soft german lye pretzels

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5 from 6 reviews

This German pretzel recipe will give you perfectly soft, fluffy, chewy pretzels. Lye is a must for a glossy brown crust and classic pretzel flavor.

  • Author: Indi Hampton
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Lye bath
  • Cuisine: German


  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1/2 cup beer (your favorite wheat beer, pilsner or lager)
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbsp butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp food-grade lye
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash
  • Flaky salt (such as Maldon), for sprinkling


  1. Pour water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add brown sugar and whisk by hand to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast over the surface and let sit a few minutes, until foamy. Add beer, flour, butter and salt and stir with a large spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Knead by hand in the bowl a few times until dough comes together. It will be firm and slightly tacky. Add more water (a teaspoon at a time) if dough is very dry or more flour (a tablespoon at a time) if very sticky. Attach the dough hook and knead with the machine on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, 5- 7 minutes.
  2. Grease a large bowl with butter and place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours, and up to 30 hours. For quick pretzels, let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 1 1/2- 2 hours. 
  3. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto an un-floured work surface and gently deflate. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Cover dough pieces with a clean, damp dish towel and shape one piece at a time. Flatten the dough piece into a rectangle, about 3 inches by 5 inches. Starting with the long edge, roll the rectangle into a tight tube and pinch seam together. Roll out tube, leaving about 2 inches in the center unrolled for the "belly". Firmly press down and out as you roll, until pretzel rope measures about 26 inches long. Spritz your work surface with a bit of water, if needed, to prevent the dough from slipping. If the dough starts to spring back and resist the rolling, let it rest a few minutes and continue once it has relaxed.
  4. Form the rope into a "U" shape. Cross the arms twice, about 3 inches from the ends, then fold down and press the ends of the rope at 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock on the pretzel. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat shaping remaining dough. Cover loosely with a clean dish towel and let rise 20- 30 minutes, until puffy but not doubled in size. 
  5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500°F and prepare lye bath. Fill a large stainless steel pot with 8 cups of water. Carefully sprinkle in lye, then stir to dissolve. When pretzels are ready, heat lye bath over medium high heat until you begin to see steam rise from the surface. Turn off heat and begin dipping. Place a pretzel on a large skimmer and gently transfer it to the lye bath. Let the pretzel float for 10 seconds, then carefully flip it and soak another 10 seconds. Flip the pretzel so it’s right side up and return it to the baking sheet. If pretzel shape comes apart, put on gloves or use a fork to reposition it. Repeat lye dip with remaining pretzels.
  6. Brush pretzels with egg wash, sprinkle with flaky salt, and score the belly of the pretzel with a sharp knife. Bake for 8- 10 minutes, or until pretzels are a rich, glossy brown color. Let cool a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!


Reheat in the oven at 350°F for about 5 minutes, or until heated through.

Store in an airtight container for 2- 3 days, or freeze, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months. Heat frozen pretzels in the oven for 10- 15 minutes at 350°F.

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.