Homemade Bagels

Delicious homemade bagels have a crisp and chewy crust with a dense crumb. They are super easy to make, they use just 5 main ingredients and can be made in just a couple of hours or overnight. 

Why You’ll love homemade bagels

  1. I think by now most people realize once they make any type of bread at home, store bought will never be the same. 
  2. This recipe only uses five(ish) simple ingredients, which you most likely already have. 
  3. Very minimal hands on time and can be refrigerated to prolong rising for later. 

I have a website where I post a ton of dessert recipes but the truth is, bread is my weakness and specifically bagels. Growing up, my siblings all ate cereal before school and I had a bagel every morning.

When I was pregnant, I ate a bagel for breakfast, lunch and dinner most days (don’t judge me lol). 

I started making my own bread when that’s all my kids wanted to eat so my first bread recipe on here was my Sandwich bread but we’ve since moved on to this lovely Italian bread and now I’m obsessing over these bagels! 

What even are bagels?

There are sooooo many types of breads and so many different recipes for each type of bread. 

Artisan bread is traditionally lean, meaning it’s just made of just flour, salt, yeast and water. Brioche dough is very enriched, meaning we’ve added sugar, butter, eggs and/or milk. My Italian bread is only slightly enriched, even less than my sandwich bread – I add a tiny bit of fat like butter or olive oil. 

Bagels are made of a lean dough, so just flour, salt, yeast and water but they do use a tiny bit of sugar to help feed that yeast and aid in the browning on the exterior.  

What makes a bagel truly special? The method that it’s cooked. Bagels have an iconic chewy brown crust that is made by first boiling the bagel in a slightly sweetened water before baking. We’ll get more into this laterzzz.

How To Make Bagels

Just like bread, bagels sound more intimidating than they are. It’s a very simple process, that just needs time to a little extra time (mostly hands off time!). 

  • Flour: I definitely recommend using bread flour for bagels. The higher protein content makes the bagels more chewy and gives a better structure. I like King Arthur’s Organic Bread Flour but any bread flour works fine.
    • All-purpose flour also works fine but you may lack some height and chew.  
  • Water: I use warm water about 100F (38C) to activate the yeast. If you’re using instant yeast, room temperature water is fine too. 
  • Yeast: this recipe works with both active dry yeast and instant yeast. If using active dry yeast, I activate it with warm water but if using instant yeast, skip the activation and just combine all the ingredients together.
  • Mixing: I simply just mix everything together in a bowl until it comes together. The dough is not sticky, it’s quite firm so I use a stand mixer with a hook attachment to knead it for 10 minutes and then knead a little with my hands to smooth out the dough better. 
  • Proofing: Dough proofs best at room temperature or slightly warmer. The colder the room, the slower the rise will be. Since this is rising quickly, I like to keep it in a warm environment, preferably above 75F (24C). 

What kind of yeast to use for bagels

The recipe is written using active dry yeast because that’s what I had on hand but if you want to substitute it for instant yeast, just follow these instructions. 

Unlike instant yeast, active dry yeast usually needs to be activated by combining the warm water with the yeast, mixing it and letting it rest for 10 minutes. The water should develop a thick layer of foam on top. You can skip this step if you’re using instant yeast, just place all the ingredients in the bowl and mix them all together. 

Kneading the dough

I let this dough knead in the stand mixer for about 10 minutes at low speed and then I knead it with my hands for a couple of minutes to make the dough smooth and make sure it’s done. 

You want the dough to also pass the windowpane test. The windowpane test is when you stretch a piece of the dough between your fingers until it’s thin enough to see light through before the dough tears. You won’t get it quite as thin as I did in this picture (that’s brioche) but you should be able to see light through it. 

What temperature to proof dough at?

You want to make sure your dough is proofing at a comfortable temperature. I prefer a little above room temperature so it rises quicker. I try to keep it just above 75F (24C).

The dough can also be proofed in the refrigerator. This is called a retarding proof because it really slows down the process. The Benefit of this is that you can just pop the dough in the fridge for a longer period of time and the dough will develop a stronger flavor if it rises for longer.

You can refrigerate the dough overnight for the first rise time but then bring it back to room temperature, shape the bagels and just continue the recipe.

I don’t recommend refrigerating for the second proof because you want your bagel dough to be room temperature and slightly under proofed when placed in the boiling water. 

Rising and Proofing the dough 

Rising and proofing are typically used interchangeably but the initial ‘resting time’ is actually the ‘rising’ and the second ‘resting time’ is the ‘proofing’. The time needed for rising/proofing is dependent on the recipe and the environment. 

Typically with instant yeast, a lot of recipes allow you to skip the first rise and just let the dough relax for just 10-30 minutes instead, before shaping the dough. I don’t really like that, so I recommend letting it rise and proof fully with both instant or active dry yeast. 

A general guideline for proofing and rising is that the dough should double in size each time. It should also slowly spring back when you press on it, but also leave a small indent. This works for the first rise but it’s really not a huge deal if it’s a little over proofed here…it’s better to over proof then under proof for the first rise. 

What really matters is the second rise time. You want the bagels to be slightly under proofed before boiling so they’ll definitely be a little bit puffed up but when you press on them gently, they do spring back still. 

How to shape bagels 

This dough is not really sticky so you shouldn’t have any issues with that. After the first rise, punch the air out and split the dough into 10 sections, about 3.2 ounces each. You could do more or less if you wanted to. 

I like to pinch all the edges together on one side and then roll the dough between my hand and the counter until it’s a nice ball of dough. Use your finger to make a hole in the center of each ball and gently stretch it out a little. 

Once they’re all done and placed on the cookie sheet, go through and stretch the hole out in the center of the bagels one more time because it’s likely they shriveled back up a little again. 

How and why to boil bagels

A bagel isn’t a bagel if it’s not boiled… ok there are steamed bagels but they’re not the same lol. Boiling will give it that iconic chewy and shiny crust. 

Traditional bagels are boiled in a pot of water mixed with a little barley malt. Barley malt is difficult to find but it is more authentic so go for that if you find it. If not, honey or brown sugar will do as well – I do 1-2 Tbsp, depending on the size of your pot. 

While the bagels are proofing for just about half an hour, you’ll want to bring a pot of water with honey or brown sugar (or barley malt if you can find it) to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a medium high so you have some simmering/bubbles going but not violently. 

GENTLY pick up your slightly under proofed bagels and place 2-3 of them in the pot of boiling water. 

I like to boil them for 90 seconds, flipping halfway through so 45 seconds on each side. You can do more or less, 30 seconds on each side or even 60-75 seconds on each side depending on how you like your crust. The longer you boil them, the thicker and more chewy the crust will be.

What kind of toppings to put on bagels

To be totally honest, I love a plain bagel but I think they’re so pretty with all the toppings. I did:

  • Flakey sea salt
  • Poppy seeds
  • Everything bagel seasoning 
  • Sesame seeds
  • Asiago cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Any seasoning really… I was thinking to try cajun or red pepper flakes one day lol 

After boiling the bagels, I brush them with egg whites and then dip them in one of these toppings. 

Some people brush them with a whole egg but I find that they get too dark for my liking and the smell/flavor is more eggy and as much as I love eggs, I’m not here for the eggy bagel lol so I just do the egg white. 

You can get away with no egg wash at all, you’ll just miss a little of the sheen on the bagel crust.

How to bake bagels

My oven runs super hot on the bottom so besides pie, I pretty much bake everything on convection (which means the fan is circulating the heat around). I bake my bagels at 400F (204C) for about 18 minutes. The internal temp of bread should be at least 195F (90C).

Don’t go based on the color on the top and don’t bother sticking a knife in there cuz that won’t do anything with dough.

If it’s fully baked, the bagels should feel light when you pick them up. 

If you find that your seeds/toppings are burning you could:

  1. Make your own seed combination – a lot of time the pre-made everything but the bagel seasoning has pre-toasted seeds so if you make your own mix, they won’t be toasted. To do this, combine garlic powder, onion powder, salt, poppy seeds and sesame seeds but try to get larger granules and not the fine powder.
  2. I’ve also baked the bagels halfway and then flipped them over. I do this because my oven runs weirdly hot on the bottom so I HAVE to bake most things on convection. If you’re oven is pretty balanced when it’s not on convection then baking on conventional should be fine and won’t burn the toppings as much!

How to serve bagels  

Ok I’m a toasted bagel with cream cheese (sometimes butter lol) kind of girl and I don’t want it sandwiched but let’s be honest, I don’t need to tell you how to eat your bagels lol. 

Traditional New York bagels are usually served sandwiched and not toasted.

Some other ideas are making sandwiches out of them, pizza bagels, serving them as toast with breakfast or making breakfast sandwiches. 

Bagel boards are also so fun to make and even more impressive with homemade bagels.

How to store bagels

Obviously bread is always best fresh BUT they say bagels are always better the next day. I store them in an airtight bag for about 4 days and then freeze them. To freeze, just place them in airtight bags or wrap them in plastic wrap. 

If you’ve made it this far, I apologize for the length but I hope this post is helpful to make the best homemade bagels! If you make them, I’d love it if you left me a review or a star rating and as always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

homemade bagels with one cut in half

Easy Homemade Bagels

These homemade bagels are super easy, use just 5 main ingredients and can be made in just a couple of hours or overnight.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Course Breads
Cuisine American
Servings 10 bagels
Calories 244 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 stand mixer or large bowl
  • 1 sheet pan
  • 1 pastry brush
  • 1 large pot

Ingredients
  

Bagel Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups (10oz/300mL) water
  • 2 Tbsp (25g) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 (1 package/7g) tsp yeast
  • 5 cups (600g) bread flour spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp (15g) fine sea salt

Toppings

  • 3-4 quarts water for boiling
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 egg white
  • Sesame seeds
  • Everything bagel seasoning
  • Poppyseeds
  • Asiago cheese

Instructions
 

  • Start by activating the active dry yeast. Combine the warm water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it rest for 10 minutes (skip if using instant yeast and just combine all the ingredients together).
    1 1/4 cups (10oz/300mL) water, 2 Tbsp (25g) granulated sugar, 2 1/4 (1 package/7g) tsp yeast
  • Once the yeast has foamed/bubbled on top a bit, add the flour and salt and use the hook attachment on the stand mixer to knead the dough for about 10 minutes at low speed.
    5 cups (600g) bread flour, 2 tsp (15g) fine sea salt
  • After about 10 minutes, I like to knead it by hand a little to get a feel of the dough. The dough should be smooth and should stretch enough to see through it without tearing (windowpane test).
  • Lightly grease the bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl, cover it with a lid or plastic wrap and let it rest for 90 minutes in a warm place.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and split it into 10 sections, about 3.2 ounces each.
  • Form a round ball with each section of dough. I do this by pinching all the edges together and rolling it between my hand and the counter (see video).
  • Once it's a round ball, poke a hole through the center of each ball of dough and try to stretch it out a little so it looks like a bagel shape.
  • Place the bagel doughs on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment paper.
  • After you've stretched out all the bagels and they're on the cookie sheet, go back through and stretch the hole in the center of each bagel out again because they tend to shrivel back up. I like to quickly rub the top of the bagel doughs onto the greased cookie sheet so before placing them down so the plastic wrap doesn't stick to the dough.
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them rest for 25-30 minutes.

Toppings

  • About 10-15 minutes before the bagels are done resting, preheat the oven to 400F (204C) stir the water and honey in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
    3-4 quarts water for boiling, 1-2 Tbsp honey
  • Reduce the heat to medium-high and gently place 2-3 bagels in the pot at a time. Boil each side for about 45 seconds, remove from the water and place back onto the cookie sheet. Repeat until all the bagels have been boiled.
  • Place an egg white in a small bowl and use a fork or an egg beater to whip the egg white until it's a little foamy. Brush the surface of all the bagels with the whipped egg white.
    1 egg white
  • Sprinkle or dip the bagels into desired toppings and place back on the cookie sheet.
    Sesame seeds, Everything bagel seasoning, Poppyseeds, Asiago cheese
  • Bake the bagels for about 18 minutes, until they've browned nicely and feel light when you pick them up.

Nutrition

Calories: 244kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 8gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 6mgPotassium: 71mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 1mg
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