Whole Grain Everything Pizza Bagels

Oh my gosh, yes. You are gonna love these.

whole grain vegan everything pizza bagels

Making whole grain, pizza flavored, chewy, authentic water bagels has been a pipe dream of mine for a while now. What kind of person’s pipe dreams revolve around seemingly unattainable yeasted baked goods? I’m not really sure.

I may be a native Seattleite, with my only culturally acquired expertise being in caffeine addiction and windbreakers, but my dad grew up in New York, and you better believe that my family didn’t settle for those bready, flavorless grocery store bagels. Nope, dad found the best place in town for getting real, malty, boiled bagels in a smorgasbord of flavors. None of which really mattered because we slathered them in so much of their fresh made cream cheese (and vegan cream cheese, btw, is a post for another day…)

whole grain vegan everything pizza bagels

Foodgawker rejected this pic because the bagels aren’t perfectly shaped, but I say, to heck with ’em. This is what it looks like when a real home cook makes bagels.

And then I moved to Baltimore – much closer to where the bagel magic started. And yet the best bagels I could get my hands on were from Einstein Bros., and I wept silent, malty tears. A lot of my classmates in college were from New York and New Jersey, and I’m guessing that they were also a little upset about this matter – more so than the Washingtonian girl. The whole ‘love of bagels’ thing pretty much got shelved for a few years.

A few months ago, J and I decided to make a bagel recipe we found online and they were good. Damn good. But they were made with AP flour, and the yeast was proofed with refined sugar, and I realized that the last time I had a bagel that good was way too many years ago. Like enough years ago that I probably didn’t know or care what a whole grain was or wasn’t. And my favorite meal was probably still the mac n’ cheese from the Safeway deli. And I probably still didn’t like onions. Yikes. I’ve come a long way.

Vegan whole grain everything pizza bagel

You might be in the camp that believes all grains, maybe even wheat especially, are bad for you. I’m not ready to accept any of the evidence for or against that hypothesis. I just try not to eat too much of ANY food, including wheat. But when I eat grains, I like them to be whole. And for similar reasons, I don’t like to use white sugar either. So if you’re with me on that, or even if you don’t care about any of this and just want to eat a damn good bagel from your own kitchen, I’ve got a heck of a recipe for ya.

Right around when you add the tomato paste to the dough, people are gonna start commenting that it smells like pizza. And it only gets better from there. From the slight sourness due to making the sponge, to the crunch of the seeds spread on top of the bagels, to that elusive maltiness from the enhanced boiling water, these are gonna make you crazy. Save this recipe for a lazy day, because there are a couple of waiting periods and there’s a decent amount of hands-on work as well. This is my first time posting a recipe that uses a sponge, so I included lots of extra advice throughout the process, which I hope will be useful.


Whole Grain Everything Pizza Bagels

Spelt sponge:
1 cup warm water (about 100 Fahrenheit – it feels warm if you stick your finger in it, but not so warm that you have to remove your finger)
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup spelt flour (can substitute whole wheat flour)

Dough – dry:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tb barley malt powder
3 tb nutritional yeast
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme, chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds, chopped
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tb garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
additional whole wheat flour as needed

Dough – wet:
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tb mellow white miso
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened nondairy milk
1/4 to 1 cup warm water – divided

For boiling and topping:
water for boiling
3 tb barley malt powder
1 tb baking soda
1 tb canola oil
2 tb plain, unsweetened nondairy milk
traditional everything bagel toppings (use any or all): caraway seeds, poppyseeds, sesame seeds, minced fresh garlic, minced fresh onion, coarse salt
pizza-y toppings (use any or all): dried oregano, chopped dried rosemary, dried thyme, freshly ground black pepper, roughly chopped fennel seeds, paprika
other things I sometimes add (use any or all): chia seeds, flax seeds, Old Bay seasoning

Make the sponge. Gently mix together all of the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and place somewhere warm, undisturbed, for 60-90 minutes (up to overnight). If your home is particularly cold, set the oven to preheat to 350 degrees, but turn it off again after a minute, and then put the bowl inside with the door closed. If there is a bubbly and somewhat fluffy mixture in the bowl after the waiting period, then it worked. It will probably be obvious if it didn’t work, since it will just look like wet flour. If that happened, check that you used the correct water temperature and that your kitchen is not too cold.

Make the dough. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the dry dough ingredients and combine them well (I pretty much always use a fork for this, it just feels right). Add the wet ingredients (through the first 1/4 cup of water) to the bowl, and keep mixing the dough as it comes together. Add more of the water only if you need it to form a dough.

Knead. Lightly flour a clean surface, and knead the dough by continually folding half of it over itself and pushing down, rotating the dough slightly each time so that a different portion is folded over. Add more whole wheat flour whenever the dough starts to stick to the surface or your hands, and try to add as much as you can – we want these bagels to be dense. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and when you try to pinch off a piece there’s some pullback. Since quite a bit of vital wheat gluten is already in the dry ingredients, it may look deceptively ready before it actually is, so be a bit careful here. You should be able to see the strands of gluten if you pull on any part of the dough. When in doubt, knead more! I find it to be excellent stress relief…

Rise #1. Shape the dough into a giant ball and put it in a lightly greased or floured bowl. Cover it with a damp towel and put it in a warm place again. Let it rise for {at least} an hour, or until the size is {at least} double.

Rise #2. Punch down the dough. Pretend you are punching someone in the face who just asked you if you miss cheese. I’m not a violent person, so this is the 5 seconds of my day where I let it all out. You should feel it deflate when you do this – keep punching until it’s not deflating anymore. Cover it with that damp towel again and let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven – to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shape, boil and top them. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil, and stir in the malt powder and baking soda. Meanwhile, add any toppings you are using to a small bowl. Add the oil and mix it all up. Then add the nondairy milk and use a fork to whisk everything together until the oil and milk are combined. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions (for small-but-not-miniature bagels), 20 equal portions (for miniature bagels), or 12 equal portions (for more classic big bagels). You don’t have to be totally precise here, but try to get them pretty close. Shape each portion into a sphere as well as you can (I find this video rather helpful for the technique), then use a knife or your finger to poke a hole through each ball and stretch it out.

Gently place shaped bagels into the boiling water – as many as can float at the surface at the same time, which for me was 5 bagels. Boil for 30-120 seconds, then flip all of them and boil for another 30-120 seconds. Why such a big margin? You want to boil for a bit shorter if you’re making mini bagels. And also, the longer you boil them, the chewier they get. We like ours so chewy that we can barely tear off a piece of it with our teeth, so we usually boil for 90-120 seconds per side. Not everybody is weird like that, so adjust the boil time accordingly. It does make a difference.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the bagels from the water and add the next batch. Right after removing the bagels from the water, use a pastry brush or (carefully) your fingers to brush some of the oil/milk/seed mixture onto the top. Repeat these steps until all of the bagels have been boiled and brushed with any toppings you’re using. Line up the bagels on a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper, a Silpat or whatever you use for this kind of thing. I needed two baking sheets for my 16 medium-sized bagels. They will get only a tiny bit bigger in the oven at this point, but still, give them some space so they can form their nice crusts.

Bake them and then devour them. Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes, or until they feel nice and firm when you press down on one, and the crusts are golden. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing open and eating. Enjoy with pretty much any savory topping.


Very distantly inspired by Sophisticated Gourmet. Also, linked up on Thank Your Body Thursdays and Healthy Vegan Fridays.


7 thoughts on “Whole Grain Everything Pizza Bagels

  1. Pingback: Beet Rye Bread (whole grain) | Yup, it's vegan

  2. Pingback: Healthy Vegan Friday 70: Best Vegan Recipes Roundup

  3. Pingback: vegan thanksgiving prep | Life in Vivid Color

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