How Pretzels Became One of the Most Popular Snacks in the World

Justin Dodd of the Mental Floss series Food History explains how the pretzel moved beyond its narrow theological origins to become one of the most popular snack foods in the world.

The history of pretzels is almost as twisted and delicious as the salty treats. Some say the origins of pretzels are rooted in Christianity, others in paganism. So… how did they end up as street food and baseball game fare?

Dodd goes on to explain how hard pretzels came to be.

In 1861, 26-year-old entrepreneur  Julius Sturgis opened a pretzel bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania. According to one version of the story, he left a batch in the oven for too long one day, but instead of throwing them out, he gave the well-done morsels a taste. In addition to being delicious, these dry,  brittle pretzels lasted much longer than the kind he normally made. Sturgis perfected his  hard pretzel recipe and began selling them as a shelf-stable, snackable alternative to the soft variety people were familiar with.

Dodd also talks about the enduring popularity of the soft pretzel, particularly those sold by street and ballpark vendors.

The treat’s portability made it a no-brainer for street cart vendors. And once it’s baked, the recipe requires no additional ingredients—other than a dollop of mustard, of course.

Food History Pretzels
Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.