The German Baker Credited With Making The First Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Many people, when asked to guess where pretzels come from, lean toward two places: Germany and Pennsylvania. Both are potentially true in their own ways, though a more ancient tale reaches back to 610 AD. In this story, an Italian monk created heart-shaped twisted bread strips called pretiola, meaning "little rewards," to acknowledge children who memorized their prayers. When it comes to chocolate-covered pretzels, original credit for soft versions generally goes to Germany, while hard-pretzel chocolates likely sprang from U.S. bakeries in Pennsylvania, which still account for about 80% of all American pretzels. 

It's hard to say definitively which inventive baker was first to coat a salty twisted pretzel in warm, sweet chocolate, but one man, in particular, gets the most nods for the invention. His name was Herr Franz Joseph Leibniz, a German baker working with a local chocolatier in the city of Hamburg during the 16th century. Later, as German immigrants arrived in America and settled in Pennsylvania, one enterprising pretzel maker, Julius Sturgis, opened the first commercial pretzel company in the country in 1861, eventually giving rise to hard, crunchy pretzels — and eventually dipped in chocolate as demand increased.

Past and present unite over chocolate covered pretzels

Handed-down stories are hard to verify, but Germany does seem to be the home of the first acknowledged chocolate-covered pretzels. Unfortunately, not much is known about the man who inspired it all in 1544, Franz Joseph Leibniz –– or whether he even existed. But Hamburg was historically a chocolate-oriented town, so it makes sense that such a partnership between a pretzel baker and a chocolate maker would occur. However, the timing could be questioned since "drinking chocolate" was the norm in the 16th century, rather than consuming it in a solid form. 

The port in Hamburg was a busy thoroughfare for cacao beans used in German chocolates, and some of the waterfront warehouses have survived, including one that's now a chocolate museum called the Chocoversum. Today, chocolate pretzels are available in many varieties around the world. You can buy them in dark, milk, semi-sweet, and white chocolate forms, with some covered in sprinkles, nuts, or crushed peppermints. Others come as pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate and granola, or some recipes tuck them inside toffee and peanut butter bars, or even cooked into chocolate brownies or mixed into popcorn.  

If a man named Leibniz did indeed dip the first pretzel into melted chocolate, it's unlikely he envisioned how far his invention would go. But the world is tipping a hat to him anyway, especially those who celebrate National Chocolate Pretzel Day on Oct 7 every year.