Those Freestyle Pretzel Rolls

Monday Mantra

Those Freestyle Pretzel Rolls

Take a taste of Norwegian Cruise Line’s bread heaven home with you.

I must have a pretzel roll…. I must have a pretzel roll…. I must have a pretzel roll….


Mention Norwegian Cruise Line to most cruisers and you’ll hear tales about the line’s innovation, vast dining choices, outstanding entertainment by Blue Man Group and Grammy Award–winning artists, ice bars, bowling alleys, and the party-like atmosphere the crew creates at the gangway when welcoming guests back on board. (I defy anyone to get the song “Hey, Baby,” complete with the “oooohs” and “ahhhhs,” out of their head for at least a week after.)

Mention Norwegian Cruise Line to me, on the other hand, and you’ll hear all about their signature pretzel rolls. Who would imagine that these little balls (or sticks) of salt-sprinkled dough would, in and of themselves, hold the power to lure me back to Norwegian again and again?

In fact, aboard Norwegian, I insist on a table for two in the dining room, not because I’m anti-social but because I’ve caught disapproving glances from other diners when I swipe every pretzel roll in the bread basket. And I pity the poor buffet attendant when I arrive to find the pretzel roll tray is empty and I have to wait five minutes before the replenishment arrives.

My obsession with Norwegian’s pretzel rolls inevitably triggered an exhaustive internet search for a recipe that would allow me to come close to duplicating these addictive little treasures at home and, yes, I’ve found one that I will share with you. However, I must admit: Between the measuring, the kneading, the risings, the shaping, the poaching, the glazing, and the baking, I’d rather book a Norwegian cruise and enjoy them all week long.



For the dough:

1 ½ cups warm water (110°F or so)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (1 package)
2 teaspoons sugar
4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the poaching & glazing:

1/4 cup baking soda
Large saucepan of water
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher or pretzel salt

Combine the water and the yeast in the bowl of a mixer and let rest 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the remaining ingredients (sugar, flour, salt, butter) and mix with the dough hook until thoroughly combined and the dough becomes smooth.

First rise: 

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.


Cut the dough into pieces, roughly 2 ounces each. To shape, take a piece of dough and start forming a nice round, smooth ball by pulling the sides to the center and pinching to seal.

Space evenly on the pans, pinched-seam side down, leaving at least 1” between each roll.

Second rise:

Cover with a tea towel or a light film of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes until doubled.


Preheat oven to 425°F and place oven racks on the lowest and middle positions.


In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil. Add the baking soda and lower heat to a simmer. Carefully slip the rolls into the poaching liquid, seam side down. Poach for 30 seconds then carefully turn the roll over in the liquid. Poach other side for 30 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon to the same prepared sheet pans, seam side down.

Repeat with the remaining rolls, leaving at least 1” between rolls for baking.


With a pastry brush, glaze each roll completely with the lightly beaten egg making sure to coat all sides (bottom isn’t necessary). Top each roll with a sprinkle of pretzel or kosher salt. With a sharp straight edged knife, cut a slash or “X” in the top of each roll.


Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking — top to bottom, front to back — for even browning. Cool completely.




— Judi Cuervo


Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.