I Tried All the Bagels I Could Find at My Local Grocery Stores — These Were My 2 Favorites

updated Mar 5, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

New Yorkers are very proud of their bagels. As a transplant to the city, I am also proud! The first time I ate a bagel in New York — from the bagel shop across the street from my apartment — it was the best bagel I had ever had. 

However, not everyone lives in New York. And even if you do, sometimes you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home to enjoy a bagel on a Saturday morning. Still, everyone deserves to eat a bagel when they want to eat a bagel, and it should be a good bagel.

So I rounded up all the grocery-store bagels I could find and put them to the test. Here’s how it went.

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

How I Chose the Bagels

I bought every bag of plain bagels I could find, which meant I (safely) went to five different grocery stores in Brooklyn. I also threw in a few bags of everything bagels, but only if I also had plain bagels from the same brand. I skipped any and all cinnamon raisin bagels because, well, I didn’t want to eat them. (Don’t @ me.)

How I Tested the Bagels

I tried every bagel three different ways: right out of the bag, lightly toasted, and lightly toasted with schmear (aka, a swipe of cream cheese). While I personally wouldn’t just eat a bagel plain, right out of the bag, I’m sure some people do and it was a good way to really taste the flavor of each one. I also recruited my boyfriend to help me because a second opinion is always a good thing.

While tasting, I cared most about texture — ideally I wanted a doughy bagel that still had a slightly crispy outside when toasted — and flavor. Most of the bagels I tried had a slightly less-dense-than-ideal, but still fine texture, but the flavor of a few really threw me: Some were super bland, while one in particular was so sweet, it overpowered the cream cheese.

Finally, because one of the draws of store-bought bagels is that you can have bagels on-hand all the time, I tested for longevity: I tried all the bagels a week after the taste test to see which ones were still edible. This was the category that all most all of the bagels surprisingly performed well in. I kept all the bags in my refrigerator and all but one kept its taste and texture. 

Without further ado, these were my two favorites.

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

Best Overall: Thomas’ Plain Bagels

Thomas’ Plain Bagels are the Goldilocks of bagels. They’re chewy, but not too chewy; slightly doughy, but not too dense; crispy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. You feel like you’re getting a good amount of bagel, yet they’re still thin enough that, if you used one for a bagel sandwich, you could actually take a bite out of it without having to unhinge your jaw. Would you be able to tell the difference between these bagels and fresh bagels from a Brooklyn bakery? Well, yes. But they’re delicious in their own right, last for at least a week, are available almost everywhere, and hit the spot every time. 

Buy: Thomas’ Plain Bagels, $3.29 for six at Target

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

Runner-Up: Trader Joe’s Artisan Bagels

These delicious Trader Joe’s Artisan Bagels are the runner-up for a couple reasons. For one, I haven’t seen them in every Trader Joe’s. Also, after two days, they were well on their way to being rock hard. But besides that, these bagels were great. They were the doughiest of all the bagels I tried, but crisped up nicely on the edges, had “a slight pretzel taste” according to my boyfriend.

Find: Trader Joe’s Artisan Bagels, $1.99 for three bagels

Do you have a go-to brand of grocery store bagels? Discuss in the comments below!