Filed Under: Bread | Breakfast | How To | Savory | Videos

How to Make Bagels

By Tessa Arias
  |  
March 1st, 2022
4.78 from 110 votes
4.78 from 110 votes

How to Make Bagels that are perfectly chewy, golden brown, and flavorful! This homemade bagel recipe is so easy to make - plus I share tons of topping ideas and bagel tips.

Yield: 10 bagels

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: I made everything bagels and asiago bagels, and they were both savory perfection!
Texture: Perfectly chewy and wonderful.
Ease: Not exactly quick and easy, but with the step-by-step video you can totally make your own perfect bagels!
Pros: No need to fly off to NYC for a delightful bagel. Plus you can totally customize the flavors.
Cons: Time consuming and a little messy. Definitely a project for a free afternoon.
Would I make this again? Absolutely! I make batch of these homemade bagels every few months.

This homemade bagel recipe is about a million times better than any store-bought bagels. It’s the closest I’ve come to New York-style bagels at home.

I won’t say they’re exactly like New York bagels because those seem to have some sort of magic power. I will say these are about 1,000 times better than all grocery store bagels. And honestly… most bagels found at bagel shops here in Phoenix.

Making bagels from scratch at home is such a fun baking project. They’re a little messy and time consuming, but totally doable. Especially if you follow along with my video below which shows you exactly how to make bagels. PLUS, I’ve even included a bunch of bagel baking tips and topping customization ideas so you can really get creative.

How to Make Bagels

Ingredients for homemade bagels:

  • Bread flour – The higher protein level in bread flour helps to create that chewy texture that makes bagels so delightful. It’s worth the trip to the grocery store to pick some up. You can use all-purpose flour if you absolutely must, but the texture will suffer.
  • Instant yeast – you can also use active dry yeast, just note your dough may take longer to rise. Learn more about active dry vs. instant yeast here.
  • Fine sea salt – you can also use table salt.
  • Barley malt syrup – order online or find at some health food stores or beer brewing supply stores. You can also use light or dark brown sugar.
  • Lukewarm water – make sure it’s not scorching hot or it may kill your yeast.

What makes a bagel New York-style?

Bagels were brought to North America from Eastern European immigrants in the early 20th century. The debate about what’s most traditional or which style is best is fierce.

New York-style bagels are generally larger, uniformly round with a smaller hole and a chewy, slightly fluffy texture. They’re boiled then baked and generally have a fairly high salt content. On the other hand, Montreal-style bagels are boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fired oven, caramelizing the exterior more than New York-style bagels. Some New York bagel shops may also bake their bagels on burlap wood planks. Forget what you may have heard about needing NY tap water to make good bagels, that myth has been debunked.

What makes a bagel chewy?

Bread flour is the essential ingredient to creating that distinct chewy bite we all crave in a bagel. Its high protein content creates a stiff dough that holds its shape while baking and develops more gluten for more chew.

Do I have to use bread flour?

I don’t recommend substituting the bread flour with all-purpose flour in this recipe as the texture will suffer. The high protein content in bread flour is what allows the gluten to develop to create a stiff dough that turns into chewy well-shaped bagels. If you’re going to the trouble of making bagels from scratch, you may as well use one of the primary ingredients required for the best texture! Bread flour is the only flour that this recipe has been successfully tested with.

How to knead bagel dough:

For best results, use a larger 6-quart stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, or knead by hand. This is a very stiff dough, and old or small stand mixers may not be up to the task of kneading and may ‘jump’ on the counter or burn out your motor more quickly. Kneading by hand will take about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your upper body strength. Learn how to knead dough by hand here.

How to shape bagels:

Bagels are made with a basic stiff yeast dough. We basically let the dough rise, shape it into 8 balls, then let those balls rise again. Then, in order to get the bagel shape, you simply use your index finger to poke a hole through the center and twirl it around your finger to stretch that hole out.

How to make my bagels more flavorful AND make them ahead of time:

Besides choosing flavorful toppings or mix-ins, an easy way to develop better flavor in your bagel dough and make them ahead of time to finish off the morning you want to serve them is to allow them to ferment in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

UPDATE: Some people who have allowed their shaped bagels to ferment in the fridge for up to 48 hours have had their final bagels turn out flat. This is likely due to overproofing. For this reason, I would recommend reducing the amount of yeast to 2 teaspoons if you’d like to refrigerate the dough for an extended period. I had also originally recommended using a damp towel to cover the bagels but received reports of people’s towels freezing in the fridge (how cold are your fridges?!) so I have removed that direction.

Directions: Cover your shaped bagels on their baking sheets with plastic wrap and allow to proof in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours to develop more flavor and chewiness. Simply let the bagels come to room temperature before boiling, topping and baking. This is also a great idea if you’re hosting company for breakfast or brunch!

Why do you boil bagels before baking?

In order for the bagels to develop that well-browned exterior and slightly dense chewy texture, they’re actually boiled briefly before baking. This works because the boiling water sets the exterior crust before it hits the oven, preventing the bagels from rising very much while further developing that browned exterior.

The reason we add barley malt to the boiling water is to further develop that browned crust and to give it that distinct flavor we all know and love. I also add a little bit of baking soda to elevate the pH of the water solution to encourage more browning on the bagel’s crust.

Tips for preparing a water bath for bagels:

Use a wide heavy-bottomed pot and add the baking soda and barley malt first before turning the heat up to avoid spillovers. A small mesh or wire skimmer or spider makes quick and easy work of dipping and removing the bagels from the water.

What to put on a bagel:

  • Cream cheese, obvs! Stick with plain or try any flavor you’d like.
  • Lox or gravlax with sliced red onion, tomato, and capers
  • Egg and cheese for a breakfast bagel sandwich situation

How long do bagels last?

Uncut bagels can be stored up to 48 hours in a paper bag (or loosely wrapped in parchment), then sliced and briefly toasted to serve.

Can you freeze bagels?

Yes! To freeze bagels whole, wrap each in plastic then place in an airtight container. To freeze bagels sliced, slice them and place on a baking tray in the freezer until solid. Remove to an airtight container. Toast directly from frozen. Bagels may be frozen for up to 3 months.

Homemade Bagel Topping Ideas & Directions

It’s one thing to know how to make bagels. But it’s another to make any flavor you want! Customize your bagels by using my topping ideas below, or get creative and experiment with different dough add-ins and toppings! The full printable recipe is down below.

Basic toppings

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, or coarse salt as desired

Everything Bagel Topping

1 egg white, beaten
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons onion flakes
2 teaspoons garlic flakes or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Combine all ingredients and sprinkle over egg-washed bagels before baking. Find the full recipe + more tips on homemade everything bagel seasoning HERE.

Asiago Cheese Bagel Topping

10 ounces freshly grated Asiago cheese

Make the recipe as instructed all the way until the water bath. Place the cheese in a shallow bowl. As the bagels come out of the water bath, immediately place them, one at a time, in the cheese. Turn to coat and press to adhere. Transfer back to the prepared baking sheet.

More Homemade Bread & Breakfast Recipes:

4.78 from 110 votes

How to make
Bagels

Yield: 10 bagels
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
How to Make Bagels that are perfectly chewy, golden brown, and flavorful! This homemade bagel recipe is so easy to make - plus I share tons of topping ideas and bagel tips.

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 6 cups (762 grams) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) instant yeast*
  • 1 tablespoon (18 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (32 grams) barley malt syrup or brown sugar
  • 2 cups (473 grams) lukewarm water

Water bath:

  • 2 quarts (64 ounces) water
  • 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup, molasses, or brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Topping:

  • 1 egg white
  • Desired toppings

Directions

Prepare the dough:

  1. Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed for about 7 to 10 minutes (or knead vigorously by hand for 10 to 15 minutes). The dough will be stiff yet tacky and hold its shape without spreading. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until puffy but not necessarily doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Shape the dough:

  1. Punch down the dough and transfer to a clean work surface and divide into ten equal pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
  2. Starting with the first ball you formed, pierce one or two fingers through the center to form a hole. Twirl the dough around your fingers to stretch out the hole to about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with remaining dough. Place all shaped bagels on two greased parchment lined half sheet pans (5 bagels on each pan).

  3. Cover and let them rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until visibly puffed but not doubled.

  4. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Prepare the water bath:

  1. In a large wide pot, combine the water, malt syrup, and baking soda. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle boil.
  2. Gently transfer bagels, two to four at a time (don't overcrowd the pot), to the boiling water. Cook the bagels for 1 to 2 minutes (2 minutes for a stronger crust and chew), gently flip them over, and continue cooking for 1 minute. Use a skimmer to remove the bagels back to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining bagels. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush egg wash on the smooth side of each bagel. Place your desired topping(s) in a shallow dish, and place each bagel, egg white-side down, onto the toppings to coat.

  3. Bake the two pans of bagels for 17-25 minutes, or until they reach your desired brown color and exterior crunch, rotating the pans and switching shelves halfway through. Remove the bagels from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.

  4. Uncut bagels can be stored up to 48 hours in a paper bag (or loosely wrapped in parchment), then sliced and briefly toasted to serve.
  5. To freeze bagels whole, wrap each in plastic then place in an airtight container. To freeze bagels sliced, slice them and place on a baking tray in the freezer until solid. Remove to an airtight container. Toast directly from frozen.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

*If you don’t have instant yeast, you can always substitute with the same amount of active dry yeast. Simply add the active dry yeast to the warm water and let it proof for 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
*To prep the dough in advance, please see the pink tip box above the recipe for more details on reducing the amount of yeast.
If you can't find barley malt syrup (which I find on Amazon or at Whole Foods), use brown sugar.
Course : Breakfast
Cuisine : American
Keyword : bagels recipe, how to make bagels

This post was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2022 with recipe improvements and new photos. Photos by Joanie Simon.

March Baking Challenge

This recipe was the March 2022 selection for our monthly baking challenge! Every month you can join the challenge by baking the recipe and snapping a photo for a chance to win prizes! Full challenge details here. Check out everyone’s bagels:

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Jessica — June 27, 2022 at 11:50 am

    Hi! I love these bagels and make them often! However, my bagels always seem to deflate and then are rather thin. They are nice and puffy up until the water bath. Is there any reason why they sort of deflate and end up more like flat bread bagels? (I weigh all of my ingredients and use brown sugar instead of the barley malt syrup.)

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — June 27, 2022 at 1:18 pm

      Hi Jessica! It sounds like your bagels are getting overproofed. Tessa has an updated note about this in the pink tip box above the recipe. In this updated tip, she recommends reducing the yeast if you plan an extended 48-hour refrigerated proof. It’s hard to say how long your refrigerated proof should be, because it depends so much on the temperature of your fridge and the ambient temperature of your kitchen once you pull the dough back out of the fridge, but I would recommend trying Tessa’s tip of reducing the yeast a little, and/or reducing the proofing time, before boiling and baking. I hope that helps! Please feel free to reach back out to us here, or email us at [email protected] for more troubleshooting assistance!

  2. #
    Alisha — March 31, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    These bagels are fantastic! Pretty simple overall, just require some time to rise multiple times, but definitely worth it! Love the use of instant yeast. Used brown sugar in place of Balt Marley syrup and they came out perfect. Can’t wait to make again!

  3. #
    Rae — March 31, 2022 at 5:54 pm

    These bagels were surprisingly easy to make (although they initially seemed a bit intimidating). I have to admit, I’ve never been a big bagel fan, but these were SO GOOD. My husband and I loved them so much, and I’m sure I’ll make them again in the future! I topped mine with shredded Parmesan/Romano and garlic salt. The bagels were slightly thinner than some we’ve tried before, but honestly I think the ratio of bagel to toppings in each bite was better that way.

  4. #
    Samantha — March 31, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    These were so much fun to make & smelled amazing while baking.

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