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 (right above the recipe!)
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. Learn more about the differences in salt types here.
- 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 instead if you must, but the flavor of your bagels won’t be as delicious.
- Lukewarm water – Make sure it’s not scorching hot or it may kill your yeast. 100-110°F is perfect.
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.
- Some New York bagel shops may also bake their bagels on burlap wood planks.
- 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.
- 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. Boiling the bagels in barley malt prior to baking also contributes to creating this chewy texture.
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.
- If you can’t find bread flour in supermarkets locally, you can buy it here on Amazon.
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.
- 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, as seen in the image below.
How to Make 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.
Make Ahead Directions:
- Cover your shaped bagels on their baking sheets with plastic wrap.
- 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 must be 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. Fresh herbs in cream cheese are delicious!
- Lox or gravlax with sliced red onion, tomato, and capers
- Egg and cheese for a breakfast bagel sandwich situation
How Long do Bagels Last?
Fresh bagels are the most delicious, but uncut bagels can be stored for up to 48 hours in a paper bag (or loosely wrapped in parchment). Slice and briefly toast before serving. See just below for freezing instructions.
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. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container or ziptop bag. 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.
- Sesame seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Minced onion
- Coarse salt
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.