Europe > Central Europe > Germany > History and Secrets You Didn’t Know About the Pretzel

History and Secrets You Didn’t Know About the Pretzel

By Alin Pineda |

Discover the history and the best secrets of the popular german snack that is shaped like a bow, the pretzel.

What would a trip be without each country’s traditional snacks? Yes, we have invited you to watch your diet by consuming healthy snacks that you can take on the road, but we also know that you want to try each destination’s unique tastes. For this reason, we have recommended trying exotic fruits with peculiar tastes such as the durian or even try desserts prepared by experts in medicine. Today we’ll delight in a European snack that you can buy in its traditional salty or sweet versions: pretzels.

The ideal snack for every taste

The ideal snack for every taste

If you want to eat something tasty and crunchy, either salty or sweet, look no more, pretzels are your best option. DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, will tell you everything you need to know about this popular cookie that’s shaped like a bow. Bonus: we’ll share with you tons of fun facts you didn’t know about its incredible history.  

What is a german pretzel?

A pretzel is a type of cookie or baked good that’s shaped in a peculiar way that resembles a bow with three openings. Usually, it tastes slightly salty.  

The original pretzel is a type of soft bread. However, nowadays it’s more common to find its crunchy cookie version. Both varieties can be filled or covered with many different ingredients.  

Even if today you can find several ways of eating them, we recommend trying the traditional way: paired with a tasty German beer.

What is a  german pretzel?

What an authentic german pretzel is made of?

A pretzel’s main ingredients are: wheat flour, yeast and butter.  

Before baking the dough, it must be immersed in a solution of baking soda and caustic soda. Then you can add salt, cinnamon, vanilla or even your favorite topping.  

Pretzels History

Their exact origin is not clear. There are many legends behind this tasty snack so we’ll share with you a few of them. One of them dates back to the Celtic spring festivities, when the sun moved across the constellation of Aries. Some people say that the celestial bodies created a shape that resembled the ram’s horns.  

Another legend says that in the year 610, Benedictine monks for Bourgogne and Bavaria, in Germany, used pretzels to reward children who said their prayers. According to this version, this is the reason why pretzels are shaped like two arms in prayer. This also makes reference to the German word brezel, which comes from the Latin bracellus or small arm.  

Legend of the Pretzel, the Baker and the King

A more engaging legend says that the pretzel was created when a baker was incarcerated for offering the king poorly baked bread.  

He was sentenced to death, but thanks to the baker’s wife, the king reconsidered his decision and offered him an opportunity to save himself. In exchange for forgiveness, he must invent a type of bread on which the sun could shine three times. After long thought, the baker found inspiration in his wife’s arms when she prayed. Thus, he took a long piece of dough and crossed it on each end forming three holes where the sun could shine through. Before he baked it, the baker tripped and the dough fell into a caldron that was full of water and baking soda. Having lost too much time, he took the dough out of the water and baked it like that, creating the recipe for this tasty snack.  

German Pretzels Throughout History

We bet you didn’t know that pretzels are portrayed in the coat of arms of some bakers in Vienna. According to the legend, pretzels helped save the reign when it was attacked by Ottoman Turks in 1510.

Apparently, the invaders dug tunnels under the city walls at dawn. However, bakers that were preparing pretzels at that hour heard the noises and warned the guards. Thanks to them, they stopped the invaders and the Austrian ruler rewarded them with a coat of arms. It portrayed a pretzel with a lion on each side. An additional fun fact is that this legend is also related with the creation of another famous bread: the croissant.

Apart from this fun historic fact, the pretzel was very important bread during Passover because its production did not require the use of milk or eggs. Now you have another option you can include in your menu if you want to enjoy a tasty and vegan snack!

The Pretzels in Popular Culture

  • The first representation we have of a pretzel dates back to the year 1190 in the Hortus Deliciarum or Garden of Delights. It’s a Medieval text that was illustrated and written by Herrada de Landsberg in a French convent. In one of the illustrations you can find a scene of a banquet between Queen Esther and her husband, the Persian Xerxes. On the table you can see a pretzel.
  • In several regions south of Germany, following a catholic tradition, they ate palmbrezels. They are a type of soft and fresh pretzels that were used to adorn the palm leaves that were blessed on Palm Sunday.
  • They say that the three holes on a pretzel symbolize prosperity, good fortune and longevity. Others say that they represent the Holy Trinity.
  • George Bush almost choked while eating a pretzel and watching a football game.
  • It’s one of the most famous snacks in the world, especially across Europe, the United States and Canada.  
First representation of a pretzel dates back to the year 1190.
First representation of a pretzel dates back to the year 1190.

Pretzels in Media

Pretzels have appeared in movies, TV shows and animated series such as The Simpsons and Scooby Doo or even in video games such as the French version of Final Fantasy VIII or Pac-Man.  

National Pretzel Day

This tasty snack has it’s own celebration. Yes, you read right! April 26th is Pretzel Day. It was first celebrated in 2003, in Pennsylvania, with the purpose of honoring pretzels in history and economy. Since then, many other countries have adopted the celebration. During that day some pretzels franchises usually have discounts or give out free pretzels.

Eat Pretzels during Oktoberfest

Eat Pretzels during Oktoberfest

The popular Oktoberfest beer festival takes place in Munich every year during September and October. It’s the biggest popular festivity in Germany. It’s been celebrated since 1810, when prince Louis I of Bavaria married Theresa of Saxony-Hildbrughausen. Since then, the festival is held at a popular field known as Theresienwiese or Theresa’s Prairie. Hundreds of people go there to enjoy different types of German beer, pretzels and local dishes.

Also, visitors enjoy music by popular bands, watch parades of people wearing traditional costumes and learn more about Germany’s cultural wealth.  

Now you know that pretzels are one more reason to plan your next trip to Germany.