Homemade Discard Soft Pretzels

In the world of baking, creativity meets sustainability with the delightful concept of homemade discard soft pretzels. Utilizing sourdough discard not only minimizes waste but also introduces a tangy twist to the classic soft pretzel, making it a guilt-free and eco-friendly kitchen project. This guide is designed to walk you through the process of transforming your leftover sourdough starter into delicious, twisty treats that are perfect for snacking or sharing. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or new to the wonders of sourdough, these pretzels promise a rewarding and tasty experience. By embracing the versatility and simplicity of this recipe, you’ll discover a new favorite way to use up sourdough discard, ensuring that nothing in your kitchen goes to waste. Let’s dive into the art of making homemade discard soft pretzels, where tradition meets innovation in the most delicious way.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

There are countless reasons to fall in love with this homemade discard soft pretzels recipe, a culinary adventure that turns sourdough discard into a delectable treat. Firstly, the simplicity and accessibility of this recipe make it a joy to undertake. Whether you’re a novice baker or a seasoned pro, the straightforward steps and common pantry ingredients ensure a hassle-free experience, inviting bakers of all levels to join in the fun.

Moreover, the versatility of this recipe is truly remarkable. It caters to a wide array of tastes and dietary preferences, allowing for customization with various toppings and substitutions. From the classic salted pretzel to sweet cinnamon sugar variations or even vegan options by substituting the egg wash, there’s a version of this pretzel for everyone. This adaptability extends to the sourdough discard itself, which can be from any stage of the fermentation process, making every batch unique.

Additionally, these pretzels are not just a treat for the taste buds but also for the freezer. They store exceptionally well, meaning you can bake a large batch and enjoy the fruits of your labor over time. This aspect of the recipe is perfect for those who love to meal prep or simply want to have a delicious snack on hand at all times.

Ingredients Overview

The charm of making homemade discard soft pretzels lies in the simplicity and accessibility of the ingredients required. At the heart of this recipe is the sourdough discard, a byproduct of maintaining a sourdough starter that is often overlooked. Instead of wasting this valuable resource, it becomes the key ingredient, infusing the pretzels with a unique depth of flavor and a slight tanginess that sets them apart from their traditional counterparts.

Active dry yeast is another crucial component, working in tandem with the sourdough discard to ensure the dough rises properly, resulting in soft, fluffy pretzels. The inclusion of dark brown sugar not only feeds the yeast but also adds a subtle sweetness to the dough, enhancing the overall flavor profile. All-purpose flour forms the backbone of the pretzel dough, providing structure and chewiness, while flaky sea salt sprinkled on top before baking adds a delightful crunch and a burst of flavor with each bite.

This recipe stands out for its adaptability. For those with dietary restrictions or preferences, there are easy substitutions available. For instance, the egg wash typically used for a glossy finish can be replaced with melted butter or a simple water brush, ensuring everyone can enjoy these homemade delights. The beauty of this recipe is that it encourages bakers to use what they have on hand, making it not only a delicious project but also an exercise in sustainable baking.

Step-by-Step Recipe Guide

Creating homemade discard soft pretzels is a delightful process that combines the art of baking with the joy of crafting something truly delicious from simple ingredients. Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to making these tangy, twisty treats:

1. Prepare the Dough

Begin by activating the active dry yeast. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of warm water with 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar. Sprinkle 1 ¼ teaspoons of yeast over the top and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it becomes foamy. This step is crucial as it ensures that the yeast is alive and ready to help your dough rise.

Next, add 200 grams (about ¾ cup) of sourdough discard at room temperature to the yeast mixture. The discard adds a depth of flavor and tanginess to the pretzels that you can’t get from yeast alone. Then, incorporate 567 grams (about 4 cups) of all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt into the bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined. Pour in 4 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter and continue to mix. Once the dough starts to form, increase the speed to medium and knead until it becomes smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 4-5 minutes.

2. First Rise

Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl, covering it with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm, draft-free area for 60-90 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. The dough’s rise time can vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen, so keep an eye on it.

3. Shape the Pretzels

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces for standard-sized pretzels or more for smaller ones. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 18-24 inches in length. To shape the pretzels, create a U-shape with the rope, cross the ends over each other, twist, and then press them down into the bottom of the U to form the classic pretzel shape.

4. Boil the Pretzels

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add ⅔ cup of baking soda. Boiling the pretzels before baking is what gives them their distinctive chewy exterior and flavor. Boil each pretzel for 20-30 seconds on each side, then transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake

Brush each pretzel with an egg wash (or a vegan alternative) and sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 450°F (232°C) for 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. The high heat helps to create a beautiful crust while keeping the inside soft and chewy.

6. Cool and Serve

Allow the pretzels to cool on a wire rack before serving. These homemade discard soft pretzels are best enjoyed warm, perhaps with a side of your favorite dipping sauce, like mustard or cheese.

This recipe not only provides a delicious snack but also offers a satisfying baking experience. From the initial mixing of ingredients to the final golden-brown product, each step brings you closer to mastering the art of pretzel making. Enjoy the fruits of your labor with friends and family, or keep them all to yourself – we won’t tell!

Expert Baking Tips

Mastering the art of making homemade discard soft pretzels requires a bit of know-how beyond the basic recipe. Here are some expert baking tips to ensure your pretzels turn out perfectly every time:

  • Knead to Perfection: The key to a smooth, elastic pretzel dough is thorough kneading. Whether you’re using a stand mixer or your hands, knead the dough until it’s smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl or surface. This develops the gluten, giving your pretzels that classic chewy texture.
  • The Right Rise: Pay close attention to the dough during the rising process. The dough should double in size, which can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If it’s a particularly cold day, you might find a slightly warmer spot or use a turned-off oven with the light on to help the process along.
  • Boiling Matters: The boiling step is crucial for achieving the pretzels’ signature texture and taste. Adding baking soda to the boiling water creates an alkaline bath that gelatinizes the outside of the dough, leading to that distinctive chewy crust. Make sure each pretzel is boiled for about 20-30 seconds on each side to ensure an even crust formation.
  • Achieving the Perfect Color: An egg wash before baking not only helps the salt stick but also gives the pretzels a beautiful golden-brown sheen. For a vegan option, a simple brush with olive oil or plant-based milk can also do the trick.
  • Storage for Freshness: If you’re not planning to eat all the pretzels right away, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. For longer storage, freeze them and reheat in the oven for a few minutes to restore their fresh-baked taste and texture.
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Homemade Discard Soft Pretzels

  • Author: Skilledcooks
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 pretzels 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


A sustainable and delicious way to use sourdough discard, these homemade soft pretzels combine the tangy flavor of sourdough with the classic chewy texture of a traditional pretzel. Perfect for snacks or entertaining, they’re versatile and can be topped with various seasonings.


  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 200 grams (about ¾ cup) sourdough discard, unfed, at room temperature
  • 567 grams (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 cups water (for boiling)
  • ⅔ cup baking soda (for boiling)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
  • Flaky sea salt, for topping


  1. Activate yeast in warm water with sugar. Add sourdough discard, flour, salt, and melted butter. Knead until smooth.
  2. Let dough rise until doubled. Shape into pretzels.
  3. Boil each pretzel in baking soda water, then bake until golden.
  4. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.


  • Egg wash can be substituted with melted butter or water for a vegan option.
  • Ensure the dough is kneaded well for a smooth texture.
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Snack
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • Calories: 250
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Sodium: 980mg
  • Fat: 6g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 42g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 30mg

Frequently Asked Questions about Homemade Discard Soft Pretzels

Can I use active sourdough starter instead of discard?
Yes, you can use an active sourdough starter in place of discard. The main difference is that active starter is typically used for leavening bread, while discard, which is essentially the leftover starter from feedings, can be used in recipes like this one without wasting it. If using active starter, you may notice a slight difference in the rise and flavor profile of your pretzels.

Do I have to boil the pretzels before baking?
Boiling the pretzels in a baking soda solution is a crucial step that shouldn’t be skipped. This process gives pretzels their distinctive chewy texture and deep brown color. The alkaline water gelatinizes the surface of the dough, creating the classic pretzel crust.

What can I use instead of an egg wash?
For those who do not consume eggs, a simple solution of water and baking soda can be used as a wash to achieve a similar glossy finish. Alternatively, brushing the pretzels with melted butter before baking will also provide a nice golden color and add flavor.

How long can I store these pretzels?
Homemade discard soft pretzels are best enjoyed fresh, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze them in a sealed bag for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven or microwave until warm.

Can I make these pretzels gluten-free?
Yes, you can attempt to make gluten-free pretzels by substituting the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend. Keep in mind that the texture and flavor may vary from traditional pretzels. It’s also important to ensure that your sourdough discard is made from a gluten-free starter.

Is there a vegan option for this recipe?
Absolutely! To make vegan discard soft pretzels, replace the egg wash with a mixture of maple syrup and water, or simply use melted vegan butter. Ensure that your sourdough discard does not contain any non-vegan ingredients.

Can I add toppings other than salt?
Definitely! Feel free to experiment with various toppings such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic powder, or even cinnamon sugar for a sweet twist. The pretzels can be customized to suit your taste preferences.

These FAQs cover some of the most common questions and concerns about making homemade discard soft pretzels. With these tips and tricks, you’re well on your way to becoming a pretzel-making expert. Enjoy the process and the delicious results!

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