Sourdough Bagels recipe – The best bagels on the planet

Bagels are fantastic: round, shiny, caramelized crust and a chewy interior. Bagels are versatile. You can bake them using a variety of grains, and the possibilities for toppings are almost endless. And you can put nearly anything on them; your imagination sets the limits. This is my recipe for sourdough bagels.

I’m sure you are familiar with bagels. In the late 1990’s I came across a bagel sandwich shop in my local neighborhood Nørrebro, called The Bagel Co.

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At this point, I had never heard of bagels before. I was intrigued and went inside and ordered a bagel. I honestly cannot remember which one I got, but it was delicious, and you could tailor it to suit your tastes, which I thought was great.

I had a chat with the woman that prepared my bagel. She was one of the founders, and she told me that she and a group of friends had gone to New York City for a vacation and had fallen in love with the bagel shops they had found in the city.

sourdough bagels on a row in front of a brick wall

So when they got home to Denmark, they made this shop. Today The Bagel Co is a huge franchise chain in Denmark.

As much as I love a bagel on the go, I love to make things at home in my kitchen.

The history of bagels

Historians believe that bagels are a distant cousin of pretzels, which came from Germany to Poland with immigrant bakers in the 1300s. The story goes that, over time, the shape changed from pretzel-shaped to a circle, and it came to be known as obwarzanek.

Another origin story states that they were invented in 1683 by a Viennese baker as a tribute to the Polish king. In homage, the king loved horses, so he shaped the bread as a stirrup – beugel in German.

four different kinds of sourdough bagels in stacks in front of a brick wall

That also ties in with the Yiddish name for a bagel which is beygal, meaning ring or bracelet.

Jewish immigrants from Poland brought the bagel to the United States in the early 1900s. They quickly became trendy, and a lot of bakeries opened. They even had their trade union called Bagel Bakers Local 338.

After the advent of automated machines for bagels in the 1960s, bagels swept the nation and, in turn, the world. Nowadays, bagels are commonplace.

The formula in this sourdough bagels recipe


Total weight1245 grams
Pre-fermented flour29.4%
Yield12 x 100 grams bagels


The levain in this recipe is used to time using the starter at the most opportune moment in its growth process. You can replace it with 450 grams of the mature sourdough starter.

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
90gstarter (100% hydration)50.0%
180gbread flour100.0%


We need a pretty low hydration dough to get that chewy and dense texture that is a hallmark of a classic bagel. This one sits at around 55%.

The higher protein bread flour will help accentuate the chewy texture, and the milk powder will aid in getting the proper browning.

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
540gbread flour100.0%
40gmilk powder7.4%

If you want to tweak or play around with the formula, you can do so here in my Bread Calculator.

The conclusion of this sourdough bagels recipe

These sourdough bagels are perfect. Caramelized crust, dense and chewy center. Precisely how you want an excellent bagel to be.

They taste lovely with just the slight tang from the sourdough starter. They are great right out of the oven, cold or toasted.

stack of sourdough bagels, plain, everything bagel seasoning, poppy seed and sesame seed made with the recipe on this page

The bagels are great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. They’ll send you straight to New York heaven.

Bagel ideas

If you are not sure what to put on your bagel, here’s a list of ideas:

  • The “Classic” Bagel – Just a good layer of cream cheese.
  • The “Foodgeek” Bagel – Toasted dark and with an obscene amount of cultured butter.
  • The “New York” Bagel – Cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions, and capers.
  • The “Breakfast” Bagel – Cream cheese, a fried egg, and a lot of crispy smoked bacon.
  • The “Pizza” Bagel – Add tomato sauce, mozzarella, and your favorite pizza toppings on top (pineapple, anyone?) and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • The “Tuna Melt” Bagel – Mix tuna and mayo and spread each half. Add sliced tomatoes and slices of cheese and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • The “Ham and Cheese” Bagel – Add copious amounts of delicious cheese and excellent country ham on top – It can be eaten cold or toasted in the oven.
  • The “Peanut Butter and Banana” Bagel – Toast the bagel, smear on some crunchy peanut butter, and add slices of bananas. Add some chopped salted peanuts on top.
  • The “Smashed Avocado and Poached Egg” Bagel – Toast the bagel. Mash the avocado with salt and pepper and put on the bagel. Top with a freshly poached egg.
  • The “Cheese Burger” Bagel – Toast the bagel, smear with mayonnaise and add a beef patty, two slices of mature cheddar, and shredded lettuce. Top with homemade ketchup.

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This is my recipe for sourdough bagels. I hope you want to try it because they are just so good.

If you bake these bagels and post them on Instagram, please tag me as so I can see them. That would make me very happy.

Ad links! Links for equipment and ingredients in this recipe are affiliate links, which means I will get a commission if you purchase the product!

Perfect Sourdough Bagels

Course: Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: American, Jewish
Keyword: bagels, sourdough, sourdough bagels
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 26 minutes
Proofing: 8 hours
Total: 16 hours
Servings: 12 bagels
Calories: 272kcal
Author: Sune Trudslev
Nutrition Facts
Perfect Sourdough Bagels
Amount Per Serving (1 bagel)
Calories 272 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Fat 2g3%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 664mg29%
Carbohydrates 52g17%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 9g18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Delicious homemade bagels leavened with wild yeast. Wonderful shiny and caramelized crust. Dense and chewy center.
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Water bath

  • 2200 g water
  • 3 g food grade lye


  • sesame seeds
  • poppy seeds
  • everything bagel seasoning

Everything Bagel Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 2 tablespoon flaky sea salt


Mix levain – morning

  • Mix 90 grams of sourdough starter, 180 grams of bread flour, and 180 grams of water (lukewarm if you are in a hurry) in a glass container that has enough room for the levain to triple.
  • Leave to ferment somewhere warm until it has tripled.

Mix dough – about noon

  • To the bowl of your stand mixer add 540 grams of bread flour, 40 grams of milk powder and 15 grams of salt. Mix with the paddle attachment until combined.
  • Then add the entire levain on top and 200 grams of water.
  • Using the dough hook on your mixer, knead the dough for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 30 minutes to relax the gluten.

Divide and preshape – about 12:40/12.40 p.m.

  • Divide the dough into 12 equally sized pieces about 100 grams each.
  • Shape each dough piece into a ball by tightening the surface. Press the side of the piece up and into the middle of the ball, and then turn the about ¼ turn and repeat until it's a taut ball.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Keep them under a damp dish towel to avoid them drying out.
  • Let the dough balls rest 20 minutes.

Shape the bagels – about 13:10/1.10 p.m.

  • Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper topped with semolina flour.
  • Take a dough ball and roll it out into a very flat disc about 0.5 cm (⅕ inch).
  • Roll the dough tightly into a cylinder.
  • Roll the cylinder together. Then it's the right length roll one hand away from you and the other one towards you, so the dough gets twisted.
  • Pick up the strand and wrap it around your hand over your knuckles.
  • Join the dough pieces in the palm of your hand, put it down on the table, and roll the seam till it's completely stuck together.
  • Put the shaped bagel on the semolina and put plastic wrap over the top, so it doesn't dry out.
  • Shape the remaining dough balls.

Proofing – about 13:25/1.25 p.m.

  • Put the baking sheets somewhere warm and let the bagels proof until puffed up—4 to 6 hours.
  • Once the bagels look puffy, put them in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but up to 5 days.

Make all bagel seasoning

  • Add 2 tbsp poppy seeds to a small bowl, 2 tbsp flaky salt, 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp black sesame seeds, 1 tbsp dried minced garlic, and 1 tbsp dried minced onion.
  • Mix with your hand. Voila.

Boiling and baking

  • Turn your oven on to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7—no fan assist.
  • Get the baking sheets from the fridge, and heat a pot with 2.2 liters of water, about ten and a thirds cups. Bring it to the boil.
  • If using, add 3 grams of food-grade lye to the water and wait for it to be completely dissolved.
  • Boil the bagels for 30 seconds each. I put three at a time in my pot.
  • Put them on a wire rack to drip off. Top with whatever toppings you like while they are still wet.
  • Put them back on the semolina topped baking sheet. You should be able to fit six bagels on each sheet comfortably.
  • Once you've finished all the bagels, put both sheets in the oven and turn the oven down to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.
  • Bake for 24-26 minutes until they look gorgeous and shiny.
  • If you know your oven to heat a bit unevenly, switch the pans and turn them around in the middle of the baking.
  • Cool on a wire rack.


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  1. Diane Reply

    I can’t wait to try your bagel recipe, but cannot use dairy ingredients (milk powder). What adjustments can I make? Thank you!!!

    • Omit it. It’s there to help browning 🙂 They might get a little less brown though 🙂

  2. Daniel Reply

    Hi Sune! Thanks for this recipe! We’ve made it twice and it makes a tasty bagel, but I have a question. After shaping bagels, we proof on counter for 4 hours, then to refrigerator, usually overnight. But I notice when you go to the boiling step, your bagels are already much taller than ours. While taste is great, I’d like a taller bagel like yours. Any suggestions on a change for that? Should we proof longer? (Video doesn’t show bagels before they go to fridge). Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ben Silverstein Reply

    Hi Sune! Love the recipe! Just out of curiosity, why is the inoculation so high in this dough, as opposed to your other doughs that are usually around 20%? Thanks!

    • It’s because enriched doughs usually take a very long time to ferment, so I boost it by adding more 🙂