German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (2024)

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German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (1)

by: Gerhild Fulson / Cookbook Author, Blogger, German Oma!

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Let me, Oma, show you how to make this German pretzel recipe without lye using an easy trick. Using BAKED baking soda (my NEW method), your pretzels will remind you of Oktoberfest all year long.

This method of how to make homemade pretzels, aka Brezeln, is so easy. Crispy on the outside, yet with a soft center. It's a beginner-easy recipe that will have you hooked on homemade pretzels.

Why, you can even make pretzel buns, aka Laugenbrötchen, using the same method. Make them either round or oblong and as small or as large as you want.

NOTE:I've changed the recipe since I first posted it, so you'll want to take a look at how I make it now. It's even better and actually easier.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (4)

Making authentic German pretzels involves dunking into a caustic lye bath, lye being sodium hydroxide. The recipe below is a lot safer and here's how. Make Oma's German pretzels by dunking into a BAKED baking soda solution.

Laugenbrötchen and Brezeln

The only pretzel I knew over here in Canada was that little hard pretzel. Those small little hard, salty things one buys in bags as snack foods.

They're alright, but I always wondered what people saw in them. When I saw them for sale in Germany, large and bread-like, I just never bothered with them.

That is, until my recent trip to Germany. Accidentally, I had a Laugenbrötchen. It looked very similar to the German soft pretzels, only it was a round roll with cuts in the top and sprinkled with coarse salt. After that, I indulged in traditional Bavarian pretzels whenever I could!

Oh my, delicious!

This started my quest for the perfect German recipe for pretzels. Since they aren't available at a grocery store where I live, I need to make them when I get a craving.

In the traditional way of using lye pretzels take on a wonderful distinctive flavor and color. Using lye for authentic pretzels that taste like they came from a German bakery requires the use of rubber gloves and safety glasses!

I wanted something a little bit, make that a whole lot, safer and easier.

It's been a continuous quest for that easy recipe and I just recently discovered (thanks to Harold McGeein the NY Times) to BAKE the baking soda instead of using a plain baking soda mixture in boiling water in a large pot that most non-lye recipes use.

The recipe below will make 12 medium-sized pretzels or 10 medium-sized rolls. You can make them smaller or larger, depending on how you plan to use them.

Celebrate Oktoberfest right at home with these German recipes found right here in Oma's Oktoberfest e-Cookbook.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (5)

Take a peek at all Oma's eCookbooks. They make sharing your German heritage a delicious adventure!

What is BAKED baking soda?

Simply put, by baking the baking soda, a chemical reaction occurs that turns sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into sodium carbonate, a stronger alkali, a slightly more caustic soda.

This makes a stronger alkaline solution to dunk the raw pretzels in and gives that wonderful golden brown color and more pretzel-y taste.

Think washing soda, because that's what sodium carbonate is. But don't use washing soda for this, since that isn't sold as food grade. Instead, you're going to make your own food-grade batch to use.

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear some type of latex gloves when dunking your unbaked pretzels. I found using a large slotted spoon or a spider, works as well.

How to make BAKED baking soda:

Using BAKED baking soda for the baking soda wash is a great alternative to plain baking soda. BTW, this baked baking soda can also be used for homemade ramen noodles.

Either make just what you need as you start to make your pretzel dough or make enough to store for future use as well.

Here's how to make Baked Baking Soda:

  • Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spread baking soda in a thin, even layer.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.
  • Let cool and place in a well-sealed airtight container to store. Keep at room temperature.

For an authentic pretzel recipe (using lye) from a Bavarian baker's son:

Here's a photo sent in by a Bavarian baker's son. He continues with his dad's tradition of making these Laugenbrezelnwith a food-grade lye solution, so if that's the recipe you'd like,check it out here.

Go to recipe >

Oma says,

AmongOktoberfest recipes,this Pretzel recipe below should be a must. It's actually quite easy to make.

Do as the Germans do and cut them in half and slather with butter.

Or, be American and dip into a cheese sauce or honey mustard, make that German mustard.

Served right out of the oven, you'll soon be in love with these too. If you like sweet pretzels, then omit the sprinkling of salt and brush with melted butter once out of the oven. Then dip them into a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Here's the simple way to make Pretzels

Start by baking the baking soda so it will be ready to use when you need it. Then, make the simple yeast dough and let it rise until doubled in volume.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (7)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (8)

Form the classic Bavarian pretzel shape with a fatter centre and crossed ends.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (9)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (10)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (11)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (12)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (13)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (14)

Make the baked baking soda bath and dunk the pretzels (or the buns).

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (15)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (16)

Slit pretzels, sprinkle with salt, and bake.

Easy peasy.

Yummy in my tummy!

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (17)

The ones above look "rustic" because I was having fun playing with different ways to "fold" them. The result though, delicious and looking totally homemade. The BEST!

If you want them to be the same size, you'll need to weigh the dough pieces to keep the size the same. I usually don't bother, unless it's for company. Then I'm a bit more careful with size and fold. The ones above were just for hubby and me to indulge in.


Yep. Hummus. Sylvie, my daughter-in-law, shares thathummus is delicious with this. Her easy hummus recipeis so quick to make and it's becoming wildly popular in Germany. Try it. I think you'll like it too!

Ready to make these German pretzels?

Is the recipe below locked?Here'swhy.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (19)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel

This method of how to make pretzels, aka Brezel, is among the easiest I've found. They are crispy on the outside, yet soft on the inside.

Originally I used simmering baking soda solution and the pretzels were good. Now, I use a BAKED baking soda bath instead and the pretzels are so much better! You can also divide into the dough into 10 and make Laugenbrötchen, pretzel rolls.


Makes 12 pretzels or 10 rolls


  • 6 tablespoons (108 grams) baking soda
  • ½ cup (120 milliliter) lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup (180 milliliter) lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) soft butter
  • 3½ cups (455 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
  • 3 cups (720 milliliters) hot water
  • coarse sea salt to sprinkle


  1. Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C). Line a baking sheet with foil and spread baking soda in a thin, even layer. Bake for one hour. Meanwhile make the pretzel dough. Once the soda has baked, remove and set aside to cool.
  2. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Add the lukewarm water and sugar into a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix in the yeast and let stand 10 minutes until bubbly. Add the milk and stir.
  4. Blend in the butter, 3 cups of flour, and salt into the yeast mixture. Let the dough hook knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed until the dough is smooth, elastic and not sticky.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or put the bowl in a plastic bag and let the dough rise for 45 to 60 minutes in a draft-free warm place until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C).
  7. To make Pretzels: On the work surface, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Create the classic pretzel shape by rolling each piece of dough into an 18-inch long rope, keeping the center thicker than the ends. Form into a U shape. Cross the ends of the rope over each other twice about 3-inches from the end. Fold the ends down and press to the curved part at the 4-and 8-o'clock positions.
  8. To make Rolls: On the work surface, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball by placing it into one hand. With the other fingers, pull up the outside edges and pinch into the middle several times, dusting fingers with flour if needed.
  9. Place pretzels/rolls onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover with a towel and let rise 15 minutes in a warm spot. Remove towel and rise another 15 minutes, letting the surface dry to form a slight skin.
  10. Prepare the soda bath. Using a large bowl (non-reactive material or glass bowl), gradually whisk in the cooled baked baking soda into the 3 cups of water (hot) until dissolved.
  11. Dip pretzels/rolls using your fingers or a slotted spoon, one at a time, into the soda bath for about 3 seconds for pretzels and 3 seconds each side for rolls. Remove, give a gently shake to remove excess moisture, and put back on the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. Slit the thick center of the pretzels with a sharp knife or razor blade. For the rolls, slit a cross on the top. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  13. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until nicely browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. These homemade German pretzels and pretzel rolls are best enjoyed while still warm.


  • Replace 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 cup of whole wheat flour or bread flour.
  • Pretzel salt or kosher salt can also be used for sprinkling.
  • Pretzels are wonderful brushed with melted butter right after they are baked.
  • If you have sensitive skin, use gloves when dipping pretzels.
  • For a deeper color, you can brush with an egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water) before sprinkling with salt and baking.
  • If you want a chewier crust, dip into the baked baking soda solution for a few seconds longer.

* * * * *

Unless otherwise noted recipe, images and content © Just like Oma |

09.07.2021 revision update

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German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (31)

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) ~ Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel

By Oma Gerhild Fulson

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (32)

Oma shows how to make this German pretzel recipe without lye using an easy trick. Using BAKED baking soda, these pretzels will remind you of Oktoberfest all year long.

Ingredients: yeast,sugar,butter,milk,all-purpose flour,salt,baking soda,coarse sea salt,

For the full recipe, scroll up ...

Words to the Wise

"A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it, but knowledge comes easily to those with understanding."

Proverbs 14:6 (NLT)

Top of German Pretzel Recipe

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) – Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel (2024)


Can pretzels be made without lye? ›

You shape it into that iconic shape, then you dip it in an alkaline solution (the baked baking soda and water). It's a small percentage of baking soda to water. You dip the pretzels into the solution, put them on a baking sheet, pop them in the oven and then you have freshly made pretzels.

What is the secret ingredient which makes a pretzel taste like a pretzel? ›

But it's the distinctive "pretzel" flavor that makes this bread extraordinary. That comes from dipping the shaped dough in an alkaline solution — traditionally a small amount of food-grade lye dissolved in water — before baking.

What is a good substitute for lye bath for pretzels? ›

The most benign substitute for lye is baking soda. You'll get a little bit of browning and some chew, but don't expect it to taste very pretzel-y. You can also used baked baking soda, which is a stronger alkali than baking soda but not as caustic as lye.

What is the difference between German and Bavarian pretzels? ›

Pretzels in Germany

The major difference between pretzels in different regions is their thickness. For example, the Swabian pretzels have thin “arms” and a fat “belly." They are quite rich in fat content. Whereas, in the Bavarian region the “arms” are thick and they have thin “bellies” to avoid the extra fat.

What is a substitute for lye? ›

In this method, you're replacing lye with baking soda, both of which are alkalies. However, lye is much stronger than baking soda. Heating up baking soda in the oven turns it from sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate, making it a slightly stronger alkali that'll better replace the lye.

Is baking soda better than lye for pretzels? ›

Lye has a pH of around 13 whereas baking soda has a pH of around 8. This extra alkalinity accelerates the Maillard reaction, allowing that caramelization to develop on the exterior of the pretzels. That ultra deep color and slightly crispy, crunchy exterior crust is only made possible with lye.

What is the secret ingredient in pretzels? ›

According to King Arthur Baking, lye and caustic sodas are used in the process of baking pretzels because lye's reaction to the pretzels, much like baking soda, gives them that chewy texture, light interior, and brown crust.

What is the secret to making pretzels? ›

But the secret to making the best pretzels at home is, in fact, the use of lye. “The key to getting the perfect pretzel bite is that its traditionally dipped in an alkaline solution, which is food-grade lye. It can be a little scary to work with for a home cook if they never worked with it before,” she says.

Why boil pretzel dough in baking soda? ›

Furthermore, we've introduced the baking soda bath. While it sounds strange, this step is what gives pretzels that iconic flavor, chewy texture, helps deepen their golden color in the oven, and locks in the super soft interior.

Why do German pretzels use lye? ›

Dipping the dough in a lye solution gives traditional German pretzels their characteristic salinity; chew; and smooth mahogany exterior, but the strong alkali (sodium hydroxide) is corrosive and can burn your skin, so it must be handled with caution.

What is the best substitute for lye water? ›

Salt crystals or powders that do the same job as lye water include:
  • bicarbonate soda (bicarb)
  • sodium carbonate.
  • sodium bicarbonate.
  • lye salt.
  • uvusaaru.
  • combo.
  • soda ash.
  • magadi soda.

Does Auntie Anne's use lye or baking soda? ›

That's kind of the point of this post, after all. Well, the cheery ladies were very clear with me: they do NOT use lye. No sodium hydroxide/poison/caustic soda—none whatsoever—in their pretzels. (They do, however, dip their pretzels in a baking soda solution.)

What is the difference between a bavarian pretzel and a soft pretzel? ›

Unlike their American counterpart, Bavarian pretzels pack a denser, chewier inside and a darker, crispier outside. And there's a certain "tang" to the Bavarian-style pretzel that sets it apart from other soft pretzels. But best of all, it doesn't need to be dipped in cheese or drenched in butter to taste delicious!

What makes German pretzels so good? ›

The main difference to note between the more “American-style” pretzels and German pretzels is an ingredient called lye. Put simply, it's a “bath” pretzels soak in before the cooking is completed. Baking soda can be a substitute, however lye is the more “traditional” method.

What is the difference between German pretzels and soft pretzels? ›

Unlike American soft pretzel, which are nice and plump, German-style pretzel dough is a slightly leaner dough with less butter in it. The Bavarian pretzel dough first starts out with a pre-ferment, which allows for the yeast to get a kick start and give the pretzel more flavor and dimension.

Do all pretzels contain lye? ›

Finally, and most importantly, German-style pretzels, are dipped in a lye solution, while American soft pretzels usually rely on an easier baking soda dip. Both baking soda and lye are alkaline solutions that caramelize and create the signature bitter crust on pretzels.

Do all pretzels use lye? ›

That ultra-deep color and slightly crispy, crunchy exterior crust is only made possible with lye. Lye is what professional bakers use, and it's what's authentic in a traditional Bavarian pretzel!

Why do pretzels need lye? ›

It's also used to provide authentic Bavarian-style pretzels with that golden color, rich flavor and sheen. Lye affects the baking process in pretzels by speeding up the Maillard reaction that occurs on the outside of the pretzels as they bake.

What is the alkaline solution for pretzels? ›

Pretzels get their signature dark colour, slightly metallic flavour and chewy-leathery exterior from being dipped in a solution of water and food-grade lye, a strong alkaline ingredient. In the kitchen, baking soda is far more common, but it's a weaker alkali, so doesn't produce quite as dramatic an effect.

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