How To Store Bagels: Best Way So They Keep Fresh For Long

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Fresh bagels are a great idea if you are looking for breakfast, brunch, or lunch ideas. This alternative to bread can be served with all kinds of delicious fillings and toppings. Find out more about how to store bagels to keep them in optimal condition until you're ready to eat them. 

Four bagels stacked on a kitchen counter.
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These distinctive, ring-shaped treats are tasty, filling, and widely available. You can make your own or find them at most grocery stores. Like most baked goods though, bagels don't last for long and stale bagels aren't as delicious as fresh ones.

I love to add bagels and a selection of toppings to the brunch table, perhaps also offering breakfast muffins or even crepes as well. They're just so great for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary.

There are so many toppings to choose from for your warm bagel. You could make savory ones such as pizza bagels or add smoked salmon and cream cheese, or perhaps you prefer sweet ones with peanut butter and jelly, or with Nutella and banana, for example.

What are Bagels?

Bagels are bread rolls that originated in Poland's Jewish community and are now popular in the United States and Europe, especially anywhere there is a large Jewish community. 

They're shaped like a ring and traditionally the dough is cooked in hot water and then baked, to give them their characteristic dense, chewy texture. They can be plain, topped with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or flavored with other ingredients such as onions or garlic. There are also sweet bagels that might contain blueberries or chocolate, for example. 

Although mainly a source of carbohydrates, bagels can also offer thiamine, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, and calcium, depending on how they're made and the ingredients. Some are made with mostly refined ingredients while others have nutrients added to them.

There are different kinds of bagels. The New York-style ones are big, chewy and have a touch of sweetness. Typical toppings include sesame or poppy seeds, salt, or garlic. Montreal-style bagels are denser, smaller, and sweeter because the dough includes honey. 

St. Louis bagels are big, airy, and soft, more like bread buns than the other kinds of bagels. Other bagel styles include cheese bagels, fruit bagels, pretzel bagels, and so on. And then you have bagel chips and other products made from them.

How to Choose the Best Bagels

If you're purchasing bagels from a bakery or making your own, you know they will be fresh. If you're buying them from a grocery store, the best way to tell if they're good is to look at them through the packaging to make sure there is no mold and take a look at the expiration date or "best by" tag to check how fresh they are. 

Grocery store bagels should be in a resealable plastic bag or airtight bag unless they're very fresh and then you'll get them from the baker in a brown paper bag or similar.

Bagels in a plastic bag on a kitchen counter.

How to Store Bagels

A whole bagel, gently warmed in a toaster oven or microwave oven, with your favorite toppings makes a great snack or meal. It's important to know how to store bagels in the proper storage conditions to keep them fresh and soft for longer.

  1. Homemade bagels and fresh bagels from the bagel shop should stay fresh for at least a couple of days, or maybe a day or so longer, when kept in a brown paper bag, bread keepers, or similar, at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  2. Store-bought bagels will keep for about a week in their original packaging. If the packaging is damaged, the easiest way to preserve them is to wrap them in aluminum foil or plastic wrap instead.
  3. Do you want to keep them for a longer time? If so, it's good to know that you can freeze bagels for up to 6 months. Wrap them in a layer of plastic wrap and then foil, squeezing out any excess air, or put them in an airtight container to prevent freezer burn. When you want to eat one, just thaw the frozen bagel on the countertop, in a warm oven, or in the microwave on the thaw setting.

Never refrigerate bagels because the cold air makes them hard and stale fast. If they are a little stale, wet the outside lightly with a damp paper towel and then either toast it or give it 5 minutes in the oven at 350°F.

Whole bagels stay fresher than split ones, so it's best not to cut your bagel in half until you're ready to eat it. Bagel halves have more surface area so they will dry out more quickly.

How to Tell if a Bagel Is Bad

Because bagels only stay fresh for a few days, like most types of yeasted bread, you might be wondering whether yours are still safe to eat. The good news is it's fairly simple to tell the difference between fresh bagels and stale bagels. 

The first thing to do is take a look at them. Moldy bagels are a sure sign of them being bad and, if there's any visible mold growth, you should just throw the bagels out. Bad bagels will also be stale, meaning hard and dry, and they might have an off smell. 

They might or might not be safe to eat but if they're that far gone it's best to throw them out anyway since they won't taste good.

Common Questions

​What are some ways of serving bagels?

Once you know how to store bagels, you will want to ensure you eat them before they go bad, as they don't keep for a particularly long time. For breakfast, you might like lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese, or how about using it to make a breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon. Add deli meats, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayo to make a lunch bagel, or top it with pizza sauce and your favorite pizza toppings then bake in the oven.

What can you do with stale bagels?

If your bagels are a bit tough and dry because you've had them for a few days and they've suffered moisture loss, you can still use them. Now, if they have any mold, they aren't safe to eat. However, if they're dried out a bit and are otherwise fine, you can make bagel chips. Cut stale bagels into ⅛-inch slices and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with oil, sprinkle over some seasonings, and bake for 10 minutes at 375°F. You can then enjoy the crunchy bites with dips such as hummus or salsa.

Bagel on plate with cream cheese spread.

Interesting Bagel Facts

  • The word "beygl" is the Yiddish word for bagel and it means "ring", referring to a bagel's shape.
  • The hole in the middle of a bagel isn't just for aesthetics. It helps the bagels to cook evenly.
  • July 26 is National Bagel Day, but bagels are great any day of the year, so you don't have to wait until then.
  • Prepackaged bagels first hit grocery store shelves in the 1950s. Before that, they were sold in bakeries only.

Bagels are much too good to waste, so it's a good idea to learn more about how to store them to keep them fresh and delicious. There are so many amazing ways to enjoy bagels and you'll want to try some new ideas. 

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