These dark brown, salty, and slightly bitter sourdough beer pretzels get their tangy flavor from a combination of dark beer and sourdough starter. I like them best in a classic pretzel shape but I've tested this dough with so many shapes and you really can't go wrong.
I've included notes in the post for how to make different shapes and different boiling and baking times too so you can really get creative and make whatever shape of sourdough beer pretzels you like best.
Given how much my husband loves pretzels (it's his family's #1 snack), it's honestly shocking that's taken this long to get a pretzel recipe up on the site (he loves my pretzel bagel recipe, but they're just not the same as real pretzels). He also loves beer — he's always trying new beer flavors and brands and has a collection of interesting bottle caps that he swears he's going to do something with someday. So this recipe really combines his fave things.
We ate so many pretzels while testing this and I don't think he ever got sick of them.
This pretzel dough is really smooth and soft and elastic and just a dream to work with. I've had so-so luck with various pretzel recipes before, but this one never lets me down. The dough is easy to shape and roll; not so sticky that it sticks to your counter, but sticky enough to stick to itself when you're shaping it.
The combination of the dark beer and sourdough flavor with the baking soda bath gives the crust just the right amount of pretzel-y bitterness. The baking soda solution is a no frills situation — just a single bath in a mixture of baking soda and water — no need for baked baking soda or a complicated boil-then-rinse set up.
I used this sourdough discard pretzel recipe from the blog Cookie Madness as a starting point; It's a great recipe, but I've adapted the instructions and ingredients list a bit to accommodate the beer and make the dough a little easier to handle.
I removed the sugar from the recipe entirely — the beer adds plenty — and added a short autolyse stage (a 10 minute rest for the starches in the flour to hydrate) before adding the salt which gives the dough a little more structure and strength as you roll and shape it.
Five ways to shape pretzel dough
- Classic pretzel shape: Roll a 30" rope, make it into a U-shape, twist the ends together twice, then fold them down and stick them to the bottom of the U.
- Fat rod pretzels: roll a 16” rope. Cut in half and roll the ends gently to even them out.
- Pretzel nuggets: Roll a long rope about ¾” thick, cut it in half, then cut each half into halves about 2" long.
- Thin pretzel rods: Roll a ½” thick rope, split it in half lengthwise and roll each half ¼” thick. Cut each rope in half for pretzels that are about 8-10" long.
- Pretzel twists: Roll a 16” long rope about ½" thick. Cut it in half. Make an X shape and twist the two ropes from the center out. Pinch the ends together.
Boiling and baking times for different pretzel shapes
This dough is really very all-purpose in terms of pretzel shapes. You can divide the dough up and make lots of different shapes from one batch, or make one batch with all the same shape. I did a poll on Instagram to ask which shape people most wanted a recipe for and the results were so all over the place that I ended up testing the 5 top requested ones so you can choose which one(s) you want to make.
|Classic||45 seconds||12-14 minutes|
|Fat logs||45 seconds||12-14 minutes|
|Twists||45 seconds||12-14 minutes|
|Nuggets||30 seconds||11-13 minutes|
|Thin sticks||10 seconds||9-11 minutes|
They all bake at 450F on a silicone or parchment lined sheet pan. They're done when they're deeply browned — though some spots might still be pale or golden in color.
A few quick recipe tips
- This recipe uses instant yeast for a fast, reliable rise. Scientifically speaking, the sourdough starter and beer are mostly here to provide flavor. The beer also provides sugar, which is important for getting the color on the crust.
- If you only have active dry yeast, stir it in with the starter and beer and give it 3-5 minutes to hydrate before you add the flour and butter.
- You can use sourdough discard that hasn't been fed for a few days, or you can use recently fed starter that is at its peak. A more active sourdough starter will give you slightly more rise in the finished pretzels while a more mature (unfed) discard starter will give you a stronger sourdough flavor. My preference is to use starter that's been fed 48-72 hours earlier.
- The baking soda bath is ⅓ cup baking soda for every 5 cups water. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to increase the amount of water bath you have. The water should be deep enough for the pretzels to float. Keeping the ratio consistent is important — too little baking soda and you'll end up with something closer to bagels. Too much baking soda and the pretzels will have an unpleasantly soapy taste.
- I finished these with pretzel salt, but I also did a batch with Maldon's Flaky Sea Salt which looks like giant crystallized pyramids and is equally good.
Then I don't recommend this recipe. I haven't tested it without using sourdough starter. You could try increasing the amount of beer and the amount of flour by 57 grams each (a total of 114 grams) to make up for it, but you'll definitely lose out on flavor.
Yes! Otherwise they won't have the shiny, deeply browned classic pretzel crust. Boiling them in a baking soda bath gelatinizes the crust and creates a chemical reaction that makes pretzels... pretzels.
Then you should use this recipe on the Cookie Madness blog, which I used as a base for adapting my recipe.
You can, but they won't taste as good. The sourdough and the beer have such strong flavors that you really need the slight sweetness and, um, butteryness (is that a word?) of the butter to balance them out.
Try these sourdough discard scallion pancakes!
sourdough beer pretzels
- 113 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter (or discard) (½ cup)
- 113 grams Beer (½ cup)
- 280 grams All-purpose flour (a scant two cups; this is why you should use a scale!)
- 28 grams unsalted butter (2 TBSP, melted)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (use 2x of another brand)
- 1 large egg
- pretzel salt (for finishing)
- 5 cups water
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- Combine sourdough starter and beer in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour, butter, and yeast. Mix until a shaggy dough forms. It will seem very dry and lumpy. Cover and rest 10 minutes.
- While the dough rests, mix 2 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and mix to dissolve the salt.
- After 10 minutes, the dough should look slightly more hydrated and less dry. Drizzle the salt water over the dough and use your hand in a pinching motion to squeeze the salt into the dough. Fold the dough over itself a few times to incorporate the salt.
- Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead on low until the dough forms a messy ball around the hook, then increase speed to just below medium and knead 4-5 minutes until smooth and soft.
- Shape the dough into a ball by folding the dough over itself and tucking the ends under so you have a smooth surface. Place dough back in the bowl, cover, and let rest 45-60 minutes in a warm spot until just about doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- When the hour is almost up, whisk together 5 cups of water and ⅓ cup baking soda in a wide, high-sided skillet. Bring to a low boil. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.
- Divide dough in 6 equal pieces using a kitchen scale for precision (they should be around 94 grams each). Roll the first piece into a 30" rope. Bend the rope into a U-shape, cross the ends over each other a few times, then fold the twist down and press the ends of each rope down on the bottom curve of the U in a classic pretzel shape. Repeat until all pretzels are shaped.
- Boil pretzels in baking soda solution for 45 seconds. Remove to prepared sheet pan.
- Brush boiled pretzels with egg wash and top with pretzel salt. Bake 12-14 minutes until deeply browned.
- Let cool on sheet pan for 5 minutes, then remove to rack to finish cooling.
- Recipe adapted from Cookie Madness
- I tested these primarily with Firestone Walker's Mind Haze Double IPA because they sent me a bunch to try in a PR sample, but you can use any beer you like.