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Sourdough Pretzel Buns

My sourdough pretzel buns are a favorite naturally leavened sourdough recipe that uses active starter. The dough is then divided, shaped and bathed in a baking soda bath before baking. The results is a delightfully chewy and beautifully deep golden brown roll. 

These sourdough pretzel buns are a fun and easy way to spruce up your favorite sliders or burgers. They also make a great side dish as a dinner roll that are a delicious alternative to traditional dinner rolls. You can make 12 smaller rolls or 6 large hamburger buns. 

There are several sourdough pretzel buns in a serving bowl. In the background, there is another partially eaten bun on a plate with butter next to it.

Why You Will Love these Sourdough Pretzel Rolls

Traditional pretzels require bathing the dough in a lye bath prior to baking. I don’t know about you, but lye is not something I have lying (no pun intended) around my house. It can also be dangerous to work with. The good news is that there is an easy alternative to lye that works similar and still produces great results: baking soda. 

The trick with using baking soda is that it is best dissolved in hot water. This ensures the baking soda is fully dissolved and able to interact with the dough. 

How to Use Sourdough Starter for Pretzel Buns

These sourdough pretzel buns are not a discard recipe. This means they do not use active dry yeast but rather require active sourdough starter that is bubbly and consistently rising. Your starter should be around its peak rise when you use it here. I prefer to let my starter just start to fall when I make my sourdough recipes. This ensures that it has reached its maximum activity level and is now becoming “hungry.”

Ingredients and Substitutions

You only need a few very basic pantry staples for this recipe:

  • Flour: I prefer bread flour as it is easier to work with in bread recipes. You can use all purpose flour, but make sure you adequately knead it. 
  • Sourdough starter: active and bubbly (see notes above). 
  • Water: It is best to use warm water that is slightly above room temperature but room temperature is fine. 
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is used here but you can use salted butter if that is all you have. 
  • Salt: You need 2 types of salt here, kosher and a finishing salt. Kosher salt is used in the dough and is added at the beginning. The finishing salt is used to top the pretzel rolls just before baking. You can use coarse sea salt, pretzel salt or flaky sea salt, all of which are lighter in density. 

For the the Baking Soda Bath:

  • Baking soda: The baking soda bath is what produces soft sourdough pretzels with that beautiful golden brown color. This is caused by a chemical reaction called the maillard reaction, which is responsible for browning in the presence of heat. Traditionally, soft pretzels are bathed in a lye solution, but home cooks often use a baking soda solution as an alternative.
  • Water

Note: You will need a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients for this recipe. To achieve the right texture, measuring by weight is more accurate and will yield more consistent results. 

How to Make 

Step 1: Combine all the dough ingredients in a a bowl of a stand mixer and mix until a shaggy dough forms.

Step 2: Cover with plastic wrap and rest dough for 30 minutes.

Step 3: Knead the dough on low speed with the dough hook attachment for approximately 10-12 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can also do this by the hand. The goal is to develop a dough that is starting to become smooth and less sticky when touched. 

Step 4: Bulk ferment in a warm place until the dough is about doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 4-10 hours. Watch the dough rather than the clock as the temperature of your home and environment will make a big difference here. 

sourdough pretzel dough after bulk ferment that has doubled in size.

Step 5: Divide the pretzel dough into 12 equal pieces (about 90 grams each). Form each piece into a smooth ball by pinching the edges to the top of the dough until a smooth surface is formed on the opposite side. 

Dividing and weighing the pretzel dough into individual pieces using a kitchen scale and a bench scraper to cut the dough.

Step 6: Place the rolls on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper and allow to rest for another 2-3 hours to let the dough rise again slightly for the second ferment. 

pretzel buns final proof on baking sheet after shaping.

Step 7: After the rolls have finished rising, preheat the oven to 400F. Bring the remaining water to boil. Dissolve the baking soda completely in the boiling water. 

Step 8: Use a slotted spoon to submerge the dough balls in the the baking soda water bath for 30-45 seconds on each side. You can work with two or three at a time. Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray before placing the rolls back to the sheet pans.  

two sourdough pretzel dough buns submerged in baking soda bath.

Step 9: Use a sharp knife, razor blade or lame to score a large “X” on each roll. If you want to deepen the color and produce a shiny appearance, you can brush the rolls with an egg wash. Sprinkle with flaky salt or pretzel salt. 

sourdough pretzel bun dough on parchment lined baking sheet scored and salted.

Step 10: Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the rolls develop a deep golden brown color. If you are making 6 larger rolls, you will need to add about 5 minutes to the baking time. 

sourdough pretzel buns on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

How to Make Ahead

You can freeze the finished pretzel buns in a freezer safe bag. When ready to use, remove from freezer and refrigerate to defrost.

How to Store 

Store these sourdough pretzel buns in an airtight container or ziplock bag. These rolls can be stored at room temperature for 3-4 days. For best results, store in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

If you love sourdough recipes, check out these other favorite sourdough recipes:

There are several sourdough pretzel buns in a serving bowl. In the background, there is another partially eaten bun on a plate with butter next to it.

Sourdough Pretzel Buns

Sourdough pretzel buns a soft and fluffy with that perfect classic chewy exterior pretzels are known for.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Proof Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 35 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12

Ingredients
 
 

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1⅓ cup water
  • ½ cup sourdough starter bubbly and active
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

For the Baking Soda Bath

  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup baking soda

Instructions
 

  • Add the flour, water, sourdough starter, salt, and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms.
  • Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Knead the dough for 10-12 minutes. You can do this in your stand mixer on low speed or by hand. The dough should become less sticky and form a smooth ball.
  • Cover and let rest for 6-8 hours or until increased in size by about 75%.
  • Divide the dough into 12 equally sized pieces (about 90g each). For larger hamburger buns, divide into 6 pieces.
  • Form into a smooth ball by pinching the edges toward the top. Place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to rest for another 2 hours.

When Ready to Bake

  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then add the baking soda. Stir until fully dissolved.
  • Off the heat, use a slotted spoon to submerge the dough balls, one or two at a time, for 45 seconds on each side. Return to baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  • Score an X on the top of each bun using a lame, razor blade or sharp kitchen knife. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt or pretzel salt.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes for small rolls or 25-30 minutes for large rolls. The buns should appear a deep golden brown color.
  • Allow to cool before cutting the rolls if using as hamburger buns.
Keyword Sourdough
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