This recipe for how to make Homemade Bagels is easy to master and produces a bagel that is chewy on the outside and super soft on the inside. Flavor the bagels with Everything Seasoning, Asiago Cheese, Sesame, or create your own with your favorite seasoning! Making homemade bagels has never been easier!
Homemade Bagel Recipe
Full disclosure: it took me about 3 months to test this recipe. It was worth it though. My biggest challenge was getting the bagel dough to rise in my high altitude, and getting the right amount of chew on the outside of the bagel. Have no fear though, making bagels is not as complicated as you may think.
Chances are if you have searched for homemade bagel recipes, each recipe is different. After my many rounds of testing (and failing) at making bagels, I believe I have come up with a homemade bagel recipe that is:
- Easy to follow.
- Minimize the number of complicated steps to produce the perfect bagel.
- Produces a bagel that you expect – chewy on the outside and soft on the inside.
The blog post contains a lot of tips for making bagels. I strongly encourage you to read the entire post before starting to make the bagels!
Is It Hard To Make Homemade Bagels?
Making Homemade Bagels is not as hard as you would think – if you have a good recipe and a little patience. Bread and dough recipes that are made with yeast do take a little time, but they are worth it in the end. A good bagel is much more than the flavorful variety of toppings and flavors. Giving the dough time to relax (proof) and develop flavor is what (I think) makes a bagel delicious.
This is a yeast dough bagel recipe
We rely on the yeast to make the bagels rise nice and tall, and it also adds that distinctive flavor we associate with good bread. Can you make bagels without yeast and use baking soda or baking powder as a leavener? I’m sure you could, but I wouldn’t recommend it. However, if you are looking for a quick bread recipe, check out the Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits recipe on the blog!
Because we are working with a yeast dough, the dough needs time to rest – or proof. This gives the yeast time to feed on the sugar in the dough and create carbon dioxide – which promotes gluten development and makes the dough expand. It is also during this time that all of those delicious bread flavors develop.
The time to proof the dough can vary. Ideally, the dough should be rested at warm room temperature. At this temperature, the dough should double in size in about 1.5 to 2 hours. And we don’t want to try and rush this process. Otherwise we run the risk of making flat, flavorless bagels.
What You Need To Make Homemade Bagels
- Active Dry Yeast
- Brown Sugar – Light or dark brown sugar will work. The brown sugar is used in the bagel dough and water bath.
- Bread Flour – I strongly recommend using bread flour. Bread flour has a higher amount of gluten which makes the bagels airy and chewy. However, I have made the bagels with all-purpose flour and it works fine – the bagels won’t be as chewy.
- Unsalted Butter
- Salt – A good kosher salt is ideal for flavor.
- Baking Soda – This is used in the water bath and gives the bagels their color and adds to the chewy exterior.
- Cornmeal – The cornmeal is used on the ‘peel’ and keeps the bagels from sticking to the baking sheet. All-purpose flour can be substituted.
- Egg – To brush on the bagels to make the toppings stick, and it adds to shiny exterior color.
- Toppings – Any topping you choose! Like Everything seasoning, grated cheese, salt, or sesame seeds.
- Mixing Bowl
- Baking Sheets and Parchment Paper
- Large Boiling Pot – I use a large cast iron Dutch Oven to boil the water/bagels. A large pasta pot works great too.
Tips For How To Make Homemade Bagels
- Use bread flour. I made bagels with all-purpose flour and while the flavor is still good, the texture is not what you would expect or want with a bagel. The bread flour has a higher amount of protein, which equals higher gluten, which equals a chewy, yet soft bagel. You could go as far as finding a High Gluten flour, but for the sake of making this recipe realistic with what you find in your local grocery store, bread flour works great.
- Flavor the dough AND the water bath. Adding brown sugar to the dough and boiling water is just another layer to impart flavor into the dough. It does not make the bagels sweet.
- Note – In my research, I discovered a lot of chefs choose barley malt syrup to flavor the dough and water bath. It has a consistency and sweetness molasses. The drawback is it’s probably not in your grocery store, and you may only use it when you make bagels. If you want to try barley malt syrup, feel free! Otherwise, brown sugar is a viable substitute because it adds sweetness and a hint of molasses flavor.
Mixing and Kneading Tips
- Kneading the dough. You can mix and knead the dough in a stand mixer. Although, you will still need to knead ( 🙂 ) the dough by hand for a few minutes. I choose to mix and knead all by hand because I like to see and feel how the dough is coming together.
- If you mix by hand – The initial mix of adding the flour to the water is a good arm workout. The dough is rough and sticky and it is not going to mix easily like a cake batter.
- When you knead all by hand – You should plan for 10 minutes for the dough to get to the right texture – which is smooth and elastic. The term elastic in reference to dough is just as you may think – that the dough goes back to its original form when pressed, poked or pulled – just like a rubber band. I know I have kneaded it long enough when I poke my fingers in it and the dough fills the holes back up.
- Proof your dough until it doubles in size. I recommend proofing the dough for 1-2 hours. However, the temperature of your kitchen, home, and outside can affect proofing time. Many recipes call for proofing at room temperature, but if your room temperature is below approximately 70F degrees, it may take longer. Conversely, if your room temperature is warmer, it may not take as long.
- Good places to proof the dough. If your oven has a ‘Proof’ setting, that is ideal. No proof setting on your oven? No problem.
- Kitchen countertop – If it happens to be a warm day, or your home is warm, resting the dough on the countertop works.
- Cabinet above the oven – If you happen to baking something else, and have a cabinet above the oven, that cabinet is likely to get warm which makes it a great place to proof the dough.
- Top of the range – Same scenario as above – without the wall cabinet. The top of your oven likely gets indirectly warm when you are baking something in the oven.
- Proof in a see-through container. A large glass or plastic bowl allows you to see how much the dough has risen.
Shaping the Bagels Tips
- Do not stress about making the perfect size or shape of a bagel. They will still taste the same in the end. I usually end up with small, medium, and large size bagels, with awkwardly shaped bagel holes.
- That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim for consistency. Because when baking multiples of anything, you want to aim for similar sizes so they all bake evenly.
- To make the hole in the bagel. Simply make the hole with your index finger, and then twirl it around the same finger with your other index finger. This is the easiest method I have used to make the classic bagel shape.
Preparing and Baking the Bagels Tips
- Boil the bagels. The reason we do this is that it gives the bagels their chewy texture. The longer you boil, the chewier the bagel. Just be careful because you can overboil the bagel.
- I find the sweet spot to be 35 seconds on each side and I would not recommend boiling for longer than 1 minute on each side.
- Season the bagels. Have fun with your toppings and seasonings. I do recommend brushing the tops of the boiled bagels with an egg wash. This gives the bagel a golden top and helps the seasonings adhere.
- Bake the bagels hot. This part of the recipe is pretty straightforward. Just make sure your oven is hot and actually heated to 425F degrees. I highly recommend an oven thermometer if you don’t have one.
- Bake until golden brown. At about 20 minutes, the bagels should be golden brown. Additionally, I like to keep the bagels in the oven for an additional 5 minutes when they are done with the oven turned off. The residual heat finishes the cooking process without over-baking the bagels.
High Altitude Adjustments For Homemade Bagels
Baking at high altitude can get tricky. In all of my other recipes (so far), I have not had to make any adjustments. This bagel recipe is the exception.
- The first couple of batches of bagels I made were coming out flat. After a few more attempts at adjusting my kneading and proofing, I found that reducing the amount of yeast was the answer.
- The dough recipe also needed a touch more water. This is why I chose to start with the water and then add the flour incrementally, versus starting with the flour and adding more water as needed. And when I say incrementally, I mean 1/2 a cup at a time. This allows me to control the consistency of the dough better.
If you made it this far, have fun making your own batch of Homemade Bagels!
Common Questions For Making Homemade Bagels
I would recommend making two batches. It is already a lot of dough to work with (think going from 4 cups of flour to 8 cups of flour!), and it may quickly become unmanageable. You can start the second batch halfway through the proof of the first batch, so you can stagger the preparation and baking.
I think it would work fine. If using instant yeast: skip blooming the yeast in water and sugar; add that water and sugar with the other water and sugar; add the instant yeast with the first addition of flour.
Yes. But keep in mind bread flour has more gluten which makes the bagels chewier. Using all-purpose flour may not yield a bagel as chewy.
I honestly cannot say. I don’t have experience baking gluten free yeast bread and would not feel comfortable offering theories on how the bagels would turn out. I’m sure there are many great gluten free bagel recipes out there!
No, the bagels are not sweet. The brown sugar adds flavor and color to the bagels.
While I have never used a bread machine, I would say follow the machine’s instructions for mixing and kneading dough – and let me know how it works!
I think adding dried fruit and/or spices would work just fine. I would add at the beginning of mixing, after you’ve added at least 2 cups of flour. Any fresh fruit, like blueberries or raspberries, will require some testing. I am concerned that anything with a lot of moisture would disintegrate during the mixing/kneading process, or when the bagels are boiled.
Cornmeal offers an easy way to transfer the bagels from the seasoning baking sheet (‘peel’) to the actual baking sheet. Plus, it adds flavorful texture to the bottom of the bagels. If you don’t have cornmeal, you can use flour.
I recommend storing bagels in a paper bag at room temperature. Storing in the refrigerator, and they will probably dry out. Keep in mind this is fresh baked bread and it is always best the day it is baked. Even a bagel stored in a paper bag will lose some of its just baked exterior.
Yes! After they have cooled completely, wrap them individually in foil and put in a Ziploc bag. Store for up to 3 months.
More Breakfast Bread Recipes
After you have mastered making Homemade Bagels, why not try a few more breakfast bread recipes to add to your recipe box!
- Homemade Flaky Croissants
- Homemade Pinwheel Danish Pastries
- Maple Glazed Cinnamon Rolls
- Caramel Apple Sweet Rolls
- Strawberry and Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
- 1 and 1/2 cups water, room temperature
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast - high altitude adjustment: 2 teaspoons
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided in half
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 4-5 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- cornmeal - for dusting bagel 'peel'; flour can be substituted
- 1 large egg, beaten
- optional toppings: everything seasoning, grated asiago cheese, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt
- In a liquid measuring cup, mix 1/4 cup of the water and the yeast, along with a pinch of sugar sprinkled over the top. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until the yeast turns foamy and creamy.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the remaining water and stir in 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, 2 cups of flour, and the salt and stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to add a 1/2 cup of the flour at a time and stir until the dough starts to come together as a rough, sticky dough. Stirring the dough will require some 'elbow grease' but it will not take long to get the dough to the right consistency. You likely will not need all of the flour.
- Kneading the Dough – Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (from the remaining flour you measured), flour your hands and knead the dough for 7-10 minutes until you have a smooth, soft, and elastic dough. You will know you have kneaded the dough long enough when you stick your fingertips into the dough and the dough fills ups the holes.
- Brush a large bowl with the melted butter. Form the dough into a ball and place in the prepared bowl and brush the top of the dough with the melted butter as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a dry kitchen towel and set in a warm place to proof the dough for 1-2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Line 2 half-size baking sheets (or 1 full-size) with parchment paper. These will be used to bake the bagels. Take another baking sheet, turn upside down, and sprinkle with cornmeal. This will be used as the 'peel' to season the bagels before transferring them to their baking sheets to bake. Note – If you don't have cornmeal, you can use flour.
- When the dough is ready, fill a large pot with 3 quarts of water and turn on high heat to bring to a boil. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. If using one baking sheet, adjust the oven rack to the middle position. If using 2 baking sheets, adjust the oven racks to the top third and bottom third of the oven.
- Then, punch the dough down to release air bubbles. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 8 pieces. Each piece does not have to be identical, just get as close as possible to the same size. Work with one piece of dough at a time and place a kitchen towel over the other pieces.
- Shaping the Bagels – pull up the sides of the dough from the bottom all around, pinching it all together at the top – to create a tightly packed ball with a pinched pleat at the top. Turn the pinched top over, so it is on top of your work surface, and poke your index finger into the middle of the dough ball to create the bagel hole. Make the hole bigger by twirling it around your finger with your other index finger. You will want it to be about 2 inches wide as the hole will shrink back slightly when boiled and baked.
- Place the shaped bagels on the prepared baking sheets.
- By this time, the pot of water should be boiling. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar and baking soda to the boiling water.
- Plunge the bagels 2 at a time (or 3 if you have a larger, wider pot) into the boiling water and boil for 35 seconds on each side. The bagels should have enough room to float around and they will puff up, and their circular shape will set.
- Remove the bagels from the water and place on the 'peel' baking sheet. Brush the tops of each with the egg wash and sprinkle with your choice of seasoning. Move the seasoned bagels bake to the prepared baking sheet(s). Note – Using the baking 'peel' allows you to make a mess with the egg wash and seasoning and transfer to a clean baking sheet to bake. Otherwise, those messy drippings are likely to burn when baked!
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown. If baking on two baking sheets rotate the sheets halfway through. Turn the oven off when the bagels are done and let sit in the oven with the door closed for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Bagels are best enjoyed the day they are baked.
- Storing the Bagels – I do not recommend refrigerating leftover bagels – they will probably dry out. The bagels can be stored at room temperature in an airtight glass or metal container; a Ziploc bag (squeezing as much air out of the bag as possible); or rolled in a paper bag then put in a Ziploc (all air removed), for up to 3-5 days. If you do not plan to eat the bagels in that time, I recommend freezing them the day they are baked – after they have cooled completely. Wrap individually in aluminum foil then put in a Ziploc (all air removed) – leftover bagels can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Flour – You can use all-purpose flour if you don’t have bread flour. The bagels may not be as chewy using all-purpose flour.
- Gluten Free Flour – I have not made gluten free bagels and do not have enough gluten free bread baking expertise to offer recommendations or substitutions.
- Brown Sugar – The brown sugar in the dough water bath gives the bagels flavor. The bagels will not be sweet.
- Mixing the Dough
- By Hand – I prefer to mix the dough entirely by hand because I have control over how the dough is coming together with each increment of flour added. It does take a little muscle to stir it, but it will come together quickly.
- Stand Mixer – If you prefer, you can mix the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix the dough for about 2-3 minutes. You will still want to knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes – so the dough does not get overworked, and you can feel once it has become smooth and elastic.
- Bread Machine – I have never used a bread machine. However, if you want to try to mix and knead the dough in a bread machine, I recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Flavor Mix-In’s – I have only made the bagels as written. However, if you would like to add mix-in’s into the dough (i.e. raisins), I recommend adding at the beginning of mixing – after you have added at least 2 cups of flour. This gives the mix-in’s something to mix with.
- Proofing the Dough – Proof the dough in a place where it warm room temperature. If you have a colder home or it is a colder day, you will want to find a warmer place, like inside a cabinet or pantry. Or if you have a proof box or proof setting on your oven, that is even better!
- You will know your dough is done proofing when it has doubled in size and looks spongy. I proof my dough in a large plastic bowl so I can see through it.
- Shaping the Bagels – When you are shaping the bagels, you can eyeball equal sizes when you are dividing the dough. Some may turn out larger, smaller or slightly misshapen, and that is ok! Aim for somewhat consistent sizes so they all bake the same.
- Baking Soda – The baking soda in the boiling water bath helps to make the bagels chewy. You can leave the bagels in the water bath for a few seconds longer if you prefer a chewier bagel.
- Cool the Bagels – Allow the bagels to cool completely before serving. They will taste better once they have had time to cool from baking.
- High Altitude adjustment – usually high altitude adjustments come into play at altitudes higher than 3,500 feet.
- Reduce the amount of yeast to 2 teaspoons in total. This will be less than what is in the yeast packets, so you will have leftovers that should be discarded. Or you can purchase yeast in small jars that are stored in the refrigerator.
- More water is used in high altitude adjustments, which is why I start with all of the water and as much flour as needed to get to the right dough consistency. Which is a rough, sticky dough.