Air Fryer Pretzel Bites are so fun to make and much easier than making homemade bread! You don't have to wait for the dough to proof, so it's much quicker too.
The air fryer cooks these homemade pretzel bites perfectly, they have the classic pretzel flavor and are golden brown on the outside and chewy, but soft on the inside. I enjoy making them and I hope you do too!
One batch makes about 80 pretzel bites, but before you think about cutting the recipe in half, remember the person or persons making them will not be able to resist trying 1 or 10! I know this from experience. I had to make 2 batches just to get the photo for this article because I could not stop eating them. When tossed in melted butter, they remind me so much of Auntie Anne's pretzels!
You also don't want to miss my recipe for cheddar cheese sauce which is simply perfect for dipping your pretzel bites in! This magic cheese sauce stays liquid at room temp and uses real cheddar cheese. Here is the recipe: Pretzel Cheese Dip
I love this cheese dip because it is made with real cheddar cheese and stays in liquid form at room temp!
Another great dipping sauce is my homemade honey mustard: Honey Mustard Sauce
Not only is it great for dipping pretzels into, but it's also perfect for air fryer chicken strips!
Suggested Kitchen Tools for Making Pretzels
- Large Pot or Ninja Foodi PC&AC or your Instant Pot
- Cooling rack
- Slotted spoon
- Pastry mat or large flat work surface
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Spatula for mixing dough
- Plastic wrap
- Kitchen towel
- Tray for coating pretzels (optional)
- Parchment or silicone liner for air fryer basket
Ingredients & Substitutions
The ingredients you need to make pretzel bites are very basic, but each one is important in the final outcome. Before you make changes in the ingredients, please read about how they work in the recipe so you always have success when making homemade pretzel bites!
Homemade Pretzel Dough
Making your own dough for pretzels is really easy and doesn't require any special equipment. You can use a stand mixer if you have one, but a bowl and a spatula work great!
If you don't want to make your own dough, I recommend using premade pizza dough instead. I have read that some people use biscuit dough, but that is not the same kind of yeast dough and your pretzels will be a different texture.
The homemade dough only requires 5 simple ingredients; all-purpose flour, warm water, salt, sugar, and instant or rapid-rise yeast. Let's talk about the yeast a bit.
Any yeast will work in this recipe, but if you use active dry yeast, you will need to go through the process of blooming it prior to mixing it into your dough and you may have to let your dough proof a bit before shaping the bites and putting them in the baking soda bath.
You can also use your sourdough starter if desired.
I use instant yeast which can be added directly to the flour mixture and does not require proofing/blooming beforehand. Rapid Rise yeast will also work just fine.
Active Dry Yeast: If you want to use Active Dry Yeast, place the yeast into a small bowl with about 2 Tablespoons of the warm water and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and mix together. Let it sit for 5 minutes or until it is foamy and has increased in volume. Add this mixture to the other ingredients in the dough and mix to incorporate.
You will also want to give the dough a little time to rise before forming the pretzel bites. You can let the dough sit for about 30 minutes in the bowl covered with plastic and that should be plenty of time. It will deflate as you make the ropes, but they will puff some in the boiling water.
I used all-purpose flour in this recipe, but you can use bread flour if you prefer. The type of flour you use can affect the amount of liquid you need, so make adjustments based on the way the dough looks and feels and not the measurements in the recipe.
This is especially true when using whole wheat flour, it requires more hydration than white flour. If you did want to add in some whole wheat flour, I would only use about ½ cup combined with 1½ cups of all-purpose flour the first time you try it.
Or, you can look for a whole wheat pretzel dough recipe and use that instead of this dough.
Salt, Sugar, Water
Salt is important for flavor in the dough and I don't recommend skipping it unless you are on a really low-sodium diet and, if that is the case, you may not want to use the baking soda bath either.
As far as salting the outside of the pretzels, that is completely up to you. They sell pretzel salt which is coarser than kosher salt. What I do is use a really coarse salt and my salt grinder set to a coarse grind and that works great. You want to salt the pretzels after rolling them in butter or oil so the salt sticks.
The sugar (or you can use 1 Tablespoon of honey instead) doesn't make the pretzels sweet, but it does boost the activity of the yeast which is part of the reason we don't need to let the dough rise. If you skip the sugar, you may end up with slightly denser pretzel bites or you can let your dough proof longer.
Sugar substitutes don't work here because the sugar is food for the yeast and not for sweetness. If you can't have sugar or honey, just skip it and let the dough sit in the bowl for 30 minutes covered.
I can't stress this enough, let your dough tell you how much water it needs, not the recipe. If you are in a really humid place, you might not need the entire ¾ cup. If your flour is super dry, you may need a l ittle more. Usually it will be 1-2 Tablespoons less or more of the liquid. When all the dough ingredients are well mixed, you should have a sticky dough, but not overly wet.
Baking Soda Bath
The baking soda bath is what is responsible for the signature pretzel flavor, texture, and color. Yes, it's that important. I've seen recipes where they skip that baking soda bath, but if you do you are not making pretzels, you are making bread bites. Delicious, yes. Pretzels, no.
If, for health reasons, you can't have baking soda because it's high in salt or any other reason, I would still boil the pretzel bites in water only so at least you will have the chew of a pretzel even if you don't have the flavor. I would also spritz them with oil or butter BEFORE air frying to get them a darker brown color. The baking soda is what creates the dark color of pretzels.
I like my pretzels rolled in a little bit of butter and, thankfully, a little bit of butter goes a long way. You can lightly coat all of the pretzel bites with just 2-3 Tablespoons of butter and this recipe makes about 80 pretzel bites.
I use salted butter, but any butter is fine. You can also skip the butter and use a neutral flavored oil instead or skip both. Just know the salt won't stick to the pretzels without something on them for the salt to stick to.
You can try to salt the pretzels after the soda bath and before air frying if you want to skip the butter or oil.
How to Make The Pretzel Dough
If you are new to making dough, don't worry! Here is a step by step tutorial on how to make this pretzel dough so, even if it is your first time, you will make it like a pro!
Mise En Place (Prep)
I'm a big one for prepping ingredients beforehand and, when making dough, you want to make sure you have all the equipment and ingredients measured and ready to go.
This will reduce your stress level if it is your first time making pretzel dough and only takes a few minutes.
Make sure you have your work surface clean and ready to go. Make sure it is very dry. I like to use my (affiliate link)Pampered Chef Pastry Mat, but a clean countertop works great, as well. Cutting boards are not usually big enough when you go to roll out your dough ropes, so make sure the area you designate is at least 20"x20".
Another important tip is how you measure out the flour. I don't weigh the flour in this recipe because not everyone has a kitchen scale and I'm a firm believer that as long as you let the dough tell you if you need more flour or more liquid, you can make incredible dough without a scale.
Flour settles as it sits and becomes more compact, so it's important to aerate it before measuring it out. To do this, dip your measuring cup into the flour and toss it around a few times.
Then, measure out the flour in your measuring cup, take a flat surface, and scrape it over the top to level it out.
Once all the other ingredients are measured out, get your water heated to the correct temperature. Using warm water that is about 104℉.40℃, but not hotter than 110℉/43℃ is important in this recipe because the warm water along with the sugar boosts the activity of the yeast and eliminates the need for rising the dough.
Mix the Dough
Add the yeast, sugar, and flour to a medium size mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine. I skipped stirring the dry ingredients together in the video and it worked out fine, but you do run the risk of your yeast clumping if water gets to it before it's mixed in with the other dry ingredients.
Add ½ cup of the warm water to the flour mixture and stir. You will have a very dry and crumbly mix, but it's important to add the water slowly so you can see how much your flour needs to form the dough ball.
Add another 2 Tablespoons of the water and mix again. You should start to see the dough ball start to form and become a little sticky. You want the dough to be well hydrated and sticky because this also helps the yeast activity and gives you a nice texture on your pretzels.
In my experience, I have always used ¾ cup of water, but you may find that you need a Tablespoon less or more depending on your home environment and the flour.
It doesn't matter if you need less or more water as long as your dough is sticky, but not sloshy and wet in the bowl. It should look like the last picture.
You can make this process even easier if you have a stand mixer. Simply put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the stand mixer and slowly add the water while mixing on low to medium speed with the dough hook.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 5 minutes while you set up the baking soda bath. It can sit longer if desired.
Preparing the Baking Soda Bath
While the dough is resting in the covered bowl, fill a large pot with 10 cups of water. I used my Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper, but your Instant Pot or a pot on the stove works just as well.
Turn the heat on high and bring the water to a simmer. Add the baking soda and stir. It will bubble and foam, that is normal.
Bring the water to a full rolling boil before adding the pretzel bites.
Form the Pretzel Bites
Once the dough rests for about 5 minutes, remove the plastic wrap and put about 1-2 Tablespoons of flour down on a clean surface, and spread it around.
Turn the sticky dough onto the work surface and sprinkle about ½ Tablespoon of flour on top. This is done so the dough doesn't stick to your hands which can be frustrating.
Knead the dough by folding it in half and then pressing with the palm of your hands while pushing away from you.
Repeat this process 3-4 times or until the flour is incorporated and you have a smooth dough ball that is tacky to the touch. Cut the dough in half and take one half and cut that into 4 equal sections.
Return all but two of the dough balls to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Take one dough piece and roll it into a long rope that is about 12-14" long and the diameter is slightly less than a dime.
It helps when the dough is slightly tacky, but if it is sticking too much you can use a tiny amount of flour sprinkled over the top.
Cut the rope into sections about 1¼" long. You will repeat this for each of the remaining 7 dough balls, but I like to get each rope cut and the bites into the boiling soda bath and out on the cooling rack before rolling out the second rope.
Boiling the Pretzel Dough
When the water with the baking soda in it is boiling, drop the pretzel bites into the water and let them cook for about 30-60 seconds. They are ready to be removed from the water when they float.
Scoop them out with a slotted spoon or other large scoop with holes (I use this one: (affiliate link)Scoop 'N Drain) and place them on a cooling rack with a towel under it to catch any water.
Try to keep the bites separated so they don't stick together. Repeat for all the pretzel bites.
If you want to prep the pretzel bites ahead of time to cook later, place the boiled and cooled bites on a parchment-lined tray and freeze them. Once frozen, place them into a freezer bag and grab some out anytime you want freshly air-fried pretzel bites. Air fry on 300℉/150℃ for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Air Frying Pretzel Bites
Once the pretzel bites are boiled in the baking soda bath, you are ready to air fry them!
Preheat the air fryer on 400℉/200℃ for 5-10 minutes with the air fryer basket or tray in the air fryer.
Place the parchment paper (you may need to weigh the parchment paper down with a fork or something else so it doesn't get sucked up toward the heating element) or silicone mat in the bottom of the basket and put the pretzel bites into the basket in a single layer. The amount you can fit at once will depend on your air fryer. You don't want them touching.
Reduce the temperature to 350℉/175℃ an air fryer for 5-7 minutes. Open the lid after 4 minutes to see if you need to break them apart with a spoon and this will also give you a good idea of how much longer they need.
While they are air frying, melt the butter if you are going to coat them in butter.
They are done when they are just past the golden brown color.
Remove the pretzel bites and place them on a baking sheet with a lip. Pour about 1-2 Tablespoons of melted butter over them and shake the tray in a back-and-forth motion to lightly coat the pretzels in butter.
Transfer the pretzel bites to the cooling rack and sprinkle with pretzel salt or whatever salt you are using. I used my (affiliate link)electric salt grinder with very coarse salt (ice cream salt) and set it to grind coarsely.
Repeat for all the air fryer pretzel bites. Serve with your favorite pretzel dipping sauce & Enjoy!
Variations of Air Fryer Pretzel Bites
You can change up the flavor of Air Fryer Pretzel Bites by changing the coating! Here are a few suggestions.
Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites: After coating them in the melted butter, roll them around in cinnamon sugar for a sweeter pretzel bite.
Buffalo Pretzel Bites: Add your favorite hot sauce to the melted butter and lightly coat them. Serve with a blue cheese dressing or sprinkle blue cheese crumbles over them.
BBQ Pretzel Bites: Spritz the finished pretzel bites with oil and sprinkle on your favorite BBQ rub.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
Air fryer pretzel bites are best served warm right from the air fryer, but I have successfully stored them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
After that, they do tend to get a little dryer and more dense. I actually made pretzel croutons out of them once they were a little dry and they were wonderful.
You can store the pretzel bites in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, but it isn't necessary. They can be stored at room temperature just as safely.
If you want to freeze the air-fried pretzel bites, make sure they are completely cool and then place them into a freezer bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months.
If the food is warm when packaged for freezing, steam can be produced inside the container or freezer bag, resulting in ice crystals forming.
While they are still good after 3 months, bread products tend to dry out even when packaged well in the freezer.
You can also freeze the pretzel bites BEFORE air frying. After they are boiled in the baking soda bath, place them on a parchment-lined tray and freeze overnight.
Transfer them to a freezer bag and freeze for up to three months. See the air frying directions below for how to cook them from frozen.
How to Reheat Pretzel Bites
If you want to warm up the pretzel bites in your air fryer, preheat it on 400℉/200℃ for 5-10 minutes and place the cooked pretzel bites in the basket (they do not need to be in a single layer), reduce the temperature to 300℉/150℃ and air fry them for 2-3 minutes just to warm them up.
Preheat the oven to 350℉/175℃ and place the pretzel bites on a tray. Reduce the oven temperature to 325℉/160℃ and bake for about 5 minutes or until they are warm.
How to Cook Pretzel Bites from Frozen
If you froze your pretzel bites before air frying them, you can air fry right from frozen.
Preheat the air fryer to 300℉/150℃ for 10 minutes. Place the frozen pretzel bites in the basket in a single layer. I still like to use either parchment or a silicone liner so they don't stick.
Air fry on 300℉/150℃ for about 10-12 minutes or until they are nicely brown.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, absolutely. Roll each piece of dough into a 14" rope and then form the pretzel shape.
Make sure you seal the rope ends to the pretzel with either an egg wash or just some water.
Boil 2 of them in the baking soda bath until they float. Remove and repeat for the remaining pretzels.
Air fry them on 350℉/175℃ for about 6-8 minutes.
Yes, you can cut the amount of dough in half or double it by decreasing and increasing the ingredients.
When stored correctly, they last 3-5 days before starting to get a little hard.
Make sure they are completely cool before putting them into a sealable bag or container and store them at room temperature for best results.
Yes, of course. Preheat your oven to 400℉/200℃ and bake the pretzel bites on a parchment-lined tray for 8-10 minutes or until they are just past a golden brown color.
Easy Air Fryer Appetizer Recipes
Chances are if you are making these air fryer pretzel bites, you enjoy snacks and finger foods as much as I do!
Here are some easy recipes that you may enjoy!
- The BEST Air Fryer Fried Pickles
- Almond Joy Bliss Cereal Snack Mix
- Asian Turkey Meatballs
- Ninja Foodi Recipe ~ Asian Sticky Wings
- Caramel Popcorn in the Ninja Foodi
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp in the Ninja Foodi (or any Air Fryer)
- Chicken Satay in the Ninja Foodi Grill
- Homemade French Onion Dip ~ Ninja Foodi or Slow Cooker Recipe
Air Fryer Pretzel Bites
- 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet of instant or rapid rise yeast)
- 1 Tablespoon white sugar or honey
- 2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for work surface
- ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- ¾ cup warm water between 104℉-110℉ (40-43℃)
Baking Soda Bath
- 10 cups water
- ½ cup baking soda
Butter & Salt Coating
- 4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter melted
- pretzel salt or coarse salt
Making Pretzel Dough
- In a medium size mixing bowl (or stand mixer) combine the yeast, sugar, flour, and salt. If you are using honey instead of sugar, mix the flour and yeast together before adding the honey so your yeast doesn't clump. Stir all the dry ingredients together.2¼ teaspoons instant yeast, 1 Tablespoon white sugar, 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- Add ½ cup of the water and mix by hand with a spatula or with the dough hook in your stand mixer. The dough will be dry, but you want to add the water slowly so you don't add too much. Add another 2 tablespoons and mix the dough. If it is sticky and hydrated, you can stop adding the liquid. If it is still a little dry, add the remaining water. I have always used the entire ¾ cup of water, but this will depend on your home environment and how dry your flour is. If the dough is sloshy and wet, you added too much water and you can fix this by adding 1 Tablespoon of extra flour at a time until your dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 5 minutes while you get the water boiling.¾ cup warm water
- Sprinkle about 1-2 Tablespoons of flour on your work surface, spread it out a bit and place the sticky dough on top of it. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of flour on top of the dough and knead it for about 3 minutes or so. The extra flour should be incorporated and the dough should feel tacky, but no longer sticky.
- Separate the dough into 8 equal pieces. Leave 2 out and put the other 6 back into the bowl and cover again with plastic wrap.
- Roll each piece of dough into a 12"-14" rope that is slightly less than a dime in diameter. Cut the rope into pieces about 1¼" long.
- Place the pieces of pretzel dough in the boiling water/baking soda and boil them for 30-60 seconds or until they float to the top. Scoop them out and place them on a cooling rack. Keep them separated so they don't stick together as they cool and dry.
- Repeat for the remaining 7 pieces of dough.
Baking Soda Bath
- Put 10 cups of water into a large pot (or the Ninja Foodi/Instant Pot inner pot) and heat on high until simmering. Add the baking soda an stir. Continue to heat on high until boiling. Keep the water boiling the entire time you boil the pretzel pieces.10 cups water, ½ cup baking soda
Air Frying Pretzel Bites
- Preheat the air fryer with the basket or tray in the air fryer on 400℉/200℃ for 10 minutes. Place parchement or a silicone liner in the basket or on the tray. The pretzels will stick if you skip this step. Parchment can also fly up into the heating element as the pretzel bites cook, so weight it down with a fork or something else heavy enough to keep it in place.
- Place the boiled pretzel bites in the air fryer in a single layer. Reduce the temperature to 350℉/175℃ air fry for 5-7 minutes. Open the air fryer after 4 minutes to see if you need to break them apart and to judge how much longer they need. 6 minutes has been the average time in my Ninja Foodi, but this can vary by air fryer. The pretzels should be just past golden brown in color.
- Remove the pretzel bites and put them on a tray to coat in butter or place them on a cooling rack if you are skipping the butter. Repeat this process for the remaining pretzel bites. How many batches you have to do will depend on your air fryer. In the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper, I had to do 4 batches.
Butter & Salt Coating
- Once the first batch of pretzel bites are out of the air fryer and onto the tray, pour about 1 Tablesspoon of melted butter over them and shake the tray back and forth to coat. Place the butter coated pretzel bites onto the cooling rack and sprinkle with pretzel salt or coarse salt. Repeat for each batch.4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, pretzel salt or coarse salt
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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