I’ve been toying a while with this Pizza Stuffed Pretzel Buns recipe for a while, largely for my son’s sake. Like many teens, he loves fast food, and like many moms, I don’t feel good about letting him have it very often.
Between school, band, music lessons, and other activities, his schedule is incredibly hectic. Now that he’s driving himself, I rarely see him until late in the evening. We still try to sit down to dinner together on the weekend, but he’s usually too busy for that during the week. And that was making fast food far too tempting for him.
Not long ago I was in the garage when he pulled in after school. When he opened his door, a bunch of burger wrappers fell out. That was enough to convince me it was time to make these Pizza Stuffed Pretzel Buns. He eats one with a little homemade marinara sauce for dipping and likes to take a couple with him when he has band practice after school. That means he’s no longer racing to McDonald’s and back, so we’re both happy!
And what’s not to like about melty cheese and spicy pepperoni encased in a buttery pretzel bun? I also love that they freeze well after baking, so I can keep them handy for him to heat and eat anytime.
Ready to learn how to make them? Here we go!
Pizza Stuffed Pretzel Buns
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Heat the milk in the microwave for 90 seconds, or on the stove if you’d prefer. Don’t let it boil — you’re going for lukewarm, which is right around 110°F/43°C. If you don’t have a food thermometer, give it the forearm test: you should be able to drizzle a drop or two on your inner arm without it hurting.
Transfer the milk to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in the yeast. It’s okay if you don’t have a stand mixer (I love my KitchenAid and use it for everything from mixing to rolling homemade pasta). You can do this recipe in a bowl by hand; it’ll just take a bit longer to mix.
After a few minutes, add the melted butter and sugar to the bowl and stir. Add the salt then slowly begin adding the flour 1 cup at a time.
It’s crucial that you don’t just dump all of the flour in because the amount you’ll need is affected by the weather. Who knew, right? If it’s cold and dry out you probably won’t use all of the flour called for in the recipe, but if it’s hot and humid you will. That’s because flour absorbs moisture from the air, so you’ll need more of it to reach a dough that’s not too sticky and not too firm.
Once you’ve reached the point where the dough is clearing the sides of your bowl, and it doesn’t stick to your fingers, it’s time to start kneading. Kneading is easy enough to do in the stand mixer — just set it on 2 and let the machine do the work.
If you’re making this by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a mound. Using the heels of your hands push the top of the pile away from you, give it a half turn, and repeat. Either way, keep going for 10 minutes.
You’re done kneading when the dough looks slightly blistered on top, and you don’t feel any graininess to it. You should be able to hold a ball of it in your hand without it spreading all over the place (kind of like that “slime” goop kids play with). If you can poke it with your finger and the dent fills up quickly, it’s ready.
Now it’s time to let the dough rise. Cover it with a damp towel (which will keep the surface of the dough from drying out while it’s rising) and put it in a warm spot. I have a microwave over my stove and have found that if I turn the stove light on and set my covered dough in there, it rises brilliantly.
Other good spots include in the oven with the light on (but the heating element off) or in a microwave in which you just boiled a cup of water. Wherever you decide, make sure your dough is away from drafts!
After rising comes my favorite part: punching down the dough! You only get one punch, though, so make it a good one. Got a boss who has been driving your crazy? Someone on Facebook driving you crazy with their political rants? It’s time to release that tension!
Aim for the center of the dough and plunge your fist right in there. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a quiet little whoosh as the larger air bubbles collapse. Feels good, doesn’t it? (Wow, that got dark fast.)
Gather the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface then and gently shape it into a log. Take care not to press down or stretch the dough while you shape it — you’re just trying to get an oblong that you can cut into 14 pieces. These will become your pretzel buns.
I used scissors to do this, but you could certainly just a knife if you’d prefer. Just don’t tear or pull the dough to make the pieces or you’ll wind up with dense, hard buns — something that’s great to achieve the gym but not so great in the kitchen.
Although I chose to use two kinds of cheese along with pepperoni for the original recipe, I also made some stuffed with Canadian bacon and Gouda cheese, while others held Pepperjack cheese, sliced jalapenos, and bacon. You can stuff them with anything you like, just avoid using things that give off a lot of moisture. (The batch with mushrooms, spinach, and Swiss was a disaster!)
Pat a piece of dough into a 3-inch circle, then mound your toppings in the center. I used one heaping tablespoon of cheese and four pepperoni for each Pizza Stuffed Pretzel Bun.
When making the other variations, I chopped up the Canadian bacon and mixed it with shredded Gouda, then added two tablespoons of that. Ditto for the Pepperjack, jalapeno, and bacon ones. (Wish I’d taken photos of those, but they disappeared too quickly!)
Pull the edges of the dough circle up around the filling and pinch them together. If this gives you any difficulties, just dip your fingers in a little water, and the edges will stay shut nicely. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
This next step is what makes the difference between a regular bun and a pretzel bun. It’s all about the baking soda (known as bicarbonate of soda in the UK). I’ve never bothered to bake my baking soda before using it to make pretzels, but you’re certainly welcome to give that a try. When you’re ready, combine the baking soda with the water in a bowl then transfer it to a deep pot on the stove and bring it to a boil.
Dunk 3 stuffed pretzel buns in the pot at a time, wait 30 seconds and flip them. Wait for another 30 then fetch them out of the water with a slotted spoon, and transfer them to a greased baking sheet. (I skip the grease and use a Silpat mat instead. I love those things!)
Slash the tops of the buns in an X with a very sharp knife or new razor blade, then sprinkle them with coarse salt. Since I make homemade pretzels and these Pizza Stuffed Pretzel Buns often, I keep a canister of Hoosier Hills coarse pretzel salt on hand. You can use Kosher salt or no salt at all if you’d prefer.
Pop those buns into a 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 oven and bake roughly 15 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned. One step I forgot to take pictures of is the butter wash I gave the buns after they came out of the oven.
To make the butter wash I just melted 4 tablespoons (50g) of butter in the microwave then stirred in 1 teaspoon (3g) each of garlic powder and dried oregano. As soon as the buns came out, I brushed them with this mixture, transferred them to a wire rack, and let them cool a bit.
Or, at least I tried to. My son descended on these things like he hadn’t eaten in days, stuffing most of one into his mouth before I could warn him about the molten cheese inside. Did a burned tongue stop him from grabbing three more and heading back to his room to eat them while gaming? Of course not. Teenage boys are eating machines!
NOTE: UK measurements and ingredient names are provided as needed because I love my UK readers and am glad you are here!
- For the buns
- 2 cups (480ml) whole milk
- 1½ tablespoons / 18.87g (or 2 packets) active dry yeast
- 6 tablespoons (69g) brown sugar / Demerara sugar
- 4 tablespoons (57g) butter, melted
- 4½ cups (562g) unsifted all-purpose white flour
- 2 teaspoons (10g) table salt
- 6 ounces (170g) sliced pepperoni
- 6 ounces (170g) cheddar cheese, grated
- 6 ounces (170g) mozzarella cheese, grated
- Coarse pretzel salt
- 1 cup baking soda / 206g bicarbonate of soda
- 6 cups water
- Butter wash:
- 4 tablespoons (57g) butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon (0.5g) garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon (0.5g) oregano
- Warm the milk to 110°F/43°C by microwaving for 90 seconds or heating it on the stove over low heat to lukewarm.
- Transfer the warmed milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and add the yeast. Wait 3 minutes.
- Add the melted butter and sugar, then stir.
- With the stand mixer on low, begin adding flour a little at a time until the dough just clears the sides of the bowl. You should be able to touch it without it sticking to your fingers. Add more flour as needed.
- Turn the mixer to 2 and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with a damp kitchen cloth, and let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place away from drafts. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
- Punch the dough down and divide it into 14 pieces. Pat each piece gently to form a 3-inch circle.
- Place 4 or 5 pepperoni slices in the center of a circle. Top with 1 tablespoon of each cheese. Pull the edges of the circle up over the fillings and pinch them together. (Dip fingertips in water if needed to help pinch the dough tightly closed.)
- Gently roll the dough in the palms of your hands to form a ball. Set aside and repeat with remaining dough and toppings.
- Make the boiling mixture by combining water and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in a bowl. Transfer this to a deep pot and bring to
- Add 3 filled pretzel buns to the boiling water. Wait 30 seconds, flip
them,and wait an additional 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the boiled buns to a greased baking sheet. Continue until all buns have been boiled.
- Carefully use a very sharp knife or razor blade to cut an X in the top of each bun. DO NOT slice so deeply that the fillings spill out! Sprinkle the buns with coarse pretzel salt if using.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- While the pretzel buns are baking combine the butter
washingredients. Brush this on the buns as soon as you remove them from the oven.
- Let cool on a rack 5 minutes before serving.
- To freeze: let them cool completely to room temperature before placing them on a clean baking sheet in the freezer. Transfer to a resealable freezer bag. Defrost in
microwavefor 3 minutes at 60% power then heat for 60 seconds at full power before serving.