Warm, soft pretzels enhanced with the flavors of za'atar, a Mediterranean spice blend. Warm, soft pretzels enhanced with the flavors of za'atar, a Mediterranean spice blend. Israeli Kitchen Warm, soft pretzels are topped with za'atar, a Mediterranean spice blend. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Za'atar pretzel twists

The classic pretzel gets a Mediterranean twist with a versatile savory spice.

  • Yield: 16 pretzels
  • Prep time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Cook time: 12 minutes

There are some highly treasured street foods out there that seem untouchable to the not-so-seasoned cook – or even the well-seasoned, but not so brave. Soft pretzels are among them. I confess to buying a soft pretzel mix several times, and being so pleased with the results I saw no reason to take it a step further. Until a glossy ad in a magazine got my attention, whet my appetite, and had me thinking “I could do it better, and from scratch, too.”

That worked out well. Really. And here are the glorious results.

For the record, it’s as simple as using a mix, but with a much bigger pride factor. Your ego will puff up higher than these soft pretzels when you hear the oohs and aahs from your fans.



  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoon za'atar
  • 4 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
  • Za'atar spice
  • Black and white sesame seeds
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 8 cups water


Combine sugar, yeast and warm water and stir to dissolve. Allow to proof for 10-15 minutes.

Mix flour with salt andza’atar (amount is flexible for taste preference). Add to yeast mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour or until doubled in size.

za'atar spice blendZa'atar is a Mediterranean spice blend derived from the plant of the same name. (Photo: Viktory Panchenko/Shutterstock)

Prepare two baking sheets lined with aluminum foil and coated with non-stick spray.

Combine water and baking soda in a medium pot, and bring to a boil. Prepare a paper plate lined with paper towel to catch extra water drips.

While water is heating, divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll each one into a rope, twist, and fold over, tucking the loose end into the loop at the other end. (Here is where you can get creative with different pretzel shapes.)

When water is boiling, drop each pretzel in the pot for 30 seconds, and then use a slotted spoon to transfer to paper towel lined plate, and then onto baking sheets. (I dropped in two at a time and it worked great.)

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden. While hot, brush with melted butter or light olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar, sesame seeds and coarse salt. For a sweet topping, brush with maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon, or butter and coarse sugar.

Warm, soft pretzels enhanced with the flavors of za'atar, a Mediterranean spice blend.Making the dough from scratch is much more satisfying than using a mix. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Related Topics: Appetizers, Baking

Recipes from the Israeli KitchenRecipes from the Israeli Kitchen