Chewy homemade sourdough bagels need a little time and work, but they're so worth making yourself! These are New York style sourdough bagels made with malt. Thanks to sourdough starter and a longer rising time, these bagels have a great flavour and texture. Note that this is not a no-knead recipe and that it can't be made in a standing mixer.

This is an improved recipe to the previous very popular bagel recipe and has been carefully tested to ensure perfect results every time. There are a few things to keep in mind when you're making sourdough bagels for the first time, so be sure to read through the whole post and understand how the dough will look, how long it will take, and exactly what you need to do for the best bagels. If you're a sourdough beginner, you might find our section on sourdough tutorials to be helpful.

For more staple sourdough recipes, try making your own sourdough pizza dough, enriched sourdough dinner rolls, or start with the basics and make a no-knead sourdough bread with all-purpose flour.

Close up of bagels topped with a variety of seeds.
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Ingredients

Sourdough bagels ingredients with labels.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Bread flour: this recipe works perfectly well with all-purpose flour, but the bagels will be slightly less chewy. If you want to use whole wheat flour we recommend making our whole wheat sourdough bagels instead.
  • Malt powder: it can be diastatic or non-diastatic, or use barley malt syrup. It's a big part of what makes these New York style. If you can't find either the powder or the syrup, substitute molasses or honey into the dough (a darker honey will be better).
  • Starter: this should be mature, active sourdough starter made with any type of flour. If preferred, you can use levain instead.
  • Brown sugar: honey or a dark syrup, like molasses, can be used in the cooking water instead of sugar.
  • Baking soda: while true bagels are boiled with lye - less than is used for pretzels - it's safer and easier for home cooks to use baking soda instead. It works perfectly and is a lot easier to find.

How to Make Sourdough Bagels

Bagels steps 1 to 4, mixing the dough and shaping.

Step 1: mix the malt powder with water to form a thick syrup.

Step 2: mix the bagel dough in a stand mixer for two minutes, then switch to kneading by hand for 10 minutes.

Step 3: divide the dough into 10 portions and roll into tight balls.

Step 4: make a hole in the middle of each ball.

Bagels steps 5 to 8, shaping, cooked, topping, and before baking.

Step 5: gently stretch the hole to be at least an inch across, preferably larger.

Step 6: place the shaped bagels onto a semolina-sprinkled baking sheet and rise at room temperature before refrigerating for 12-24 hours.

Step 7: boil the bagels and dip in your desired toppings.

Step 8: bake the bagels for about 20 minutes and cool fully before slicing and serving.

Top Tips

  • The dough is stiff: the dough should be stiff and firm and this is not an error. It might be tougher to knead than other bread dough, but this consistency is key for chewy bagels.
  • Reduce the chewiness: for less chewy bagels with a softer texture, boil them for half the time. This will result in a thinner skin and more delicate bagels. To reduce the chewiness even further, use plain white flour instead of bread flour.
  • Take the time to knead: the dough does need to be kneaded by hand and a lot of readers have burnt out their standing mixers trying to use them on this stiff dough. It is stiff and needs some strength behind it to knead properly.

Recipe Notes

The dough is mixed for 2 minutes at low speed and then kneaded for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is too long for most stand mixers to handle, even professional mixers, as the dough is low-hydration and quite stiff. We recommend not allowing your mixer to knead for the full 10 minutes to prevent damage. If you don't have a stand mixer, knead by hand for the full amount of time.

To help prevent your bagels from blowing through the hole (when the dough in the center rises excessively during boiling and baking, causing the hole to close up and the center to puff up into a peak), ensure you make a large enough hole in the center of each bagel. The hole will shrink as the bagels proof and bake. Inconsistent proofing can also cause some bagels to expand more rapidly than others during boiling and baking.

If your bagels are sinking in the cooking water and not popping right back up to the top, they're either under- or over-proved (probably under-proved). This causes sinking in the water and then collapsing when they come out.

If your bagels are turning out tough, it'll be due to under-proving or because too much flour was added. We have not included cup measurements in the recipe because volume measurements aren't accurate enough for sourdough baking. Use a reliable scale and don't add extra flour during the kneading process.

Sliced toasted bagel on a plate with butter.

The Float Test

To check if your bagels are proved enough before refrigerating, you can test them by doing a float test. This is carefully picking up a bagel and placing it in a bowl of cold water. If the bagel floats, it's good, and should be refrigerated. If it doesn't float, it's under-proved and needs to rest longer at room temperature.

Many first-time bagel makers get confused by the float test. The time needed varies a lot depending mostly on home temperature and strength of starter. If your home is very warm, your bagels might float after a couple of hours. If it's rather cold, they might need eight hours or even longer.

If you do the float test and your bagels don't pass, you can still refrigerate them for the 12-24 hours and they'll probably be fine. They likely won't be perfect but still pretty good.

Why They're Refrigerated

Refrigerating the bagels before boiling and baking is for two reasons: first, it makes them easier to handle, and second, it improves the flavour and texture. You can boil and bake immediately after the bagels pass the float test but you'll probably lose some volume and they won't taste as good.

Risen sourdough bagels are pretty delicate and likely to deflate when handled. Refrigeration helps to stiffen the dough further and makes them easier to lift and transfer to the simmering water. If this isn't a concern for you or if you want to have a less noticeable sour flavour, you can skip the refrigeration step and go right to cooking (but should do a float test first).

How to Store

Storage: keep the bagels in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Freezing: for longer storage, slice the cooled bagels and transfer them to an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months and thaw individual bagels directly in the toaster.

If you make this Sourdough Bagels recipe or any other sourdough recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

Close up of bagels topped with a variety of seeds.
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New York-Style Sourdough Bagels

Chewy homemade sourdough bagels need a little time and work, but they're so worth making yourself! These are New York style sourdough bagels.
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Resting Time12 hours
Total Time13 hours
Author: Kelly Neil
Yield: 10 bagels

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
  • Whisk optional
  • Stand mixer with a dough hook
  • Tea towels
  • 2 baking sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Large pot
  • Slotted spoon
  • 2 Wire cooling racks

Ingredients

  • 20 grams barley malt powder diastatic or non-diastatic, or barley malt syrup
  • 200 grams active sourdough starter
  • 315 grams cold water plus extra for the malt powder and for boiling the bagels
  • 750 grams bread flour
  • 22 grams fine-grain salt
  • 100 grams semolina

For Boiling The Bagels

  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Bagel Toppings

Instructions

Day 1

  • In a small bowl, mix the malt powder with water until thick and syrupy, similar to the consistency of honey (I used 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons of water, but you may need more or less depending on your powder).
    20 grams barley malt powder
  • Pour the malt mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the active starter and cold water and whisk to combine.
    200 grams active sourdough starter, 315 grams cold water
  • Add the bread flour and salt. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead on low speed for 2 minutes. If at any point you smell a burning electrical smell from your mixer, turn it off immediately and finish kneading by hand). Stop the mixer and finish kneading by hand for 10 minutes, for a total of 12 minutes.
    750 grams bread flour, 22 grams fine-grain salt
  • Form the dough into a smooth ball and return it to the mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  • Cut the dough into 10 equal portions (approximately 132 grams each). Shape each portion into a smooth ball, pinching the bottoms to seal the seam. Cover the dough balls with the tea towel and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly sprinkle the semolina between the two baking sheets.
    100 grams semolina
  • Poke a hole through the center of each dough ball with your thumb. Insert both thumbs into the hole and gently stretch and rotate it to widen the hole.
  • Place the shaped bagels on the prepared baking sheets. Cover each sheet with a tea towel and proof in the oven with the oven light on for 2 to 3 hours. You can do the float test at this point (see 'The Float Test' above).
  • Once the bagels have risen, remove the baking sheets from the oven. Dampen the tea towels and drape them gently back over the bagels. Place the two sheets in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

Day 2

  • Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the bagels from the fridge. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare your chosen toppings in plates or shallow bowls and have a slotted spoon ready.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda and brown sugar. Gently give the bagel hole a final stretch, and place them into the boiling water, a few at a time, for 1 to 2 minutes on each side (for a chewier bagel, aim for the longer end of this range, closer to 2 minutes per side). Use the slotted spoon to lift the bagels from the pot, giving each a gentle shake to remove excess water.
    1 Tablespoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • Place the boiled bagels, top-down, into the toppings. Use your hands or a small spoon to coat the edges. Quickly and gently transfer each bagel, right side up, to the prepared baking sheets.
    70 grams Everything Bagel seasoning
  • Place the baking sheets in the oven and reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C). After 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets and switch their positions between the oven racks. Bake for another 8 to 10 minutes or until the tops of the bagels are golden. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Notes

  • We have not included cup measurements in the recipe because volume measurements aren't accurate enough for sourdough baking.
  • The dough should be stiff and firm. It might be tougher to knead than other bread doughs, but this consistency is key for chewy bagels.
  • The dough is mixed for 2 minutes at low speed and then kneaded for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is too long for most stand mixers to handle, even professional mixers, as the dough is low-hydration and quite stiff. We recommend not allowing your mixer to knead for the full 10 minutes to prevent damage.
  • To help prevent your bagels from blowing through the hole (when the dough in the center rises excessively during boiling and baking, causing the hole to close up and the center to puff up into a peak), ensure you make a large enough hole in the center of each bagel. The hole will shrink as the bagels proof and bake. Inconsistent proofing can also cause some bagels to expand more rapidly than others during boiling and baking.  

    Storage

    • Store baked bagels in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
    • For longer storage, slice and freeze the bagels. Toast directly from the freezer when ready to eat.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 292kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 0.3mg | Sodium: 2009mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 0.03mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.

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