Bagels originated in Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries, but New York City made them a household staple worldwide.
Jewish immigrants who settled in the Big Apple during the late 19th century began making and selling bagels. New York proudly claims bagels as their beloved breakfast staple.
Not only are there thousands of bagel shops in New York, but bagels are a staple bread item in most coffee shops, bakeries, and breakfast restaurants around the globe. Many have open kitchens where customers can watch the unique and mesmerizing process it takes to create them.
Bagels use a unique, high-gluten flour, yeast, salt, and a sweetener as the base for their super dense and chewy dough. The cooking method involves boiling the donut-shaped dough in water before brushing it with egg wash and baking it.
As bagels grew in popularity, so too did their flavor variations. I will go over the most popular bagel flavors below.
Best Bagel Flavors
Pair these popular types of bagels with your favorite topping or spread, whether it’s classic cream cheese or something different.
While bagels were initially savory bread, cinnamon raisin has earned its place as a best seller at every bagel shop.
Cinnamon raisin bagels contain:
- brown sugar
Cinnamon raisin bagels are the quintessential sweet breakfast. The chewy, sugary cinnamon dough is as moist as the plum raisins you get in every bite.
I like toasting two halves and applying a generous spread of plain cream cheese.
The tang and creaminess of the cream cheese pair perfectly with the spicy sweetness of the cinnamon-infused dough.
Along with coffee shops and bagel shops, cinnamon raisin bagels are one of the most prevalent flavors for packaged products sold in grocery stores.
According to NBC, the most popular bagel in New York City is the everything bagel.
It is the most ordered, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s got everything! The everything bagel starts with the standard flour, yeast, water, and salt base.
Between boiling and baking, the bagel dough receives a hearty brush of egg wash that acts as a glue for the famous Everything seasoning.
The Everything seasoning contains an even amount of:
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Dried garlic
- Dried onion
- Coarse salt
The Everything bagel is my favorite flavor and the one that I’m just as happy to eat whole as I am to toast and dress it.
A veritable newcomer to the classic lineup, Asiago bagels put a gourmet, Old World twist that has taken the bagel from breakfast food to dinner.
Asiago is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk that is firm, sharp, and melts beautifully.
Asiago bagels are also the product of New York’s famous melting pot of cultures, originating in the 1920s when Italian immigrants combined their culinary traditions with their Jewish neighbors.
Asiago bagels take the classic bagel recipe and shred fresh Asiago cheese over them before baking.
The Asiago cheese creates a perfect, bubbly texture and a cheesy taste that permeates throughout the chewy insides.
I love making an asiago cheese sandwich with sundried tomatoes, provolone, and thinly sliced salami.
Blueberries are a prized commodity, offering a sweet, distinctive flavor that brightens up any dish, from yogurt parfaits to smoothies to dinner salads.
Their use in bagels imparts the same cheerful flavor and moist pop as you get in a blueberry muffin.
Blueberry bagels sprinkle fresh blueberries and extra sugar into the bagel dough before boiling and baking.
Depending on how vigorously you mix the blueberries, the dough often assumes a blueish-purple tint.
I also think that baking blueberries concentrate their sweetness.
Blueberry bagels are another perfect sweet breakfast treat, tasting great with plain cream cheese or butter.
If you’ve ever been to a Jewish Shabbat dinner or a French bakery, you’ve tasted egg bread. Jewish people call it Challah, and the French call it Brioche.
Both types of bread use egg yolk in the dough, dying it yellow and creating a rich, moist, buttery taste.
Egg bagels co-opt the Challah and Brioche recipes while using the classic bagel cooking technique. So, in addition to yeast, dough, water, and salt, egg bagels contain egg yolk.
An egg bagel is another bagel that I would eat whole. Its richness needs no additional elaboration, in my opinion.
That said, you could use it like a brioche bun for a burger or chicken sandwich.
There’s nothing more tempting than the smell of roasting or frying garlic.
Its aroma is unmistakable, and so is its importance in cooking worldwide. Garlic bagels use granulated or fresh garlic in the egg wash for an aromatic coating that caramelizes in the oven.
Many recipes combine garlic granules with sesame seeds or parmesan cheese to add a nutty or savory complement, so you might not be able to find plain garlic bagels at your local bakery.
I love garlic bagels as the base to an Italian-inspired snack or meal, topping it with marinara, pesto, mozzarella, and parmesan.
Onion bagels use dehydrated diced onions to sprinkle on top of plain bagels, and some recipes use granulated onions in the dough itself for a more uniform onion flavor.
Granulated onion has a robust, concentrated onion taste that is best as a bagel topper.
When the bagel bakes, exposure to high temperatures will caramelize the onions better, imparting a sweeter onion taste. Plus, I love the texture of crispy onion bits with each bagel bite.
Onion bagels are my go-to bagel for pairing with lox or smoked salmon and cream cheese.
There’s nothing wrong with going back to the basics. Plain bagels are the original flavor and the basis for their popularity.
Plain bagels contain yeast, flour, water, sugar, and salt and are a blank slate for any flavor profile.
They are delicious by themselves, as any freshly baked bread is, and I’ll often have a fresh one out of the bag while I’m filling my usual order at the bagel shop.
You can use them as sandwich bread, spread any variety of shmear over them, or have them toasted with a slather of fresh butter. The sky’s the limit!
Who knew that poppyseeds and heroin came from the same plant?
I didn’t until seeing the famous Seinfeld episode featuring a poppyseed bagel and a drug test! Joking aside, poppy seeds are popular additives in European baking.
They are tiny black or dark blue circular seeds that add an exciting crunch to cakes, bread, and dressings.
I don’t think they have much of a flavor. However, their delightful texture compensates for a neutral flavor. Just be sure to have some floss handy!
Since poppyseeds are neutral, poppyseed bagels go well with anything you’d use on a plain bagel. I like using them for scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese bagel sandwiches.
New York is famous for its bagels, but it’s also renowned for its hot soft pretzels.
I think the Salt Bagel combines these two beloved types of bread. Like a soft salted pretzel, a salt bagel tops a plain bagel with coarse salt.
You can use the same application technique as a salted pretzel by spraying the dough with water so that the salt will stick, or you can use egg wash.
The coarse salt seasons the bagel and creates a lovely crunch. I enjoy them as an on-the-go snack, hot like a salted pretzel. They also taste great with spicy mustard and cheese.
The marriage of two beloved breakfast foods, French toast bagels use all the same ingredients in French toast except for the toast, of course!
French Toast bagels contain the following ingredients:
- Brown sugar
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla extract
You get the decadent cinnamon-sugar flavor, but with a doughy texture and a crunchy granulated-cinnamon crust.
This bagel is the height of breakfast fusion. Plus, if you put regular cream cheese on it, I think it almost tastes like a trifecta of cinnamon toast, bagel, and cream cheese frosted cinnamon roll.
Unlike cinnamon rolls and cinnamon toast, the bagel is compact and efficient. It saves you the mess of dirty dishes or fingers.
Multigrain bread is typically healthier due to a wider variety of nutrients that come with more than one grain. Multigrain bagels can have any combination of grains milled into one flour.
Popular types of multigrain flours always include wheat plus one or more of the following grains:
Multigrain bagels usually bake whole seeds and oats into the dough or bagel toppers.
I think multigrain bagels have a sweeter taste because most other grains have a sweeter aftertaste. I like a multigrain bagel with peanut butter and honey drizzle.
Pumpernickel bagels are one of my favorite flavors and the healthiest bagel option on my list.
Unlike all the other flavors, pumpernickel uses an entirely different recipe. Pumpernickel bread is both a type of sourdough bread and rye bread that is dark brown, hearty, and tangy.
The pumpernickel bagel has the best qualities of both bread types. It is chewy and dense like a bagel but tangy and hearty like a pumpernickel.
The rye flour and wheat flour mix with yeast and bacterial cultures to ferment as a means of leavening.
Fermentation zaps a lot of the gluten in wheat flour, so pumpernickel bagels have less gluten and a bit drier and grainier texture. These bagels taste great as a deli sandwich.
The bagel of the 21st century, Rainbow bagels are festive, multi-colored plain bagels.
They’re popular party food and enjoyable to make with the kids. A local Brooklyn bagel shop claims to have invented the original rainbow bagel, which is now a staple in most hipster boutique bakeries.
Making these multi-color, tie-died, or striped bagels is a tedious process. Depending on how many colors you want, you make plain bagel dough in sections, applying a few drops of food coloring to each back before combining all the colors.
They’re certainly the most Instagram-worthy bagel flavor! You get the bright color pop when you take a bite or slice them in half.
Sesame seed bagels are among the most popular classic flavors.
Sesame seeds are a staple ingredient for most culinary cultures, from the Mediterranean to Asia. It lends well to both sweet and savory recipes.
Sesame seed bagels use the same basic bagel recipe, coating each egg-washed donut in a blanket of raw sesame seeds before baking.
The unique nuttiness of the sesame seeds adds so much flavor to the bagel, plus the natural oils in sesame seeds provide even more moisture and richness to the dough.
I love sesame seed bagels for sweet and savory bagel creations. I’ll eat them with a chive-cheese smear or cover them in cream cheese and honey.
Wheat bagels use whole-wheat flour instead of the typical bread flour used in plain bagels.
Whole wheat flour mills the entire wheat berry, including the bran and germ, so the resulting flour has more nutrients, fiber, and protein.
It’s the healthier choice for bread-making in general. I also think that whole wheat has a sweeter taste than white flour.
Wheat bagels taste great with peanut butter or mascarpone and honey. I also like to top it with smashed avocado, sriracha, and a fried egg.
Best Bagel Flavors
- Cinnamon Raisin
- Poppy Seed
- French Toast
- Sesame Seed
Bagels have been an important part of breakfasts, snacks, and sandwiches since they were introduced into the American diet. You can stick to the tried-and-true varieties or venture into new territory with a less conventional flavor.
My list of the most popular bagel flavors has something for every palate, whether you want a sweet breakfast or a salty snack.
Pair your bagel with a cup of coffee and learn more about the types of coffee beans used to brew it!
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