Auntie Anne's Vs Wetzel's Pretzels: Everything You Need To Know

While soft pretzels may feel as American as the 4th of July, their origins actually go back to the Catholic Church in Europe as a food of choice during Lent. Rumored to have come to the United States on the Mayflower, there's evidence of German immigrants bringing pretzels with them to Pennsylvania. Over the years, they've become a real American institution with locals and tourists alike grabbing their fix from any number of outlets. However, two competitors come to the fore time and time again: Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels.

It's practically impossible to find a food court that doesn't have at least one of these pretzel purveyors present. Take one glance at either stall and you'll find resisting the golden, perfectly salted knots of dough tough to say the least.

However, given how filling pretzels are, there's only room for one. So which should you choose? The easiest answer is whichever one is available, but if you're looking for a full breakdown between Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels, we've got you covered when it comes to choosing your purveyor of golden-baked goodness.

The history of Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels

American institutions they may be, but they're still pretty young! If Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels were people, they'd be Millennials. Technically, Auntie Anne's is a bit older, founded in 1988. Wetzel's Pretzels came around a little later, in 1994. They've both proven their staying power over the decades.

Anne Beiler is the brainchild behind Auntie Anne's and started her globally dominant chain as a humble stall in a local farmers market in Pennsylvania. Raised Amish-Mennonite, faith and family were always important to Anne. After struggling with depression following the tragic death of her baby, Anne and her husband found strength through counseling and wanted to help others get better too. To fund a free counseling service, Anne opened her stall offering homemade pretzels to raise money and, well, the rest is history. Her popularity boomed and franchises popped up left, right, and center!

Wetzel's Pretzels, on the other hand, had a duo at its helm when it was founded. Bill Phelps and Rick Wetzel opened the first branch of Wetzel's Pretzels in Redondo Beach, California. One can only assume "Phelps's Pretzels" didn't have quite the same ring to it! The duo worked in their first stall, behind the counter, cooking up a freshly-baked feast for customers. By 1995, they expanded to Hollywood and in 1996, took it upon themselves to innovate the pretzel industry by coming up with wrapping pretzel dough around hot dogs. By 1998, they had fully expanded and even opened a branch in Puerto Rico.

How accessible are they?

Honestly, it's pretty easy to get your hands on them — just head to your nearest food court. It's not for nothing that these two brands are household names — they're everywhere. While there's a fairly high chance of there being a Wetzel's Pretzels or Auntie Anne's within a 5-mile radius of you, you may be wondering which brand has the larger reach. Wetzel's Pretzels has over 340 branches across the nation and a couple in Canada. They're largely clustered on the East and West coasts, so fans in Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming may find themselves out of luck when it comes to their Wetzel's Pretzels cravings.

If you thought 340 branches is a lot, hold onto your hats: Auntie Anne's has just shy of 2000 branches around the world. In fact, Auntie Anne's is so popular that there are different websites based on regional location, like the 38 stores in the United Kingdom. There are 1,950 locations in 49 states and 27 countries. It's pretty easy to see who's had the greater growth — it's not even a close one.

Which chain has better savory options?

If you're a lover of the stock-standard salty pretzel, golden-baked and delicious, hot from the oven – then you're in luck because that's par for the course at both Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels. If you're looking for a little variety when it comes to savory choices, you're still in good hands. Both chains have a diversified offering that goes beyond basic pretzels.

On the savory side, both Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels have a cheesy option, with grated cheese melted onto hot, doughy pretzels. Melted cheese makes anything better, but the real kicker is that both chains offer the choice to add pepperoni to your cheese, making your pretzel a semi-pizza alternative. If you're torn between a pepperoni pizza or a pretzel, both chains allow you to have the best of both worlds.

They're pretty tied when it comes to savory options, bar one menu item: Wetzel's Pretzels has the option to add jalapeños to your pretzel. If you tend to ask for extra on your nacho order, you'll love adding jalapeños to your cheesy pretzels.

Which chain has better sweet options?

If you have a sweet tooth, you're in good company. Both Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels have options available for dessert lovers. Sugar and dough is a magical combination, as evidenced by both chains offering a cinnamon-sugar variation on their famous pretzels. It's like the classic cinnamon sugar doughnut that's a staple in bakeries but with the shape and texture of a pretzel. Wetzel's Pretzels labels its flavor as "Sinful Cinnamon", a testament to the utter decadence of a fresh cinnamon sugar pretzel.

Beyond the cinnamon sugar variety, both chains also offer a nutty take on pretzels. It's the classic pretzel that both are famous for but enrobed in a deliciously crunchy and sweet almond coating. On Auntie Anne's menu, it even says that adding a toasted almond crunch is Anne's favorite twist on the classic pretzel. Wetzel's Pretzels describes its almond option as slightly sweet, perfect for someone in the mood for dessert without the toothache from sugar overload. Overall, it's a tie when it comes to sweet treats since both chains offer pretty much the same options.

Pretzel bites

Both Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels have embraced the appeal of a snack on the go. By offering pretzel bites, customers can enjoy the taste and texture they love in bite-size form. Pretzel bites are easier to eat while on the move, require less hand-eye coordination to prevent messing up your clothes, and have all the same deliciousness as their larger counterparts.

A bite by any other name would still taste as good. Wetzel's Pretzels refer to its bite-size pretzels as "Bitz" and they come in four varieties: the original flavor (butter and salt), pizza (melted cheese and pepperoni), almond crunch (with the sweet and crunchy almond topping), and Cin-A-Bitz (cinnamon sugar sprinkled over).

Auntie Anne's calls its pretzel bites "Nuggets" and they're only available in three varieties: the original buttery salted flavor, pepperoni with a melted three-cheese blend, and cinnamon sugar as the dessert option. Pretzel bites are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser — and you can really load up on them by buying a bucket filled with your favorite flavor. Wetzel's Pretzels takes the title when it comes to pretzel bites for having four varieties.

Pretzel dogs

Hot dogs are one of the most popular foods in the world for a reason: they're absolutely scrumptious. It's only natural, then, that Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels would want to tap into the massive hot dog-loving market. Instead of making customers choose between a hot dog and a pretzel, they can have both with the pretzel dog, where pretzel dough is wrapped around a hot dog.

Wetzel's Pretzels offers all-beef pretzel dogs in the original flavor (butter and salt) as well as a cheese dog where cheese is melted over the top. Wetzel's adds some spice with a jalapeño cheese dog option. The chain also offers these pretzel dogs in miniature form, with bite-size varieties of the original and cheese flavors.

Auntie Anne's also offers an all-beef pretzel dog, but it sources the hot dogs from Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, an institution in its own right. Auntie Anne keeps it classic with just the original pretzel flavor. It also offers bite-size pretzel dogs in a bucket.

This one is a tie. While Auntie Anne's has the better hot dog (Nathan's is renowned for a reason), the chain has limited toppings for the pretzel dogs. Wetzel's Pretzels has more variety in toppings.

Add some dip

Pretzels are delicious on their own but coupled with the right dip, your snack is taken to the next level. Wetzel's Pretzels offers a variety of dips to accompany your pretzels or Bitz. Classic cheese is a crowd-pleaser but the chain also offers a jalapeno cheese option, where jalapenos are chopped up into the tub for a bit of a kick. If you've opted for one of the pretzels that has melted cheese, definitely choose the pizza sauce, a marinara dip that's perfect for rounding out the pizza taste you're aiming for. If you have a sweet tooth, you can't go wrong with Wetzel's caramel dip, ideal for its cinnamon sugar or almond pretzels. Finally, Wetzel's offers a fluffy cream cheese dip which pairs well with just about all its flavors!

Auntie Anne's takes the dip game seriously. Savory options include a classic cheese sauce as well as a spicy salsa cheese dip. Honey mustard dip is sweet and tangy, ideal for pairing with a cheesy pretzel, and its marinara dip is a must-do for melted cheese and pepperoni pretzels. Cream cheese pairs well with any flavor but Auntie Anne's recommends pairing its caramel sauce with its sweet and crunchy almond offering. For Auntie Anne's cinnamon sugar pretzel, choose the sweet glaze dip. Of course, you could make your own dip (and avoid classic dip mistakes) if none of these appeal to you.

Overall, Auntie Anne's wins this one, thanks to a more extensive dip menu available to customers.

Drink selection

Pretzels are scrumptious but if you've ever tried to eat one without a drink to wash things down, you know how tough it can be. Of course, water would be the healthiest accompaniment to your pretzel snack but it's something of a missed opportunity when you look at all the delicious beverages available at Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels.

Auntie Anne's offers a classic lemonade made with just lemon, sugar, and water. It's also available with mixers in various fruity flavors: strawberry, blue raspberry, and mango. On a hot day, a frozen lemonade can't be beat. Better yet, you can score your frozen lemonade with any of the fruity flavor mixers too.

Wetzel's Pretzels also has fresh and frozen lemonade on offer, albeit with a more limited variety when it comes to variations (just original and strawberry). However, Wetzel's Pretzels also offers granitas! These refreshing frozen drinks are available in kiwi strawberry and blue raspberry. If you're not in the mood for a lemonade or granita, Wetzel's Pretzel's has loads of fountain drinks available, like Dr Pepper, Pepsi, Raspberry Tea, and Mountain Dew. On the whole, it's a tie between the two chains — Auntie Anne's has more lemonade variety, but Wetzel's has more other drink options. 

How much does it cost?

The price of Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels will differ based on your country (especially since both chains have branches outside of the United States), as well as your state. There may be a mark-up for chains in particularly popular areas or places frequented by tourists (like the Wetzel's Pretzels at Disney Springs). There is also likely to be a markup when purchasing from third parties, like GrubHub, DoorDash or UberEats.

That said, comparing locations of each chain in the same mall in the Phoenix metro area, the prices are pretty similar, with Auntie Anne's being slightly more affordable on average. The original pretzel is 30 cents cheaper at Wetzel's, but cinnamon sugar pretzels are 30 cents cheaper at Auntie Anne's. Pretzel dogs, pretzel bites, and dips are all a few cents cheaper at Auntie Anne's. A 32-ounce lemonade is a full dollar more expensive at Wetzel's. Auntie Anne's wins the affordability contest, but it's pretty close.

Loyalty programs

Both Auntie Anne's and Wetzel's Pretzels have created a loyalty program to thank frequent snackers. For Wetzel's Pretzels, all you need to do to access rewards is download the app. Along with rewards, you can use the app to pay for your order and browse the menu. However, you can also just pay at the counter and then scan the app for points. Once you've accumulated enough points, you can score all kinds of freebies: dips, lemonades, pretzels, and even a $10 discount once you hit 100 points. And you get a free pretzel on your birthday.

At Auntie Anne's, you also need to download the app to enjoy all the loyalty benefits (Auntie Anne's calls them Pretzel Perks) that come with being a frequent customer. The system is straightforward: 10 points for every dollar spent and a free pretzel item once you hit 250 points. You can also use the app to order and pay for pretzels and Auntie Anne is also all-in on the birthday cheer, offering customers who have spent $10 in the past year a free pretzel on their birthday. Even better: you get a free pretzel after spending just $1. Overall, Auntie Anne's takes this one. You just can't beat a free pretzel for spending a buck.

Catering events

If you're serious about your love for pretzels, you might be interested in the catering options available so you can supply your guests with a sweet or savory treat on arrival. Auntie Anne's is fully prepared for catering, even dedicating a page of its website to this offering. You can buy pretzels in bulk for events like weddings and birthday parties or opt for buckets or party platters if hosting something a bit smaller. You can also add dips and drinks to a bulk purchase. Auntie Anne's has food trucks, but they're not listed on the catering page.

Wetzel's Pretzels takes it a step further. You can have a Wetzel's Pretzels food truck at your event, in all its yellow glory, offering an array of your favorite flavors baked fresh to order. Your guests can amble up to the window, place their order, and get their fix freshly prepared while they wait. While this would be perfect for a big event like a wedding, it may be a bit impractical for something smaller, like a tailgate party — you decide. Either way, your event is sure to be memorable when your guests walk in and see one of their top pretzel spots ready to serve snacks fresh out of the oven. The food trucks are only available in select locations, so be sure to do your homework before booking a food truck. Wetzel's Pretzel's definitely wins this category. It's really cool to be able to order a food truck for your event.

Frozen pretzels to enjoy at home

When you're not in the mood to head to the shops, nor are you in the mood to order in, Auntie Anne's still has your back. You can buy Auntie Anne's in the frozen food section of various retailers, with the frozen classic pretzel, pretzel bites, and pretzel dogs available. While you can't get pepperoni and cheese, or the various dips and drinks, it's still a great option to have Auntie Anne's in the icebox ready to go. The frozen goods also come with butter and salt packs, allowing you to replicate that classic Auntie Anne's flavor from the comfort of your kitchen. If you plan on buying your stash from an Auntie Anne's shop, think again — these goods are only available from retailers. Don't worry: Target is one of them, so it should be easy enough to get hold of some frozen Auntie Anne's.

For Wetzel's Pretzels, you can get your hands on a frozen batch at Walmart in partnership with Helados. The frozen pretzels come with sachets of salt and cinnamon sugar for that signature flavor. The stock seems to be limited, so you're likely better off ordering in or heading to a storefront to get your Wetzel's Pretzels fix. Or hey, order an entire food truck if you (and your wallet) are up for it. Auntie Anne's wins the award for frozen pretzels, just because they're more widely available.

Who wins overall?

While we're sure that many of you are passionate fans of one of these chains over the other, the differences between the two are ultimately minimal. We declare a tie since it's way too close to call it. You can't beat the accessibility of Auntie Anne's since there are so many branches around the world, but you also can't beat the novelty of Wetzel's Pretzel's food trucks for your events. Auntie Anne's has a wider dip offering, but then Wetzel's Pretzels has a greater variety of savory toppings. Both chains offer great drinks to accompany your pretzel fix and are on par with one another when it comes to sweet treats. Auntie Anne's has frozen pretzels that are easier to access, but Wetzel's has more variety for bite-size pretzels. 

Rest assured that both chains will take care of your pretzel needs. It's just a question of which chain is closest to you when the urge strikes.