Meet the Bialy: The Nearly Forgotten Cousin of the Bagel

Never heard of a bialy? Get ready to meet the bagel's (more) delicious competitor. Here's our favorite bialy recipe.

The bialy is a semi-flat savory roll with a history. Like these other Polish recipes, it originated in Poland—probably in the town of Bialystok—and is considered a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food. Polish immigrants brought the bialy to the United States in the late 1800s, and the roll became a Jewish bakery mainstay in the northeastern United States.

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Today, baking bialys is a dying art form, with fewer and fewer bakers making them. But never fear! We’re sharing our recipe for authentic bialys so you can make them at home.

freshly baked bialy filled with caramelized onions and poppyseedsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

How are bialys different from bagels?

Bialys look and taste similar to bagels. Both have strong roots in New York City, where a lot of people say they taste the best. Where they differ is that bialys don’t have a hole. Instead, they have a deep well or dimple that is traditionally filled with sauteed onions and poppy seeds. Another key difference is that bialys are not boiled prior to baking. While they still have a chewy exterior, bialys lack the sheen that you commonly see on bagels.

How to Make Bialys

This bialy recipe makes a dozen.


For the Dough

  • 800 grams bread flour (approximately 6-1/2 cups)
  • 500 ml warm water (105-110 °F)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) sugar
  • 3 teaspoons (15 grams) salt

For the Onion-Poppy Seed Filling

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon poppy seeds, plus additional for sprinkling
  • Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Editor’s Tip: This is how to weigh your ingredients for baking.


Step 1: Mix the dough

In a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar and water. Proof the yeast mixture for 5 minutes, then add the flour and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on your mixer’s lowest setting until just combined; it should take 1 to 2 minutes.

On your mixer’s second speed, continue to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic but also dense and firm to the touch.

Bialy dough in a bowl after the first riseLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Step 2: Let it rise overnight

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise overnight in the fridge. Proofing dough in a cool environment, like your refrigerator, slows down the fermentation process and really helps develop the flavor of the dough.

Step 3: Divide and proof again

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 12 equal pieces. For best results, use a food scale to weigh the dough. Each piece of dough should weigh close to 4 ounces. Shape each into a smooth ball.

bialy dough ready for a second proofingLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Once divided, transfer the balls to an oiled baking sheet. Dust the tops lightly with flour and then cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature (or in your oven if it has a proofing setting) for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, is soft and puffy and keeps an impression when gently pressed in the center.

sauteed onions and poppyseeds for fillingLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Step 4: Make the filling

While the dough rises, make your filling.

In a small saute pan, warm the oil and then add the diced onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes to caramelize the onions. You can cook them longer for a more intense flavor or less if you want a more mild onion flavor. Remove from heat, stir in the poppy seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Editor’s Tip: Head to the end of the article for directions on how to make nontraditional, but equally delicious, Cinnamon-Apple and Spinach-Artichoke fillings.

bialy dough formed after second rise and ready for fillingLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Step 5: Form the bialys

To shape the dough, make a small depression in the center of each dough ball with your finger. Expand the well by gently stretching the dough, working from the center toward the edges. The depressions will puff back up slightly while they bake, so make the well a bit more pronounced than you want it to end up; about 2-3 inches in diameter.

In terms of depth, the dough at the bottom of the depression should be relatively thin; about 1/4-inch thick. The bialy itself should be about 4-5 inches in diameter.

bialy dough formed, filled with onions and ready to bakeLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Step 6: Fill the bialys

Fill each formed bialy with about 1/2 tablespoon of the filling mixture and sprinkle lightly with additional poppy seeds.

fresh baked bialys filled with caramelized onions and poppyseedsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Step 7: Bake

With a Baking Stone:

Place a pizza stone in your oven’s center rack. Then, preheat oven to 475°F. When preheated, carefully transfer the filled bialys to the pizza stone using a parchment-lined pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the bialys are lightly brown. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Under a 13×9 Pan:

Preheat oven to 500°F. Prior to baking, shift the filled bialys close to the center of the baking sheet. Then, place a 13×9 pan upside down over the bialys. Transfer to an oven with the rack in the center position, then place a brick or cast-iron pan on top of the sheet pan to weigh it down. Bake covered for 5-8 minutes, then uncover and return to the oven to bake for an additional 5-8 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: This baking method traps the steam from the dough inside the pan. It helps to develop an extra chewy crust on the bialys. This is the same science that gives Dutch oven bread its crusty, chewy exterior.

How to Eat a Bialy

Now that you have a dozen hot, fresh bialys at your disposal, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to eat them. Traditionally, bialys are best served warm from the oven with just a bit of butter spread on top so it pools in the onion-filled hole. (Are you drooling yet?)

Today, bialys are served up just like a bagel. Slice them and smear cream cheese or jam over their craggy surface or fill with your favorite lox, smoked fish or other vegetables.

FAQs About Baking Bialys

Do I have to let the dough proof overnight?

No. It is possible to make bialys in one day. We just like the flavor the slow fermentation gives the final product, so that’s the process we recommend. If you’re looking to speed things up, after mixing the dough, transfer it to an oiled bowl, cover and then let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Then proceed with the recipe above.

baked bialy cut in half to show textureLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour?

On our quest for the best bialys, we saw a number of recipes using all-purpose flour floating around. In testing, we found that you get the best and truest bialy texture by using flour with higher protein content, like bread flour or flours labeled “high-protein” or “high-gluten.”

What other fillings can I put in bialys?

While caramelized onions with (or without) poppy seeds are classic, don’t be afraid to get creative with your bialy fillings. Here are two great ideas to get you started.

Spinach-Artichoke Filling

  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup marinated artichokes, drained and diced
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese
  • Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a small saute pan, warm the oil and then add the diced onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes until the onions soften. Add the spinach and artichokes and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Reduce heat to low and add the cream cheese and milk. Stir until the cream cheese melts and coats the vegetables. Remove from heat, fold in the Asiago and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cinnamon-Apple Filling

  • 1 small apple, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange zest

In a small saute pan, melt the butter and then add the diced apples. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes until the apples soften. Add the brown sugar, orange zest and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Want to see how these bialys stack up to bagels? Follow this how-to for making homemade bagels next!

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.