Pretzels go stale VERY quickly. The first time I baked them I was surprised by just how fast they became hard.
But is there any way to stop this from happening? I was determined to find out.
I tested a few different methods to find out the best way of keeping soft pretzels fresh. I bought some fresh pretzels, wrapped them up in various different ways, stored them all in the same cupboard, and left them. 24 hours later, I reheated the pretzels in the microwave and did a taste test.
Here are my results.
To store fresh pretzels, wrap them in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. This helps the pretzel retain its moisture. For short-term storage (a day) keep them in the cupboard. For any longer than a day, freeze them. You can reheat the pretzels in the oven or microwave.
How to store soft pretzels so they stay fresh
A warm, soft pretzel just out of the oven is a treat to behold.
Keeping them that way is all about controlling moisture levels. You want the pretzels to stay nice and moist, but don’t want so much moisture that the pretzel becomes soggy.
I’m going to be real here, pretzels don’t last that long. The only way to store them long-term (more than a day) is to freeze them.
But for less than a day, plastic wrap or aluminum foil will work well – especially if you don’t salt the pretzels (more on that later).
I also tested keeping them in a paper bag, in a bread box, and in a Tupperware wrapped in a dishcloth. These worked, but not as well.
I found these suggestions online or by talking to my baker friends.
Freeze them in a fresh state
This is the method I recommend if you want to get more than a day out of your pretzels.
The frozen pretzel yielded the best results in my experiment, the whole pretzel was still soft and chewy once it had been reheated. Nearly like it had been fresh out of the oven.
In other methods the thickest part of the pretzel would be softer than the thin parts.
Freezing a fresh pretzel is like freezing time.
If you freeze them when they’re nice and soft, they’ll be like that when you reheat them.
To freeze a soft pretzel, wait for it to cool, and then wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Then put this in a freezer-safe bag.
You want to protect your little pretzel babies as much as possible. Double wrapping followed by a freezer-safe bag means NO AIR will be able to reach your pretzel, so it won’t get freezer burn.
Freezer burn ruins the taste and texture of the pretzel.
Pretzels will last for up to a month in the freezer. Label the bag so you know how long the pretzel has been in the freezer. It’s easy to forget.
There’s no need to thaw the pretzels, you can reheat them straight from frozen. Simply put the pretzel in the oven or microwave until it’s back to its former glory (for more information on reheating, skip to the section below).
I always aim to reheat the pretzel after it’s been frozen, eating it cold once it’s thawed isn’t the same.
How to freeze pretzel bites
If you’re freezing bites it’s
a bit very tedious to wrap them all individually. For this, I suggest flash-freezing the bites.
Lay the pretzel bites out on a baking tray and put the tray in the freezer for an hour. At this point, they’ll be frozen enough not to stick together and you can put them all in a freezer bag. Suck as much of the air out as possible (with a straw) and then wrap the bag in aluminum foil, or place it in a container for an extra layer of protection.
Store them in plastic wrap or aluminium foil
If you google how to store bread it will tell you to avoid plastic.
The main reason for this is to protect the crust on the bread.
Plastic (or foil) traps moisture. Therefore, any moisture the bread produces is trapped and will turn a crunchy crust soggy.
Aside from that, plastic is actually really efficient at keeping the inside of the bread soft and moist because it provides an air barrier.
Since soft pretzels don’t have much of a crunch, you don’t need to worry about it going soggy. You just want to keep the bread moist.
In my experiment, wrapping the pretzel in plastic for a day worked really well. The salt had melted (it had melted on all the pretzels apart from the frozen one) but the pretzel itself was still soft and chewy.
After one day, it was on par with the frozen one. My partner actually preferred the pretzel wrapped in plastic, but not by much.
I wanted to see how long this method could keep my pretzels fresh for, so I decided to do a further test.
I got another pretzel and wrapped it in plastic wrap AND foil to give an extra layer of protection. I kept it in the same cupboard as before. After each 24 hour period, I checked on the pretzel to see how soft it felt.
The pretzel lasted around 36 hours before it got too stale to be enjoyable. At 48 hours it was okay if you blasted it in the microwave for 45 seconds, but you could still tell it was stale. Another issue was the salt, after 48 hours it had completely melted and felt soggy to the touch which wasn’t all that appetizing.
Store them in paper bags (good in a pinch)
Paper bags are breathable, so let moisture escape. This means you’ll have no chance of a soggy pretzel. If you’ve baked yours with a slight crunch, then this is a good option.
However, because the paper bag provides only minimal protection against air, the pretzels were notably staler than the frozen ones or the plastic-wrapped ones.
Once reheated, they were edible, but I wouldn’t say they tasted fresh.
If you try the bag and decide it’s for you I would recommend getting a reusable bread bag (made of linen). It acts as a paper bag, except you can wash it and re-use it.
Great for all eco-conscious pretzel eaters!
Keep the bag in a cool, dry place. The pantry is ideal.
Store the soft pretzels wrapped in a dishcloth in an airtight container
If you like the idea of a crunchy crust, but want to provide more protection against bugs and outside pests, a plastic storage container is a good option.
Wrap the pretzel in a dishcloth before placing it in the container.
The dishcloth will soak up any escaping moisture and stop it from turning your pretzel soggy. If you don’t want to give up a dishcloth for a day, you can cover the pretzels in paper towels instead.
This method yielded similar results to the paper bag. The pretzels were okay, but not amazing.
Keep the container in a cool, dry place. The pantry is ideal.
Use a bread box
Bread boxes (as you might have guessed from the name) are made to store bread. This includes pretzels.
They provide optimal conditions to ensure your bread products last as long as possible.
They let a little air circulate, so moisture can escape, but not enough that the bread will dry out too quickly.
You can put your pretzels in naked, there’s no need to cover them. But if your bread box is big and empty then the pretzel would benefit from some extra protection such as a paper bag or a dishcloth.
I put my pretzel in naked to see what happened. I had some other bread in there but it wasn’t full. The pretzel came out similar to the paper bag method. It was fine, but not the freshest.
Bread boxes work really well for any kind of crusty bread, as well as other baked products. If you do a lot of baking it’s definitely worth investing in one.
I use this bread box (from Amazon). It looks fantastic in my kitchen and is easy to open and close. What more do you need from a bread bin?
If you don’t have a bread box to hand, you can also use a microwave to temporarily store your pretzels. Just make sure no-one accidentally turns it on without looking.
Other tips for keeping pretzels fresher for longer
As well as storing your pretzels optimally, there are a few other tricks you can use to keep them as soft and fresh as possible.
Don’t salt the pretzel until you want to eat it (or remove the salt for storage)
This is an important one.
Salted pretzels become stale faster than unsalted ones.
Pretzels naturally contain moisture, and salt is a natural moisture absorber.
This doesn’t make for a good combination when you’re trying to keep the pretzels fresh. If you store pretzels with salt on, the salt will draw moisture out of the pretzel leaving a dry, hard pretzel in its wake.
And that’s not all.
As the salt soaks up the moisture, it will start to melt. The melted salt will render the surface of the pretzel wrinkly and wet.
Wrinkly, wet and hard is not how you want to describe a pretzel.
If you’re going to keep your pretzels un-frozen then I HIGHLY recommend de-salting them. Or not putting the salt on at all. They’ll last longer and there’s no risk of the salt melting.
You can put the salt on just before you plan to eat/reheat them.
Make sure you’re not overcooking the soft pretzels
Did you know one of the main differences between soft and hard pretzels is how long they’re cooked for?
Cooking draws moisture out of the pretzels, so the longer they’re cooked for, the less moisture they contain.
Stale pretzels are just pretzels that have lost all their moisture.
Therefore, the less moisture your soft pretzels have to begin with, the quicker they’ll go stale.
Taking your soft pretzels out of the oven AS SOON as they are ready will prolong their life. This isn’t going to give you days extra, but it will buy you a good few hours.
If you’re cooking the pretzels for longer to get a good brown color, make sure you’re using baked baking soda for the dip. Or even better, food-grade lye. These will brown your pretzel quickly enough that you don’t need to overbake them to get the deep brown color pretzels are famous for.
Let the pretzels cool completely before storing
It can be tempting to stuff the pretzels into their box or bag as soon as they come out of the oven. After all, air is the enemy, right?
But if the pretzels are still hot when you store them, they’ll create a humid environment in their container, and the excess moisture in the air will render them soggy. This can speed up how fast they go moldy.
Wait until the pretzels are cool to the touch, then store them.
Always reheat your pretzel before eating it
Pretzels are meant to be eaten fresh and slightly warm.
After being out of the oven for a few hours, the pretzels will feel hard to the touch, but at this point, you can remedy it by reheating the pretzel.
This allows you to put some moisture back into the bread and soften it up.
Eating the pretzel cold doesn’t give you the oppotunity to revive it.
Always try reheating the pretzel first before declaring it too stale to enjoy. You might be surprised at the results.
How to reheat and revive soft pretzels so they’re good as new
If you reheat your day-old pretzels in the right way, you’ll breathe life back into them. They won’t be a 100% replica of the fresh ones, but they’ll be 99% of the way there.
You need to heat the pretzels without drying them out.
You can reheat soft pretzels in the microwave or the oven. To microwave, wrap the pretzel in a damp paper towel and microwave it in 15-second intervals. To reheat in the oven, sprinkle the pretzel with a tablespoon of water and wrap it loosely in foil. Heat for 3-5 mins at 375 degrees.
The most important aspect here is the moisture from the damp paper towel or the sprinkling of water. This re-introduces moisture into the pretzel and prevents it from becoming dry.
If you haven’t salted the pretzel yet, you can add the salt before you heat the pretzel.
Times will vary based on pretzel size and oven discrepancies, so make sure to check the pretzel is done to your liking before you take it out. In general, when your pretzel feels soft and airy to the touch, it’s done.
If your pretzels are frozen there’s no need to thaw them, you can reheat them straight from frozen. Just increase the cooking times slightly.
Reheating in the microwave
The microwave is the quickest option. It takes less than a minute, so it’s perfect if you’re in a hurry.
I find 30 seconds is the right amount of time for me, but it depends on how you like your pretzels.
If you want, you can swap the damp paper towel for a wet paper bag. Both work well.
A downside of microwaving is that it won’t bring back the nice crunch of the pretzel crust.
For that, you need the oven.
You can pop your microwaved pretzel in the toaster oven for a minute or so to crisp it up. but if crunch is really important to you, opt for the oven.
Reheating in the oven
To reheat a soft pretzel in the oven, sprinkle a tablespoon of water over it and wrap it loosely in foil. Bake for 3-5 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
I usually go for this option because it keeps the outside of the pretzel crispy and the inside super soft.
If you like a really crispy outside you can forgo the foil wrap and just put the pretzel in uncovered.
If you want to add a bit of flavor here, you can. Instead of water, you can use melted butter and add extra toppings such as cheese and herbs.
You can also play around with the temperature and time. The lower you set the temperature, the longer you’ll need to heat the pretzel.
My suggestion of 3-5 minutes at 375 degrees is a hybrid of Auntie Anne’s and Philly Pretzel Factory’s advice. It works for me.
How to keep soft pretzels warm
So, you’ve got a party coming up and want to make pretzels, but don’t want them going cold. You want warm, fresh pretzels
Side note, can I get an invite to that party?
Keep the pretzels in the oven
One way to keep your pretzels warm is to leave them in the oven with a tray of water in the bottom. The heat from the oven will warm the pretzels, while the water will stop them from drying out.
If you’ve just cooked the pretzels, the oven should be pretty warm already so you won’t need it turned on (unless it goes cold). But if the oven is cold, put it on its lowest heat setting.
This will keep the pretzels warm without cooking them.
If you’re worried about the pretzels getting too brown on top, you can cover them with foil.
This method is great for parties or large amounts of pretzels because you can fit a lot of pretzels in one oven.
Use a slow cooker
If you don’t have a load of pretzels, then you can put your slow cooker to good use.
If it’s anything like mine, it’s gathering dust!
Set the slow cooker to warm, loosely wrap the pretzels up in aluminum foil, and put them in the slow cooker. Don’t wrap them too tightly because you want air to be able to circulate, this will prevent condensation from forming in the foil. Too much condensation will make your pretzels soggy.
If you want to be 100% sure the pretzels won’t go soggy cut a small slit in the foil.
You can leave the pretzel warming for a good few hours this way.
Use a bread stone (or a homemade version)
Never heard of a bread stone?
Neither had I until I started investigating how to keep my pretzels warm.
A bread stone is like a hot water bottle for bread. It’s a terracotta brick that you warm in the microwave or oven and then it slowly releases this heat, which you can use to warm your pretzels (or any type of bread).
How long the stone stays warm depends on how big the stone is. You can expect anywhere between 20-45 minutes, so this is a short-term solution (of course, you can always reheat the stone again).
Most people use the stone along with a bread basket. I recommend this set from The Crabby Nook. You get the stone and the basket in one, all you need is a large dishcloth.
Place the dishcloth in the bottom of the basket and heat the stone. Then place the stone and pretzels in the basket, and loosely wrap the dishcloth over the top. With the Crabby Nook set, the stone will radiate heat for around 45 minutes.
If you don’t have a basket you can use a bowl, plate, or pan. If you just want to purchase the stone, this one is made in the USA and will also last 45 minutes.
A homemade alternative to a bread stone is dried beans or rice.
Both of these will absorb heat when you microwave them or heat them in the oven. They’ll then stay nice and warm for around 20-30 minutes. To contain them, you can wrap them in a thin cloth before heating them.
Use a dedicated pretzel warmer
If you’re in the business of pretzel making and this is a frequent problem, then you could consider investing in a food warmer (sold on amazon). Warning: they don’t come cheap.
As well as pretzels, you can put pizzas, hot dogs, and burgers in. Basically, any food you want to keep warm.
If you only care about pretzels then you can get a dedicated pretzel warmer. You can hang the pretzels up to display them. Everybody will be queuing up to get their hands on your pretzels with one of these!
Par-bake the pretzels and finish just before serving (or simply reheat)
If you have the time and opportunity, this is a great way to serve up super fresh pretzels, even though you did most of the work the day before.
Bake the pretzels until there are 5 minutes of cooking time left, then take them out and store them as per my advice above.
When the time comes to serve them, all you have to do is pop them in the oven (or toaster oven) for 5 minutes and they’ll come out good as new. No-one will be any the wiser.
To save a couple more minutes, you can cook the pretzels all the way through in advance. Then just reheat them before serving.
What to do with stale pretzels
Stale pretzels don’t have to go to waste. Think of them like stale bread.
Anything you’d use stale bread for, you can use stale pretzels for. The pretzels will level up your dish. It’ll be a LOT tastier than just using plain bread.
Some ideas for using up stale pretzels include:
- Making croutons
- Making breadcrumbs
- Making stuffing
- Make bread pudding (sweet or savory – yes savory bread pudding is a thing!)
- Use them in meatballs or meatloaf
- Sprinkle the crumbs over a pasta bake or salad
- Toast them and make crunchy pretzels
- Use them for bird food (lucky birds!)
- Make Knödel, a german bread dumpling
Pretzel breadcrumbs on mac and cheese… INSANE.
Related: How To Store Homemade Bread Crumbs
Should you refrigerate soft pretzels?
Pretzels don’t need to be refrigerated, they should be kept at room temperature. Pretzels will actually go stale faster in the fridge than they would at room temperature. At cold temperatures, the starch in the pretzels will start to recrystallize, turning your snack hard.
Staving off mold is one reason people like to refrigerate bread.
But as pretzels don’t last much more than a day anyway, you don’t need to worry about them going moldy.
As part of my experiment, I put one pretzel in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap. After 24 hours it was super hard and barely improved after I reheated it. I don’t recommend it.
Can I freeze soft pretzel dough?
Yes, you can freeze soft pretzel dough. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. This will protect it from freezer burn. Allow the dough to thaw before shaping the pretzels and baking.
I prefer not to shape the dough before I freeze it because it’s easier to store that way. Shaping the pretzels before will save you time later, but it’s much harder to wrap and protect shaped pretzels.
You can also refrigerate the dough for up to 24 hours. You can shape the dough while it’s still cold, but leave it to rest for a while before dipping it in your baking soda solution. This will give it a chance to puff up.
Do soft pretzels go bad?
Soft pretzels are a type of bread, and just like bread they can go moldy and become unsafe to eat. If you can see any spots of mold on the pretzel, don’t eat it.
Soft pretzels will also go stale (hard) very quickly. Stale pretzels aren’t unsafe to eat, but they’re less appetizing. You’ll be able to feel with your hands if the pretzel is stale. It will be hard when you try to squish it instead of soft.
How To Keep Soft Pretzels Fresh
- 1 Portion Soft pretzel
How to store pretzels in the pantry
- Wrap the pretzel in plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil
- Leave the pretzel in a cool, dry place for up to 48 hours
How to freeze soft pretzels
- Wait for the pretzel to cool to room temperature
- Wrap the pretzel in a layer of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil
- Put the wrapped pretzel in a heavy-duty freezer bag
- Label the bag and put it in the freezer. The pretzels will last a month
How to reheat soft pretzels
- Wrap the pretzel (frozen or thawed) in a damp paper towel and place on a microwave safe plate
- Heat on high for 15 second intervals
- When the pretzel is warm and soft, it's done (around 30 seconds for a thawed pretzel or 45 for a frozen one)
How to keep soft pretzels warm
- Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven and turn it on to its lowest setting
- Cover the pretzels loosely with foil and put them in the warm oven until you need them
- You can also reheat pretzels in the oven by sprinkling them with water, covering them with foil, and heating them for 3-5 minutes.