Sourdough Pretzels

Sourdough Pretzels

Pretzels may or may not make you thirsty, but the idea of a twisted, chubby, salty cloud of dough baked to golden perfection is enough to make just about anyone hungry.

I began a sourdough starter last week for the first time in my life. As much as I love to bake breads, I had long resisted sourdough because of Desi’s aversion to any foods that are fermented (he can’t even stand dosas and idlis made with batter left to ferment overnight). But the starter was so easy to make, and when –in a couple of days– it started to work exactly as the instructions at the King Arthur Flour website said it should, I got a little more than excited about making something really special with it.

Pretzels seemed perfect because much as I love them, I had never baked them at home before. Besides, the recipe was simplicity itself, requiring just a minimal rise time. I did have to veganize the recipe because the original contained milk powder (I subbed soy milk and reduced the amount of water), but my vegan pretzels turned out so beautifully that I am sure nothing was lost. They had a subtle flavor of sourdough, which was perfect for Desi, and they were soft and fluffy and super-delicious.

Sourdough Pretzels

If you have never baked with sourdough before, this is a perfect time to try. Sourdough relies on capturing natural yeast from the environment, and a summer and fall kitchen are likely to have a good deal of yeast floating around, especially if you do a lot of baking. I love the very thought of capturing wild yeast from the air– it makes me feel like one of those superwomen of yore who did everything from scratch. Besides, it’s kinda like getting something for free, and who doesn’t love that?

Here are the recipes, then, for both the sourdough starter and the pretzels made with it. Both are adapted from versions on the King Arthur Flour website.

Enjoy, all!

Homemade sourdough starter

Sourdough Starter


2 cups warm water (not hot-you don’t want to kill the yeast)

1 tbsp sugar

2 1/4 tsp or 1 package active dry yeast

2 cups all-purpose flour

Place the water in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the sugar, stir to mix, then add the yeast and mix.

Add the flour and mix everything until you have a homogenous mass. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth or kitchen towel (don’t use plastic wrap because you want the wild yeast to find their way to the starter).

You will see the yeast go to work almost immediately as the mixture will start to bubble. Set it aside for three to five days, after which you can refrigerate it. Stir the starter once daily because the mixture will separate. Eventually, you will see that the liquid that separates to the top is a dark brown. This is okay– it does not mean your starter is spoilt — it is an alcoholic liquid created by the yeast, and it helps produce that great tangy flavor of sourdough. Just mix it back into the dough. If you want your starter to have less of an alcoholic tang, pour off some of the liquid.

Refrigerate your starter. Each time you need to use some of it, replenish the starter with the same amount you remove. For the pretzels, I needed a cup of starter, so I mixed back 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water into the starter, then covered it with a dishcloth, and let it stand out on the countertop overnight to get the yeast going, after which I refrigerated it. A good sourdough starter will have lots of tiny bubbles that tell you it’s alive and well.

Sourdough Pretzels
Sourdough Pretzels
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 12
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast mixed with ¼ cup of warm soymilk. Allow them to sit for five minutes until the yeast blooms.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Sea salt or any coarse salt for sprinkling on the pretzels
  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and, using your hand or a stand mixer, mix well. Knead the dough until it has a smooth consistency and can be formed into a round ball. It should not be too stiff--  if that's the case, add a little water, a tiny bit at a time.
  2. Place the ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning over once to coat, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for about 45 minutes. The dough will rise a little.
  3. Place the dough on a lightly greased surface and fold a few times to deflate the air. Form into a rectangle, then divide into 12 equal parts.
  4. Take one part and cover the rest with a kitchen towel to keep them from drying. Roll the dough into a ball and then into a rope, tapering the ends. You want a rope around 18 inches in length. If you encounter resistance, shape the rope to about half the desired length, set aside, shape the remaining balls of dough into half-ropes, and then go back to the first one and continue. This will allow the dough to relax, making it easier to shape.
  5. Take the ends of the rope and criss-cross them to make a loop. Twist one more time if you want an extra-decorative pretzel, then bring the ends down and tuck them under the loop.
  6. Place the pretzels, about 2 inches apart, on a parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheet.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the tops of the pretzels with some oil and sprinkle with coarse salt (you can brush the pretzels with some sugar and water mixed together for a darker color, but I like my pretzels to be extra-salty and without any obvious sweetness).
  8. Bake the pretzels for 25 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden-brown. I ate these dipped in some olive oil with crushed garlic. Heaven.


My divine vegan sourdough pretzels are so good, I am sending them off to YeastSpotting, a weekly showcase of baking and yeast breads.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Get new recipes by email. Sign up below.


  1. says

    Rashmi, Kitchen Flavors, Thanks! :)

    Gayatri, I haven’t, mainly because I can’t find suran here. I think they do have a frozen version at the Indian store and I’ll pick it up the next time. I love suran, and I can imagine the cutlets must be delicious.

  2. says

    i am always scared of starting up a sourdough starter. coz i wouldnt know what to do with so much of it! i just let the dough sit for 2-3 days for the effect :)
    i am sucker for fresh bread and these pretzels look extremely inviting!

    Richa @ Hobby And More Food Blog

  3. says

    Divya, Kalyani, Thanks!

    Vegan Bakerista, I hope you enjoy them! :)

    Keerthana, mine too!

    Priya, Poornima, thanks!

    Jain, thanks for the link. Hope you like the pretzels. :)

    Richa, That sounds like a good idea.

    Manasi, it was not very hard at all to twist them, and the dough is forgiving.

    Rachana, thanks!

  4. Anonymous says

    Hey Vaishali. I am sorry to bother you with this question but did not seem to find the answer in a few of the relevant posts I skimmed through.

    I remember you writing about a whole wheat sourdough starter. Should I just substitute one cup all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and follow the other instructions as they are?

    If you have already specified the instructions elsewhere, it would be great if you could just direct me to it. Apologies, again.

  5. says

    Hi Anon, I did start a wholewheat sourdough starter, but I got terribly busy around that time and neglected it and it didn’t quite work out. For the time being I am just using all-purpose. If you do want a whole-wheat starter and already have some white flour starter on hand, I’d advise starting with a couple of tablespoons of the white flour starter and feeding it with a cup of whole-wheat flour.
    If you are beginning the starter right now, it would be better to just go half and half: half whole-wheat, half all-purpose. Then, as your starter develops, continue feeding it with just whole wheat.

  6. Jodie says

    Hi. I’m newly vegan and loving it! I’ve also been on a bread making spree lately and came across your sourdouch bread recipe, which led me to your starter. If you always add back what you take, isn’t it kind of a never ending supply? Won’t it eventually spoil?

    • says

      Hi Jodie, so long as you refrigerate the sourdough, it will not spoil. It is meant to ferment, which is what makes it sourdough. Enjoy the bread-baking. It’s addictive, isn’t it?

      • Jodie says

        Yes, it’s definitely addictive! I’m thrilled to have discovered your recipes. And thank you so much for replying!! I’ve asked questions on other sites and never hear back. Sourdough bread is next on my list :)

Leave a comment!