Everything you love about nutty, earthy deli-style rye bread in the form of deliciously easy rye bagels.
Made with an organic medium rye flour and caraway seeds, these rye bagels are perfect for serving up rye bagel Reubens and BLTs, though they're also great toasted with cream cheese.
- About This Recipe
- Ingredient Notes
- Testing Notes: Blending Rye Flour and Bread Flour
- How to Make Rye Bagels
- How to Shape a Bagel
- Boiling and Baking Bagels
- Storage Tips
- Substituting Active Dry Yeast for Instant Yeast
- A Note on Temperature and Dough Rising
- Suggested Equipment
- Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- Recipe FAQ
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
About This Recipe
This recipe for easy rye bagels is just as simple as my other homemade bagel recipes.
It uses a blend of medium organic rye flour and bread flour, but the rye flavor — or what we usually think of as "rye" flavor — actually comes mostly from the caraway seeds mixed into the dough.
I generally avoid making recipes that call for speciality flours. But when I found a bag of King Arthur Baking's new medium organic rye flour at my local grocery store and saw that it was available on Amazon I decided that made it accessible enough to finally start developing this rye bagel recipe that had been floating around my brain.
Most rye bagel recipes are marbled or full-on pumpernickel bagels. (Fun fact: pumpernickel flour is basically just the whole wheat version rye flour.)
I wanted a recipe for plain, simple, good 'ol fashioned rye bagels. Classic, deli-style seeded rye bread, but in bagel form. So that's what these rye bagels are.
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make these rye bagels! (See recipe card for quantities.)
- Bread Flour - For these bagels you'll want to use a high-gluten flour like bread flour which has a protein content of 12% or more.
- Rye Flour - I use King Arthur Baking Company's medium rye flour here which has an 8% protein content. This means it is a low gluten flour and needs to be combined with a high gluten flour to develop the chewy texture you expect from bagels.
- Caraway Seeds - When you think of rye flavor, what you're often thinking of is actually the flavor of caraway seeds. Caraway seeds can sometimes be tricky to find in grocery stores, but you can order them online from reputable spice sellers like Burlap & Barrel and Spicewalla.
- Sugar - Plain old regular granulated sugar.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which dissolves quickly and is half as salty as other brands. If measuring by weight, it doesn't matter what brand of salt you use. But if you're measuring by volume and using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Yeast - I use instant yeast, sometimes called "rapid rise" "quick rise" or "bread machine yeast" in my baking recipes.
- Water - As part of this recipe you'll make a caraway seed tea with hot-but-not-boiling water. It's super important that you let the water cool to a warm-lukewarm temperature before adding it to the dough; temperatures over 110°F can kill the yeast.
Testing Notes: Blending Rye Flour and Bread Flour
Rye flour is so low in gluten that on its own, it can't develop the strength and structure needed to support a whole loaf of bread. So most rye bread recipes don't use 100% rye flour.
My goal with this recipe was to use as much rye flour as I could while keeping the same great chewy texture you expect from bagels. To balance rye flour's low gluten content, I blended it with with bread flour, which is a high gluten flour.
I started by testing my plain bagel recipe with 25% rye flour by baker's percentage*. I tested a few different ratios of rye flour and bread flour, but ultimately found that 30% rye flour and 70% bread flour was the perfect ratio for my rye bagels.
Bread flour, with its higher protein content, is the flour traditionally used in bagel recipes because it results in chewier bagels. Though many of my bagel recipes use all purpose flour to make them more beginner friendly, there are some cases where bread flour really is necessary.
Because rye flour is a low-gluten flour, these rye bagels really do need to be paired with a high-gluten flour — use bread flour in this recipe for best results.
*If you're new to baker's percentage, this means that, of the total amount of flour in the recipe, it uses 30% rye flour and 70% bread flour. Every ingredient can be calculated this way using the total combined amount of flour as 100%; for example, with 300 grams of water to 500 grams of flour, this recipe is a 60% hydration dough.
How to Make Rye Bagels
We're following standard bagel making process here. Use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients. You'll have a hard time getting the rye bagel dough to the right consistency if you don't use weight measurements.
Start by making the caraway seed tea. Pour hot water (160°F) over the caraway seeds. Then let it steep in the fridge for 8-10 minutes or until the temperature drops below 110°F so that it's safe to use without killing the yeast.
This caraway seed tea is going to fully infuse our rye bagels with that classic rye-caraway flavor.
While the caraway tea steeps in the fridge, measure out the rest of your dough ingredients. Mix the bread flour, rye flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.
Add the lukewarm caraway seed tea and mix on low-medium speed with the dough hook until the dough comes together in a messy ball.
You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl during the mixing stage to get all the flour incorporated.
In the mixing step we're just looking to get all the ingredients combined. If there are still a lot of dry floury bits in the bowl after about 5 minutes, drizzle 1 teaspoon water over the dry bits and keep mixing until it comes together.
Knead the rye bagel dough on medium speed (2-3 on a KitchenAid mixer) until it is smooth, soft, and slightly tacky to the touch, about 4-5 minutes. After about 2 minutes, it should clear the sides of the bowl completely.
TIP: Hold back about a ¼ cup of water when you add it to the dry ingredients. Let the dough mix for a few minutes. It may not need all of the water, especially if you live somewhere humid.
If your bagel dough seems too wet and sticky, if it is clinging to the sides of the bowl or to your hands — dust in additional flour as it is kneaded.
You're looking for a dough that is smooth, soft, stretchy, and just slightly tacky to the touch.
Once the dough has been kneaded, tuck the edges under to shape it into a ball. Place it in a lightly greased bowl. (You can use the bowl of your mixer, just wipe it with a lightly oiled paper towel first.)
Cover the dough and let it rise for an hour in a warm (70°-72°F) spot. It should just about double in size.
To tell if your bagel dough is ready to shape, gently press a finger into it.
- If the indentation fills back in slowly and not all the way, your dough is ready.
- If it springs back and fills in immediately and completely, check it again in 10 minutes.
- If the dough completely deflates when you press a finger into it, it has over proofed. gently deflate it, knead it back into a ball, and let it rest 10 more minutes to get some strength back.
How to Shape a Bagel
Divide the dough into equal portions. If you're combining a few pieces together to make a portion, stack the smaller pieces on top of the bigger pieces.
Tuck the edges up so the dough is smooth against the counter with a seam pinched together on top. Repeat until the dough ball feels fairly tight. Don't tear the dough, just stretch it.
Then, flip the dough over so the seam side is down against the counter. Cup your hand around the dough and slide it toward you. The dough will take on an oval shape. Rotate it 90 degrees and repeat to turn the oval into a round circle.
Alternately, after flipping the dough over, cup your hand around it with your pinki flush against an unfloured counter and your thumb and forefinger making an O- or C-like shape above the dough. Move your hand in quick circles without picking your pinkie off the counter, and the dough will quickly shape itself into a nice smooth ball.
Because rye flour doesn't have a lot of gluten in it, the dough needs to rest after you divide and shape it into rounds.
I found that about 10-15 minutes under a damp paper towel is plenty of resting time in my kitchen. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen you might find you need to let them rest another 5 minutes.
Basically you're looking for the seam on the bottom to have mostly sealed back together before poking the hole through the middle. If the seam hasn't completely sealed back together, that's okay. You can use your thumb to push the seam inside when you poke the hole through.
To poke the bagel holes, dust the top and bottom of the dough balls lightly flour and stick a thumb through the bottom seam of the dough.
Slide your other thumb in and gently squeeze and stretch, rotating the dough through your hands until the bagel hole is at least twice width as the sides of the bagel.
You'll want to repeat the stretching process again before boiling to keep the hole from closing up in the oven.
Boiling and Baking Bagels
Boiling is a crucial step in the bagel making process. The hot water kickstarts yeast activity, allowing the bagels to begin expanding while also gelatinizing the starches in the crust.
This is what gives bagels their characteristic shiny, thin, chewy crusts and is a step that cannot be skipped. If they aren't boiled, they aren't bagels!
These rye bagels are best boiled for 90 seconds per side. Use a wire spider to flip the bagels and transfer them out of the boiling water to avoid splashing.
After the bagels have been boiled, arrange them on a lined sheet pan.
Offset them slightly in rows of two — they will expand slightly in the oven and you don't want them bumping into each other.
In a small bowl, whisk together an egg and a teaspoon of water to make an egg wash.
The egg wash will give the rye bagels a shiny crust and also help any toppings you may want to add stick.
Brush the tops and sides of the rye bagels with the egg wash. A pastry brush with real bristles will give you the most even coverage, though a silicone brush will also work.
You have time here, so don't feel rushed. The crusts have been set in place, you don't have to worry so much about them over proofing while you add the egg wash and any optional toppings.
Once the rye bagels have been egg washed, bake them for 20 minutes at 425° on a parchment or silicone mat lined sheet pan. Let cool before slicing.
Bagels stale quickly and are best eaten same day. They can be stored in a paper bag inside a plastic bag at room temperature or in a large resealable bag along with a paper towel to absorb moisture.
Do not refrigerate bagels. To extend the shelf life of your rye bagels, freeze them within 24 hours of baking. Sometimes I like to slice my bagels almost all the way through before freezing to make them easier to defrost later.
Substituting Active Dry Yeast for Instant Yeast
Active Dry and Instant yeast are technically the same thing — meaning, they are both saccharomyces cerevisiae, a single-celled living organism used for leavening bread and doughs.
The only difference between the two types of yeast is that Active Dry yeast granules have a little coating around them which needs to be dissolved to reveal the yeast inside.
Because of this extra little shell around the Active Dry yeast granules, you'll need to use slightly more Active Dry yeast to get the same effect as using Instant.
To calculate how much Active Dry yeast to use, increase the amount of Instant yeast by 25%. So for this recipe, you'd be using 7 grams of active dry yeast (rounding down from 7.5 slightly for simplicity).
A Note on Temperature and Dough Rising
Temperature is the main factor in determining how quickly or slowly your dough rises (proofs). This includes the temperature of ingredients in your dough, as well as the ambient temperature of the room where you are leaving your dough to rise.
Depending on how cool or warm your water was, and how cool or warm your kitchen is, your dough may rise faster or slower.
- Warmer temperatures increase yeast activity. (But temperatures over 110°F can kill it!)
- Cooler temperatures slow yeast activity. (For a longer, slower proof, put the dough in the fridge.)
If your dough is rising slowly and your kitchen is cold, find somewhere warmer to put your dough to finish rising. If your kitchen is very warm, your dough might be ready to divide and shape before an hour is up.
In baking, "room temperature" is generally somewhere around 70-75°F.
Just because the dough isn't ready right at the times given in the recipe doesn't mean it's not working — there might be other factors affecting how quickly or slowly it gets there! You may need to make adjustments on your own.
You don't need fancy equipment to make these rye bagels, but here are some tools I recommend that will make it easier!
- Kitchen Scale - You need a kitchen scale to measure your ingredients. Measuring flour by cups can throw the recipe off a lot, as they're very inaccurate depending on how much you pack the flour into the cup when you scoop it. It also helps you divide the dough evenly so your bagels are all the same size.
- Bench Scraper - For dividing the dough. You can also use a knife.
- Wire Spider - Helps support your delicate bagel dough when you lift it in and out of the water without splashing or dripping too much.
- Stand Mixer with Dough Hook - This dough needs a strong mixer. While you absolutely can use a tilt-head KitchenAid mixer, you'll want to keep an eye on the bowl — you may need to hold it in place while kneading. I recommend using a bowl-lift KitchenAid mixer or other sturdy mixer with a dough hook for best results. You cannot use a hand mixer with dough hooks to make this dough.
Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- To get the caraway seed flavor super infused in these rye bagels this recipe uses a trick I learned from Chef Jody at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts — using the water in the recipe to make a tea with the caraway seeds. Using the caraway seeds plus the caraway-infused water in the dough means every single bite has that classic rye flavor in it.
- To amp up the caraway flavor you can toast the seeds in a dry skillet before making the tea. I found the caraway seed tea on its own was enough, so didn't include this as a step in the recipe, but it's an option if you want it!
- If you have an electric kettle with heat settings, use the lowest temp possible to make the caraway seed tea. If you can't set the temperature on your kettle, you can either stop the kettle before the water is boiling or use very very hot tap water. My electric kettle's lowest temp is 160F so that's what I use for the tea. It takes about 10 minutes in the fridge to get the temperature down between 90-110F, the ideal temp for use in this dough.
- Water boils at 212F, so you'll need to let the tea cool a bit longer if you're starting with boiling water. If the tea is over 110F when you add it to the dry ingredients, you risk killing the yeast and have sad bagels. If you're not sure what temperature your tea is, you can use an instant read thermometer to check it.
You can buy medium rye flour online here. It's also available at some Wegman's locations and on the King Arthur Baking website. I can't check every grocery store chain, but I did a bit of Googling and it looks like it might also be available at some Weis and Vons locations. There are a lot of rye flours out there, but I've only tested this with King Arthur's, so really do recommend using that if you can.
I haven't tested this recipe with dark rye flour or white rye flour. If that's all you can find, just know you'll likely have to adjust the amount of water the recipe calls for — sprinkle an extra ½ tablespoon of water onto the dry flour bits in the bowl, giving the mixer plenty of time (at least a minute) after each addition to incorporate before deciding if you need to add more.
Yes — and no. Bread flour really will give you the best results here. You can use all purpose flour and it will "work" but you'll end up with slightly tougher, denser bagels that don't rise quite as nicely. Bread flour will give you the chewiness you're looking for in bagels, and will give you a more reliable rise and make a dough that is much easier to work with. If you use all purpose flour you might need to extend the rest time in the shaping stages because AP doesn't have the same amount of gluten and needs to work harder to build structure and strength than bread flour does.
Yep! Arrange on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap and do a cold rise in the fridge overnight. This will also intensify the flavor of the bagels. In the morning you'll just need to boil and bake.
Yes! You can knead this dough by hand. Mix the dough in a bowl until it comes together, then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 8-10 minutes, dusting in more flour as needed. Then follow the rest of the recipe as written.
This is because weighing baking ingredients is much more accurate that using volume (cup) measurements! If your flour or water measurements are off, your bagel dough will behave much differently than it should and you won't get the same rise or texture as the recipe promises. There is no set standard for how much "1 cup" of flour weighs, and different online calculators use different conversions, so its important to follow the weight measurements instead of trying to convert to cups.
Easy Rye Bagels
- Make the caraway tea. Heat water in an electric kettle or on the stove until it reaches a low simmer (160°F). Pour 300 grams water over the caraway seeds and let steep in the fridge 8-10 minutes until lukewarm to the touch (90°-110°F).
- Combine dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine bread flour, rye flour, salt, sugar, and yeast.
- Add the caraway tea. Pour the caraway tea and caraway seeds into the middle of the dry ingredients. Run the mixer on low-medium speed (KitchenAid speed 2) pausing occasionally to push the dry ingredients into the center of the bowl with a spatula. If the dough hasn't come together with no dry bits left in the bottom of the bowl after 5 minutes, sprinkle additional 1 teaspoon water onto the dry bits and let the mixer run for another 60-90 seconds. Repeat again only if needed.
- Knead. Once the dough has mostly come together on the dough hook with minimal dry flour in the bottom of the bowl increase the speed to medium (KitchenAid speed 3) and knead for 5 minutes until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. If the dough feels sticky, dust in more flour and keep kneading.
- Rise. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise 1 hour until just about doubled in size. When you press a finger into the dough the indentation should fill back in just slightly.
- Punch down. Punch the dough down in the bowl to knock any large air bubbles out of it. Cover and let rest an additional 10 minutes.
- Divide and shape. Use a kitchen scale to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. On a clean, unfloured counter, shape each one into a ball: Stack any smaller pieces on top of the biggest piece. Gently flatten the dough, then tucking the edges up, flip the dough over and cup your hand around it in a claw shape. Keep your pinkie on the counter and move in tight circular motions to build tension on the top of the dough and smoosh the edges together underneath. If that doesn't work for you: Cup your hand around the dough and, with your pinkie on the counter, pull your hand straight toward your body. The dough will tighten up into an oval shape. Rotate 90° and repeat to pull the oval into a circle shape.
- Rest. Cover the dough balls with a damp paper towel and let them rest 10 minutes. Rye flour is low in gluten so needs a bit of time for the seams on the bottom to close up. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, you may need to let them rest an additional 5-10 minutes here.
- Preheat the oven and water bath. While the bagels rest, preheat oven to 425°F. Fill a wide, straight-sided skillet with about 3" of water and bring to a low boil. Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Poke the holes. Dust your hands lightly with flour (regular AP or bread flour is fine). Poke your thumb through the bottom of each bagel round, pushing any edges or seams into the center. Gently squeeze to stretch (don't tear!) the bagels — you want the hole to be about the same width as the sides of the bagel. Rotate the bagels through your hands, squeezing to slowly stretch them. The bagels will shrink slightly when they boil and bake, so if you prefer a bigger hole just stretch them a bit bigger right before you boil them.
- Boil and bake. Working in batches, boil the bagels 1 minute and 30 seconds per side. Use a wire spider to remove the boiled bagels to the prepared sheet pan. Brush with egg wash and bake 20-22 minutes until lightly browned on top.
- Cool. Let bagels cool on the sheet pan 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
- Heat the water for the caraway tea FIRST, then measure it. That way you don't lose any water to evaporation while it heats.
- Volume measurements provided are estimates only — for best results, use a kitchen scale.