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17 Creative Ways To Use Pretzels, Other Than For Snacking

Pretzels with other dishes
Pretzels with other dishes - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

There's no snack quite like a pretzel, both in flavor and shape. However, these tiny twists aren't likely your go-to when you go to the convenience store because there are just too many other, more exciting options to choose from. But, like all foods, pretzels do have their place in the culinary world. It just might not be as a snack.

We are referring to the shelf-stable, notoriously bland pretzels rather than the ones you'd get from Auntie Anne's or the frozen foods section of the grocery store. But don't let their consistency and flavor (or lack thereof) fool you; the dryness and blandness of these cracker-ish twists make them an excellent ingredient to have in your kitchen and to use for everything from pie crusts to breading. Plus, you don't have to stick to a standard pretzel; if you look hard enough, you might even find pub-style, garlic, or the prized honey mustard variety. Here are some of the best ways to use up the bag of shelf-stable, hard pretzels in your pantry.

Read more: 25 Most Popular Snacks In America Ranked Worst To Best

Swap Croutons For Pretzels In Your Salad

Salad with croutons
Salad with croutons - Mtreasure/Getty Images

If we're being honest, a bag of croutons isn't always essential in our house because there are so many other flavorful ways to add crunch to our salads and soups. If you run out of croutons, consider adding pretzels to your salad for extra crunch. Pretzels have the same crunchy consistency as a crouton but have a fun shape that will add to your salad in a positive way.

You don't just have to stick to the plain pretzels for your salad, either. Honey mustard pretzels are an excellent companion for your greens and can complement a range of dressings that include honey as a main ingredient. You can also spice things up with a zesty pub-style pretzel that will complement a garlicky or ranch dressing. When working with a salad, it's important to always add your pretzels to the salad last -- and right before you're about to serve the plate. This will prevent the pretzels from going limp and soggy.

Use It In Your Breading

Pieces of chicken with flour
Pieces of chicken with flour - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

When you think about what the perfect fried chicken looks like, a perfectly crispy crust probably comes to mind. When you bite in, you'll want to find a discernable textural contrast between the succulent piece of chicken and your choice of breading. It's why some unconventional options, like ground Saltines crackers and Corn Flakes cereal, make excellent additions to your fried chicken.

The next time you make fried chicken, substitute breadcrumbs with crushed pretzels for a delicious salty coating. Not only do you have the perfect crunchy coating on the outside of your pretzels, but you'll also find the perfect yeasty flavor that will take your meal to a new level. Once you have your pretzel pieces ground up, not only can you add them to the outside of your chicken, but also other proteins like catfish or as a coating on your crab cakes.

Add Pretzel Pieces To Your Granola Bark

Granola bark with pumpkin seeds
Granola bark with pumpkin seeds - MSPhotographic/Shutterstock

There is a lot to love about store-bought granola. Adding a sprinkle to your morning bowl of yogurt or using it to top off a smoothie bowl is so convenient. But the best use for homemade granola is something more confectionary: granola bark.

Granola bark is essentially a layer of chocolate that has been sprinkled with an array of crunchy toppings. Not only should you use your favorite crisp honey granola for this recipe, but you should also consider packing on the pretzels for a satisfying texture. We probably aren't the first people to tell you that chocolate and pretzels are the perfect match, and the salty taste will help balance the predominately sweet notes of the chocolate.

Our favorite granola bark combination to make at home is a dark chocolate sprinkled with pretzels, roasted almonds, and flakes of sea salt. You get the bitter, sharp notes of the cocoa, saltiness from the pretzels and sea salt, and fatty notes from the almonds. Make it in five minutes for a reenergizing snack, or give it as a gift during the holiday season.

Make A Pie Crust Out Of It

Making pie crust in food processor
Making pie crust in food processor - Azra H/Shutterstock

Very few things in this world aren't good alternatives for pie crust. Not only can you use crumbled-up fortune cookies that you got in your takeout dinner last night, but you can also use your massive jar of pretzels to whip up the perfect pie crust in minutes.

When working with pretzels, it's important to note that the texture tends to always come out coarser than if you had used a graham cracker or crispy gingersnap cookie. So, you'll want to stick to using this crust for rather dry fillings rather than a wet one that will soak right through. For example, a peanut butter pie would be a great fit for the pretzels. Plus, you can make and make this crust up to three months in advance and pop it in your freezer for when you need it. The salty pretzels will provide the perfect flavor balance for your recipe.

Stuff Pretzels In Your Sandwich For Extra Crunch

Table with ham and lettuce
Table with ham and lettuce - Kajakiki/Getty Images

When we were kids, we loved stuffing Doritos chips into our sandwiches by the pool. There's just something about how the crunchy, salty chips contrasted the softness of the cheap white bread and whatever filling was inside. The best way to add crunch to sandwiches, though, isn't this classic childhood invention. It's adding crispy, whimsically-shaped pretzels to it, instead.

Pretzels are relatively neutral in flavor, so they can complement almost any filling. We're personally big fans of anything pretzel and mayonnaise, so we can see where a couple of pieces of cheese and sheets of turkey, ham, or both could do wonders on a sandwich. You can also add a bit of complexity with thinly sliced apples.

Play with your pretzel flavors to find a good match for your sandwich. We love a good sourdough pretzel because it has more complex flavors than a plain one. You can also take things a step up and use a party mix with pretzels in it to spice up your lunchtime routine.

Add Texture To Your Brownies

Pretzel brownies on plate
Pretzel brownies on plate - Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

We have many fond memories of baking brownies in our childhood kitchens, with every surface covered in the grittiness of brownie dust or schmeared with batter. These brownies were decadent and surely sweet but lacked the mature adult flavors that made for a flavor-balanced dessert. While there are many add-ins that will elevate your brownies, the best ones you can choose for eaters, both young and old, are pretzels.

There are several different ways to add this crunchy ingredient to your brownies. You can start by making a brownie crust out of your pretzels, butter, and a bit of sugar -- similar to a crumb crust that you'd make for a pie. Or, stick to just poking in pieces of pretzels onto the top of your brownies before sliding it into the oven.

Pretzels play well with others, including decadent peanut butter or a thick caramel sauce. If you want to seal in the moisture of your pretzels, you may consider encasing each in a layer of chocolate first.

Mix Pretzels Into Your Homemade Ice Cream

Ice cream with pretzels
Ice cream with pretzels - AtlasStudio/Shutterstock

Making your own ice cream is a fun experience and one that will often leave you more appreciative of the work that goes into making a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Luckily, our recipe for no-churn vanilla dulce de leche ice cream doesn't require that you grab your obtrusive ice cream machine out of the basement. Instead, you can just use a thick cream, sweetened condensed milk, and your add-ins. We combined the delicious flavor of thick dulce de leche with the crunchy and salty taste of pretzels.

The key to adding any add-in to your mix, including pretzels, is always to add it at the end of your ice cream-making experience. If you add it too soon, you'll risk breaking up the pretzels too much into something gritty and not allow you to easily grab a bite of the crackers in each scoop.

Make A Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry pretzel salad in tray
Strawberry pretzel salad in tray - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

If there were a food that categorized the 1960s, it would definitely be anything and everything Jell-O. After all, you'd be surprised by all the things you could fit into gelatin.

One of the best recipes you can make to reminisce on Jell-O's heyday is a vintage strawberry pretzel salad. The base of the salad is made with a pretzel crust topped with a whipped cream cheese layer, strawberry Jell-O, and finished with sliced strawberry pieces. While there might not be too many parallels between this salad and the modern green salad, besides the fact that both should be served straight from the fridge, it is a fun spin to put on a boring bowl of Jell-O.

Although this recipe should be served cold, you'll need to bake the pretzel crust and adequately chill it before topping it off with your whipped topping and cream cheese. Then, the Jell-O will need to be poured on top and chilled until set, so this is not a recipe you can rush on.

Swap Pretzels For Graham Crackers In Your S'mores

Marshmallows over fire on stick
Marshmallows over fire on stick - Iv-olga/Shutterstock

There's no feeling quite like sitting next to a campfire on a cold autumn night with marshmallows on a stick and good company in tow. But after a while, eating the same s'mores -- with graham crackers, sandwiching chocolate, and marshmallows -- gets boring. Instead of settling for a mediocre treat and campfire experience, upgrade your s'mores with the help of a bag of pretzels.

You're going to want to use a pretzel that doesn't have too many holes for this treat. While the square pretzels are always an option, the better fit for this s'mores sandwich is to substitute your graham crackers for pretzel thins. There are minimal holes in these pretzels, and the wide surface area will ensure you don't get any molten confections on your skin. Plus, the smaller ratio of pretzel to filling is ideal -- so you'll be able to capture the true essence of chocolate and marshmallow in your crisp.

Use Them As A Binder For Your Meatballs

Crock of meatballs in tray
Crock of meatballs in tray - 4kodiak/Getty Images

Pretzels have a ton of underappreciated qualities. For example, they're great for snacking because they're relatively dry and filling -- which are both qualities that could also be applied to a good meatball binder. You'll just want to pop your breadcrumbs into a food processor and pulse the entire mixture until crumbly. Then, carefully mix into your ground meat blend, add your seasoning, and make the rest of your meatball. The salt on the outside of the pretzels will give the meat a bit of extra seasoning, while you can also experiment with flavored pretzels to alter the profile of your meaty side. For example, a gameday-ready meatball might shine with a ranch-seasoned pretzel, while the ideal meatballs for your sub sandwich are dying for Italian-seasoned pretzel nuggets.

You don't just have to stick to adding the crushed pretzels to your meatballs, either. You can also roll each meatball in crumbled pretzel pieces and bake until crisp.

Top Off Your Cupcakes With Them

Cupcakes with pretzel pieces
Cupcakes with pretzel pieces - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

The best part about birthday parties, especially for kids under the age of ten, is that cupcakes are usually involved. These sweet treats are great because you don't have to commit to eating an entire cake and can usually finish a cupcake within a couple of bites. Just because the cake itself is small doesn't mean the flavors have to be either. But, one qualm we tend to have with cupcakes is that they're always too sweet.

Adding pretzels to cupcakes adds a pleasant crunch and gives the cupcakes some flavor balance from the salty and bland notes. Like other baking applications and pretzels, you'll want to take the extra step and cover that pretzel in chocolate or a layer of melted candy coatings to ensure that the toppings stay fresh and crisp rather than go limp after being kept in the fridge for too long. Pretzels make the perfect companion for peanut butter icing or a devil's food cake base and can really amp up extra additions like bacon or honey.

Make Them Into Heart-Shaped Candies For Your Lover

Valentine's pretzel rods
Valentine's pretzel rods - Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Every day is Valentine's Day if you live in our house. And by that, we mean we love any opportunity to give candy freely and show our loved ones that we care about them.

While Valentine's Day candy only lasts a short month or so in stores, you can keep the warm and fuzzy vibes going all year round with a bag of pretzels and a package of colorful candy melts. To make these pretzel hearts, start by grabbing a whole pretzel from your bag and covering it with warmed candy melts or dolloping molten chocolate on with a piping bag. You'll want to start on a flat surface to avoid sloshing the melts off to one side.

Once your chocolate has been added, then you can go crazy with your sprinkles. Luckily, red and pink candy melts (or at least chocolate and food coloring) and colored sprinkles or sugar are available year-round. It's a great way to show your appreciation to the people you love -- and these candies taste pretty darn good, too. Alternatively, you can also grab a bag of pretzel rods and dip them in chocolate and sprinkles.

Pretzels Can Add Extra Texture To Your Cookies

Pretzel cookies on wire rack
Pretzel cookies on wire rack - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Everyone loves a good cookie that's filled with copious amounts of chocolate chips, but have you ever considered crushing up pretzels and adding them to your cookies, too? Pretzels have the perfect amount of crunch and can go with a bunch of different cookie add-ins, including chocolate chips, caramel, and the best -- fine flaked sea salt on top.

You'll want to ensure there is a little bit of add-in with every bite. Crumble up some of the pretzels to stash into your dough, while leaving a couple of whole ones to press into the top of the dough right before it goes in the oven. It's important to note that cookies made with add-ins that are stale, including pretzels, cereals, and others, tend to get very soggy easily and are really best eaten the day they're baked. You can pop your leftovers in an airtight container to try and ward this staling off, but ultimately, you should instead just convince all of your friends to grab a cookie for the road.

Use It As A Topping On Your Casserole

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows
Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows - Foodio/Shutterstock

There are few dishes that are more versatile than casserole. All you need to make an effective one is some sort of protein, veggie, soup-base, and crunchy topping -- and a sturdy baking pan, of course. Revive vintage recipes like your grandmother's tuna casserole, or make yourself the star of the brunch dish showdown with a sweet potato casserole with bacon. The trick? Swap out your starch with crumbled pretzels.

Sweet potato casserole is one of the easiest recipes you can make with pretzels added. Par-cook your sweet beforehand, and then lay the mash in a baking dish with your marshmallows or praline (if your recipe and sweet tooth call for it). Then, add a pretzel mixture on top and bake the entire dish. If you plan to make this ahead of time, bake the sweet potato base and then pop it in the oven with the pretzels right before serving to prevent any sogginess.

Give Your Rice Krispies Treats Extra Crunch

Rice Krispies treats with pretzel
Rice Krispies treats with pretzel - riyantiajeng/Shutterstock

Snap, crackle, and pop your way to a delicious plate of Rice Krispies treats with the help of a bag of leftover pretzels. The pretzels will add a refreshing bit of crunch to your tray of Rice Krispies as well as help to distract from that purely sweet flavor that will certainly overwhelm the tray. Be forewarned though, these aren't the kinds of Rice Krispies treats you can make ahead of time and put in your kids' lunchboxes throughout the week because the pretzels will inevitably stale.

To add this underrated ingredient to your Rice Krispies treats, pop it right on the top of your treats after you've shaped the cereal mixture into the tray. This will ensure your pretzel pieces stay whole and you can easily detect a bit of pretzel in every bite. Don't just stick to using regular ones either, both the honey wheat and the cinnamon sugar varieties can take your Rice Krispies treats to new heights.

Make Your Mac And Cheese Pop

Macaroni and cheese in a bowl
Macaroni and cheese in a bowl - Tolga Deniz Aran/Shutterstock

It's hard not to love mac and cheese. After all, each bite is packed with ooey, gooey cheese that fills your stomach and your soul. While some people stick to stovetop-only mac, others adventure into the unknown of baked pasta. We think one of the reasons why the baked version gets so much pushback is because the breadcrumbs don't really do too much for the flavor of the pasta. Instead, you should consider upgrading your next batch of mac and cheese with a crunchy snack topping: pretzels.

Pretzels, Cheez-Its, and Doritos could all take your pasta from bland to extravagant. Not only do you just have to stick to plain pretzels that have been broken up into smaller pieces (not pulverized), but you can also play with zesty flavors or stick with the classic honey mustard. You'll get a greater crunch per square inch (it's science... trust us) and an overall better satisfaction.

Level Up Your Stuffing

Bowl of stuffing on table
Bowl of stuffing on table - Imagesbybarbara/Getty Images

You might be wondering why anyone would ever alter a perfectly good stuffing recipe with pretzels. But believe it or not, these dry, starchy snacks are the perfect ingredient to add to your stuffing recipe because they are so good at soaking up all that flavorful broth.

We think pretzels, specifically the extra-dry gluten-free ones, are one of the best ingredients to add to your stuffing. Otherwise, leave your pretzels out for a couple of days to get them super dry and crispy before mixing them with the rest of your bread ingredients. A stuffing made with pretzels alone won't hold up, so we recommend using a ratio of crunchy pretzels to soft bread, like a robust sourdough or the leftover baguette that's been sitting out on your counter for a few days too long. Add extra herbs and spices, and sweeten things up with fruit to make a wholesome dish the whole Thanksgiving table will love.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.