Pretzel Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns

pretzel hamburger buns recipe
Matthew, one of my readers, wrote with a request — an odd one — for hot dog buns that are, “just as strong as your brioche burger buns but not as rich or sweet and a little more manly.”

I’m usually not one who shies away from asking questions, but there are times when the fear of possible answers is far greater than the need for an explanation. I thought about what he could have meant, and I feared the worst.

Manly hot dog buns? Manly hot dog buns? Hot dog buns that exude manliness? Hot dog buns that enhance your manliness? Hot dog buns that, uh, personify manliness?

pretzel hamburger buns recipe
Luckily, before my imagination took me to too many places I didn’t want to go, Matthew sent another note clarifying his position. “By that I meant something that would go well with, you know, bratwursts, sausages, beer …,” he said. I let out a big sigh of relief. My mind finally returned to the place where it belongs — a happy green meadow dotted with daisies where the sun always shines and everything is PG. (Having said that, don’t girls consume bratwursts, sausages, and beer, too?)

pretzel hamburger buns recipe
As much as I wanted to insist those brioche hamburger buns, which I shared with you last year, are as good as sandwich buns get, I could understand where Matthew was coming from. After all, if you remember, the brioche buns which many of you have tried and loved so much, are made from the dough designed to be the base of a sweet cream tart — the one by Nancy Silverton that made Julia Child cry on television. So even though I don’t feel the making/serving/eating of brioche is akin to wearing a pink polka dot tutu, I could imagine just what kind of buns Matthew was asking for.

In fact, when he mentioned bratwurst and beer, the first and only thing that came to mind was pretzel (bretzel). Pretzel hamburger buns or pretzel hot dog buns aren’t exactly new, but they could stand to be enjoyed more widely. These buns have all the great qualities of soft-yet-chewy pretzels that we all love — of course since they’re made from the same dough — and are strong enough to accommodate big, juicy sausages and burger patties with all the condiments.

pretzel hamburger buns recipe
Pretzel rolls aren’t supposed to be super-soft. They’re supposed to have some chewiness to them. If you like your hamburger and hot dog buns soft, you want to stick with your regular buns or the kind of pretzel hamburger buns sold at some chain grocery stores that are regular buns in pretzel clothing, if you know what I mean.

So what kind of texture can we expect from these buns?

They’re not at all tough or rubbery, but they’re not soft, light, or airy either. If we put cheap, fluffy, wimpy store-brand hamburger/hot dog buns on one end of the spectrum and crusty, chewy rolls (the kind that shreds the roof of your mouth) on the other, I’d say these pretzel hamburger and hot dog buns are right in the middle. You press the former down with your hand hard, and they’re immediately flattened under your palm; you do the same with the latter and you will feel that they fight back as much as they can before collapsing.

Think yeast donuts versus bagels.

Regardless, doesn’t perfectly-grilled bratwurst contentedly nestling in the warm embrace of a pretzel bun in one hand and an ice cold bubbly drink in the other sound like a very, very good thing? Yet, when was the last time you saw hot dogs, brats, or burgers served on these delicious buns at a neighborhood cookout?

pretzel rolls recipe

See those wrinkles? No worries. They’re all gone after the buns are baked.

I have a no-fail, foolproof pretzel recipe that is a result of a mashup of multiple recipes. I’ve refined it over the past 2-3 years, playing with different amounts of sugar, milk, and flour combinations until I came to feel that I’ve got a really, really good recipe. I wouldn’t change anything about it any more at this point.

However, with the main structure declared perfect, there’s room for customization:
1. If you like your pretzel buns crusty, bake them on a baking stone placed in the middle of the oven with a pan of hot water on another rack right underneath. The combination of baking on a hot stone and hot steam in the oven helps create the shiny, crusty exteriors. I don’t like my pretzel rolls super crusty, so I bake them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

2. You can top your pretzel hamburger or hot dog buns with anything you want. Think bagel toppings: poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, grated cheese, etc. My top favorites are celery seeds and caraway seeds. Also, of course, you can use pretzel salt. Don’t go crazy with the salt topping, though, as there’s already some salt in the dough and the meat you serve with these buns may contain additional salt.

pretzel hamburger buns recipe
3. Like good bagels, good-looking pretzel rolls sport the shiny brown color that is a result of being boiled in alkaline solution of water and either food-grade lye or good old baking soda. The brownness you achieve with lye has a more “professional look” to it, but the buns which you’re looking at in this post were boiled in plain water with added baking soda and they turned out not too shabby. And you know that pretzel-y taste that you detect the moment you put a piece of hard pretzel on your tongue (no, not the salt)? You get that with either lye or baking soda. So choose what works best for you.

4. This recipe for pretzel hamburger and hot dog buns can also be used to make smaller, rounder pretzel rolls. It, of course, can be used to make soft pretzels. The total weight of the finished dough is approximately one kilogram or 2.2 pounds. If you want to make smaller pretzel rolls (great for sliders!), divide the dough into 18-20 pieces. For 6-inch hot dog buns or 4-inch hamburger buns, divide the dough into 8 pieces.

5. Lastly, you can also use this very same dough and this very same method to make soft pretzels. Instead of shaping each dough piece into a ball, form it into a rope and tie it into a pretzel knot.

Pretzel Hamburger Bun and Pretzel Hot Dog Bun Recipe
Makes 8 six-inch hot dog buns
OR 8 four-inch hamburger buns
Printable Version

For the dough:
6 fl. oz. lukewarm water, divided
10 g active dry yeast
4 fl. oz. lukewarm milk
80 g light or dark brown sugar
4 g salt
24 g butter, melted
480 g bread flour, plus more if needed

For the boiling liquid:
6 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda

For the toppings
Grated cheddar cheese
Celery seeds
Caraway seeds
Pretzel salt
Dried onion flakes
Sesame seeds

  • In a bowl of a stand mixer or a mixing bowl, mix together 4 fl. oz. of warm water with the yeast and just a tiny pinch of brown sugar; let the yeast bubble up. This should take 6-8 minutes.
  • Add the remaining water as well as everything else, except the flour, into the yeast bowl; mix with a machine equipped with a dough hook or by hand. Slowly add the flour and mix (medium-high)/knead (vigorously) until you get a smooth, non-sticky dough. Add more flour as needed, one tablespoon at a time. (You want to err on adding too little instead of too much flour.) This should take about 6-8 minutes with a stand mixer and 12-15 minutes if kneading by hand.
  • Form the dough into a large ball, cover with a towel, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  • Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces (or smaller — see post above for options).
  • To make a hot dog bun, shape a piece of dough into a 5-inch log of approximately 1.5 inches in diameter with tapered ends. Arrange the dough logs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space around each log.
  • To make a hamburger buns, shape a piece of dough into a ball, 3 inches in diameter, flatten it slightly with your palm. Arrange each dough ball onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches around each ball.
  • Cover the dough balls or logs with a towel; let them rise for 30 minutes.
  • Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 400° F.
  • Put the water in a pot and bring it to a gentle boil.
  • Add the baking soda to the water. You will see lots of bubbles; that’s okay.
  • Gently lift up each piece of dough, trying your best to keep the integrity of its shape. Slowly plunge each piece of dough into the simmering liquid, “pretty” side first.
  • Boil one or two pieces of dough at a time, 20 seconds per side. With a large slotted spoon, scoop the dough balls from the boiling liquid, shake off excess water, and gently place them on the same parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space between them.
  • With a sharp knife, or a dough slasher, make a cross on the top of each hamburger bun and 3-4 diagonal cuts on each hot dog bun. Each slash should be about 1/4 inch deep.
  • Sprinkle the top of the unbaked pretzel buns with your topping(s) of choice.
  • If you’re baking your pretzel rolls on a cookie sheet, simply transfer the rolls on the cookie sheet to the oven rack, set in the middle of the oven.
  • If you’re baking your pretzel rolls on a baking stone, sprinkle some cornmeal on the surface of the stone and arrange the rolls onto it, leaving about 3-4 inches between them. Place a pan of hot water on a rack set right underneath the baking stone.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your baking method, or until the pretzel buns develop dark caramel color on the outsides.
  • Remove the buns from the oven and let them cool on a cooking rack, loosely covered with a kitchen towel.
  • 47 Responses to Pretzel Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns

    1. unclevinny July 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

      Wow! You hit this one out of the park, Leela.

    2. foodies at home July 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

      What a fun idea…It’s like a trip to the ballpark in one compact bite!

    3. Kelly @ July 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

      We used to go to some minor league hockey games a few years ago and they sold some hot dogs in pretzel buns that were, in short, the BEST FOOD EVER! I make soft pretzels now and again and I like to wrap the dough around a hot dog, or even better a cheddar bratwurst, boil it, and bake it in the oven. Dip it in some spicy mustard and you have the snack of champions! Your buns look lovely! Beautifully shaped!

    4. Rick July 27, 2010 at 12:55 am #

      Made pretzels in the past, will have give this a go. Yours look simply beautiful!

    5. Anonymous July 27, 2010 at 2:57 am #

      For the boiling liquid, you called for two different amounts of baking soda. Was that on purpose?

    6. Leela July 27, 2010 at 11:36 am #

      Anonymous – Oops. Thanks a lot!! 🙂 It’s fixed now.

    7. Lynn July 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      can you tell me the recipe in cups not g. They look so wonderful I love pretzels!!!Thanks

    8. Leela July 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

      Lynn – Since figuring out the only way to get consistent results in baking is to weigh my ingredients, I’ve pretty much stopped measuring. And I’d hate to give you measurements in cups as they may be inaccurate. Here’s some info that might make things a bit easier:
      One cup of flour is approximately 120 g.
      One cup of brown sugar is approximately 200 g.
      One cup of liquid equals 8 fluid ounces.
      One teaspoon of dry yeast is approximately 5 g.
      One teaspoon of salt is approximately 5 g.
      One stick of butter (as sold in the US) is 113.5 g.

      Pain in the butt, I know. 🙂 Hope it helps a little, though.

    9. Andrea July 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

      I was wondering if it would be possible to make the dough ahead of time, let it rise once, and then refrigerate it overnight before shaping them and doing the second rising process. When I made bagels I did it this way, and they turned out beautifully, but I’m pretty new to bread baking so I wanted to make sure before I tried with this dough.

    10. Arwen from Hoglet K July 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

      Hmm, manly bread rolls does set your mind to sculpting, but capturing the essence of manliness as a flavour probably takes more talent. And a texture between fluff and mouth-tearing is what all rolls need!

    11. Leela July 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Andrea – I’ve never done it that way, but I don’t see why not. However, this dough is supposed to rise only once for only 30 minutes. The initial 15-minute rest is just to let the flour hydrate; it’s too short for the dough to rise.

      Retarding the dough could enhance the flavor, so that may be a good thing. But I can’t say what would happen to the texture since I’ve never tried that method with this recipe.

      But I think it’s worth an experiment!

    12. MC July 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

      Gorgeous pictures and lovely pretzel buns. I must try the recipe. Thanks for sharing, Leela!

    13. lisaiscooking July 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

      I’ve been meaning (for far too long) to make homemade hamburger buns, and now I have the option for pretzel buns?! These look amazing. I need to get baking.

    14. elra July 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

      Intriguing recipe, must try it one day!

    15. biz319 July 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

      Holy shit – I am totally making these over the weekend – love everything about them!!

    16. MBH July 31, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

      I started making them. Buns is to risen for the second time. A great dough to work with. I think they will be really lovely. Thanks for the recipes and photos.

      Best regards.


    17. Rick August 1, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

      Leela, Just wondering, did you brush the finished buns with butter or oil for you main photo?
      Going to make some this afternoon…

    18. Anonymous August 1, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

      We doubled the dough recipe to make 24 pretzel dogs for our daughter’s birthday party this afternoon. They came out GORGEOUS! Everybody loved them. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

      By the way, you’ve listed pretzel salt as one of the topping choices, but I’ve found that pretzel salt on top of these rolls makes them taste more authentic. Regardless, it’s a great dough recipe. So easy.


    19. Leela August 1, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

      Rick – Yup. I brushed the rolls from that batch with salted butter. It’s only for aesthetic enhancement since I didn’t bake them on a baking stone. Totally optional.

      Liz – Thanks. Glad you guys liked it. I use this dough to make pretzel dogs too! The pretzel salt warning is only for the case in which you know you’ll be using the rolls with salty meats. If that doesn’t apply, pretzel salt on top would be very nice indeed.

    20. Leela August 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

      Waah! There was a mistake on the yield of the recipe which has already been corrected. This recipe makes 8 hamburger buns OR (as supposed to “and” as previously stated) 8 hot dog buns.

      Sorry folks. Those who ended up with toy-sized buns, please accept my apology. Nobody should have to deal with miniature buns.

    21. Sonia - L'Exquisit August 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Leela, I’ve been eating pretzel today and were absolutely delicious. Thank you very much for the recipe!

    22. Leela August 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      Sonia – Thanks for the report! Glad you liked them. 🙂

    23. Anonymous October 16, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

      Yum. Great recipe. Definately more pretzel bun than traditional soft pretzel, just because of how fluffy they are inside. My problem was that everything became terminally stuck to the parchment paper in the oven. I think next time I’m just gonna do ’em on my silpat.
      Thanks again.

    24. Leela October 16, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

      Anon – Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

    25. Ryan Lauchard November 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

      Hi, awesome recipe! I made these for my wife and put together some fine Friday night burgers. I had the same issue with the bottoms sticking to the parchment paper though…any suggestions? Did I not drain them enough after boiling them?

    26. Leela November 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

      Ryan – Glad you guys like them.

      Assuming you use good quality parchment (Reynold’s works very well), I *think* the problem with the buns sticking to the parchment is most likely due to the bottoms of the poached buns being too soggy (which is what you’ve been thinking, apparently). Parchment is treated with silicon that releases when it’s heated. At 400F baking temp, nothing should stick to it. Perhaps the excess moisture is the culprit. I would either sprinkle some cornmeal on the parchment or wipe the bottoms of the poached buns with a kitchen towel before placing them on the parchment.

      Thank you so much for the feedback, Ryan. I’ll add a note to the post on how to avoid this problem. 🙂

    27. Amanda December 28, 2010 at 1:54 am #

      Thank you so much for this recipe!
      I made traditional soft pretzels for my 5 year old daughter who requested soft pretzels. Amazingly, she loved them! (she has been on a hunger strike for some time now…)
      Seeing my daughter eat until she was full of pretzels: Priceless!
      Thank You!

    28. CHARISSE April 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      My hotdog pretzel buns are in the oven now and they look awesome! I found baking them on a silpat thwarts any sticking problems, the concern of a few posters. There’s nothing like a hot pretzel roll fresh out of the oven, brushed with butter and sprinkled with a little Fleur de sel. Delicious! Thank you for the recipe!

    29. Leela April 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      Charisse – Ah. Silpat. Great tip. Thank you so much! 🙂

    30. Anonymous April 12, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

      can they be made larger to use as brat buns ? if so please explain how, as far as size and baking time. thanks—tom

    31. Leela April 13, 2011 at 12:01 am #

      Tom – This recipe makes 8 hot dog buns which are about 6 inches long and 2.5 inches wide (the ends taper off a bit). From my experience, these are big enough to accommodates brats; you only need to make the split a little deeper.

      The first time I tested this recipe, I divided the dough into 6 portions as opposed to 8 and the rolls ended up almost the size of standard hoagie rolls. You could do that too. In that case, I would keep the boiling time the same and increase the baking time by 8-10 minutes.

    32. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 3:21 am #

      leela, thanks the reason i asked was i usually make my own brats and they’re longer than the store bought and contain less fat , so they don’t shrink as much. hate the store bought ones because when you cook them they get about two inches shorter than the bun. i’ll be trying the recipe tomorrow, might even put a little curve in them before putting them in the water, to match the natural curve in the brat. thanks again—tom

    33. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

      made hamburger buns and one brat bun (with a curve) turned out pretty good for the first try. the buns seemed to bake too fast and seem alittle doughy inside, not too bad though. i cooked them on a silpat sheet at 400 deg. seemed to get dark brown on top and bottom in about 16 mins. should the heat maybe be adjusted a little lower? what do you think? thanks tom

    34. Leela April 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      Tom – Yeah, lowering the temp a little (375F??) may be in order. All ovens are calibrated differently, so adjust accordingly. Also, for my oven, anything baked on a rack set in the upper third tends to get brown much more quickly than what’s baked on the lower rack.

      One thing, though, is that there’s a difference between about-to-burn-any-minute-now dark brown and the kind of dark brown you get from dough that has been boiled in alkaline solution like this. These buns bake up darker than your normal buns because of the baking soda or lye solution you boil them in prior to baking. Just keep an eye on them, adjust the temp, rotate the pans, etc., as needed to make sure they get very brown (because you don’t want pale pretzel buns) but not burnt.

      What about the sizes? Did you divide the dough into 6 or 8 pieces? How big did the one brat one end up being?

    35. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      divided into 8 pieces, the brat one came out about 7 inches long, actually just right, bigger than i thought. the bottoms came out way darker than the tops, the tops seem to be just right. had the rack right in the middle of the oven. the insides don’t look so bad after they cooled down. how do i go about sending a picture of the brat bun to you?

    36. Leela April 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      Tom – Glad things worked out. Don’t worry about it; you don’t have to send me the picture (unless it’s something you can upload on flickr or Picasa where you can link us to). Thanks. I was just curious to see how you make a curvy bun. 🙂

    37. DavieG August 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

      For the last couple of weeks, we have been experimenting with different kinds of buns to use for our Burgers. Today we experimented with your recipe. They were really good, but….. They didn’t really very much like a pretzel, and that was disappointing… was more of a light hint.

    38. Admin October 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

      DavieG – If you want strong pretzel flavor, use food grade lye instead of baking soda.

    39. Unknown November 11, 2011 at 4:42 am #

      How do you get the nice glossy sheen on them? Mine tend to come out a bit more dull.

    40. Admin November 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Unknown – For the batch shown here, I brushed some (as seen in the first two photos) with melted butter as soon as they came out of the oven. Otherwise, they would have looked like what you see in the last two photos.

    41. Susan Andrews January 6, 2012 at 3:26 am #

      This is the best pretzel roll recipe I’ve found. Thank you for sharing! I just posted it to Pinterest and it’s being repinned like gang busters!

    42. AnaWarpath January 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      Do you think this recipe could be veganized?

    43. Admin January 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

      AnaWarpath – I’ve never tried, but I would think so. The butter can be easily substituted with olive oil, and — though I can’t be absolutely sure until I try this — I’m thinking you could also use soy or coconut milk in place of cow’s milk too. Would you like to try it and let us know how it goes? Thanks.

    44. shelleyandmike August 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      I can’t stop eating them! These did stick to my parchment so I will try the Silat for the next batch. All 8 fit on one tray and I think I’ll try to get a dozen out of it for sliders or mini sandwhiches. Those of you thinking about giving it a try should, worth every dirty dish!

    45. Cristina September 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      I found this on Pinterest or maybe just a google search…either way, I made them yesterday and wow, I had to come back and post how great these were. I have a food scale, so weighing in grams was no problem and very easy as opposed to scooping out cups of flour. I think I actually used closer to 7-8 cups of water for boiling as the 6 c. was a little shallow in my pan, but probably would have been fine. Also used an egg wash on the top before baking, but they came out so nice and browned all over I don’t think it was needed, if anything for the extra shine. These will be going in my regular baking rotation now, thanks so much!

    46. Ashley September 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      Oh my. I NEVER leave comments on any recipe, but these babies had me on the phone to my husband, my mother, and anyone else who would listen to my tears of joy. Alone, they are absolutely awsome. I sprinkled mine with course sea salt and put cheddar cheese on top before baking, then gave them a butter bath when they came out of the oven. But then, I boiled brats and onions in beer, grilled the brats, added some salt and garlic powder to the onions, stuck it on a bun with some sauerkraut, and almost had a heart attack. This is my new #1 recipe for buns. I’m not a big pretzel fan, but these were a lot like super soft, chewy rolls with just a hint of pretzel flavor. Awesome

    47. Robert Tate February 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

      Thank you for this recipe. I have used it dozens of times and never been disappointed. I have found with breads in general measurement by weight provides a much better product. One suggestion is to measure out the dough balls at 100g each. This lends itself to much better cooking as the pretzels will all be the same size and will eliminate under and over done food.