Where Are Bagels From?

A row of fresh bagels.
A row of fresh bagels.

Bagels are some of the most popular bread products around the world with large numbers of people consuming them annually. Bagels have a generally round shape with a hole at the center and sometimes have a crisp outer surface. The formation of bagels usually involves creating the shape manually using wheat dough and yeast and then baking. Although bagels are today enjoyed all over the world, their origins can be traced back to the culinary traditions of Ashkenazi Jews, particularly those who were living in Poland.

History of the Bagel

The exact origins of the bagel are unknown. However, historians have discovered that the food was popular among Ashkenazi Jews. The word bagel has its roots in the Yiddish language from the word "beygal" that refers to objects with a ring shape. The Jewish communities living in Poland during the 16th and 17th centuries helped in popularizing the bagel until it was a common feature of Polish meals. Bagels gained popularity in other nations such as the UK due to their distinctive flavor. One of the regions that bagels have been sold for the longest time in England is the Brick Lane district where merchants have sold them since the 19th century. The popularity of bagels in the US can be traced back to Jewish immigrants who moved from Poland and established one of the most successful businesses in New York. The spread of bagels in North America was primarily due to automation which increased the number of bagels that could be produced at a given time. Bagels are also popular in Asian nations such as Japan, with variants such as the green tea bagel popular in the Japanese market.

Bagel Varieties 

Bagels, particularly in the US, have different types that can be easily distinguished from each other. The bagel varieties are identified by the methods of preparation which cause them to have a different appearance, texture, and flavor. Two of the most common types are the Montreal-style bagel and the New York bagel. Despite being larger, the New York bagel is not as sweet as the Montreal-style bagel as the latter utilizes honey-sweetened water in its preparation. A large number of New York residents believe that the bagels prepared in the New York style are the best because of the high-quality local water used in the preparation. Several bagel experts, however, call this belief into question.

Bagel Consumption in the US 

A staggering 61% of Americans eat a bagel twice a week at minimum. Within the borders of the US, the highest quantity of bagels is consumed in the city of New York with the Great Lakes region also having significant bagel consumption. The most significant number of bagels is consumed for breakfast with most of the people who eat them preferring them as their primary dish. Despite the falling consumption of bread products, the sale of bagels continues to rise substantially. 


More in World Facts