Buttery soft pretzels with a chewy exterior and plump inside paired with a savory beer cheese sauce.
Buttery soft pretzels drenched in a lush beer cheese are the perfect appetizer for every occasion. Whether it is a holiday, game day, rainy day, or “just because,” these soft pretzels are always a crowd pleaser! They have a buttery, chewy exterior with a soft plump inside. The beer cheese sauce is a blend of gruyere, fontina, and cheddar that bubbles in IPA beer.
Who loves Auntie Anne’s pretzels? I know I do! What better snack is there at the mall than those little pretzel bites and cheese dip. I hate shopping but would go to the mall just for those! But these homemade pretzels with beer cheese sauce are even better. This is the best beer cheese recipe! The beer in the cheese adds another depth of flavor and brings out all of the cheese’s robust taste. The soft pretzels are covered in butter and chunky salt, and when dipped in that cheese, it is heaven! I no longer have to force myself to go shopping to satisfy my pretzel craving.
Before we get to the full recipe detailed below, here are a few notes about the ingredients you will need to make these soft pretzels with beer cheese sauce.
For the soft pretzels, you will need:
Yeast: I like using instant yeast for this soft pretzel recipe. Instant yeast can be directly mixed into dry ingredients without having to rehydrate with water. You will need 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast. If you don’t have instant yeast, you can substitute it at a 1:1 ratio, just be sure to activate the yeast in lukewarm water.
Brown sugar: You will need 1 ½ teaspoons of brown sugar. This adds to the depth of flavor in the pretzel.
Salt: I prefer to bake and cook with sea salt. You will need 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt.
Butter: Melted butter goes into the dough to make it rich and soft. You will need 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter melted.
Flour: All purpose flour is needed for these soft pretzels. It calls for 4 cups in the dough and a little more for the work surface when kneading.
For the baking soda bath, you will need:
Baking soda: ½ of a cup of baking soda is needed.
Water: A pot of boiling water is needed for the baking soda bath, about 9 cups.
For the beer cheese sauce, you will need:
Butter: You will need 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. This is the base of the roux for the beer cheese sauce.
Flour: Equal parts flour to butter is needed for the roux. You will need 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour.
Milk: The best milk for this beer cheese sauce is whole milk. 1 cup of whole milk is included in this recipe.
Beer: I think the best beer for this beer cheese sauce is a nice, hoppy IPA. However, you can also use a lager, pilsner, or even non-alcoholic beer. The flavor profile will be more mild. You need ⅔ cup of beer for this recipe.
Worcestershire sauce: Just a little bit of Worcestershire sauce is needed for this recipe to add umami flavor. Deepens the flavor and compliments the cheese. This recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce.
Dijon mustard: Dijon mustard adds a little tang to the sauce. You will need only ½ of a teaspoon for this beer cheese sauce recipe.
Seasonings: For this beer cheese sauce, you need garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and red cayenne pepper. These spices will add flavor and smokiness.
Cheese: This recipe uses a combination of gruyere, fontina, and sharp yellow cheddar cheese. This variety of cheeses is creamy, sharp, and rich… the best for beer cheese sauce!
Variations & Substitutions
If you don’t like IPA beer, you can substitute it with a different variety of beer. For the beer cheese sauce, you can also use lager, pilsner, or even non-alcoholic beer but the flavor will be more mild.
Instead of chunky salt on top of the pretzels, try your favorite seasoning! Some seasonings that are also delicious on top of soft pretzels are everything bagel seasoning, seasoned salt, or toasted sesame seeds.
Tips & Tricks
In between boiling each soft pretzel, set on a sheet pan under a damp towel. This will keep the pretzels from drying out and allow the chunky salt to stick.
Do not purchase pre shredded cheese! I know the cheese at the store that is already shredded is so convenient, but don’t use this cheese for the beer cheese sauce. Pre shredded cheese is covered in preservatives to keep the cheese from clumping together which makes it not as meltable when cooking. Just buy the cheese in blocks and shred yourself! Trust me, it’s worth the little arm workout it tasks to shred!
Prepare the oven and baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a baking sheet with butter or oil.
Start the dough. In a large bowl combine instant yeast, lukewarm water, brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Whisk to combine.
Slowly add flour to the dough. Using a stand mixer with the dough hook or your hands, add flour 1 cup at a time, and mix until thickened.
Knead! Once the dough starts coming together, it's time to knead. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Cover with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
While the dough rests, make the baking soda bath. In a large pot, bring the water and baking soda to a boil.
Cut the dough. Once the dough is rested, cut into 6 equal sections. I do this by cutting in half and then cutting each half into thirds. Roll each section into a 20 inch long rope.
Shape the dough. For step by step on how to shape the dough and a follow along video, visit my How-To Post. The pretzel shape is done by creating a U shape. Then twist the ropes twice in the middle, and pull the ends of the rope down to the U's bottom.
Boil each pretzel in the baking soda bath. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda bath for 25 seconds. Remove the pretzel with a slotted spoon, let the excess water drip off, and set on a prepared baking sheet.
Bake! Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
Prepare the beer cheese sauce. First, make sure all your cheese is shredded. Do not purchase the cheese already shredded! Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and vigorously whisk until a paste forms. Slowly whisk in the milk. Vigorously whisk for 1 minute until the mixture thickens. Then add the remaining ingredients one by one, whisking in between. Remove the beer cheese sauce from the heat.
Serve! Pour the beer cheese sauce into a serving dish. Brush the pretzels in melted butter and more chunky salt. Enjoy!
Serve these pretzels warm after brushed in butter and sprinkled with salt, paired with the bubbling beer cheese sauce.
Storage & Reheating
After the pretzels have been baked, let cool and individually wrap in plastic wrap. They can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days and frozen for up to 1 month.
Soft pretzels can be reheated in the microwave, but for best results reheat in the oven. For the microwave, place the pretzel on a plate and place a damp paper towel on top, microwave for 15-30 seconds. For the oven, drizzle water over the pretzel and wrap it in foil. Bake in the oven at 325F for 5 minutes.
Why do you boil soft pretzels before baking?
Soft pretzels have to be boiled in baking soda before baking to change the PH level of the dough. If this step isn’t taken, the pretzels will have the same color as bagels.
How do you shape a pretzel?
I have a whole post dedicated to show you how to shape a pretzel at https://essenceeats.com/how-to-shape-a-pretzel. It includes detailed instructions and step-by-step pictures.
Why do my pretzels taste like metal?
If your pretzels taste like metal, then that means they boiled in the baking soda water for too long. If they absorb too much of the baking soda water, the pretzels will develop a metallic flavor. Boil each pretzel for exactly 25 seconds. I like to use a timer each time I drop a pretzel in the pot to ensure preciseness.
Why is my pretzel dough not stretchy?
If your pretzel dough is difficult to shape and not stretching into a large dough rope, rest in between stretches. When the gluten relaxes it will become more pliable and stretchy.
Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese Sauce
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter plus more for brushing
- 4 cups all purpose flour plus more for work surface
- coarse salt for sprinkling
Baking Soda Bath
- ½ cup baking soda
- 9 cups water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- ⅔ cup IPA beer
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon red cayenne
- 5 ounces gruyere cheese shredded but not pre shredded
- 8 ounces sharp yellow cheddar cheese shredded but not pre shredded
- 9 ounces fontina cheese shredded but not pre shredded
Prepare the Pretzels:
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a baking sheet with butter or oil.
- In a large bowl combine instant yeast, lukewarm water, brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Using a stand mixer with the dough hook or your hands, add flour 1 cup at a time, and mix until thickened.
- Once the dough starts coming together, it's time to knead. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
- While the dough rests, make the baking soda bath. In a large pot, bring the water and baking soda to a boil.
- Once the dough is done resting, use a pizza cutter or dough scraper to cut it into 6 equal sections. Roll each section into a large rope about 20 inches long.
- Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. This is done by creating a U shape. Then twist the ropes twice in the middle, and pull the ends of the rope down to the U's bottom.
- Dip each pretzel in the baking soda bath for 25 seconds. Do not let them sit in the bath for any longer, or they will begin to develop a metallic taste from the baking soda. Remove the pretzel with a slotted spoon, let the excess water drip off, and set on a prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Once finished, brush with melted butter and more coarse salt if desired.
Prepare Beer Cheese Sauce:
- First, make sure all of your cheese is shredded and ready to go.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until thick paste forms. Slowly whisk in the milk. Vigorously whisk for 1 minute until the mixture thickens.
- One at a time, whisk in the remaining ingredients.
- Remove the cheese dip from heat and pour into a serving dish.