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Easy Hand-Rolled Water Bagel Recipe

John D Lee is a chef and restauranteur living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He's always loved to cook.

Homemade Tastes Better

I've made a lot of bagels in my time. I owned a bagel restaurant for years, and you would find me every bleary-eyed morning kneading the dough and hand-rolling all the fresh bagels for the day.

I've since gotten out of the bagel game (yay, sleep!), but I still love a great bagel.

People think that making delicious bagels at home is difficult, but it's really no more difficult than making a loaf of bread and can be done within about an hour.

Don't be discouraged if your bagels look a bit funny at first, you'll get the hang of it in no time. Those curiously-shaped bagels will still beat supermarket bagels, hands down.

What makes a bagel different from other breads is the two-stage cooking process. A bagel is first briefly boiled, and then it is baked. I worked the meat counter in a Jewish deli as a teenager, and as my boss would say, an unboiled bagel is just a roll with a hole!


  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups warm water


  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. You don't have to worry about soaking the yeast when you use instant yeast (most yeast sold these days is instant yeast). The dough should feel stiff, but add the extra water if it's really stiff, or you won't be able to get all the dry flour incorporated.
  2. Plop the dough down onto the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is uniform and smooth.
  3. Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized balls, and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  5. Now, take each of the dough balls, and using two hands, roll them into little snakes on the counter.
  6. When the snake is longer than the width of your two hands, wrap it around your dominant roiling hand. The dough rope should be wrapped so the overlapping ends are together at your palm, near the start of your fingers.
  7. Now take the two overlapping ends, and use your palm to squish and roll these two ends together. Once the dough is fused, you should have a perfectly circular bagel-to-be! This is the only part of the process that can take a little practice before your bagels will look really professional. Don't get discouraged if they don't look perfect; it just takes practice!
  8. Let your bagels rest on the counter for about 20 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, and lightly grease a large baking tray. You can just rub a splash of vegetable oil and rub it around.
  10. After the 20-minute wait, your bagels will start to look puffy, and it's time to get them boiling! Add them as many at a time as you can to your boiling water without crowding them. Boil for about 1 minute, turn them over, and boil for 1 more minute. Take them out and let dry for 1 minute and then place them on your oiled baking tray. Repeat this process until all of the bagels are boiled.
  11. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  12. Open the oven, flip the bagels over, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  13. Take the tray out of the oven and let it cool for at least 20 minutes. Get the cream cheese ready, and feast on what's got to be one of the best weekend brunch treats possible!

Toppings and Variations

  • Toppings: You can add any toppings you like to these; e.g., cream cheese, lox, onion, tomato, capers, etc.
  • Variations: To make sesame, onion, poppy seed, caraway, etc., bagels, all you need to do is have a dry plate ready with the seed or spice topping spread out on it. After the bagels have come out of the boiling water, place them face down onto the seeds, and then place the seed side up onto the baking tray. Bake and flip as you would for plain bagels.