If you are making (or maintaining) a sourdough starter, you likely have a lot of sourdough discard. You can either throw it away (literally, discard it), or you can use it in bread-related recipes like these Sourdough Discard Bagels. Homemade bagels are a great way to use some of that discard and have a delicious baked good to come out of it!
Looking for a few other sourdough discard recipes? Try these Sourdough Discard Pretzels, these Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls, and this Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia. If you're looking for a different bagel flavor, try these Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Discard Bagels!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy weekend bake! Once you make homemade bagels once, you'll realize how easy they are you may never run out to the store for bagels on the weekend again!
- This is a same-day recipe with one rise and you'll have fresh bagels to enjoy in just a few hours.
- Less than 30 minutes of prep! Most of the time making this recipe is rise time; there is actually less than 30 minutes of prep to make these Sourdough Discard Bagels.
- They freeze well so it's great to make a batch and then freeze the bagels to enjoy throughout the week.
- You can modify the toppings to suit your taste! Try sesame seeds, poppy seeds, everything bagel seasoning, or flaky sea salt!
As long as you have sourdough discard, the other ingredients are pantry staples you likely already have at home.
- Warm water: The temperature of your water really does matter. This should be a little warmer than bathwater (but not burning at all - still comfortable on the skin).
- Sourdough discard: You'll want your discard to be at room temperature so that it doesn't deactivate the yeast in the dough. This recipe is written for discard with a 1:1 ratio (1 part flour, 1 part water).
- Instant yeast: Since we're using instant yeast, you don't need to let it bloom, but again, making sure things are warm (i.e. room temperature sourdough discard and warm water) is important to make sure it activates correctly.
- Granulated sugar: You'll only need a bit to feed the yeast, and then we'll use a little more to boil the bagels.
- Bread flour: Bread flour gives these a really nice texture, but you could also use all-purpose flour.
- Toppings: These are optional, but you can top your bagel with anything you like. Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and everything bagel seasoning are all great options!
See full recipe below for detailed instructions.
Substitutions & Variations
This is an easy recipe to adapt and you can easily add mix-ins of your choice. A few ideas to get you started:
- Change up the toppings! You can easily make these bagels different by changing your choice of toppings. These bagels are great with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, everything bagel seasoning, flaky sea salt, and more! Feel free to get creative here with whatever sounds good to you.
- Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Discard Bagels: Check out this variation of the recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Discard Bagels. You can even double this recipe and add cinnamon and raisins to half the batch!
- Rosemary Sourdough Discard Bagels: Add 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary while you're making the dough (when you add the flour). You could also add 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper for an extra kick. Top your bagels with some flaky sea salt.
- Blueberry Sourdough Discard Bagels: Fresh blueberries are a great addition to a bagel. They do contain quite a bit of water, so the recipe needs a few modifications. Check out this recipe for Sourdough Discard Blueberry Bagels.
I have not tested this recipe with other variations, but if you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments! I always love to hear how you're adapting these recipes and use those as ideas for future recipes as well!
How to make sourdough discard bagels
These Sourdough Discard Bagels only need one rise, and the recipe is pretty forgiving. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the amounts of water and flour in your recipe, depending on your sourdough starter.
Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until a smooth ball forms, kneading on a work surface if needed. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap to rise for 90 minutes.
After the dough rises, turn it out onto a flat surface and divide it into 8-10 equal pieces. 8 pieces will give you larger bagels compared to 10 pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball using the base of your palm to create friction and form the seal of the dough (this will be the bottom, "ugly" side of the bagel).
Push your thumb through the center of each ball and stretch the hole to form your bagel shape. Cover the bagels with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
Boil each bagel for 15-30 seconds on each side. They should float in the water. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bagels to the prepared baking sheet.
Brush each bagel with egg wash, then dip or sprinkle with your desired toppings (optional).
The bagels are then ready to bake! They're finished when they are golden brown and nicely crusty on the outside. Let them cool fully on a cooling rack before slicing and serving.
Expert baking tips
- Make sure to knead the dough long enough. The dough should be completely smooth, not shaggy.
- Once kneaded, the dough will be fairly sturdy and should not be sticky as it goes into the first rise.
- Every sourdough starter (and therefore every sourdough discard) is different. You may need to add some additional flour or water to reach the desired dough consistency. If your dough seems too dry, add more water, 1 Tablespoon at a time. If your dough seems too sticky (wet), add more flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time.
- Make your bagels more or less chewy to suit your taste by boiling them for a shorter or longer amount of time. Boiling for less time will create a less chewy crust. Boiling for longer will create a chewier crust. I like to boil mine for about 30 seconds on each side for a thinner crust.
What is the float test?
When you put your bagels in the boiling water, they should float. I recommend doing this with one test bagel first, so you can adjust if needed. If the bagel floats, it has passed the float test! If the bagel does not float, then they're not yet ready to boil and need to take a bit more time to rise.
If the bagels float: This indicates that the dough has risen enough and the bagels will be light and airy once they're baked. Go ahead and boil and bake the bagels as directed!
If the bagels do not float: This indicates that the dough is too dense. If you boil and bake them now, your final bagels will be too dense and chewy. Cover the unboiled bagels with a clean kitchen towel again, and let sit for 10 more minutes to let the dough rise more. Then, try the float test again.
What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is what you have left over after you have fed your sourdough starter. So let's break that down. When you are making a sourdough starter (here is an example sourdough starter recipe), part of the process is that you need to feed the starter. To do so, you take out a certain amount, then "discard" what is left over (this is normally about half the volume).
The amount that you took out gets fed, which means you add fresh flour and water to the mixture to let it sit. The discard, or the leftover part, can be used for recipes, or it can be thrown away (literally discarded). It has a few interesting properties, which can make it fun to bake with. It has started fermenting, so you'll get a bit of the sour tang that you would in sourdough bread. Also, as part of the fermenting process, you'll get a bit of lift from the natural yeast that has formed. You'll still need to use yeast in a sourdough discard recipe, but you can either use less or accept that your recipe will be extra fluffy with the addition of the discard.
To note, sourdough discard doesn't last forever. You should store it in the refrigerator (whereas your starter is stored at room temperature while it's active), and only keep it for up to a week. If you keep it longer than that, the fermenting process gets pretty far along and may start growing bad bacteria that you don't want to be eating. If your discard is discoloring (pink or grey streaks), it's time to throw it away.
You only need a few things to make these Sourdough Discard Bagels. I recommend using a stand mixer (I use a KitchenAid 5 Quart Stand Mixer), but you can also mix these by hand with a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. Use a kitchen scale to measure the sourdough discard.
Do I need to use a stand mixer?
I like to use a stand mixer to start the dough, but you don't have to! You can also easily mix the dough in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand.
Kneading by hand allows you more control over the dough, and you can really feel it when it is smooth and reaches the texture you're looking for. Even if I start with the stand mixer, I always do some kneading by hand as well!
Room Temperature Storage: These bagels are best fresh, of course! Once cooled, they can be stored in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature for up to three days. Reheat the bagels in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make them warm and soft again.
Freezer Storage: Once fully cooled, you can also freeze these bagels in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container for up to 3 months. Reheat frozen bagels in the microwave for about 60 seconds until warm and soft again.
For this recipe, yes! If you have a sourdough starter, you have sourdough discard, and this recipe is a great way to use it.
There are many recipes that share how to make a sourdough starter. You'll need sourdough discard in order to make this Sourdough Discard Bagels recipe.
If you're seeing yeast granules in your dough, that means it hasn't activated fully. Temperature is very important when working with yeast. Make sure the water you're using is truly warm (warmer than bath water, but not so hot that it's uncomfortable on your skin). Your sourdough discard should also be at room temperature. If you cool down the dough too much, the yeast won't activate.
No! Irregular shapes are part of the charm of homemade bagels. The only thing you'll want to watch out for is that your bagels are all about the same size. That way they will all bake for the same amount of time (if you have one bagel that is overly large, it may take more time to bake fully).
Sourdough Discard Bagels
- 3 ¾ cups bread flour
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar divided
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 200 grams (about ¾ cup) sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cup warm water
- 1 egg white plus 1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash
- Toppings (optional)
- Combine flour, 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar, instant yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix to combine. On low speed, add the sourdough discard and water until combined. Increase speed to medium and knead for 4-5 minutes until a smooth ball forms*. This will be a fairly sturdy dough and should not be sticky. You may need to add more water or more flour (1 Tablespoon at a time), depending on your sourdough discard, to reach the right dough consistency.
- Grease a large bowl, transfer the dough to the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a smooth surface and divide into 8-10 equal pieces. 8 pieces will give you 8 large bagels; 10 pieces will give you 10 smaller bagels. Roll each piece in your palm to form a smooth ball, then use your thumb to press through the center of each ball, stretching the hole to form your bagel. Cover the bagels with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes while you prepare the next step.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Prepare 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper and set aside. Bring a pot with 2 quarts of water and 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar to boil.
- Place your bagels in the boiling water for 15-30 seconds on each side**. The bagels should float (if not, see notes below). You can likely fit 2-3 bagels in the pot at a time, just make sure there is enough room for them to float openly as they will expand. Remove from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. If needed, you can reshape the bagels a little after they've cooled.
- Lightly brush the bagels with egg wash, then dip the top into your chosen toppings, if using (such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or everything bagel seasoning). You can also sprinkle the toppings onto each bagel.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool fully before slicing and serving.