The Perfect Bagel - The Best Bagels Recipe (2024)

by Mary Neumann · 21 Comments

Today’s Tried & True recipe is one of my favorite foods…full of carbs, calories and goodness – BAGELS!This recipe, my friends, makes the perfect bagels.

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It should be known, I am a major bagel snob…major. I like my bagels to becrunchyonthe outside, with a little struggle for the bite and a good chewy texture. I am not a fan of “bready” bagels with a “bready” taste. Finding a good bagel has always been a challenge and I thought I had to settle with mediocre bagels available around me. Well it turns out I don’t have to anymore. My sister came to visit and over the weekend we made Peter Reinhart’s bagels. These are flippin’ good bagels – perfection, the best bagels ever, so worth the time.

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I never would have thought to attempt making my own bagels, thinking it would be too difficult and not worth all the effort. Boy was I wrong. Peter Reinhart’s recipe is easy to follow. At first glance, the recipe can appear daunting. Don’t let that scare you. While there are several steps, they are pretty simple. You do have to set aside time to make them because it’s a two day process. In order to achieve good flavor and texture, the bagels have to ferment in the fridge at least 12 hours.

If you are a bagel lover like me, in search for the perfect bagel…this recipe is for you, a must try!

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We made plain, onion, salt, poppy seed and everything bagels.

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Everything Bagels are my all-time favorite!

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NOTE: When I share a tried & true recipe, I always credit the source and often will send you to the site for the directions. All you need to do is click on “Print Recipe” below and it will take you to the full recipe. One extra step for an awesome recipe, that’s it! It’simportant to me to share the love and send you to the original source.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels Recipe

Recipe Makes 12 large or 24 mini bagels
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  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
  • 2½ cups water, room temperature


  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3¾ cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
  • 2¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish (toppings for the bagels)

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)


Please head to National Geographic, for the full recipe and directions for this awesome recipe from The Plate.


  • We made smaller bagels, 2.25 ounces (28 bagels). We used a kitchen scale, weighing the dough before forming each bagel. Having the bagels all the same size allows them to bakeuniformly.
  • When baking the bagels, be sure not to crowd them, this will allow for them to bake evenly and get that perfect crunchy texture all around.
  • We boiled the bagels for two minutes on each side instead of one minute. We prefer a bagel with a nice crust and chewy texture – the additional boil time helps to achieve this.
  • My sister likes to add 1/2 cup of honey along with the baking soda when boiling the bagels. This adds a nice sweetness to the bagels and helps to allow the toppings to stick.
  • When making onion bagels or everything bagels, be sure tore-hydratethedehydratedonions. This can be done by soaking them in a small bowl with a little water. Re-hydrating the onions prevents them from burning while baking.
  • The recipe allows you to ferment the bagels up to two days. We formed the bagels on Friday night and they sat in the refrigerator until Sunday morning, when we boiled and baked them – they were prefect.
  • For high altitude (I live at highaltitude, above 6000 ft), we reduced the yeast by 1/4 for both the sponge and the dough and they turned out perfect.

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Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Heidi

    The link for the recipe does not work. Says it’s no longer available. Disappointed. Would be nice if the recipe was listed here and updated. Thank you


  2. F

    I can’t tell you grateful I am for this. I’ve tried so so so many times to bake better at altitude and you’ve changed the game! Bagels were perfect.
    Thank youuuu!


  3. Nancy

    Hello, I was certainly challenged by this bagel recipe. I do have a question about the process of putting them in the refrigerator overnight. Everything was going great until that step. The next day they had not risen at all in the refrigerator and when I took them out of the fridge and put them directly into the water they just collapsed. I think I had one risen bagel. When I looked up the process of retarding the dough it said that the dough must sit out at room temperature before poaching. I am so confused. Thanks for everything.


  4. Chris Leo

    I am trying this recipe right now but I am unhappy with how dry the dough ball is. I did the 2 1/2 cups of water with 4 cups bread flour for the sponge and that grew perfectly. But then no more liquid and 3 more cups of flour was too dry to for a ball. I added a little tiny bit of water, just enough for a ball to form but never added the last 3/4 cup of flour. Did anyone else have this issue? I’d like to know what others did if you did have this happen.


    • Mary Neumann

      The dough should be stiff, Chris, it’s not the same as bread dough. Bagel dough is stiff.
      #3 – “….The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour–all ingredients should be hydrated.”

      • Mary Neumann

        If you measured/weighed all of the ingredients, you are good. They will be formed and then rise again – which aerates the dough….it gets softer.


      • Chris Leo

        Yes, I do understand that. However, the dough was sooooo dry that when you try the windowpane test, the dough immediately just pulled apart; no stretch at all. I am certain my measurements were correct but there was clearly too little hydration. Am I correct that the only liquid is 2 1/2 cups water? That for almost 8 cups of flour just seems like too little in my experience with pizza dough. Maybe I will try again soon. Once I added more water and finished the dough, the bagels weren’t bad but they dropped too quickly and were thinner than I like.


  5. billy patscher jr.

    hi, i've been cooking for 5 yrs since my mom's death looking for a bagel reicpe that's easy i've already made bread but i don't know what i'm doing what's the recipe for the montral bagel also ny bagel what's the better one taste wise wanna know how to make crispy homemade bread no knead brioiche pretzels please send me some reicpes i'm handicapped help me please ? thanks billy


  6. marysweetlittlebluebird

    Hi again (@Anonymous) – Glad you gave the recipe a try! We also used barley malt syrup – I just added a photo of the ingredients from King Arthur Flour. And we also boiled them for a total of 4 mins, two minutes for each side. Oh, and added honey to the water. And yes, you need to spray parchment paper with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal – that's a must! I can't wait to try your cinnamon crunch topping – my girls will LOVE them! So, will you make these again??? Thanks for stopping by with your results! Now I want one of these bagels. Time to make a batch for the freezer.


  7. Anonymous

    one more thing..I also brushed some with butter and generously topped them with a brown sugar to granulated sugar mixture (2 to 1) and cinnamon mix. Really yummy! It gave a nice, cinnamon crunch topping.


  8. Anonymous

    I'm back with results! (I had a couple questions above) I ended up using bread flour and adding vital wheat gluten as shipping KAF high gluten flour is outrageous. I subbed a barley malt syrup instead of the powder, which I believe is an acceptable substitute. After THREE tries, I have some do's and don'ts to share. DON'T use a Silpat mat…they will stick and deflate. Parchment SPRAYED is a must and a sprinkling of cornmeal, even better to ensure they don't stick. It's disastrous if they stick while still pliable. Then, using information for an America's Test Kitchen book and Peter's, between the two sources they suggest a range of boiling times from 45 seconds per side to a minute…or longer if you prefer. Let me tell you, after boiling (and tossing many) three batches, you HAVE to boil them for at minimum three minutes to get them to hold their shape. Shorter boiling and the air bubble under the surface can't hold the structure of the dough and they deflate. Four minutes is perfect. The outside gets firm enough to hold the beautiful rounded shape. The weighted suggestion you have is perfect at 2.25 ounces. It seems like they won't be big enough, but once risen and boiled, they are plenty big!! Thanks for your help along the way!


  9. Anonymous

    I am truly looking forward to making these! Thank you for the recipe AND the review. Ever since I moved away from Pumperknickle's (none in our state) I never thought I would eat another good bagel. Homemade are better than stores, but the recipes didn't compare. It has been years and years.


  10. marysweetlittlebluebird

    HI again, Anonymous – No we did not spary the plastic wrap when covering up. You can eat the bagels while they are still warm, fresh out of the oven. You will want to consume them within in 24 hours, if not, be sure to freeze any leftovers – these freeze great! We baked them in a conventional oven. This recipe makes the BEST bagels – ever. You're going to love them!


  11. Anonymous

    Thanks for your help Mary! A couple other questions…did you spray your plastic wrap before covering and refrigerating? Were you able to try these several hours after baking? I'm wondering if I can bake them later in the evening, the night before I need them? Also, did you convect or use conventional baking? Sorry for all the questions!! Thanks so much for your time:)


  12. marysweetlittlebluebird

    Anonymous – here is a link to the post of the box of ingredients my sister sent before she arrived from Alaska…they are from King Arthur flour –

    Sir Lancelot FLour
    Organic Barley Malt
    Saf Instant Yeast

    Let me know if you have any other questions. These are hands-down, the BEST bagels….ever.


  13. Anonymous

    Hi! These look great (better than his photos in his book!!!) I was curious if you could tell me which ingredients specifically you used…high gluten OR bread flour? And malt powder OR malt syrup OR corn syrup/brown sugar?? I know what you have listed are acceptable substitutions, but what exactly did you do to get THOSE bagels? Just wondering if I need to order special ingredients or not. Thanks so much for your help! PINNED!!


  14. Anonymous

    I love bagels, but live in Europe where it is hard to find good ones. I'm just curious before I try this recipe — I have a sourdough that I keep regularly. Do you know if it's possible to use the sourdough starter that I already have instead of making a brand new sponge for this recipe?


  15. marysweetlittlebluebird

    Hi Kathy, We didn't measure when we made the everything bagel toppings, just mixed it up. Here are the seasonings we used and a great recipe to help you. You will LOVE these bagels – they are THE BEST!!! So worth the time.

    If you make them, please stop by and share your results!


  16. Kathy Houston

    These look amazing! Can you tell me how to make the everything Beagle? A friend of mine, when I was growing up, was from New Jersey but they lived here in Alabama when I knew her. Anyway, they went back home & brought back some fresh beagles, which I had never had before. I've been in love with them ever since but the ones that you get in the stores DO NOT compare to the fresh ones from New Jersey. I can't wait to try these. Thanks for the recipe!


  17. Mel@Mellywood's Mansion

    Oooh yum!! Winter I'm going to try these yum.


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The Perfect Bagel - The Best Bagels Recipe (2024)


What flour makes the best bagels? ›

Bread flour – Because of its high protein content, bread flour makes these homemade bagels delightfully chewy. This recipe also works with all-purpose flour, they're just a bit less chewy than bagels made with bread flour. Maple syrup – It activates the yeast and gives the bagels a hint of sweetness.

What makes the perfect bagel? ›

The 5 elements of great bagels
  1. Hydration (the amount of water the dough contains)
  2. Flour protein content (this dictates the amount of gluten in the dough)
  3. Shaping (determines how structured that gluten is)
  4. Fermentation time (affects both flavor and texture)
  5. Boiling (creates a shiny crust and adds flavor)
Jun 29, 2021

What is the secret to making bagels? ›

10 Tips for Making Schmear-Worthy Homemade Bagels
  • Moisture: Wetter dough means crispier bagels. ...
  • Water temp: The colder the better. ...
  • Dry active yeast: Let it chill. ...
  • Flour: Embrace the gluten. ...
  • Mixing: Low and slow is the way to go. ...
  • The rise: Your kitchen climate is A-okay. ...
  • Flavor kick: After the proof.
Jan 13, 2023

Is baking soda or baking powder better for bagels? ›

To make bagels properly you need to give them a bath. Make sure you use only baking soda and not baking powder. The baking soda helps the bagels form that beautiful golden crust and give them the distinct bagels taste.

Why are my homemade bagels so dense? ›

If your dough is too wet, it'll create large holes in the crumb of the dough and your bagels will be more like French bread, with a fluffy interior (see top photo). When too much flour is kneaded in, bagels become dense, hard and tough, instead of crisp and chewy.

Is bagel dough the same as bread dough? ›

Both bagels and bread contain yeast, flour, water, and sugar. However, many bagel recipes use barley malt syrup, a grain-based sweetener, instead of granulated sugar. Bagels also generally contain less water and more flour compared to other bread types, which is why bagels are denser than typical slices of bread.

Why do you put honey in water for bagels? ›

Now unlike most bread, bagels are unique because they are boiled before baked in the oven! Add honey and baking soda to the boiling water in a large pot. This will help give the bagels a nice sheen and golden brown color when out of the oven.

Why do you boil bagels in water? ›

By boiling a bagel you quickly inactivate (some of) the yeast in the dough. This prevents the bagel from expanding as much in the oven, making for a firmer, tighter product. It stops the proofing process. Boiling also gelatinizes the starch in the flour.

What makes bagels in New York so good? ›

a regular bagel is the water you boil them in. Much like a specific vineyard terroir is used to make a wine, certain minerals in New York City tap water are attributed to creating the best bagels. These include low concentrations of calcium and magnesium and a high level of sediment.

Why do you boil bagels in sugar water? ›

What you're trying to do, by boiling or steaming bagels before baking, is to kill the yeast, so the bagels won't rise in the oven and become puffy, rather than staying rather dense and chewy. You're also adding a very thin coating of sugar—malt, in this case—which gives bagels their distinctive shiny crust. Eureka!

Why do my homemade bagels go flat? ›

According to Molly, “If the bagels proof too much, they'll deflate in the water bath.” If you're keeping an eye on your dough, she advises pulling it a little too early rather than a little too late (and definitely before they double in size), as it's better to be underproofed.

What is the best bagel texture? ›

The ideal bakery-fresh bagel will have a dark, blistered, and crackly crust and a chewy, not bready, texture. The unique shape, taste, and texture of a well-made bagel differs greatly from any other bread product. There are a few important elements that go into making a truly great bagel.

Should you punch down bagel dough? ›

Shape the bagels: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. (Just eyeball it—doesn't need to be perfect!) Shape each piece into a ball.

Is bread flour better than high-gluten flour for bagels? ›

High-gluten flour is best for bagels AND pizza crust. In our house, sometimes we even combine the two! Jeff Perera tried several flours while perfecting the bagel-making process. High-gluten is the only one that results in a bagel that's properly chewy.

What makes New York bagels so much better? ›

Much like a specific vineyard terroir is used to make a wine, certain minerals in New York City tap water are attributed to creating the best bagels. These include low concentrations of calcium and magnesium and a high level of sediment.

What makes NY NJ bagels so good? ›

One unique thing done is called proofing, where bakers will make about 100 pounds of dough, roll it into the bagel shape, and will then leave the bagel in the fridge for a few days. This allows the yeast to ferment and fully release all the different flavor components. Something else totally unique is the baking style.

What makes New York style bagels different from regular bagels? ›

A New York–style bagel is always boiled in water that has had barley malt added, which gives a bagel its signature taste, texture, and leathery skin.

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