Bialy, the underappreciated cousin to the bagel

by Irvin on August 25, 2014 · 31 comments

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It’s time for the bialy, the cousin to the bagel, to rise and get some of the glory. This easy bialy recipe will impress even your jaded New York friends!

Bialy, a recipe for the underappreciated sibling of the bagel. Photo and recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

True confession time, I’ve never had a bialy before making this recipe. The underappreciated sibling to the ubiquitious bagel, I was unaware of it’s existence until I came across an article on Bon Appetit’s site praising it as the new King of Carbs in their article on Restaurant trends of 2014. I’m not one to jump on trends but once I started digging into what they were, I was sold. I needed to get ahold of one, or better yet make one myself. Turns out they’re easier to make than bagels because you don’t need to boil them ahead of time, and when filled with onions and seeds, just as good (if not slightly better, depending on your point of view). So it look like my bialy recipe is now going to be in regular rotation here in our home! (Jump directly to the recipe.)

Bialys, not a bagel but something better. Photo and recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

If you never had a bialy, or aren’t familiar with them, most bialys look and are described as a bagel but without the familiar hole in the middle, instead a depression filled with onions. Of course hardcore bialy fans will disagree and say they are nothing like the bagel, which are boiled and have a shiny crust and dense crumb. My friend Pat claims that as a purist the bialy only has onions and nothing else, but all the recipes I found online, also had poppy seeds and a few sesame seeds as well. I’m a maximalist when it comes to food so I made sure to load mine up with lots of onions, sesame seeds and poppy seeds as well as a generous sprinkling of salt. I may or may not have added a dash of ground black pepper – but don’t tell anyone, as that’s OBVIOUSLY stepping over the line there.

Bialy recipe. Photo by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

Once my partner AJ Instagrammed & Facebooked the resulting bialys, our friends seemed to approve. My brother-in-law specifically stated “they look pretty good” which is high praise coming from a native New Yorker. Pat quibbled about the seeds but otherwise was jealous of them. And David, author of the soon-to-be published book The Culture of Tough Jews exclaimed that he loved them! Well actually he wrote that he loved bialys but I’m going to go with it and say he loved mine. Excuse me while I go have another…

If you like this bialy recipe, check out some of these other classic Jewish delicatessen recipes from around the web:
The Sophisticated Gourmet’s New York Style Bagels
5 Second Rule’s Noodle Kugel
Turntable Kitchen’s Matzo Ball Soup
Texanerin Baking’s Whole Grain Chocolate Babka Recipe
Tori Avey (The Shiksa in the Kitchen)’s Buttery Hamantaschen
What Jew Wanna Eat’s Challah

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking August 25, 2014 at 6:03 am

I will definitely be showing the Bialy some love! It actually sounds even easier to make than a bagel. I love your trick with the baking pan for getting a chewy crust! I’m sold! Now where to find a brick…


Irvin August 26, 2014 at 12:28 pm

You can use a cast iron skillet or another heavy oven proof pan if you want! I just used a brick because I had one in the kitchen (and it’s kind of cool looking to use). Basically you just need something to weight down the pan so the moisture gets trapped in it…


Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking August 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Duh! I use my cast iron skillet instead of a brick to press down grilled chicken, why not a pan in the oven!? Thanks!


Kelly @ Trial and Eater August 25, 2014 at 11:31 am

I’ve never tried a bialy either, thank you for sharing! If it’s easier to make than a bagel, I’m totally on board!


claudia harris August 25, 2014 at 11:38 am

As a kid in Chicago, Kauffman’s Bagel Bakery, right behind the Catholic church, was always packed on sunday mornings. Fasting before communion in those days, occasionally we splurged on a treat after mass. My pick was always the onion bialy–with poppy seeds!


Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat August 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Irvin, as an East Coaster and I Jew, I have to say these look great! I’ve got a bialy recipe going up on my blog in the next few weeks. I topped mine with cream cheese and lox of course!


Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar August 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Under appreciated indeed! These look amazing!


Ariel August 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

They have pretty good bialys at beauty’s bagels in Oakland. (They are the bagels that are supplied to wise sons deli)


Holly August 26, 2014 at 3:24 am

I am so glad that you are a maximalist. That’s why I love your recipes so much! And thank you for introducing me to the bialy.


Marisa Franca @ All Our Way August 26, 2014 at 3:55 am

Au contraire mon ami!! Nothing could beat a bagel for breakfast — we love the chew and the tough crumb. BUT!! we’ve never made a homemade bialy. We had one from a bagel store in Venice Florida and it was nothing to brag about. SO! I am printing out your recipe and we’ll be taking the challenge to see what we like better. The think is we have natural peanut butter with our bagel — I can’t see us putting peanut butter on a bialy first thing in the morning. I better so rinse off the garden snails off the brick I’m going to use 🙂


Irvin August 26, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good bagel for breakfast. Smeared with cream cheese and a little jam, it’s awesome. But the bialy is nice changed of pace. It’s pretty chewy as well, with the use of the bread flour, so don’t worry about not having your jaw ache. It’ll give you a good work out too!


Christine at Cook the Story August 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

Relative of the bagel or not, I just think these look downright delicious!


Patricia Shea August 26, 2014 at 7:58 am

I love bialy’s – thanks so much for the recipe and brick trick – I’ll be making them soon!


Scott_D August 26, 2014 at 9:16 am

Every trip to NYC it seems it’s harder and harder to find bialys. My last trip I never did find a good one. So, I’ve been collecting recipes. Still haven’t made them, but I’ll get around to it. It’s good to see this post, might prompt me to get it done.


Jennifer August 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I really love bagels for their chewiness. However, I do have a partial bag of white whole wheat flour I’d like to use up.


Irvin August 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm

These are pretty chewy as well. Just not as dense as a bagel. The bread flour really gives is a chew factor though! Feel free to come back and let me know what you think if you do make them!


Miss Kim @ behgopa August 29, 2014 at 1:04 am

I love bagels, but I seem to eat them like maybe twice a year. I don’t know why. These look tempting. Do you like to use any dipping sauce/spread for this? I want to try this recipe! But what if I don’t really want onions? It may be a standard item for this, but hmm…I wonder what would be a good substitute.


Carla August 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Never heard of a bialy until this post, but anything with onions like this is a must-make in my book.


Arthur in the Garden! August 30, 2014 at 11:55 am

Yummy! I have always wanted to make these but was a afraid I would be come an addict~


Nutmeg Nanny September 1, 2014 at 6:20 am

Yes! It’s about time someone give some love to the bialy. It’s sorta weird the first time you see one – is it a bagel? Is it a roll? Is it a bagel pretending to be a roll because it’s confused about what it wants to be when it grows up? This recipe looks fantastic and I’m pumped to give it a try. Lord knows I need a reason to get some carby goodness in my house 🙂


Shikha Kaiwar September 3, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I had DEF never heard about this til I read your post, and honestly, having a bread without a hole in the middle means more bread and I AM DOWN FOR THAT.


Ken November 13, 2014 at 9:01 pm
Margi January 13, 2015 at 2:13 pm

This is the 2nd recipe today for these. I have questions as I have never eaten a Bialy but love breads. Are these soft, are they tough and chewy like a bagel do you cut them in half as someone said then what about the filling. They look wonderful but I am not a lover of bagels. Thanks for any answers you can give me. I have talked to at least 5 friends today both in my area and out and not one of us have heard of this but we are all interested.


Irvin January 18, 2015 at 5:15 pm

I’d say they are somewhere in between a bagel and a bread roll. Not quite as chewy and tough as a bagel (your jaw won’t ache like after you eat a bagel) but not quite as soft and fluffy as a bread roll.

I usually eat them just as they are, but my partner does slice them lengthwise and makes them into sandwiches sometimes. They are kind of thin though so keep that in mind…


Laura January 27, 2015 at 10:00 pm

I made these today. The taste just like real bialys! I have always loved bialys way more than bagels. The best ones are onion. I can’t believe these are so good, thanks for sharing.


lyn August 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Happy to tell you that you can find wonderful bialy in Berkeley at the Cheese Board off University–call first as they make different goodies seemingly at whim everyday, each treat more wonderful than the last. We used to go every Saturday morning but my car died so that’s why I needed your recipe. Thank you and akin to Tartain, I know you’ll love the Cheese Board. Lyn


elias altenberg January 5, 2016 at 3:49 am

Good recipe, I noticed some people were questioning the brick. Could use something like this Norpro Ceramic Pie Bird, or another type of oven proof ceramic weight. I have a series of weights in my kitchen for weighing down meat and fish in brines and marinades as well as some for baking projects like this on. PS I don’t own the bird it was the just one of the searches that came up on amazon.


Cuppie January 20, 2016 at 3:03 am

I love a Mote Bialy. They are very small tasty treat. I sneak a few in my lunch box each day to take to work.


Anna January 20, 2016 at 3:32 am

I find that if you have my Bialy motor-boated, or nuzzled aggressively, while curing that it lends itself to a much firmer dough.


Carol Maendel November 23, 2016 at 6:38 am

Hello and thank you for this recipe! I recently watched a cooking show I love and was intrigued by the bialy. I have never had one before and intend to make this recipe. I have a question, though. I know this is intended to be a savory treat, but would it be possible to do a sweet filling instead of the onions?


janice laforest February 25, 2017 at 7:36 am

oh My I have never had a bialy before and I ate one for the first time and I love them and I am going to make them today , I make homemade bread all the time but I am hooked on these . love love them..


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