Homemade Bagels

July 11, 2013
8 Ratings
Photo by Eric Moran
  • Makes 6 to 8
Author Notes

The only thing you can do to mess up making your own bagels is to make them, say, square.

This is a promise -- the secret to good bagels is that there really is no secret, other than you don't have to be anywhere near New York City to have perfectly chewy, fresh bagels for breakfast this Sunday morning.

More things that aren't true: that it's the New York water that makes them what they are, that you'll kill the dough by squeezing, forcing it into a bagel shape, that they're too high-maintenance and you'll go running (screaming) back to the grocery store standard.

Please don't do that. If you've ever mixed and kneaded any other dough, this will be cake. Let's do it together.

Note: This recipe is adapted from one by the bread man himself, Peter Reinhart. (Why mess with a good thing?) I use all-purpose flour, but you can swap any amount of it with whole grain flour (like rye or wheat) for a different flavor. Reinhart also uses barley malt syrup, as do most serious bagel people, but honey works just as well. —Kenzi Wilbur

What You'll Need
  • 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached flour (see note above)
  • 3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey (see note above)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temp or slightly warm water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg white, optional
  • Seeds!
  1. Mix the flour, 2 teaspoons of the salt, the yeast, honey, and the water until everything begins to form into dough. You can use a mixer if you like, but it's simpler by hand. It'll be a stiff dough, as there's not much water, but this makes it sturdy enough to withstand a dunk in boiling water later. Feel free to add a bit more water if necessary, but you shouldn't need much.
  2. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes while you find a place in your tiny apartment on which to knead.
  3. Knead on a floured surface for about 3 minutes -- the dough will get smooth, a little tacky.
  4. Now put your lovely little dough ball into an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it hang in the fridge for a few hours, or at least an hour. (I've left it for both 45 minutes and 4 hours, and both batches turned out fine.)
  5. When you're ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper. Then remove the dough from the fridge, and cut it into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how large or small you'd like your bagels to be. (I find that 6 pieces yields my kind of bagel: not puny.) Form each piece into a ball, and then each ball into a 10-inch log, with tapered ends. (Don't use any flour on your surface! You'll need the dough to stick just slightly in order for it to change shape.)
  6. To shape the bagels, place one end of one dough log in between your thumb and forefinger, and then wrap it around the rest of your fingers -- the dough ends should overlap by an inch or two -- and squeeze it slightly to bind it together. Once you do this, you can also roll the ends together on a surface to enhance the seal. Extra security is never a bad thing.
  7. Repeat for all of the bagels, then lightly oil them and cover with plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge to proof overnight. Invite guests over for brunch.
  8. About an hour an a half before you want to bake them, pull the bagels out of the fridge to come to room temperature, and fill a large pot (I use a Dutch oven) to at least 4 inches deep. Cover and bring it to a boil. When it boils, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the baking soda, then turn it down to a simmer.
  9. Crank the oven to 500° F.
  10. Now test the bagels by using the float test: fill a bowl with cold water, and place one bagel in it. If it floats, they're all ready to go. If not, you haven't failed: just return it to the baking sheet and let proof for 15 to 20 minutes more, then do the test again.
  11. Working in batches that will fit in your pot, carefully drop each bagel into the simmering water, let poach for 1 minute, and flip with a slotted spoon or a spider. Poach 30 seconds more, and then return each bagel to the baking sheet.
  12. And, the fun part: sprinkle your bagels with whatever topping you want. To help your toppings stick, use an egg white wash, but the residual water from the poach should do the trick, too. Seeds are great, as is big flake or rock salt.
  13. You're so close: slip them in the oven and reduce the heat to 450° F. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate the sheet, and bake 8 to 12 minutes more, until the bagels are golden brown. Feel free to check the bottom of the bagels as they cook -- if they're getting too brown, just stick another baking sheet underneath them (a baking stone works, too).
  14. Pull them from the oven, and wait an excruciating 30 minutes before you eat them.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tristan Prettyman Maris
    Tristan Prettyman Maris
  • Franca
  • MBE
  • Philip Brooks Grossi
    Philip Brooks Grossi
  • Alex Palombo
    Alex Palombo

63 Reviews

kccheng June 15, 2020
have made this a bunch of times- always delicious and a very reliable recipe!
Tristan P. May 11, 2020
My bagels never floated in cold water no matter how long I let them proof more? Any ideas?
Franca April 16, 2020
You know what else isn't true about New York bagels, that they are the best. Montreal bagels are far superior!! :D
MBE February 12, 2018
Baking Soda in the boiling water!!! This would make a pretzel bagel. Honey or malt syrup/powder in the boiling water for the flavor of a bagel
Philip B. August 20, 2017
My friend owned a bagel shop in NJ for many years. The one ingredient he said set bagels apart from a doughnut shaped roll was malt. I don't see malt in your recipe. Why is that?
Jade I. July 25, 2018
if you read the note, honey is used as a substitute for malt syrup here as many home bakers don't have malt syrup in their cupboards. You can easily substitute the malt for the honey in this recipe if you have access to it.
Alex P. April 3, 2016
I have dry active yeast at home - how would I adapt this recipe to work with that?
GraceT April 3, 2016
The big difference is that you should use about 25% more. They are the same strain of yeast, instant is just ground finer so it packs more densely. It's like the difference between kosher and table salt measured by volume. You get more salt in a tsp of table salt. The other thing you might consider is mixing the yeast into the water first and allowing it to sit for 5 minutes or so before you mix in the flour. Then you should be good to go.
Jill34 February 4, 2016
Can you suggest how I might adapt the recipe to make mini bagels?
GraceT February 4, 2016
The only adaptation to this recipe to make mini bagels would be baking time. Depending on how small you make them, I would start with halving the baking time giving them 4 minutes then rotating them and cooking for 4 more minutes. At the end of that time, after removing the bagels from the oven I would press on them to check if they appear to be done. If they are firm, I would pull them. If they are still soft, give them a bit more time. This is only a guess. When you change a size this much, cooking time needs to be re-figured and it might take a couple of batches to get it down, at least, this is my opinion and what I would do.
Jill34 February 4, 2016
How many po
Mary February 1, 2016
Thanks Grace T and Delia Downing - I will try your suggestions - very nice of you to help me get started. Will let you know the results.
maria P. January 27, 2016
just make my first batch of bagels and I was sooo surprised how gooood there were. I cant wait to make them again!!!!!!!!!
Karen B. January 9, 2016
These were yummy and easy to make, just a little time consuming. They take 2 days so plan ahead.
Mary November 12, 2015
looking forward to making bagels for the first time but like whole wheat. Would it work with half wheat and half white?
GraceT November 12, 2015
Yes it would. If you are used to making bread, going half and half will change the texture some. You MAY need to add a tad more liquid with the wheat flour. This is where bread baking experience comes in. You may want to start out using less wheat flour and increase the quantity as you gain experience and get the feel of the dough.
Delia D. November 12, 2015
Mary I use 1/3 whole wheat and the rest white. I also soak 1/3 cup Red River cereal in 1/3 cup boiling water and add that when it cools. This results in an amazing multi-grain bagels. I've been making a two batches of these every 10 days or so. We just won't eat anything else. Good luck.
Michael J. October 9, 2015
Most bagels don't use egg wash -- unless they are specifically egg bagels. You should be carefully with adding non-traditional allergens into traditional foods as unsuspecting eaters may have an allergic reaction. For example, my son eats non-egg bagels all the time without worries, he certainly would be surprised at your house as we call an ambulance.
Carrie June 28, 2015
This was the first time I have ever attempted to make a bagel. I'm not very good at baking pastries or breads, so knowing this, I had some doubts about this recipe and my ability to turn it into something edible. I was completely blown away at how perfect these turned out. I may never buy another bagel from the supermarket again. The directions were clear and simple, and the kneading by hand was quick and easy. I had put off making these for a couple of weeks because of the 24 hour proof time (I have poor planning skills), but it was actually perfect for a Sunday morning breakfast. These turned out chewy, soft, and delicious. I did add a little to much oil to the parchment paper, so when I baked them, the top had a little fried texture, but it still tasted wonderful. I used these bagels to make a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches the next day. They were fabulous. Better
The P. June 10, 2015
Isn't there some ingredient that's added to the boiling water to give bagels their typically hard and smooth outside when baked? Is it malt syrup?
Rosalind P. February 28, 2021
Yes...malt syrup. Best and not so hard to find.
Arrxx March 2, 2021
I found malt syrup at the health food store.
Delia D. January 10, 2015
This is the second yeast dough recipe in two days that I have done from Food52. Both the bagels and Dan Learner's Four Hour Baguette have turned out picture perfect!
Liz January 7, 2015
Hello! I can't wait to try this recipe, however, I don't understand this step: "Now put your lovely little dough ball into an oiled boil." What is an oiled boil and then why do I put it directly into the fridge after? Am I missing something. Thank you for your help!
Franziska January 7, 2015
It is meant to be 'oiled bowl' (at least that is what I have always used). Oiling the bowl you are going to rest the dough in means it will come out easy after resting.
jane December 30, 2014
I tried making bagels with this recipe for the first time. I followed the recipe to a t. They sure looked impressive and I liked the chewy texture. But the flavour wasn't right. They didn't really taste like bagels. They didn't taste bad just not like bagels. Perhaps it was the flour or yeast I was using. I live in the Netherlands so perhaps the ingredients are a bit different.
Franziska December 30, 2014
Hi Jane,
What flour did you use? I used to live in the NL and made them there as well, with no problems at all.
I used the normal tarwebloem from the Appie and made sure to buy proper Arm&Hammer baking soda for the boiling process (they sometimes have it at the Xenos or in cookery stores). Yeast wise, I think they sell the dried yeast from Dr.Oetker right?! That one works great. To get the perfect bagel taste (like when you buy them in NYC) you can buy barley malt syrup. They have it at organic groceries and some health food stores (it's a black syrup that distinctly smells and tastes malty).
Hope this helps! (Also maybe you have a pic of the bagels to see what went 'wrong' with them?!)
jane January 3, 2015
Franziska, thanks so much for your response. That's cool you used to live in NL too : ) Yep I'm using the ingredients you listed everything from the AH tarwebloen to the Dr. Oetker instant yeast. I'll get some barley malt syrup and give the recipe another try. They looked great and the texture was nice so nothing was wrong with them physically. Just didn't taste right the first time. I'll give it another shot!
Franziska January 3, 2015
Good luck! Hope they work out this time around. They really are the best you can get this side of the Atlantic. :)
Shannon R. November 7, 2014
I too would like to know why AP & not Bread Flour. Please can you tell us why this is. also if we want to use the barley malt syrup do we use the same amount as the honey in the recipe above?
Franziska December 30, 2014
I use barley malt syrup when I have it and the amount you want to use really depends on how much of a malty taste you want. Subbing the same amount as the honey is a great starting point! (I have done that and it works perfectly. Adding a little more works, too.)
Shannon R. November 7, 2014
I wanted to know why A.P. Flour and not Bread Flour? Is the higher gluten of the bread flour a problem in making these?