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      There could have been a little too much flour in your dough. Also you can cover and allow your dough to rest for 15 minutes when rolling, it will help a lot. Jon@KAF

  65. Julie

    I made these and boiled in baking soda. Kind of fun –I felt like a witch( a good one) at her cauldron. The baking soda boil(10-15 seconds) yielded a beautiful rich brown pretzel color.

  66. Tonia

    I actually let these do a long, cool rise; then shaped and let rise overnight in the ‘fridge; then boiled them in molasses spiked water and then sprinkled with coarse sea salt and baked. Turned out very good! 🙂

  67. Karen

    I followed the recipe exactly, and was very impressed with the results. They turned out beautifully

    The only thing I didn’t like was the Kosher salt on top. how does the pretzel salt differ? Also what difference does the non-diastatic malt do for the recipe?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pretzel salt doesn’t dissolve as easily when it is applied to the top of the dipped pretzels. Non diastatic malt simply acts as a sugar and adds to flavor and browning. You can also substitute brown sugar, but it won’t taste quite the same. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  68. SW

    Great recipe! Just FYI, there is a pin on Pinterest that has stolen your photo for a gluten-free, low carb pretzel recipe. You may want to report the copyright infringement to Pinterest. Send me an email and I can forward you the image and pin URL.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      SW – Hello, thank you for letting us know our picture may be used in ways not intended. We would appreciate it if you could send us an email to our Customer Service Team with the link so we can further investigate. Thank you! Elisabeth@KAF

  69. g quinn

    Just baked my first pretzel sourdough batch with my excess starter (that would have gotten thrown in the bin)…they came out lovely! Soft and chewy. Recipe was easy to follow and not a bother. Will definitely do again! Thanks for the recipe.

  70. Vivian

    My KAF non-diastatic malt powder became hard as a rock and unusable. I do have some barley malt syrup. Would I be able to substitute for the powder? I wonder how much, and should the other liquids be reduced a little? Thanks! This looks lovely!

    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Vivian. Yes, barley malt syrup is fine. Up to a tablespoon, with a decrease of 1 tablespoon of the water, and you should be all set. Susan

  71. Woodworker

    A snowy day in the New Mexico mountains; too cold to work in the shop, but a great day to bake. My first attempt at pretzels and they came out great, even if I did make a few changes. I used bread flour, and since I didn’t have any dry milk, I used 2% instead of the water. I took my discard starter out of the fridge just before our electricity went off, so it sat out for a few hours and actually started to work. As a result, I had a good rise in about 20 minutes. Brushed with the sugar water and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. The tops didn’t get as brown as I expected, so I might try the baking soda boil next time. Great recipe, Thanks!

  72. Regina

    These pretzels were delicious and quite easy to make. However, once they cooled, the crust turned very hard. Is this normal? Are these supposed to be eaten right out of the oven?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Regina, pretzels are one of those treats that really are best eaten soon after baking, as they do tend to get hard as time goes on. That being said, they should still be soft on the first day, even when cooled, so perhaps they were slightly over-baked, or maybe there was a touch too much flour in the recipe. Make sure to weigh your ingredients, that will help ensure consistent and delicious baked goods each time! Bryanna@KAF

  73. Ally

    I am new to creating my starter and we are on day 5. Still not what I would call “very active” or ready for the fridge though I do see some bubbles at each 12 hour feeding. I am happy to keep going along this way until the starter is ready. But, can I still use some of the discard from a feeding for a recipe such as this? We are anxious to try it out!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you starter is rising happily in its container (about doubled in volume) and is showing some signs of beginning to head back down (fragile to the touch), your starter is ripe, active and ready to be used as a “fed” starter. If it takes longer than 5 days to get here, take 2-5 more. It can take that long to get to know your starter, sometimes. Oh yes, please do use the unfed (discard) starter in recipes, such as this one. Absolutely! Elisabeth@KAF

  74. Beth Bliese

    Yeast Beasties!! Betty, What a hoot! Made me chuckle.

    Everyone’s so worried about their sourdough starter. I agree with PJ, just relax and use it.

    I’m trying to figure out what dipping sauce to use with these pretzels.

    I’m not real crazy about the “taste” of the boiled dough flavor so will make these per directions not to mention a little more work.

  75. Marah

    Will these freeze well? I’m wanting to give them as Christmas gifts and need to cook ahead. Also, how long would they keep after I take them out if the freezer if that’s an option?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Marah, one of the benefits of baking with sourdough is that it helps extend the shelf life of your baked goods, so these pretzels will stay tasty if stored in an air tight container at room temperature for about 4-5 days. Reheating to serve is recommended to help make them more delicious. You can also certainly freeze the baked pretzels in a ziplock bag for 1-2 months. Pretzels that have been frozen will last for about 2-3 days after they’re taken out of the freezer, and again, warming before serving is recommended. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  76. Andrea

    These are the best. Making double batch again tomorrow. Some to bake. Some to freeze. Freeze right after you pretzel twist them. Take out of freezer. Thaw on cookie sheet. Once room temp them do the soda water boil, salt and bake. Perfect like fresh. I use less flour. Start with 2 1/2 cup flour. To dry first time and had to add water. Still Delish. I use saracha salt. Also honey instead of malt or sugar.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you throw pretzels away, you’ll have some very sad people who wish they could have eaten them when they were fresh from the oven! (We might be missing your question here—feel free to give the Baker’s Hotline a call to clarify: 855-371-BAKE(2253). Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Laurie, in recipes that contain baking soda or baking powder, swapping out the dry milk powder for dry buttermilk may change the texture and rise of your baked goods. However, since this recipe uses yeast and a sourdough starter to get its lift, you should be just fine to make the swap. You could also use lukewarm milk in place of the water in the recipe to get a similarly delicious result. Happy pretzel making! Kye@KAF

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