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The Best Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe

These sourdough bagels are delicious and thick with that iconic chewy crust that you get with New York-style bagels.

This sourdough bagel recipe is super easy to make. Read on to make the perfect bagel recipe with step-by-step instructions or see the video showing the whole process to make homemade sourdough bagels.

Don’t have a sourdough starter yet to make this recipe? Check out my sourdough starter guide to get an active sourdough starter ready for baking!  

6 bagels with poppy seeds on a wooden chopping board. Sitting on wooden planks with striped blue and white tea towel in background.

I fell in love with these New York-style sourdough bagels from the first time I made them. They’re so flavourful and I was so happy with how they turned out! Unlike dinner rolls which have a light and fluffy texture, New York-style sourdough bagels are denser with a chewy texture.

A strong flour with a high protein content is needed to develop the structure and give that texture.

a close up of a cut open bagel on on a wooden plank with a white flour crumb

The bagel dough

The dough for these sourdough bagels is a lean and stiff dough, with a low hydration level (around 56%) unlike many of my other sourdough recipes like sourdough brioche or sourdough cinnamon raisin bread.

It means it’s easy to knead it by hand, but it needs thorough working! A good 10 minutes of gluten development is best.

The starter

This sourdough bagels recipe needs 150g of active, fed starter. I feed the starter for this recipe at a ratio of 1:1:1 (equal weights flour, water, and starter) and expect it to double within 4 hours at a room temperature of around 21-23°C.

I use it once it has doubled or tripled but before it passes the peak and collapses.

My starter is always getting refreshed so it has low acid content and the wild yeast colonies can thrive. This is crucial to all my sourdough bread recipes as an acidic starter can break down the proteins in the gluten. You can avoid creating an acidic starter by refreshing it often, using it before it passes its peak, and keeping the seed starter amount small.

If you want to know more about sourdough starters then check out my sourdough starter guide and also my sourdough troubleshooting guide.

sourdough starter in a jar filled two thirds with a rubber band around the bottom third of the jar, the jat is sitting on a white bench.

Ingredients 

This bagel dough is a lean dough with minimal ingredients. The full ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. To make these sourdough bagels you need –

  • Strong bread flour –

A good bagel has a decent amount of toothsome chew to it. Flour with a higher protein level is required for the chewy interior – a level between 11-13%. Some all-purpose flours have a protein level of over 11% in which case you can use that sort of all-purpose flour for homemade bagels. A higher protein level will give the best chewy bagel results.

It’s best to check the protein level of each flour rather than going by the name of the flour. I have not tested this recipe with whole wheat flour.

  • Sourdough starter – An active starter.
  • Salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Water
  • Honey (for poaching the bagels)
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds or bagel seasoning for topping

Step by step

Step 1 –In the morning feed your sourdough starter.

Step 2 – Once the starter has doubled and is ready to go, add it to a large mixing bowl with the rest of the dough ingredients and use a fork to combine it into a thick and rough dough.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and strong. For optimal gluten development, the dough needs to be worked and kneaded for around 10 minutes. Alternatively, mix the dough in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment on low speed.

Step 3 –Once worked, place the ball of dough in a greased large bowl and cover with a damp towel, lid, compostable plastic wrap, or beeswax wrap to stop the dough from drying out. Let the dough proof in a warm spot until bulked out by around 50%

Cover the dough and place it in the fridge overnight.

The following day

Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge and pull it from the bowl onto a clean work surface.

I use my dough scraper to cut the ball into 8 equal pieces (I guess these because I don’t mind my bagels a bit rustic, but weigh them on a kitchen scale if you like.)

Shape each piece into a tight ball and rest them on the bench. Let these sit for 10-15 minutes whilst the glutens relax. Once they’ve relaxed, it’s time to give them their bagel shape.

  • Grab a large baking sheet and generously dust it with semolina flour, or line it with parchment paper.
  • Use your thumbs to make the hole in the middle of the dough ball and roll the dough ball around your thumbs and index fingers to widen the hole. Make the center hole quite wide because it will shrink back a bit as it rests. Then place it on the baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough balls.

Let the shaped bagels proof at room temperature for the second time, for around 1-2 hours until lightly puffed.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and preheat the oven to 220°C fan-bake, or 240°C regular oven.

4 unbaked bagels on a black floured tray that have not been poached

Poaching bagels

Once the water is boiling, stir in a heaped tablespoon of honey. When you boil bagels in this honey water it is going to help set the chewy crust on the outside of the dough and give the bagels a golden sheen. This eliminates the need for egg wash. Trust me, it’s good!

Some bagel recipes use baking soda instead of honey to give the golden colour. I don’t because I think it gives the bagels a different flavour from baking soda. One that resembles soft pretzels. Try sourdough pretzels instead!

Dust off any excess flour off the bagels and drop them in the boiling water one at a time. If your pot is small, boil them in batches, but work quickly.

Let them poach in the water for 1 minute, flipping them after 30 seconds. Remove the bagels from the water using a slotted spoon.

Drain the boiled bagels on a wire rack and sprinkle over any seeds or bagel seasoning for toppings whilst they are still sticky from the water.

5 sourdough bagels that are unbaked on a floured black tray with poppy seeds on two and sesame seeds on three.

Baking the bagels

Generously flour a baking tray or cookie sheet with semolina flour or use parchment paper and gently place the bagels on it.

Bake them in the hot oven for 2-3 minutes before turning the oven down to 200°C. Bake for another 18-20 minutes until deep golden brown.

If they are baking unevenly, turn the oven tray around after 15 minutes of baking. Remove the baked bagels from the tray and let them cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes before slicing.

6 Sourdough bagels with poppy seeds on a wooden chopping board. Sitting on wooden planks with striped blue and white tea towel in background.

Serving and storing

They are delicious when served fresh on the day, with cream cheese or avocado. When eating them on the following days they are best toasted.

Looking for regular yeast bagels? Check out this homemade bagel recipe.

Sourdough bagel FAQs

Can you make sourdough bagels with all-purpose flour?

Some brands of all-purpose flour have a protein level that’s more than 11%. In this case, those brands of all-purpose could be used. However, a bread flour with higher protein levels will give the best chew.

Why did my bagel holes disappear?

If you make the initial holes too small when shaping the bagels, the dough will shrink back too much and you’ll lose the bagel holes.

Are bagels vegan?

Yes

Are bagels boiled?

Bagels are poached right before baking. This helps give them their iconic chewy golden crust.

Can you overproof sourdough bagels?

Yes, if left too long the bagels can overproof and they can collapse. Bagels shouldn’t rise too much, just puff slightly before poaching.

How do keep sourdough bagels fresh?

Sourdough bagels freeze very well which will prolong their life. They can be thawed in a toaster, microwave, or low-temperature oven.

When do you add extra additions to sourdough bagel dough?

Spices can be added at the same time as the other ingredients. Larger additions such as dried fruits, nuts, or seeds can be added at the end of the kneading period.

How long can sourdough bagel dough stay in the refrigerator

Up to 36 hours.

Related recipes

Try my sourdough bread recipe, sourdough pretzels or sourdough croissants!

Sourdough Bagels

Sourdough Bagels

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Proofing Time: 15 hours
Total Time: 16 hours

Delicious and thick New York-style bagels with that iconic chewy crust. They are easy to make and naturally leavened with sourdough starter.

Ingredients

Levain

  • 50g sourdough starter
  • 50g flour
  • 50g water

Dough

  • 450g strong all-purpose flour or bread flour , with a protein level of at least 11%
  • 220g water
  • 12g salt
  • 12g sugar

For Boiling

  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 Tbsp honey

For Topping

  • Sesame and poppy seeds , optional

Instructions

Day 1

  1. Mix together the starter ingredients. Leave it to rise. It should at least double, if not triple within 4 hours (but not collapse). See the post for more information.
  2. Once the starter has risen, add it to a bowl along with the dough flour, water, sugar, and salt. Knead it together to make a ball, then tip it onto a clean bench.
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes to develop the gluten. If you get tired, take a break and let the dough sit, then come back to it after a few minutes.
  4. Once kneaded, place it in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with a plate and let it proof in a warm spot until bulked out by around 50%. If necessary, create a warm space by placing the dough in a turned-off oven next to a mug of boiled water.
  5. Place the bowl in the fridge to cold-proof overnight (a minimum of 10 hours.)

Day 2

  1. In the morning, pull the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean bench.
  2. Cut it into 6 or 8 even pieces.
  3. Shape each piece into a tight ball and let it sit and relax for 10-15 minutes. Take a large baking sheet and generously dust it with semolina flour, or line it with baking paper.
  4. Take a ball of dough and use your thumbs to make the hole in the middle of the dough ball and roll the dough ball around your thumbs to widen the hole. 
  5. Place it on the baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough balls. Let the bagels sit at room temperature for around 2 hours to slightly puff.
  6. When they have nearly finished proofing, bring a large pot of water to the boil and preheat the oven to 240°C.
  7. Once the water is boiling, stir in the tablespoon of honey. 
  8. Drop the bagels in the water one at a time. If your pot is small, boil them in batches, but work quickly.
  9. Let them poach in the water for 1 minute, flipping them after 30 seconds. 
  10. Drain the bagels on a rack and sprinkle over any seeds for toppings whilst they are still sticky from the water.
  11. Generously flour a baking tray with semolina flour or use baking paper and gently place the bagels on it.
  12. Place them in the oven and let them bake for 3 minutes before turning the one down to 200°C. Bake for another 18-20 minutes until deep golden brown.
  13. If they are baking unevenly, turn the oven tray around after 15 minutes of baking.
  14. Remove the baked bagels from the tray and let them cool and soften for 30 minutes before slicing.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 330Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 598mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 12g

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45 Comments

  1. The most amazing bagels, with an incredible chewy crust!
    Loved making these, thank you for the recipe!

  2. I made these yesterday after having a few tries at a few recipes on the internet. This was the easiest and by far the best! Thank you for bringing these to my life!

    Your other recipes are exceptional also too!

  3. I have made these twice and both times they turned out amazing! Perfect chewy crust with soft insides, definitely recommend 🙂

  4. If I wanted to make twice as many bagels, could I simply double the recipe? Or better of making 2 small batches? Thank you! I love your recipes! My sourdough game is so strong now thanks to following your instructions to a tee!!!

  5. Just about to try it on 🙂
    Can I leave the though for longer hours in the fridge? I simply wanna make them for early dinner.

  6. Really great recipe! We loved these bagels! Fabulous videos to complement the clear instructions, thank you!

  7. Hi, you know how I love these and all your sourdough recipes. I’m wondering, I have an old bagel recipe that uses 2 cups of roasted butternut squash. It’s a yeast recipe and I’m wondering if I would add less water or more? Have you ever tried one with sourdough? The bagels turn out beautiful in colour and taste.
    Hope you’re all well.
    Thanks,
    pat

    1. Hey they sound lovely! I’ve not made bagels like that before but I would give it a go with sourdough for sure! You can always hold back the water a bit and add it in if needed

  8. These bagels got rave reviews from my New York Jewish family, tough critics who know their bagels! I got gorgeous results on my very first try. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!

  9. Hello – I love your website! These came out good but mine were a bit dry and hard. Perhaps I over-kneaded it?

    Also – I was wondering if I wanted to tweak this recipe to be more of an egg bagel what the liquid substitution to eggs would be.

    1. Hey, I wouldn’t think it’s over kneaded but perhaps a slightly longer proof once they’re shaped, before they’re boiled may help :). As for making it an egg bagel, I’m not sure about the substitution amounts sorry! You might just have to see how the dough feels – add the egg first and maybe half the water to begin with, and have extra water on standby to add as necessary.

  10. Hi, When I cook them, they spring a lot, not looking like bagels at all, more like a little ball with a closed whole… Do you have ideas why??
    It’s my third time trying and it happens everytime 🙁

    1. Heya, I think they could probably do with a bit longer proofing. You could shape them, then leave them for another 30 minutes or so, then reshape the hole once more before cooking.

  11. Hi, Elien. I baked this recipe for the first time last October. The bagels turned out very well, though puffier than yours! Very good flavour with a good chew. Now I would like to bake them again, but with some ingredients mixed into the dough. I am thinking of seeds like poppy and sesame, slivers of sundried tomato, herbs etc. When would the right time to work these ingredients into the dough? Thanks in advance…

    1. Hey! I would add those into the dough at the the beginning, when you are mixing the main dough flour and water together. ☺️

  12. using baking powder or caustic soda in very low concentration following with wash in fresh boiling water will result in classic taste and aroma caused by an intense milard reaction in addition to the golden color

    1. I haven’t tried that yet! But if I would, then I would start off by subbing only a small amount, say 20% wholemeal and see how it goes 🙂

  13. Thank you for this recipe! I have a bucket of dough in the fridge now approaching the 10 hour mark, was just curious what is the longest the dough can stay in the fridge?

    1. I have stretched my cold proof up to 20 hours with no problems – the sour taste does increase though

  14. I had a slight problem with this recipe. After I shaped and put them on parchment to rise they formed a bit of a crust. I then covered with a kitchen towel for the second hour. They stuck to the parchment when I tried to lift them off to drop in boiling water. Most of them baked nicely. The crust was pleasant. The interior was chewy. The flavor was very good. What should I do differently the next time I make these?

    1. Hey if this happens again you could very light brush them with water to stop them drying on the top. And if they stick to the parchment you could dust it with flour first

    2. Hi, how much time do i knead with a break machine versus by hand (i have arthritics :-(.. ))? Also, what do you think if I did a 250 breadflour, 200 whole wheat flour? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
      Thank you.

  15. hi, can i use fresh blueberries for this bagel?? when do i incorporate the blueberries?

    1. Hey yeah sure, they can be added them when you knead the dough but you might need to add in an extra Tbsp or two of flour to make up for the extra liquid the blueberries bring

  16. These are fantastic never buying supermarket bagels again!
    Made them a few times now, even trialled a chocolate chip bagel ( just added chocolate chips while kneading) soooo good.
    Thank you

  17. Hi, The levain (50 starter+water+flour) has NOT increased to double portion after more than 6 hours .. have I done anything wrong OR is my sourdough starter not ready yet? Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  18. Hi! Is it possible to substitute the sugar and use honey instead? If so do you recommend doing the same amount?

    1. Hey definitely, just use the same amount or a bit more or less if you want

  19. Hello! I have been enjoying your recipes for almost 8 months, and i just wanted to say thank you for blessing the world with these absolutely foolproof and delicious recipes!

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