Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Ranked

Don't let FOMO twist you up at the pretzel kiosk. We've reviewed every flavor to help you build the perfect order.

There's the smell of new clothes. A medley of scented candles, body lotions, and soaps. Filtered air with a hint of ozone. But the fragrance that screams out "mall" to me is the smell of Auntie Anne's pretzels.

There's no mistaking the scent of (what the brand says is) real butter, wafting through the air and into the olfactory nerves of shoppers, browsers, and hanger-outers. It's rich and full, not heavy or greasy; the scent could lead you to the Auntie Anne's kiosk as easily as if the butter were a trail of gold glitter at nose height.

Pretzels are perfect mall food, whether you're a parent in need of an instantly satisfying snack for your kids or a crop-topped teen in search of extra carbs. And regardless of whether you pick up a pretzel at the mall or the airport, they're made fresh on site, same as when Anne Beiler rolled her first pretzel in 1988 to sell at a Pennsylvania farmers market.

Now, even after the company's sale in 2005 and current inflation rates, Auntie Anne's remains an affordable option for those who need a fast belly-filler on the go, especially with bites that are easy to scarf down when you don't have the time to leisurely untwist a whole pretzel.

Deciding to get an Auntie Anne's pretzel isn't the hard part. It's which pretzel to order, and FOMO might have you feeling tied up in knots. That's where we come in, with a definitive ranking of Auntie Anne's flavors for your careful review.

First, though, we must discuss some notable omissions. I thought I would have eight pretzels to rank. After all, that's what corporate lists on both the nutritional guide and the website. However, to my great disappointment, I was told by the staff at my location that the Jalapeno Pretzel has been discontinued for some time already, and the elusive Roasted Garlic & Parmesan and Sour Cream & Onion had just been taken off the menu as well.

The employees were unsure if this was a corporate decree or a ruling specific to Kennesaw Town Center Mall. And they'd never ever even seen the mythical Raisin Pretzel. All four of these failed to show up in my very big radius check across metro Atlanta Auntie Anne's locations.

Not to be thwarted, I nevertheless emerged with eight pretzel products to try. Here's every pretzel item on the menu of my suburban mall storefront, ranked, and pro tips on how to make the perfect Auntie Anne's pretzel order.

8. Pepperoni Pretzel

Typically, I'm very excited by pizza anything. My disappointment when a given pizza-flavored item sucks is therefore proportionate.

These Pepperoni Pretzels always look so good in the display case, with gooey melted cheese, a sprinkling of herbs, and generous pepperoni slices curved around the pretzel—but alas, looks aren't everything. Not only did it taste a little stale, but the plethora of toppings made it soggier faster. Somehow that didn't save the cheese from drying out, and it didn't help that said cheese already tasted kind of artificial and flat. I could detect some garlic powder and herbs, but I had to really try.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, the pepperoni was loud. That's not a bad thing; it's strong enough to impart its flavor even to those sections of pretzel that had no contact with it, and it's obvious why these pretzels are always held in a separate bin. However, because the pepperoni must retain pliancy to straddle the dough without falling off, it's not crispy like a 'roni cup. More greasy than buttery, this pretzel exudes "something's missing" vibes.

7. Unsalted Pretzel

This may come in next to last, but it wasn't bad. The pepperoni was objectively lacking since it promised so much, but the Unsalted doesn't make any such claims. And it's still pretty good!

This plain ol' pretzel is a litmus test for the Auntie Anne's dough, which is a proprietary recipe. It's sweetly yeasty and tastes like fresh, fine-ground quality flour. The pretzel is cushiony in the middle, with a lightly crunchy exterior toasted in its butter dipping on the edges. The alkali is very subtle, so it's more like a butter-brushed toasted roll than a Philly pretzel. There's nothing wrong with this pretzel, but would I order it again? Nah. Pass the salt and give me double, please.


6. Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel

I am fully aware that this is where I lose folks, because ranking Cinnamon Sugar this low is going to make diehard Auntie Anne's fans big mad. I'm prepared for the replies. But I'm just going to go ahead and say it: This darling is a hot mess. Literally.


The sugar crust was formidable, with semi-caramelized bits that hardened into little crunchy sections that fell off in chunks, while the topping that mingled with the butter glaze came off in cascades at every pull. And even with all that sugar loss, it was still way too sweet. There is a solid ounce of sugar on this thing, per Auntie Anne's nutrition facts, which is six teaspoons. Half of it will most certainly be flaking off all over your hands, your shirt, and your car, leaving a trail of sticky, greasy residue as evidence of your pit stop.

To be fair, it wasn't unlike a warm, overly sugared doughnut, made better with butter. But I couldn't get over what a pain in the ass it was to take a single bite. I imagine this must be a nightmare for parents. With all of that in mind, I can understand the Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Nuggets being popular and don't begrudge that. But as a full-size pretzel? I think knot.


5. Mini Pretzel Dogs

I will confess, I'm not above a pig in a blanket—and I'm far from the only one. There's a reason these mini hot dogs wrapped in canned factory-made dough pop up at even fancy cocktail parties: They're salty, savory, nostalgic, and every bit as satisfying as you remember.


Auntie Anne's Mini Pretzel Dogs are no exception. I got my 10-piece straight out of the oven, crispy and hot on the edges with some residual sizzle from the baking tray. However, the unsalted pretzel shells were thick, which kind of overwhelmed the cocktail weenies. That would have been fine if they had more pretzel flavor and more butter. The predominant flavor was actually just the hot dog juice that leaked out during cooking. Lubricated by all that extruded juice, the mini wieners were squirmy inside their blankets, threatening to jump out with every bite.

At first, I thought, wow, this really needs ketchup or something, but once I figured out the "something" was spicy brown mustard, we were in business. Sausage, mustard, and pretzels come together to form a grand trifecta.


4. Original Pretzel

When I order an Auntie Anne's pretzel, this is usually what I'm after. I'm a real supporter of the OG.

Like the unsalted version, the Original is made with a supple, naturally sweet dough that tastes as freshly proofed, rolled, twisted, and baked as it is. But the big chunks of pretzel salt transform it from a bread snack to an icon. Although the salt is dusted on with a light touch, it really does make such a difference. It's crunchy and evenly distributed, a sharp complement to the buttery notes and a nice accent to the lye flavor that makes a pretzel a pretzel. Plus, the necessity of holding the salt to the surface means the Originals are usually a bit more buttery than the unsalted ones. Sure, it would be better if it were even more heavily doused in butter, but otherwise, this pretzel tastes almost exactly like the Auntie Anne's kiosk smells.


3. Original Pretzel Dog

This was a tough call. Even now, I'm not sure if this is in the right spot in the rankings. Should it be closer to the Mini Pretzel Dogs? And if we're ranking pretzels, should the Pretzel Dog be ranked below the Minis, since the bread-to-dog ratio favors the little ones? Ultimately, the Pretzel Dog comes in third, because I found something new to like about it this time around.


If you want a pretzel that eats like a meal, this is it. It's an extra-thick fat and juicy Nathan's Famous Skinless Beef Frank wrapped chimney-cake-style in a spiral of Auntie Anne's pretzel dough. It's unsalted, but richer than the minis, with butter on the outside and fat from the hot dog flavoring the inside. Altogether, the pretzel acted like a buttered, compressed bun—chewier and denser than a traditional hot dog bun, with a texture not unlike Chinese hot dog buns. It could have used a thicker coating of carbs, but it's significantly slimmer than the Mini dog blankets. On the other hand, because it makes use of a girthier dog, there's a much beefier taste, so you don't miss the salt on the pretzel here.


2. Sweet Almond Pretzel

Quietly coming in as a sleeper to swipe the penultimate spot, the Sweet Almond Pretzel honestly wasn't even on my radar until this taste test. But damn, did this catch me off-guard with its deliciousness.


The flavor itself is roasty, toasty, and buttery; it reminded me of the nuts they sell on New York City street corners, but without the cinnamon. The butter flavor was present on the surface of the dough and in the almonds, which were sweetened just enough to complement the subtle smokiness, but not so much that they were syrupy or overpowered the nutty notes. The almonds were also chopped down to a great texture, not ground and powdered nor big unwieldy chunks. They were just right, crushed and crunchy without being crumbly. In all, this pretzel was warm in taste as well as temperature, and well balanced. Cinnamon sugar who?

1. Original Pretzel Nuggets

Who doesn't love a nugget? Bite-sized things aren't just adorable, they're more convenient, no matter how many chomps it takes to get through each one. The dough used in Auntie Anne's Pretzel Nuggets is the same proprietary formula used for the full-size pretzels, sweet and soft. The batch I received had a slightly stronger alkaline taste, and was therefore a bit more pretzel-y in essence than the full-sizers. It was no less buttery, though it didn't permeate throughout. That's a bummer, but the trade-off is that if you time it right, they arrive fantastically warm and toasty with a bit of an extra crisp from the squarer edges and increased surface area. Indeed, you do have to get them fresh for the full effect—they get a bit soggy in the cup as the condensation degrades that lovely crust.


From a practical standpoint, it's easier to eat these than a full-fledged pretzel, with less grease and salt scatter to worry about. It also feels like more pretzel for the money: Each cup is a 16 ounces, which is 147 grams and therefore 24 grams (nearly a whole ounce) more than a classic Original twist.

How to craft the perfect Auntie Anne’s pretzel order

If you find it easy to limit yourself to one pretzel, then you should live your life differently. But seriously, Auntie Anne's still got it, and mostly lives up to its wafting butter aroma vented out over the unsuspecting masses. So how do you assemble the perfect order?


For those who want to go the sweet route, you can't go wrong with Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Nuggets and a Sweet Almond Pretzel. I may have dogged the Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel for being impractical and overly sweet, but making them bite-sized mostly resolves these issues. The spice makes them a lovely chaser for the crunchy roasted flavor of the almonds and gives the whole experience more of that street-cart-full-of-nuts feeling.

For savory lovers, you'll want to order the regular Pretzel Nuggets and a hefty Pretzel Dog. That way, you get both a meal and a snack in one go, and by alternating bites of each item, you can get a balance of thick and thin applications of pretzel dough. The nuggets offer the crispy-bottom benefit of the Mini dogs without having to deal with wiggling weenies or disproportionate bread.


With this sagacious advice, I leave you in a cloud of buttered air with a wish that all your pretzels be hot and fresh, no matter how mad you are at this ranking.