I've been trying to top my homemade bagels with poppy seeds but haven't had much luck getting them to stick.

The instructions I've found says to boil the bagels first, then sprinkle seeds on top after boiling (before baking). The problem is that almost all of the seeds just fall right off, and the ones that do manage to stay on in the oven are not well attached and come off later (e.g. while cutting the bagel).

I've tried putting some poppy seeds on a plate and rolling the boiled bagel around, but it doesn't really seem to be much better. Plus, handling the bagel too much before baking causes it to deflate.

I've used a few recipes to make the bagels, some call for adding baking soda to the water and some call for malt extract powder.

Anyone have any advice? Some bagel shops manage to get poppy seeds absolutely covering the bagel, so there must be some trick...

  • There should be a point after the boiling and before the baking that the bagels get sticky. Are you not seeing that? What are you adding to the water?
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 22, 2014 at 18:01
  • @Jolenealaska: I guess I would call the bagels soft after boiling, but not that sticky. Even gently pressing the seeds into the bagel does not get them to stay. I added info to the question about water additions.
    – Hank
    Apr 22, 2014 at 21:12
  • You might try adding sugar to the water. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/39895/… That might make the bagels stickier. So far, I haven't tried the sugar, but I don't see why you couldn't add it to the water along with baking soda. I don't know about malt extract powder, I've never used it. There should come a point, after the water has mostly dried that the bagels feel tacky.
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 22, 2014 at 21:48
  • Are you adding anything to the water you boil the bagels in? We use lye instead of baking soda in the boiling water and it makes the bagels perfectly sticky. Apr 24, 2014 at 4:19

3 Answers 3


After boiling, drain the bagels and then press the top of the bagel firmly into a dish containing the seed of your choice. Too much water still on the surface of the bagel and they won't adhere properly. This is how they did it at a bagel shop I worked at, and here's a corroborating video:



You might try 2 things:

  • add sugar to the water (as per @jolenealaska's suggestion)
  • after boiling, brush the bagels with a little beaten egg white before sprinkling on the toppings. Not traditional, but it works.

In response to your query. It is a very simple concept. The minute you are done boiling your bagel and remove it on a tray, all you need to make sure is that you sprinkle your seeds onto the bagel within a minute it comes out of the water. Basically before the bagel dries out. The seeds will stick to the bagel even post baking. Hope this helps :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.