Soft Pretzels
Soft Pretzels

Coated in buttery goodness, these soft, Amish-style pretzels are easy to make and will be gone in no time. From the cookbook Tasting Pennsylvania by Carrie Havranek.

I have a deep relationship with soft pretzels. As does Carrie Havranek, cookbook author and associate editor of Simply Recipes. Like many of you, I suppose.

Carrie and I have something in common when it comes to pretzels—our favorite version is from Pennsylvania. I went to college outside the City of Brotherly Love and have vivid memories of driving into town for a day of museum visits and a walk along South Street. These trips always included at least one (maybe two) pretzels from the street vendor.

But enough about me. This is about Carrie and her amazing new book Tasting of Pennsylvaniawhich includes a recipe for soft Amish-style pretzels (warning: great melted butter on top!) that you can make at home without the price of a plane ticket.

The Pennsylvania kitchen

If the only cuisine you can name from Pennsylvania is Philly Cheesesteak, you’re in for a treat. Yes, Carrie includes a recipe for these delicious sandwiches (another staple of my visits to South Street), but Pennsylvania cuisine is so much more.

For example, did you know that Pennsylvania is the #1 producer of mushrooms in the United States? And fourth, in apple production? You can see this in recipes like Roasted Kennett Square Mushroom Soup and an Apple Pie Shortbread Tart.

You can also use Pennsylvania’s German and Polish roots in recipes like Pennsylvania Dutch Onion Tart (double kitchen, say that five times quickly), pierogi with potato cheddar filling and yes, scrapple. Pennsylvania’s history is also rich with other immigrant groups — they’re represented with dishes like double chocolate tahini cookies, Old Forge-style pizza, and English toffee pudding.

Pennsylvania has also become something of a hotbed for celebrity chefs and trendy restaurants. Try beet crusted salmon from High Street on Market or tacos with braised pork cheek from Victory Brewing Company at your next party! Also, I suspect Mister Lee’s Noodles Pennsylvania Mushroom Ramen will be at the top of my menu this winter.

Let’s hear from Carrie!

I could read you the names of tempting recipes all day long. Before we get to this Amish-Style Soft Pretzels recipe, I thought you might like to hear about Pennsylvania and this cookbook from the author herself!

Tell me about YOUR Pennsylvania. I love how you describe it as a “place of contrasts” in your introduction. What do you mean by that, and how does that relate to Pennsylvania food?

We have three metropolitan areas that are densely populated (Philly, Pittsburgh and, where I live, the Lehigh Valley), but the state is huge and also full of rural communities. We have cities with James Beard Award winning chefs, many of whom have contributed recipes. And then we have tons of great mom and pop cafes and family run restaurants. So the food is both progressive and traditional, cook-oriented and homely. The best Pennsylvania food manages to conjure up these juxtapositions, but it’s not easy to pull off. We haven’t gone haute yet!

What’s something about Pennsylvania cuisine everyone should know?

It’s more than cheesesteaks, pierogi and pork products!

What are the main flavors of Pennsylvania? The ingredients you see keep coming into play?

Pork, cabbage, mushrooms, beets and honestly Italian food. Oh, and beer. And often pork and beer together. We have a strong craft beer culture here.

What are the three recipes from the book that you think best capture the breadth of Pennsylvania cuisine?

Pennsylvania Mushroom Ramen, Pittsburgh Salad and Shoo-Fly Pie.

Be honest: How many Philly cheesesteaks were eaten in the book in tracing your recipe for it?

Less than you think. I actually ate more of it when I was writing about cheesesteaks for Serious Eats a few years ago!

What was the most unexpected thing you ate while researching this book?

Scrap metal. It’s not exactly unexpected – it’s quintessentially Pennsylvanian – but it’s not something I even eat occasionally. It was also one of the hardest things to photograph.

What recipe has challenged you the most to get it right and you’re so proud that you got it?

Ah, that’s easy. Hershey’s Chocolate Bread Pudding. It’s not a complicated recipe, but it definitely took a lot of back and forth to get the right amounts.

I have a feeling that every cookbook author has that one recipe in their cookbook that they know isn’t going to be very popular, but they loved it so much they just couldn’t bear to ditch it. What’s the recipe for you?

The Indian breakfast bowl. I could eat this for breakfast or lunch every day. Scrambled eggs or tofu, over spinach and hash browns, topped with two chutneys and fried mustard seeds. It’s not for everyone!

Which recipes do you still regularly have in your kitchen now that the book is finished?

The Pittsburgh salad is awesome. It’s salad with grilled chicken, french fries and homemade ranch dressing. I never have to choose between fries or salad with this dish. It’s all on one plate, on purpose! Also all the veg-on-toast dishes (summer corn tartine, spinach and leek toast, pea and bacon toast…you see where this is going).

Love pretzels? Here are some other salty treats!

  • Christmas firecracker
  • Magic bar with peanut butter pretzel
  • Chocolate covered pretzels


preparation time
50 minutes

cooking time
10 mins

total time
60 minutes

8 pretzels

Carrie says, “I have such fond memories of eating buttery soft pretzels with just the right balance of sweet and salty at the Amish markets in South Jersey and Philly. This one comes pretty close. Pretzels are typically eaten to bring good luck in the New Year, but their appeal extends so far beyond that tradition that they’re fun to make anytime.”

Reprinted with permission from Tasting of Pennsylvania by Carrie Havranek (Farcountry Press, 2019).


  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (one packet)

  • About 1 cup of warm water

  • 1/4 cup baking soda

  • Kosher or coarse sea salt for sprinkling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

special equipment

  • blender


  1. make dough:

    Place the flour, salt, brown sugar, yeast, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment and beat until combined. Knead the dough by hand or machine until smooth and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. Let the dough rest:

    Lightly flour the dough, place on a floured surface and cover. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

  3. Prepare the oven and baking sheets:

    Preheat oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or nonstick cooking spray.

  4. Divide the dough:

    Uncover the dough and divide into eight equal pieces. Let them rest uncovered for another 5 minutes.

  5. Spin pretzels:

    Using your palms, roll each piece into a thin rope about 25 to 30 inches long. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape by lifting the ends of the rope, crossing them to make a twist, and then folding them back onto the bottom loop. Gently press the ends to keep them in place.

  6. Do the baking soda bath:

    In a large stockpot, boil 6 to 8 cups of water over high heat and add the baking soda and stir until dissolved. Reduce to simmer.

    Working quickly and carefully, dip each pretzel into the water bath and simmer for 30 seconds on each side, turning with a slotted spoon. They swell easily in water.

  7. Bake pretzels:

    Place the pretzels on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake pretzels until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

  8. Spread with butter:

    Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter, using up all the butter. These pretzels are best eaten warm. They can be reheated in the oven or later frozen and thawed in a low oven. Top with your favorite mustard if you like.

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