Homemade Soft Pretzels with Lye

Homemade Pretzel made with lye
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In the interest of full disclosure, I made poop pretzels last week. I am not joking, they bore a very strong resemblance to Mr. Hankey. I’m not totally sure what went wrong. Everything was going well right up until the end when I pulled the poop sticks out of the oven. I suspect my second proofing after shaping wasn’t quite long enough.

The silver lining? They were for Cecilia’s school winter carnival so the fact that my proposed pretzel braids came out looking like poop emojis might have actually made them more attractive to first and second graders. The other silver lining? I was planning on making them again for the church bake sale this past week. I’m not sure poop would go over so well there…..

See? Poop-like.

Spoiler alert: while not perfect, this second round did not resemble feces and were a recognizable pretzel-like shape. Hooray!

The key to getting that distinctly caramel colored pretzel and more importantly that contrasting chewy/crunchy pretzel texture is lye. Yes, that type of lye.

Cold lye will definitely burn and irritate your skin, so you need to work with gloves and preferably with a window cracked open. But once in the hot oven, the lye transforms the starch on the pretzel surface, browning it quickly while the interior bakes more slowly giving you those contrasting textures in the finished product.

Many recipes will try to convince you to use baking soda as a reasonable replacement, but it just doesn’t come close no matter how much baking soda you pour into the pot. You might make some nice pretzel-shaped bread, but it won’t really taste like a pretzel and you and all your family and friends will know it. 

The good news is that with some common sense and caution, using food-grade lye (you can find it on amazon – this is the one I bought) to make reliably good soft pretzels at home is not difficult. Even when they turn out looking like poop, they still tasted pretty damn good.

Later swapped the white sugar for brown sugar.
Don’t leave the mixer, it does a jig while mixing this dough
You should get about 8 3oz pieces
After the lye bath, looking a little battered


Not perfect, but tasted good and better than the previous week




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