Pretzel Sandwich Rolls: something to crow about

One dark, early February morning, I woke up from a sound sleep with these two words in my head:

Pretzel buns.

Had I read about pretzel buns in a food magazine? Seen them online?

Maybe they were somewhere on the Food Network (watching “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” being one of my favorite brain-candy pastimes).

Whatever their provenance, I was now seeing golden brown twists of dense bread, sliced into top and bottoms and cradling barbecued chicken.

That’s right, chicken. Because chicken had also been on my mind, seeing as it’s the #1 most searched for recipe term online.

It seems EVERYONE wants chicken recipes. I regularly check a Google site that lists search terms in order of how many people are using them.

When I type in “chicken recipe,” here’s what comes up (imagine the words “chicken recipe” succeeding each of the words or phrases below):

“Fried, rotisserie, leftover, whole, teriyaki, baked, slow cooker, good, canned, quick, and simple.”

To say nothing of “ground, best, stuffed, easy, curry, Chinese, orange, great, fast, roast, bbq, sesame, barbecue…”

BBQ. Barbecue! Now there’s a way to marry chicken recipes with flour – a substantial amount of flour, not just the amount you’d use to flour your drumsticks before frying.

After all, our business goal here is to encourage you to bake with King Arthur Flour. No brag, just fact: it’s the best, most consistent national brand of flour you can buy. We’re justly proud of our flour, and we want the whole world to enjoy it.

So, the most-searched-for recipes online (chicken) + the best flour = well, buns, of course!

Pretzel Sandwich Rolls, to be exact.

Dense, chewy, golden twists, perfect for a piece of [fried, rotisserie, leftover, teriyaki, baked, orange, roast, BARBECUE) chicken!

Place the following ingredients in a mixing bowl:

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder, optional
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 to 3/4 cup lukewarm water (about 105°F)*

*Use the greater amount of water in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

Beat until well-combined.

Knead the dough (by hand or mixer) for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack.

To make the dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, and remove the dough.

This dough is also a great candidate for your food processor. Place everything but the water in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

Dust the dough with flour, and place it in a large bag; securing the top of the bag to keep out drafts (and retain moisture). Let the dough rest and rise for 45 minutes.

Alternatively, transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 45 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the topping. Combine 1 cup boiling water with 2 tablespoons baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).

Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into six equal pieces; each piece will be about 90g, or 3 1/4 ounces. Shape the pieces into rough logs about 6″ long. Allow the logs to rest, lightly covered, for 15 minutes.

Roll each piece of dough into a 15″ rope, and tie each rope into a knot. Tuck the ends of the rope into the center of the knot to make a round bun.

Pour the baking soda/water into a 9″ round cake pan.

Place the buns in the pan, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda “bath” will give the buns a nice, golden-brown color.

Allow the buns to rest in the pan, uncovered, for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 450°F.

Bake the buns for 5 minutes. Tent them lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and feel set on the bottom (when you pull one out of the oven and carefully poke its bottom).

Remove the buns from the oven.

Brush them with melted butter, if desired; this will give them a soft, buttery crust.

Serve immediately; or cool, then wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

When ready to serve, warm the buns gently on your barbecue grill, if desired.

Split each bun, and fill with boneless grilled chicken, a hamburger, veggie burger, or your favorite grilled treat.

Read, bake, and review (please! – see below) our recipe for Pretzel Sandwich Rolls.

Print just the recipe.

Postscript: This recipe, as originally written, represents many little failures on my part. And, much as I hate to admit to them in print, these failures point out one of the key features of our recipe site: reader reviews.

With a million projects begging for attention, I was in a hurry to get this recipe done and posted online. And in the process, I messed up several steps. Working from an older recipe on our site, I neglected to change a few key pieces: like making six buns, instead of eight. And letting the buns rise a bit before baking.

Thank goodness, the first two reviewers gave this recipe just one star out of a possible five. OUCH! I read what they had to say, looked over the recipe, and sure enough: the problems they’d experienced were due in part to my sloppy recipe writing.

I decided I’d best not only rewrite, but retest the recipe; and in the process found myself making several more tweaks, to yield a better final product.

So, my thanks to reviewers “sam from Boise, Id.” and “lcjmsass from KAF Community.” Sometimes it takes a community to make a successful 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. darcy.c

    First, kudos to you for the re-write – love your honesty! Second, the minute I saw these I knew I had to make them, bbq chicken and all. I’ve always been intimidated by the soda bath step but you made it so clear and easy it wasn’t the least bit intimidating! The rolls are out of the oven, they look and smell amazing and I feel like a baking rock star, thanks to you 🙂

    Also I make bbq chicken by cooking chicken breasts in the crock pot, shredding them when cooled a bit and adding our favorite bottled bbq sauce – so easy! We also like to add blue cheese slaw by mixing angel hair coleslaw (bagged) with blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. It’s a southern thing to put slaw right on your bbq sandwich and I never cared for it until I tried it with blue cheese – warm, spicy bbq, and cool, crunchy, tangy slaw – yum!

    Thanks again for the great recipe, I have a feeling we’ll be using it a LOT this summer!

  2. Anne

    Amy, thanks for your response. Yes it’s annoying not being able to catch the links, but I get around the problem by logging directly onto KAF website. So no harm done. Thanks so much for offering to help though. As so many of your readers/customers have expressed here, you guys are exceptionally caring and responsive in running your business. Continue success and carry on your good work!

  3. Anne

    I like the shape of these Pretzel Buns, and will definitely try this knot on my next batch of dinner rolls. I did make the Ciabatta Buns yesterday. As the dough was going into its final rise, I saw this posting and was inspired by the poultry seasoning suggested in these Pretzel Buns. I thought of the complimentary bottle of turkish seasoning that I received recently from a spice company and added some of this spice mix into half of the dough. With or without the turkish seasoning, the Ciabatta Buns came out great. A bit more work than making a single loaf, but the buns made cute looking sandwiches. For breakfast this morning I served scrambled eggs with homemade cranberry sauce garnished with homegrown baby romaine lettuce on a home-baked Ciabatta Bun. (After years of working 70-hours plus weeks, I am now partly retired and can do all these home stuff.)
    I also want to thank KAF for sending me those witty emails. Often the subject line alone brings a smile to my face. Obviously someone put some thought into these emails! For those of you who haven’t signed up, I say don’t miss out! But the links on the email nine times out of ten do not connect me to the intended page . I wonder why.
    I apologize for the inconvenience. We have found that when this occurs, it is often due to security settings implemented by certain internet providers. Please give us a call and we would be happy to guide you. ~Amy

  4. Janet

    Can you please figure out a gluten-free recipe for these buns. I love pretzel rolls. Being gluten-free has it’s downers.

    Sorry, Janet, that would be impossible, given their texture – heavily dependent on gluten. But try these dinner rolls – I think you’ll be pleased with them. PJH

  5. ebenezer94

    Definitely need some BBQ chicken pretzel bun sandwiches right now! Got to get some whole wheat flour in there though. Bit hot to turn on the oven today. Maybe tomorrow. I’ve been out of bread for days…. I need a summer kitchen. I have a toaster oven for that purpose, but isn’t tall enough for a proper loaf of bread. Might do for a half recipe of buns.

    Bet the toaster oven would work well for these, you’re right – just bake half the recipe at a time. Go for it! PJH

  6. mom244evermom

    These look amazing, I can’t wait to try them, I know my son is going to love them. Thank you. Thank you too for being such a responsive company; correcting this recipe, the Baker’s Hotline, online help. I only buy KAF and will do anything I can to support your company, you’ve helped my bread baking skills grow so much I no longer buy bread of any kind for my family.

    Wow, that makes me feel really good – 100% homemade bread. There are some traditions I wish our culture hadn’t lost, and that’s one of them. Thanks for “paying it forward” – and treating your family to great bread. Thanks for your kind words, too! PJH

  7. Joyce

    You left me looking for the barbeque chicken part of the recipe. It looks so good. Can you tell me where to find that? Thank you

    Sorry, Joyce, no recipe – all I do is brush boneless chicken thighs with bottled barbecue sauce, and cook on the grill. Readers, if anyone wants to share their special barbecued chicken recipe, please do! PJH

  8. MGW960W

    After reading the humble Mea Culpa, I had to bake these. (We all make mistakes, but few people and fewer companies correct them so quickly and graciously.) The buns are fabulous! The dough feels heavenly and the taste (with onion powder) is delicious.

    I followed the recipe exactly, but wondered why the rise is conducted in a plastic bag instead of a bowl. I prefer to keep plastic away from my precious dough as much as possible.

    Keep up the good work, PJ., and thanks for another great recipe.
    So glad that you enjoyed the rolls! You can definitely use a covered, greased bowl for rising in place of the plastic bag. Enjoy! ~Mel @ KAF


  9. Vicky

    Looks good. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think I’ll give it a try.

    One small nit to pick: you say to tie each rope of dough into a square knot, but that’s not what’s pictured. A square knot is “right over left and left over right.” You have the first half a square knot pictured, which I think is called an overhand knot. If someone were to tie a square knot in that dough they might be a little confused about why it wasn’t looking right.

    Sorry, I know it’s picky. You can blame it on my cub scouting background.

    Thanks, Vicky – my brother was a Cub Scout and my son is an Eagle Scout, but clearly I wasn’t paying attention for that merit badge! 🙂 I’ll fix it… PJH

  10. Irene in T.O.

    Your test kitchen runs at 80F and that has a lot more to do with how your yeast doughs rise than the water temperature.

    Most of us keep (or live in homes kept by landlords) at 65F.

    Maybe you guys should build a reverse temperature proofing box that sits at 65F so that you can approximate how the real world bakes your recipes.

    Irene, I actually bake at home for just that reason – I want to do my blogs in a real home kitchen. My house is about 58°F-60°F in winter, then rises with the outdoor temperature and can get up to 90°F+ in summer – no AC. When these buns were tested, it was probably 64°F or so… Good idea about the reverse proof box, though! PJH


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