Is my Bavarian pretzel vegan?

Is my Bavarian pretzel vegan?

You’re about to take a greedy bite but your brain stops you just in time and asks “Is this Bavarian pretzel vegan?” Let’s get the lowdown.

Forget German engineering, one of the best German exports is the pretzel. Soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, topped with a sprinkling of salt. Perfection. We’ve got a lot of time for this iconic shaped bread. But if you’re new to veganism or just want to eat fewer animal products, is the Bavarian pretzel vegan friendly?

Traditional German Soft Pretzels are NOT Vegan Friendly, unless...

Is the Bavarian Pretzel Vegan Friendly?

Oktoberfest, what a delight. Beer, brass instruments and gingerbread hearts. And what better way to soak up all that alcohol than a giant soft pretzel. Also good for photos.

To put you out of your misery – we’re not a cooking blog – we’ll get straight to the point. The traditional German soft pretzel is not vegan. Traditionally made with milk and sometimes a pat of butter. 

That being said a Bavarian pretzel factory mass producing pretzels does not use milk or butter. Making your bavarian soft pretzel vegan friendly. 

If you’re buying a German pretzel from a bakery in Germany that’s a well-known chain such as Backwerk, it’s unlikely to contain milk. 

So the only way to be certain, is to check the ingredients or just ask.

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Historically, it is believed that pretzels were invented by monks. During Lent, pretzels made with just flour and water could be eaten by those fasting. And for this reason, the pretzel can easily be a vegan staple snack.

Fun fact, there is no definitive source explaining why the pretzel is shaped in a knot. Nevertheless, it has been used as an emblem for bakers all over southern Germany since the 12th century.


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What's the difference between a Bavarian pretzel and a traditional pretzel?

In English we call them pretzels but in German speaking areas you might find a couple of variations on the name. Brezel, Breze, and Brezen. Pretzels are important in the south of Germany and the name difference indicates the region you are in. 

And a word to the wise – don’t bother eating a pretzel in the north of Germany.

The differences between regions don’t just end with the name. The shape of the pretzel is slightly different. Thinner “arms” are characteristically a Swabian pretzel. And Bavarian pretzel typically has fatter, softer “arms”. See the photo above for a true Swabian pretzel. The thinner the arms, the better, in my opinion. 

A laugenbrezel is a traditional pretzel in the south of Germany. Pretzels are dipped in a Lye solution before being baked. This gives the pretzels the distinctive glaze. Most pretzels are now sold with the glaze but it is still possible to find unglazed versions in bakeries.

Alternatives to Lye for Pretzels

As we said above, lye gives laugenbrezels their distinctive tast and appearence, it enhances the Maillard reaction on the outside of the dough. But what is lye?

Lye is a strong alkali also known as sodium hydroxide. It’s extremely dangerous, that’s why we suggest using an alternative to lye for dipping pretzels at home. 

So what’s the alternative? 

It’s something we’ve all got in our cupboards if we like to do a little baking. It’s baking soda. Baking soda as an alternative to lye is very effective. While your pretzels won’t be quite so shiny and brown, baking soda does save you the hassle of sourcing lye for your pretzels.

Vegan-friendly Traditional Bavarian Pretzel Recipe translated from German

Homemade Bavarian soft pretzels are a little tricky to master but worth the effort. Fresh out of the oven spread with a little vegan-friendly butter (or normal butter) is an unrivaled simple pleasure.

Try this authentic German pretzel recipe at home. We’ve replaced the cow’s milk with a vegan alternative. For the original recipe in German, check out the page.

Bavarian Pretzel Ingredients

500g Flour (Type 550)

300ml Oat or Almond Milk

1 tsp Salt

1 Cube Yeast

1 tsp Sugar

40g Margarine 

a little salt

1 L Water

3 tbsp Baking Soda

a little extra flour for kneading

Vegan Friendly Traditional Bavarian Pretzel


1. Mix the yeast with a few drops of the milk and all the sugar. Leave to rise at room temperature for approx. 1/4 hour.

2. Mix the yeast mixture with 1 tsp salt, all the flour, the remaining milk and margarine into an elastic dough. 

3. Leave to rise again for about 1/2 hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.

4. Knead by hand on a floured work surface and roll into a long sausage shape. Divide this into about 16-18 equal parts. From each part, roll a sausage about 30 cm long, with a bulge in the middle. 

5. Shape into pretzels and leave them to rise for another 15 minutes.

6. After 15 minutes put them in the fridge uncovered for 1 hour. 

7. Get the baking soda dip ready for when they are taken out of the fridge. Boil 1 liter of water in a pan and dissolve 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the boiled water. Take it steady as the baking soda swells up quite a bit.

8. Place the pretzels one at a time into the boiling baking soda water for 30 seconds, the pretzels will float. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and sprinkle with coarse salt to taste. 

9. Then place on a well-greased baking sheet. Avoid using baking paper, as they will stick. When the pretzels are ready, slide the tray into the cold oven.

10. Set a timer for about 18 minutes and heat to 220°C (gas mark 4). When the pretzels are golden brown after about 18 – 20 minutes, they are done.


We recommend taking the pretzels on a picnic with a perfect view. Check out our review of the vineyard and view at Hohenhaslach, this would be the ideal picnic spot.

Have you tried making pretzels at home? How did it go? Let us know any tips in the comments below.

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