Both hard and soft pretzels are immensely popular snack/street food items that can be enjoyed in several ways. If you are wondering about the best ways to store them then this guide is just for you!
Do pretzels expire? Pretzels can expire just like any other food item. Soft pretzels are usually the first to go and should be consumed within 2-3 days. They provide the best texture and flavor during the first 12 hours. Hard pretzels can be stored for longer and usually last until the expiration date, printed on the back of the packaging.
Check out our guide below to learn more about each type of pretzel and how to extend its shelf life!
Types of Pretzels
No one knows exactly how pretzels came to be, but a popular theory is that it was initially invented by a religious baker who baked these treats and gave them out to pious children as a gift. This is perhaps why the shape of pretzels is like two folded arms – just like you would when praying.
Regardless of its origin, one thing is clear: pretzels are one of the most delicious baked goods mankind has ever created – just after donuts.
Here are the three main types of pretzels:
- Soft Pretzels
- Hard Pretzels
- Flavored Pretzels
Pretzels are traditionally freshly baked, made soft, and served plain. They are usually topped with coarse salt and then paired with several condiments like mustard, cheese, and more. Pretzels can also be enjoyed on their own with tea, coffee, or virtually any other hot beverage.
As you can imagine, since soft pretzels are made fresh, they have a low shelf life. Most bakery-made fresh pretzels last up to 2-3 days at room temperature and can go up to 3-4 days in the fridge. We recommend that you enjoy fresh pretzels ASAP.
They will provide maximum flavor and texture during the first 12 hours and will eventually get firm and chewy after the first day.
There is another sub-variety of pretzels that are made using industrial methods. These mass-produced soft pretzels are prepared in large factories and are combined with preservatives to give them a lasting flavor and texture.
Most mainstream pretzels come in a pack that contains multiple pretzels, usually with a small pouch containing salt! These pretzels are treated to last longer and are also packaged in nitrogen-filled bags that keep them fresh for longer.
These pretzels must be consumed according to the date mentioned on the back. You can also follow the heating and storage instructions outlined by the manufacturer for a better experience.
Hard pretzels are more of a modern invention. These pretzels are shaped like regular pretzels but they are smaller, thinner, and much crispier!
These pretzels should be looked at as a snack rather than a regular breakfast item. They are usually salted or lightly flavored. These pretzels are baked for longer and are thinner which allows them to evaporate water more efficiently.
Less water means that there is less of a chance for bacteria to survive which prevents the pretzels from spoiling quickly – but they do eventually spoil, especially if they are not stored properly!
Hard pretzels can usually last up to several weeks and are prepared with preservatives that help maintain their quality for longer. We recommend checking the expiration or best-before date printed on the back for more information about their shelf life.
As mentioned above, plain pretzels can be flavored using a range of condiments and while this does make them irresistibly delicious, their toppings also significantly lessen their shelf life.
If a plain pretzel can last up to 2-3 days, then a flavored pretzel will usually only be good for up to a day. This is especially true for cheese pretzels.
Any pretzel with fresh ingredients like cheese, mustard, or any fresh dip should either be consumed at the earliest or stored properly.
Do Pretzels Expire? – How to Store Them
Since pretzels expire like any other food, it is crucial that you store them properly. In fact, pretzels can be stored in the following ways:
- Room Temperature Storage
- Fridge Storage
- Freezer Storage
Room Temperature Storage
If you plan on eating fresh pretzels the same day then we highly recommend storing them at room temperature because this way they will remain fresh and will maintain their softness for longer. At room temperature, a fresh pretzel will last up to 24 hours.
After a full day, the pretzel will begin to lose its texture due to oxidization. You can probably keep the pretzel out for 1 or 2 more days but by then, the pretzel will likely become firm or hard! You can reheat it in the microwave but please check for signs of spoilage before eating them (more on this below).
Hard pretzels can be stored for up to a few weeks at room temperature – but you should always store them in an airtight container to maintain their freshness for longer.
Check the best-before date on the packaging and make sure you consume them a few weeks before that date.
Flavored pretzels must not be stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours. We highly recommend storing them in the fridge to maintain their quality.
Storing pretzels in the fridge is another great way to maintain the freshness and overall quality of fresh pretzels.
Store leftover pretzels in an airtight container and store the container at the back of the fridge at 40F. The cold temperature will prevent the pretzel from spoiling while the airtight container will protect its texture from the surrounding air.
If you leave the pretzel as it is, without an airtight container, then it will likely become hard and stiff. It may even lose its original aroma. To reuse the pretzel, simply heat it in the microwave for a few seconds and enjoy!
Flavored pretzels should always be refrigerated to maintain their freshness and quality. Use the same storage technique as above to get the most out of their flavor.
We don’t recommend freezing pretzels because it will likely ruin their delicate flavor and texture after they thaw. But if you don’t have any other option, then you could get away from storing them for the short term.
All frozen pretzels can last up to several weeks! The best way to store them would be in a freezer-safe airtight container or bag.
Squeeze the bag to release all the excess air before sealing it and then place the pretzels at the back of the freezer at 0F.
To thaw the pretzels, shift the bag into the fridge and let them defrost at 40F overnight. You can also defrost them in the microwave or oven. The pretzels may not taste the same as they did when they were made, but they will still be edible.
Here is a quick chart to show you the storage times for pretzels:
|2-3 Weeks (or until best before)
|3-4 Weeks (or until best before)
Common Signs of Spoilage
Here are a few common signs of spoilage to look out for before eating stored pretzels:
Change in Color or Texture
Notice a significant change in color or texture? Then this may indicate spoilage. Pretzels don’t spontaneously change colors. Once they are baked, they remain that way until they spoil – so any color change would mean that they have gone bad.
If the pretzels break apart easily or are very crumbly, then this will indicate that they are not fresh. Please avoid eating stale pretzels as they may be contaminated!
Change in Flavor
Some foods can go bad without showing any change in appearance. When this happens, they will likely take on an altered flavor. Expired pretzels will usually have a sour flavor (or sometimes, no flavor at all!).
If you notice any change in flavor, then this could mean that the pretzel has expired. In addition to this, if you notice an altered mouthfeel when biting into the pretzel, then this would also indicate spoilage. Please spit out the pretzel and rinse your mouth to be on the safe side.
Can You Store Thawed or Refrigerated Pretzels Again?
Once the frozen pretzels have thawed or once refrigerated pretzels have reached room temperature, you should always try to consume them the same day. Refreezing/restoring them will only cause them to lose more of their flavor and texture.
Can You Eat Pretzels Past Their Expiry Date?
Generally speaking, you should avoid eating any food past its expiry date. But in the case of hard pretzels, you may be able to enjoy them even after their best before or expiration date.
However, you should first always make sure that the pretzels don’t show any signs of spoilage before eating them.
You may also be able to eat bakery-made pretzels after their expiration date but they will likely not taste fresh and it may not be worth it!
What Happens if You Eat Expired Pretzels?
The best-case scenario is that nothing will happen, especially if the pretzel did not show any signs of spoilage.
The worst case when consuming compromised pretzels would be nausea, diarrhea, or an upset stomach. Please seek medical attention if you consumed a bad pretzel and are experiencing symptoms.