Coconut Lye Pretzels with Nigella

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A couple of days ago I was sitting outside with a neighbour while the kids hung out in the paddling pool. We were complaining about the heat and how our flats got hotter and hotter by the minute. She said she tried to avoid cooking because of the additional heat that a hot oven would produce. I then told her that I was doing the opposite because this kind of weather was the best weather for baking. When the heat wave started I stirred together a new batch of sourdough starter. And I made lye pretzels. Because when it’s 26°C in your kitchen you cannot mess up a yeast dough. Although I really am the first person to complain about  high temperatures outside and inside, I am also glad for this opportunity to get back into baking. More boring bread posts will for sure follow.

Laugenbrezeln aka. soft pretzels made with lye have always been a favourite baked good of mine. You can read a lot of stuff online about how dangerous it is to make your own lye pretzels at home. People love to recommend baking soda as a safe and easy substitute. But I am still not convinced. No, I really don’t think pretzels made with baking soda taste like those made with lye. Sue me.

The lye you use for baking pretzels is called sodium hydroxide. I have written a long post before about how to use the lye. You can read all about it here. Working with sodium hydroxide is really not that dangerous in my opinion, if you keep in mind a couple of precautions: Wear gloves and long sleeves, avoid skin and eye contact, and keep children and animals out of the way.

Laugenbrezeln are usually made with white flour and water and even though I am all about tradition when it comes to using lye, I am not as strict when it comes to the ingredients. So I made a richer and slightly more nutritious version with coconut milk and a little bit of whole spelt flour. And since everyone in this family usually scrapes off the salt before eating their pretzel, I made my pretzels without salt. It was replaced by aromatic nigella seeds (also called kalonji or black caraway), which made these pretzels really special.

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Coconut Lye Pretzels with Nigella (makes ten)


250 g (2 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
250 g (2 cups plus 1 tablespoon) whole spelt flour
1 envelope instant yeast (7 g)
150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) coconut milk, luke warm
150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water, luke warm
10 g ( 2 teaspoon) salt

30-40 g food grade sodium hydroxide granules
1 litre water

nigella seeds for sprinkling


Combine the flours and mix well. Add yeast, liquid and salt. Knead well for 5-6 minutes. Place in a bowl and let rest for 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Wear gloves and long sleeves while carefully preparing the lye: Add cold water to a large pot. Dissolve the sodium hydroxide in the water. I used a wooden spoon for stirring. It is important to put the sodium hydroxide into the water and not the other way round! (You will cause a violent reaction if you pour water over the lye granules.) Set aside and make sure there are no kids or animals near the solution.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (428°F). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 10 equally sized pieces. Roll each into a 65 cm (25.6 inches) long log. The middle of this log should be thicker than the ends. (You can see how they are shaped here.) Brush the ends with water, shape into pretzels and place on a baking sheet.

Put on gloves again and use a silicone brush to brush the pretzels with your prepared lye solution. Sprinkle the nigella seeds on top and slash the thick part of the pretzel with a sharp knife. Let rise for 10 minutes, then bake until browned, for 16 minutes. Let cool completely.

Note: Store the lye solution in a glass jar for another batch of pretzels or use it to clean your plug holes. Make sure to store it in a safe place. Keep it away from children and animals and make sure to label it! To protect your skin and eyes always wear gloves while handling the solution.

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18 thoughts on “Coconut Lye Pretzels with Nigella

  1. Hallo Constanze!

    Wie versprochen, hier sind meine Pretzeln! Sie sind wunderbar geworden und die Nigella-Samen passen ja wirklich super! Sehr sehr lecker! UNd auch eigentlich sehr leicht nachdem mal man das Laugen-Problem gelöst hat. Ich hab sie übrigens auch eingepinselt!^^ Hab auch nur Vollkornweizne und glattes Dinkelmehl genommen. Hat auch geklappt und alle fanden sie sehr lecker!!


  2. your comment about baking in the heat gave me a smile – I made sourdough bread yesterday and had the heater on with the bread sitting in front of it and it just wouldn’t rise because the poor dough was too cold – tastes alright but makes me look forward to some warm weather in spring when the bread does that just – springs upwards – enjoy your baking and watching kids in the paddling pool – sounds a very relaxing way to live life! Oh and I love pretzels but never tried making them with lye – not even sure where the buy the stuff

  3. Hey,

    an Laugenbrezeln habe ich mich bisher ja noch nicht herangewagt, irgendwie war mir das mit der Natronlauge nie ganz geheuer. Wenn ich mir dein tolles Ergebnis aber so ansehe, bekomme ich Hunger und daher Lust, es vielleicht doch mal zu versuchen. :)

    Alles Liebe

  4. These look gorgeous. I’ve never even eaten soft pretzels, but I really want to, so I’ll definitely attempt these someday!

  5. Gorgeous pretzels! I’ve been planning to make some soon as it’s been a while. We’ll see if I can get them as perfect looking :)

  6. Coconut milk and Nigella, what wonderful additions to soft pretzels. I’m trying it (I’m quite happy with my baking soda, though).

  7. you are freaking me out with these pretzels. I’ve have soft pretzels on my mind for a while now, but I have never made them. Plus, I am a true Lover of Nigella Seeds – and the combo of nigella seeds and soft pretzels is just amazing! We don’t really get super hot weather here very often, but I remember when I went to visit Kittee in New Orleans, and we made a yeasted dough and then left it on the porch to rise. My mind was BLOWN. So, I totally hear you on hot weather = baking weather!

  8. Your pretzels look so gorgeous they are giving me hunger pangs! And what a great idea to top them with nigella seeds — I don’t remember to use nigella often enough.

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