Filed under: Breads
April 28, 2023

Zaatar Bagels

Fresh, homemade zaatar bagels made right in your kitchen without any special tools. This easy recipe can be kneaded in a stand mixer or by hand, has an overnight on the counter rise, and a simple water bath. A little bit of zaatar goes into the dough and the bagels are generously coated in more zaatar. 

Yield: 8 bagels
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I think of these as the marriage of two of my favorite breads to eat: bagels and zaatar manaeesh. The shape, the bread texture is pure bagel. However, these are coated in a layer of delicious zaatar. And for good measure I added a bit into the dough as well (we have less surface area than a manaeesh so we gotta make do ;p)

This is an overnight zaatar bagel recipe, so it has taken some time to get it to you – but I’m excited, and relieved I get to hit publish! I’m a big fan of zaatar on bagels, the first time I had it was here, and now I can’t imagine a more perfect pairing. 

As a template, I started working with this popular bagel recipe but changed everything to accommodate my overnight rise, and flavorings. The goal for this recipe was twofold: make a dough I could make around 7pm, leave on the counter overnight, and shape and bake in the morning before 9. I wanted one that was easy to work with and very tasty (obviously), and to get enough zaatar in and on there that it invoked a delicious manaeesh, one positively buried in zaatar. 


Ingredients for Zaatar Bagels 

Bread flour: bread flour with it’s high protein levels, gives bagels that signature chewy texture. If you absolutely must use all purpose flour you can, but be sure it’s not one of the lower protein varieties (level should be at least 11% but preferably 12% or up). 

Zaatar: if you are unfamiliar with it, zaatar is a spice mix; a wild zaatar plant which is native to the levant (dried for the mix), sumac, sesame seeds and salt. Some zaatar you’ll find will have dried oregano and/or thyme. The best place to buy it is from a local middle eastern store. If the store doesn’t have their own mix, they’ll likely have the Ziyad brand. 

Every zaatar mix is different but imo, it should have the wild zaatar herb in it for it to taste real. Making your own mix won’t work for this recipe (if you put aside that it won’t taste as good as the real thing, consider how much dried herbs you’d need to make it!). 

Salt: Fine sea salt. Zaatar can vary in the level of saltiness so if yours is well salted maybe reduce the added salt to the dough by about ¼ tsp. If yours isn’t salty at all, add 1 ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt. 

Brown sugar: For that ‘authentic’ bagel taste you’d use non-diastatic malt powder or barley malt syrup. I never have either (and am not a huge fan of ingredients I only get one use for!) so I use brown sugar. It works great here, adding a touch of molasses to the very slightly sweet taste. 

Egg white: This is to brush over the bagels to help them turn golden, but more so to help the layer of zaatar stay on the bagel! (as much as it can, that is, they’re still going to make a mess). 


How to shape homemade bagels 


  1. Separate dough: If you want to make them perfectly even, weigh the dough then separate it into eight parts. They’ll each weigh around 120g. 
  2. Roll into balls: Start doing this between your palms to create a shapeless ball, then set it on the counter and press the dough down with your palm and roll tightly. The tension and pressure helps smooth out the dough and pinch together the seams. 
  3. Poke holes: Do this after all the bits of dough have been rolled into balls. To start, stick your index finger through the center of the dough to poke the hole and then stick your other index finger in and make circles with them around each other to make a wide, loose hole. The bagel holes tend to close if the circle isn’t wide enough (sometimes even when you think it is, see my photos lol) so don’t be afraid to make it pretty big and loose. 


The Water Bath 

Once the bagels are done with their second rise (about an hour after you’ve shaped them) bring a large pot of water to boil. The brown sugar goes in too and once it’s at a rolling boil, have a spider strainer nearby and lower 3 bagels at a time into the water. Give them about 1.5-2 minutes on each side, turning so each side is submerged when it’s boiling. The longer the boil the more crispy the bagels get, but you never want to overdo it. 


Topping Zaatar Bagels 

The egg wash is pretty simple: only the white part and just use a pastry brush to cover the tops of the boiled bagels. Then, rather than sprinkle the zaatar on, we’re going to dip the bagels in face down to get enough the zaatar to adhere to the top so it coats it properly. 

Once you’ve boiled all the bagels, then you can begin coating. They’ll be too hot if you try doing it while the bagels are baking (plus you need to be watching those boiling bagels!). 


Sourdough Zaatar Bagels

If you are a sourdough baker and want to turn this recipe into a naturally yeasted bagel, I’m happy to report you can do so by using the following ingredients:

  • 500g bread flour 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt 
  • 100g sourdough starter, fed 
  • 300g cool water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 3 tablespoons zaatar

You’ll add those into the bowl and knead the dough until it’s smooth, about 5-7 minutes. And proceed with the recipe as directed.


Storing homemade bagels for eating later 

If you’re not eating them all the day they come out of the oven, stick them in a gallon ziplock bag and in the freezer. This will keep the texture softer and the taste fresh. When you’d like to eat one, thaw it then toast.


Zaatar Bagels

Perfect homemade bagels (overnight recipe) coated in herby zaatar.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Rest Time: 12 hours
Yields: 8 bagels


Zaatar Bagel Dough

  • 550 g bread flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 320 g cool water about 65 F
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons zaatar


  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 egg white to brush on top
  • cup zaatar to dip


The night before: make the dough & do a first rise

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast with the water and maple syrup or brown sugar.
  • Add the flour on top, then the salt and the zaatar. Attach the dough hook and begin kneading on low, working up to medium speed.
  • Knead the dough until it comes together in a ball, cleaning the bowl of the mixer.
  • Set the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 12 hours, in a cool place on the counter (my kitchen runs about 65 F at night - if yours is warmer, aim for about 8-10 hours instead).

In the morning: shape, rise and bake

  • Have a baking sheet lined with parchment paper ready.
  • On a floured surface, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each dough piece into a ball, pressing it into the counter as you roll it to smooth it over and create tension.
  • Once you have rolled them all out, use your thumb to poke a hole in the center then use your two index fingers to twist the hole around and around to make the donut shape. Set on the parchment paper (arrange them on the pan so you have 2, 1, 2, 1 and 2 bagels).
  • Let them rise on the counter for another hour, until puffy.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  • Bring a pot of water and the brown sugar to boil. Have a spider spoon or a spatula nearby.
  • Lower the bagels into the pot and boil only 2-3 at a time, for about 3 minutes per bagel. Use the spider spoon to set the bagels back on the pan after they boil.
  • (I transfer mine to a new sheet of parchment at this point as the current one will be wet from the post-boil bagels).
  • Brush the bagels with the egg white, then dip them in the zaatar, face down. It’s best to do this two at a time so the egg white doesn’t dry before the zaatar can stick to it.
  • Bake the bagels for 18 minutes, until golden on top and bottom. They won’t spread much, but they’ll puff in their oven rise.

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