If there ever was a perfect Burger Bun, it has to be these Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns! And I don’t say that lightly. I absolutely love burgers and have been making them for about 25 years now and have yet to find a better vehicle for them than these.
Combining the rich, gentle sweetness and soft structure of Brioche with the chewiness of Pretzel Buns with their deep dark and salty crust together with all the flavour from sourdough is a revelation! Trust me, you won’t buy buns again after making these once.
Why You Want to Make Them
Perfect combination of Brioche, Pretzel, and Sourdough
Why on earth would you want to make your own Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns when you could just buy either Brioche or Pretzel buns I hear you asking. The answer is in the “or”. Maybe it’s just me being very German in my absolute love for anything Pretzel, always dreaming to use them for burgers. Until I did. Even my homemade buns, which I adore for breakfast or dinner.
The issue is: They are too firm and cause the dreaded burger slide, meaning you end up with the burger patty and all the other toppings sliding out at the end, while you mainly get bites of bread.
Obviously we can’t have that for perfect burgers, can we now?
But what about Brioche? Aren’t they said to be the perfect buns?
The butter and egg enriched brioche dough is nice if I’m in a hurry and just want a super quick burger that can be ready in half an hour, but perfect? Not really. I feel they are a little too soft and don’t have enough own flavour to stand up to the things I want on my burger, namely Black Garlic Aioli, Black Garlic Butter, and Peach BBQ sauce (recipe follows soon). They also tend to fall apart, instead of soaking up all those amazing juices and sauces I want in each bite, instead of dribbling onto my plate.
And don’t even get me started on the typical dry and flavourless sesame buns from the supermarket!
So clearly there has to be a better solution, if aiming for the perfect burger. And while I found some brioche-pretzel recipes, there was none that combined my beloved sourdough and Brioche and Pretzel. Which meant I had to come up with one and you get to enjoy it.
These are firm enough to hold your patty and all the toppings you can think of, soft enough to prevent the dreaded slide, and dense enough to soak up all the juices from sauce and meat, so you get the perfect bite each time. And of course they have amazing flavour from sourdough and the brief bath in hot water with baking soda, to give you the full Pretzel experience.
Suited for a Feast, not just Fast Food
If you love burgers as much as me, you might have tried various “Gourmet Burgers” prepared with lots of different buns. These Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns are exactly that. The option you choose when you want really good burger buns made with care to crown your version of the perfect burger. Whichever that may be. Beef, mixed meat, vegan, they will all work well here and transform fast food into something feast worthy.
Can be prepared ahead of time
The fact that sourdough takes time to ferment and develop its full flavour potential works for us here, as it means you can prepare the dough ahead of time and freshly bake on the day.
Or even bake and freeze the buns, simply re-heating them in the oven or air fryer, which is what I often do. It also adds a lovely gentle crunch to their crust, not too much, just providing some texture for contrast.
While I developed this recipe specifically for burgers, it’s incredibly versatile and can be used for all sorts of delicious recipes. Dunk them into cheese sauce, have them as incredibly luxurious dinner roll, enjoy for breakfast or just warm, with a little cold butter. You will most certainly fall in love with them.
Are you convinced yet? Yes? Oh you are asking what you need and I’m rambling? Ok yes…I’m biased. Let me give you the Ingredients, which I’m sure you have already in your kitchen.
In case you haven’t made a sourdough starter before, all you need is flour, water and a few days for the wild yeast bacteria in the air to do their job.
It adds lovely tang and flavour to all kinds of baked recipes, not just bread and has a fair few health benefits like easier digestion, lower glycemic index, improved nutrition profile, to name just a few.
Here is a recipe on how to make your own, which you can keep using over and over. Mine is over 10 years old and has a name. While this recipe mentions rye sourdough, it also applies to white sourdough, which is what I’m using for these buns.
Since we want a good rise and this is a relatively heavy, enriched dough, I’m using an active and fed starter here, not discard, as in my Rye Sourdough Discard Rolls. Which are also lovely for dinner btw
if you don’t want the Brioche. https://forthepleasureofeating.com/rye-sourdough-discard-rolls/
I’m using 4.5 cups strong white flour (bread flour) with a high protein content and 1 cup rye flour, because I love the flavour it gives the dough, but if I used more of it, it would impact the rise.
If you don’t have rye, you can use whole wheat bread flour or more white flour. Changing the flour may impact the amounts you need vs water, so adjust accordingly.
To get the softness of brioche, we need to create an enriched dough using butter, which will keep it moist and super soft, preventing the patty slide. Room temperature works best here.
Same as for the butter, eggs give the buns the typical brioche feel, enhancing flavour and texture to the lighter and fluffier version of Pretzels we are looking for to create a burger bun.
Malt Syrup and Honey
You could use either one of the above or both. The slightly sweet flavour is one of the characteristics of brioche, making it so perfect for burgers, as it gives contrast to the savoury filling. Just a little. It will also feed the yeast I’m adding for more rise.
I’m adding the Malt Syrup as I absolutely adore malty flavour in my bread. If you don’t have it or don’t like it, simply replace with honey or even sugar. Here is the one I get. It’s available in most health food stores and some supermarkets.
Why am I adding yeast when sourdough is already a raising agent? This is a pretty heavy dough due to the butter and eggs, so I’m adding just a little to give it that tiny extra boost.
However, if you have time to leave it overnight, you probably won’t need it. My dough got very active, trying to escape from the bowl even in the fridge. Which led to incredibly fluffy rolls, being exactly what I was aiming for.
Barley Malt Powder
This is another optional but delicious addition. It’s a classic bakers ingredient that gives bread an incredible malty flavour, adds crunch to the crust and helps with the rise due to the sugars it has. I can’t find it in Ireland, but love it so much, I order it about once a year from Amazon.de.
One bag easily lasts me a year or more, as I just need 2 tsp per recipe. I use it in most of my breads, so to me it’s a good investment.
If you don’t have it, simply leave it out. Your buns will be just fine.
We need 2 kinds of salt: Kosher, for including in the dough and flaky for the classic Pretzel sprinkling. Usually a special Pretzel salt would be sprinkled on top, which is more like very coarse sea salt, but I love the more delicate touch Maldon salt brings to these buns.
In your typical German Recipe Lye would be used in the water to achieve the typical dark brown and shiny Pretzel crust, but baking soda is easily available in every supermarket and has the same effect. You need a fairly large amount to achieve the desired effect, so consider getting a larger bag instead of several of the small containers usually sold.
I’m using them as topping here, to add a reminder of classic burger buns with a sprinkling of sesame. But they are optional too. I just love the nutty flavour and slight crunch they bring to the Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns.
For many years I felt slightly intimidated by the thought of making Brioche or Pretzel buns. But honestly, both, just as this combination, are really easy to make. They just need a little time to allow the sourdough and/or yeast to do its thing. And if you can boil eggs, you can boil Pretzels.
You can knead the dough by hand, but I like using my stand mixer, as it can start out being rather sticky and heavy from the eggs and butter.
2 days before baking
The Sourdough starter
Feed your sourdough starter, so it’s nice and active when you need it. Make sure you have about 1 cup active starter with leftovers to use as next starter. You can’t really overfeed your sourdough, the bacteria will happily munch everything in their way. So I tend to make more than I need and then use the discard for all sorts of delicious recipes like these Sourdough Brownies with Protein.
1 day before baking
Mixing the Dough
Mix the yeast with the warm water, honey, malt syrup (if using) and barley malt powder (if using). Let it stand for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. If you know yours is fresh and active, you can skip this step.
I the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl if kneading by hand, mix the flour and salt. Add everything else apart from the butter. Mix on low speed until just incorporated. Raise the mixer speed to medium for about 10 minutes, to develop the gluten and get a very smooth dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl and passes the windowpane test.
Slowly start incorporating the butter by adding 1 tbsp room temperature butter at a time. Knead for another 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
You have 2 options here: You can leave your dough covered outside the fridge for about 3h or until doubled in size, if you want to make your Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns on the same day. Or you can cover the dough and put it into the fridge overnight, which will add all the benefits of slow sourdough fermentation and improve the flavour.
Day 3 (or 1.5h before baking)
Forming the buns
Take your dough out of the bowl and form it into a round shape or roll on a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 8 very large buns or 10 medium, depending on the size of burger you are aiming for.
Form into round buns by tucking the edges under and in, while turning the dough in your hand, until you have a nice and raised round shape that holds its own. On two parchment lined baking trays cover with either clingfilm or damp tea towels, so they don’t dry out and let them rest outside the fridge for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large pot, Bring 2 litre (4.2 pints) water to the boil. Add the baking soda bit by bit carefully (this will bubble a lot) and stir until it dissolves.
Gently drop the pretzel buns, a few at a time, into the boiling water and let them very softly boil for about 30 seconds on each side. Remove the buns from the water using a slotted spoon and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
Once all the buns have been boiled and transferred to the baking sheet, sprinkle them with the flaky sea salt for added flavour, if desired. At this point I also add sesame.
With a sharp knife, slice them crosswise.
Bake the pretzel buns in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they turn golden brown on top.
Enjoy with your favourite topping, for dipping, as side to stew or on their own with some nice cold butter.
As mentioned above the sourdough resting time is great for meal prep, as you can get the dough started the day before.
These Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns also freeze and reheat very well. I usually keep some around for the days I desperately need a burger.
And they keep in a bread tin for about 2-3 days, due to the enriched brioche dough. Though personally I’d reheat them before eating, so they become super soft and fluffy with a lovely crust again.
Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Have you tried this? Did you enjoy it?
What other recipes would you like to see?
If you enjoyed this recipe, please share and comment. It helps me a lot.
Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns
- 1 cup active sourdough starter recipe here:
- 1 ¼ cup warm water
- 4.5 cup white bread flour strong flour
- 1 cup rye flour or more white
- 1/2 cup butter melted and cooled
- 2 tbsp malt sirup
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 eggs
- 3 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp barley malt powder
- 1 ½ cups baking soda on 2l water
- 2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
Day 1 (2 days before baking):
- Feed your sourdough starter, ensuring you have about 1 cup of active starter. Reserve leftovers for future use.
Day 2 (1 day before baking):
Mixing the Dough:
- In a bowl, combine warm water, honey, malt syrup, and barley malt powder. Let it sit for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix white bread flour, rye flour, and kosher salt. Add eggs and the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
- Slowly add the butter at room temperature, 1 tbsp at a time, kneading for another 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Choose one of two options:
- Leave the dough covered outside the fridge for about 3 hours or until doubled in size for same-day baking.
- Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight for improved flavour through slow sourdough fermentation.
Day 3 (1.5 hours before baking):
Forming the Buns:
- Take the dough, form it into a round shape, and divide it into 8 large or 10 medium buns.
- Tuck the edges under and shape into round buns. Place them on parchment-lined baking trays, cover with clingfilm or damp tea towels, and let them rest outside the fridge for an additional hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large pot, bring 2 litres (4.2 pints) of water to a boil. Carefully add baking soda bit by bit, stirring until it dissolves.
- Gently drop the pretzel buns into the boiling water, allowing them to boil for about 30 seconds on each side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the buns with flaky sea salt and sesame seeds if desired. Use a sharp knife to slice them crosswise.
- Bake the pretzel buns in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until they turn golden brown on top.
- Serve with your favourite toppings, for dipping, as a side to stew, or on their own with cold butter.
- Enjoy your delicious homemade Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns!
These Sourdough Brioche Pretzel Buns also freeze and reheat very well. I usually keep some around for the days I desperately need a burger. And they keep in a bread tin for about 2-3 days, due to the enriched brioche dough. Though personally I’d reheat them before eating, so they become super soft and fluffy with a lovely crust again. Total Calories per Portion: Approximately 396 calories
Total Protein per Portion: Approximately 10.4 grams
Total Carbohydrates per Portion: Approximately 73.8 grams
Total Fat per Portion: Approximately 6.6 grams
Total Sodium per Portion: Approximately 1166 milligrams