Simple step by step tutorial for homemade sourdough bagels made with whole grains - mix with your favorite ingredients or toppings to make your own. You can find this recipe and more (like my popular Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread) on the Best Bread Recipes page.
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Our family - like many, I'm sure - loves chewy and tender bagels. Morning bagels with flavored cream cheese (smoked salmon is my favorite) is a tradition and our kids loved using bagels for lunch sandwiches for a change.
After many attempts at making yeast bagels without success, I finally found a great whole wheat-yeast bagel recipe from my friend Gina. Finally and easy, bagel that turns out every time.
But then my sourdough started taking off and I found I was making most of our bread with the starter, so I needed to create a way to replicate the successful recipe to work with sourdough.
I tweaked two sourdough recipes and combined them with Gina's method to develop what I think are the perfect sourdough bagels - in fact, my family likes these better than the regular yeast version!
Simple Sourdough Bagels Tutorial
1. Start with an active sourdough starter. I've written previously about how I grew my sourdough starter and the tips I use to keep it active without a lot of work and I've kept it alive for many years doing this.
The picture above was taken in the morning after I had gotten the starter out of the fridge the night before, fed it and left it on the counter so it was ready to go in the morning.
TIP: While an active starter is important, bagels don't need as much raising, so this recipe is a good option for when you're starter is in it's first months and may not be strong enough to bake a single loaf.
2. Mix all the ingredients, let them rest, and then knead for 4 minutes in a stand mixer or 6-8 minutes by hand
When all the ingredients are mixed, you will notice that this dough is much stiffer than other doughs. It really gives the mixer a work out!
3. Transfer to a greased large bowl and let rise for 4 hours. Fold the dough over on itself 2 times (or try to- sometimes I don't always remember both folds)
TIP: Sourdough does take longer to rise, though, so I usually plan to mix it in the morning and finish it in the evening right before dinner.
4. Cut dough. When it's ready to shape, transfer it to a floured surface (I use a towel whenever I'm dealing with bread- it's easy clean-up and less flour needed).
Cut the dough into 12-18 pieces.
TIP: In order to get somewhat equal pieces, I like to flatten the dough with a rolling pin- approximately a 10x13-inch rectangle is good - and use a sharp knife to cut into equal (or as equal as you can) pieces. The corners will need more, but it's easy to cut a little from the bigger pieces and add to the fill out the corner pieces.
12 or 18 bagels?
I used to make a dozen, but found that the bagels just were too big (I think store-bought ones are too big, too - it's part of my real-food-in-moderation philosophy), so now I cut the dough into 18 pieces.
Do what works best for you.
5. Shape the bagels. There are two ways to form bagels:
- The first is to roll each piece of dough into a rope and pinch the ends together creating the bagel.
- I find the second way to be the quickest: pinch each piece together creating a ball (above), like my Soft 100% Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls.
Simply use your thumb to punch through the center of the dough ball, stretching a bit as you do in order to create the classic bagel shape.
It's not perfect (but that's hardly ever my goal, remember?), but it will puff more during the boiling and baking stages, creating that bagel shape with all know.
Why is there a hole in a bagel?
Because bagel dough is fairly thick, making a hole allows for the dough to cook thoroughly all the way through.
6. Rest. After all the bagels have been shaped, set them aside to rest for about an hour under a dampened towel.
TIP: The holes I made in the bagels above are quite large - making them smaller gives a bit more surface after they're cut. On the other hand, you don't want the hole so small that it closes up when cooking. Play around with the size to find what you like best.
7. Boil the bagels. Fill a large pan or pot halfway with water, add one tablespoon of baking soda and bring to a boil.
Boil the bagels for one minute, turning them at the halfway mark.
Why baking soda?
The classic ingredient added to the boiling water for bagels is malt syrup. Right. Not the most common of pantry ingredients.
One of the reasons I loved Gina's yeast bagel recipe is because it used baking soda which created wonderful bagels that weren't all misshapen like the others I had tried that used honey as a replacement.
Why boil bagels?
Boiling the bagel dough before baking creates their signature thick and chewy crust. Because the crust is already set after boiling, the bagels don't rise as much in the oven which also contributes to their chewy crumb.
Use a slotted spoon to return the bagels to the lined pan. The darker bagels on the left have been boiled, those on the right have not.
You can see that they puff up a bit during this stage. After boiling, it's okay to put them close together on the baking sheet since they won't puff up much more during baking.
8. Add optional toppings. Brush the bagels with an egg glaze (water+beaten egg) or milk at this point and top with your desired toppings.
Above I've used Everything Bagel seasoning and sesame seeds. We also like poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, and even a bit of kosher salt is yummy on top of these sourdough bagels.
Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, alternating pans at the halfway point if needed. Cool completely on a rack before storing.
For the best texture, it's best to let the bagels cool completely before cutting - but of course there's nothing like a warm bagel fresh from the oven, so sacrifices should be made, lol.
What is the best way to store bagels?
You can keep bagels at room temperature in a plastic bag for 1-3 days before they will start to dry out.
Freeze bagels for longer storage, thawing and toasting as you need them.
Are sourdough bagels healthier than regular yeast bagels?
Yes, because they are made with wild yeast and are fermented, allowing our bodies to digest the ingredients better.
So enjoy your homemade bagels!
Easy Sourdough Bagels
- 2 cups (400g) active sourdough starter, fed in last 12 hours
- 1 ¼ cups (300g) warm water (if your starter is thick, use up to 1/4 cup more)
- 1 tablespoon (13.63g) oil
- 5 ½ to 6 cups (687.5-750g) flour*
- 1 tablespoon (15g) salt
- optional ingredients for bagel dough**
- 1 tablespoon (14.4) baking soda
- 1 egg***
- 1 tablespoon (14.8g) water
- Toppings of choice: sesame or poppy seeds, dried onion flakes(rehydrated 10 minutes), cheese, Everything Bagel, etc.
- Mix starter, water, oil, flour, and salt together and then let rest for 10 minutes.
- Knead the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook on low speed for about 4 minutes, or by hand 6-8 minutes. The dough will be very stiff.
- Transfer to a greased large bowl and let rise for 4 hours. Fold the dough over on itself 2 times (or try to, sometimes I don't always remember both folds and it's okay).
- Pour out the dough onto a floured surface (a lightly floured tea-towel works great), knead a couple of times, flatten and cut into 12-18 equal pieces (about 5 oz. each).
- Shape the bagels by making each piece into a ball and using your thumb to punch a hole through the middle of the ball, stretching to make the center hole. Set the shaped bagels on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet (12 will fit on one large sheet, if making 18, use two smaller sheets) - they are known for sticking, so this will make removing them much easier.
- Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel (the one used for cutting works great) and let sit for about an hour.
- Fill a large 12-inch skillet 1/2 to 3/4 full with water and add the tablespoon of soda. Bring it to a boil. Start the oven preheating to 450 degrees at this time.
- When the water is boiling, drop as many bagels as will fit, one at a time, into the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, turning at the halfway mark. Use a slotted spoon to place the bagels back on the baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been boiled.
- Brush the bagels with an egg glaze (or milk) at this point if you wish, and top with your desired toppings.
- Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, alternating pans at the halfway point if needed. Cool on a rack.
- 1-2 teaspoons onion powder and/or dried flakes for onion bagels.
- 1/2 cup grated cheese for cheese bagels (top with cheese, too).
- 2-3 teaspoons dried herbs.
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup raisins + 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon.
More Sourdough Recipes To Try:
This recipe has been updated - it was originally published in March of 2012.