These sourdough soft pretzels are made with leftover sourdough starter discard and served with a creamy homemade beer cheese dip. They're soft, chewy and surprisingly easy to make!
Why This Recipe Works
These soft pretzels are super easy to make and require minimal hands on time! Since we use commercial yeast to help out the sourdough starter, they only have to rise for an hour!
There's a two step cooking process involving boiling the pretzels in baking soda and then baking in the oven, that yields super chewy soft pretzels with the perfect texture!
This recipe make 8 medium sized pretzels, but it's super easy to make them larger or smaller. Or cut them into pretzel bites, or homemade pretzel buns!
Don’t have a sourdough starter? Never fear! Just check out my Sourdough Guide for all my tips and tricks!
- Sourdough starter - I typically use leftover sourdough discard to make these buns because I always need to use up extra discard, but ripe sourdough starter works just as well! This recipe uses a little bit of yeast to help it rise, so the sourdough is just for that tangy flavor.
- Bread Flour - I use bread flour to make the pretzels a little bit chewier, but you can easily substitute all purpose flour. You just made need 2-3 extra tablespoons of flour.
- Instant Yeast - The yeast helps the dough rise so that we can use sourdough discard. But I've included notes at the end of the recipe for making these sourdough pretzels without yeast!
- Whole Milk - The whole milk helps add flavor to the pretzels, but you can substitute skim milk or water if necessary.
- Non-diastatic malt powder - You can leave this out if you can't get your hands on it, but I highly recommend it! Non-diastatic malt powder gives pretzels and bagels their distinct flavor and shiny crust.
- Pretzel salt - This is a MUST! Pretzel salt doesn't dissolve when it gets slightly wet or melt in the oven, so those big beautiful crystals are still intact after baking. A big container of pretzel salt will last you a long time so you can make sourdough pretzels and buns as much as you want!
- Cheddar Cheese - I love a good white cheddar cheese for the beer cheese dip, but it's also delicious with Swiss cheese, Gouda, or a combination of all three!
- Beer - I recommend using some type of amber ale for the beer cheese for optimal flavor! But you can use whatever beer is your favorite! I prefer Greenman ESB or New Belgium Fat Tire. But I've also used Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Yuengling, and other local brews and they all taste great!
- Cayenne Pepper - The cayenne adds a little kick to the beer cheese, but just reduce it or omit it completely for a less spicy dip.
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
Making the Dough
Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine all dough ingredients and mix on a low speed until the dough comes together as a smooth cohesive mass (5-10 minutes but variable by machine). The dough should be slightly sticky. If it's too dry and won't come together, add an additional tablespoon or two of milk.
Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour; it will rise minimally.
Shaping the Pretzels
Turn the dough out onto your work surface (you shouldn't need to flour your work surface) and fold 2-3 times to gently deflate it. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Each piece should weigh about 100 grams.
Take your first piece and roll into a rope that's about ½ inch wide and roughly 20 inches long. Make the dough rope into a large U shape, then twist the ends of the rope together 2 times. Pull the twisted ends down to the bottom of the U and press firmly to make the classic pretzel shape.
Boiling the Pretzels
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add in 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Boil the pretzels for 45 seconds on each side and then place on your lined baking sheet. You will only be able to boil about 3 pretzels at a time.
Do not skip this step! It might seem unnecessary, but this is what gives the sourdough pretzels that signature look and texture.
Bake the Pretzels
Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse pretzel salt and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
While the pretzels are baking, make the beer cheese!
Making the Beer Cheese
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the flour and whisk together until smooth and there are no more flour clumps. Let the roux cook for 1-2 minutes.
Then slowly add in the beer while stirring constantly until fully combined into a smooth sauce. Add in the cheese, garlic, and spices and stir until the cheese is fully melted.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week and reheat in 30 second intervals in the microwave.
Tip: Spend a couple extra minutes and buy a block of cheddar cheese and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese contains additives that keep it from clumping together in the bag, which also prevents the cheese from melting smoothly.
Sourdough Tips & Tricks
If you've never baked with sourdough before, it can be a little tricky. But don't worry, I have a full Sourdough Guide all about making and maintaining a sourdough starter! I also have a full guide on different types of flour you can use to make sourdough. Below are a few quick tips and key terms you need to know.
- Sourdough Starter - A culture of wild yeast and bacteria that leavens and flavors sourdough bread. I use what's called a "liquid starter" versus a stiff starter. This means the starter is made with equal parts flour and water and should be a consistency similar to cake batter.
- Sourdough Discard - The portion of your starter that is discarded when feeding your starter (can be used in tons of recipes like sourdough discard blueberry muffins or sourdough pancakes).
- Ripe Starter - A starter that's ready to be used in baking. Your starter is ripe roughly 6 hours after feeding and will have doubled in size, have lots of visible bubbles, and a fresh acidic aroma.
Weigh your ingredients! For all my sourdough recipes, I measure the ingredients in grams because it's much more accurate! I highly recommend getting a kitchen scale if you don't already have one! However, I have included alternate US customary measurements for your convenience.
Use an oven thermometer! Just because your oven says it's 350, doesn't mean it is! If you oven hasn't been calibrated recently, it can be as much as 30 degrees off, which will negatively affect all breads and baked goods! An oven thermometer is the easiest/cheapest way to ensure your oven is always at the proper temperature.
Easy sourdough recipes for beginners! If you've never made sourdough bread before, I recommend starting with some simple, no-fuss recipes like my sourdough naan or sourdough bagels! But if you're already a pro, I have a ton of fun sourdough recipes you can try!
These soft pretzels are best eaten the same day. But they will keep covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Nope! You can also use ripe sourdough starter in this recipe.
Absolutely! It will just extend the rising time of the dough. After kneading the dough in your mixer, place in a covered bowl and let rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Then place in the fridge and let the dough continue rising overnight (up to 48 hours). Follow the rest of the recipe as instructed.
Boiling the dough causes it to instantly puff up, creating a chewy interior and helps the outside crisp up while baking. The baking soda also helps the pretzels become a dark, golden brown.
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Sourdough Recipes You Might Like
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Sourdough Soft Pretzels and Beer Cheese
- 227 grams sourdough starter discard
- 361 grams bread flour
- 170 grams whole milk
- 1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder, optional
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons baking soda, for boiling
- pretzel salt, for topping
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 236 grams beer, I recommend an amber ale but choose your favorite!
- 227 grams white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine all dough ingredients (starter, flour, milk, sugar, yeast, salt, and butter) and mix on a low speed until the dough comes together as a smooth cohesive mass (5-10 minutes but variable by machine). The dough should be slightly sticky. If it's too dry and won't come together, add an additional tablespoon or two of milk.
- Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour; it will rise minimally.
- Turn the dough out onto your work surface (you shouldn't need to flour your work surface) and fold 2-3 times to gently deflate it. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (about 100 grams each). Take your first piece and roll into a rope that's about ½ inch wide and roughly 20 inches long. Make the dough rope into a large U shape, then twist the ends of the rope together 2 times. Pull the twisted ends down to the bottom of the U and press firmly to make the classic pretzel shape.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add in 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Boil the pretzels for 45 seconds on each side and then place on your lined baking sheet. You will only be able to boil about 3 pretzels at a time. Do not skip this step! It might seem unnecessary, but this is what gives the pretzels that signature look and texture.
- Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse pretzel salt and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. While the pretzels are baking, make the beer cheese.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add in the flour and whisk together until smooth and there are no more flour clumps. Let the roux cook for 1-2 minutes and then slowly add in the beer while stirring constantly until fully combined into a smooth sauce.
- Add in the cheese, garlic, and spices and stir until the cheese is fully melted.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week and reheat in 30 second intervals in the microwave.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.