These gluten-free soft pretzels are soft on the inside with a dark golden brown, chewy crust. The taste and texture are perfect! Everything you’ve missed in a soft pretzel, but without the gluten.
Soft pretzels are high on the list of foods I have missed since my celiac diagnosis nearly a decade ago. According to regular social media posts in gluten-free groups, I’m not alone.
Every time I pass an Auntie Anne’s in the mall or airport, I catch myself inhaling deeply, trying to satisfy myself with the mere memory of eating a warm soft pretzel.
With these homemade soft pretzels, you won’t have to settle for satisfying your longing with just the aroma of off-limits pretzels. You can finally enjoy the gluten-free pretzels you’ve been missing.
- Stand Mixer with Dough Hook: for the heavy mixing required in making the gluten-free pretzel dough.
- Kitchen Scale: An inexpensive kitchen scale is an essential tool in the gluten-free kitchen. It’s the most accurate way to measure flour, and you need accurate measurements in baking, especially gluten-free baking.
- Large Saucepot: for the baking soda bath. I use a 4-quart pot.
- Slotted Turner Spatula: for pulling the pretzels out of the baking soda bath, allowing the water to drip through the slots.
- 2 Baking Sheets with Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats
Essential Ingredient: The Flour
Important! These pretzels are made with a baking flour containing gluten-free wheat starch, which is suitable for celiacs, but not safe for those with a wheat allergy. Learn more in this article about Gluten-Free Wheat Starch. This recipe will not work with another type of flour.
The answer to my gluten-free pretzel quest was found while visiting Italy. I discovered that Italian celiacs enjoy fabulous gluten-free pizza, using gluten-free wheat starch flour that forms the ideal gluten-free pizza dough and recreates a classic gluten-full pizza crust.
King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Flour is the magic ingredient for this recipe. This unique flour is what creates the perfect soft texture of classic soft pretzels.
I also tested the recipe with Caputo Fioreglut Gluten-Free Flour. It delivered the same excellent results. However, the dough made with Caputo Fioreglut was stickier. Here are tips for using this flour instead of King Arthur:
- Measure out 480 grams of flour using a kitchen scale for the most accurate measurement. 480 grams is approximately 4 cups of King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Flour, but about 5⅓ cups of Caputo Fioreglut.
- Reduce the liquid in the recipe to 1⅔ cup warm water.
- Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl.
- Lightly dust your work surface with a small amount of Caputo Fioreglut as needed to prevent sticking.
- Coat your hands with a small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Remaining Simple Ingredients
Instant Yeast: I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast, which is labeled gluten-free. The wonderful thing about instant yeast is that it does not need to be proofed. You simply add it to the other ingredients and mix.
Brown Sugar: You can substitute white granulated sugar, if you don’t have brown sugar on hand.
Warm water: lukewarm, not hot.
Water & Baking Soda: The water and baking soda are used for a baking soda bath, giving the pretzels their distinctive brown outside and soft, chewy texture. Admittedly, traditional German pretzels are dipped in lye, but a baking soda bath is safer and is the dip of choice for Auntie Anne’s pretzels.
Coarse Salt: For sprinkling on the pretzels. I use Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt.
Once you have the right flour, this is a remarkably easy recipe. All of the gluten-free dough ingredients go into the bowl of a stand mixer at once. Then, the stand mixer does all the hard work.
Add King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Flour, salt, instant yeast, brown sugar, warm water, and melted butter to a stand mixer. As soon as the warm water hits the yeast and flour, your nose will tell. you something truly amazing is happening.
Use the dough hook and mix at #2 speed for five minutes. About one minute in, pause the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the dough. Then, continue mixing on #2 speed for the rest of the five minutes.
The dough will form into a ball shape during mixing.
(Note, if using Caputo Fioreglut, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl. If the dough has not formed into a ball after five minutes, scrape the sides and gently form dough into a loose ball shape.)
Cover the mixing bowl with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for one hour. The dough will rise about 150%. (Caputo Fioreglute will double in size.)
About five minutes before the dough is ready, set up everything for the water bath and baking.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or use parchment paper to prevent the baked pretzels from sticking to the baking sheet. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring baking soda and 9 cups of water to a boil.
Now it’s time to make the pretzels! It’s fairly easy and gets even easier as you go.
Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 fairly even pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a roughly 20-inch long rope. Kindergarten play-doh snake-making skills come in handy here.
Form the rope into a U-shape and twist the ends together near the top. Bring the twisted ends towards the bottom of the U. Press the ends down to form a classic pretzel shape. If you mess up, simply gather the dough and roll it out, again.
Using a slotted turner spatula, drop 1-2 pretzels at a time into the boiling water for 20-30 seconds. I like to make last-minute adjustments to the pretzel shape while on the spatula, just before placing it in the baking soda bath. While in the water, a firm dough forms on the exterior of the boiled pretzels, and the shape is set.
Carefully retrieve the pretzel from the water with the slotted spatula. It will float to the top to make it easy for you. Allow the excess water to drip off before placing it on the prepared baking sheet.
Place the pretzels onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle coarse pretzel salt.
Bake for 15-16 minutes until the pretzels are a deep golden brown.
Tip! Wait for the outside to be deep brown. I tested this recipe multiple times to get it just right. I found that if the pretzels are removed from the oven too early, the inside will be slightly doughy, and they will deflate as they cool. If they bake until they reach the deep brown color of a traditional German pretzel, they stay soft and chewy.
Remove the pretzels from the oven and serve warm.
- Garlic Butter Topped: Brush a little melted butter on top for an Auntie Anne’s style pretzel.
- Cinnamon Sugar: Omit salt before baking. Once baked, use a pastry brush to spread melted butter on top. Then dip the pretzels in a cinnamon sugar mixture. For more details, get the Gluten-Free Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzel Recipe.
- Dips: Serve with small bowls of mustard or nacho cheese sauce. Double check your nacho cheese sauce as some brands contain wheat, while others are labeled gluten-free.
Enjoy! These are the real deal and every bit as good as the gluten-full ones you’ve missed!
Soft pretzels, gluten-free or otherwise, dry out quickly. Growing up in Germany, I’ve had more than my fair share of stale pretzels. To prevent the pretzels from going stale, any pretzels not being eaten the day you make them should be stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Reheat from frozen:
- Oven: Spritz the pretzel with a little water and reheat at 350°F for about 4-5 minutes.
- Microwave: Wrap the pretzel in a damp paper towel and reheat for approximately 30 seconds.
Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels
Baking Soda Bath
- 9 cups water
- ½ cup baking soda
- Mix King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Flour, salt, instant yeast, brown sugar, 1 ¾ cups of warm water, and melted butter in a stand mixer with a dough hook at #2 speed for five minutes. Pause the mixer after the first minute to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the flour is being incorporated.
- The dough should have formed into a ball shape during mixing. Cover the mixing bowl with a towel and let the dough rise for one hour. The dough will rise about 150%.
- About five minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Set aside. In a large pot, bring baking soda and 9 cups of water to a boil.
- Cut the dough into 12 roughly even pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a roughly 20-inch long rope. Form the rope into a U-shape, twist the ends together near the top, then bring the twisted ends towards the bottom of the U, and press them down to form a pretzel shape.
- Using a slotted turner spatula, drop 1-2 pretzels at a time into the boiling water for 20-30 seconds. They will float to the top. Carefully retrieve the pretzel from the water with the slotted spatula, allowing excess water to drip off.
- Place pretzels onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse pretzel salt.
- Bake for 15-16 minutes until deep golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm.