Why Grocery Store Bagels Taste So Different From Fresh

Bagels are a supreme food, and we stand by that bold statement. They're deliciously bready and, ideally, a little chewy (hello, freshly made and perfected dough). Swipe some melty butter over them or add your favorite flavor of cream cheese, salmon, or lox, and you can rest easy knowing the rest of your day will be a good one.

East Coasters (specifically, New Englanders) know all too well the delights of "real" bagels, all made fresh daily in a swirling combination of perfect taste and texture. But we'd all be lying if we said we've never had store-bought bagels. Sometimes, that's just what's available. But there's definitely a huge difference. Comparing fresh, homemade bagels to store-bought brands to find the best ones is a popular topic in the food world.

Not to say all store-bought bagels are bad. Even MyRecipes ranked their top 10 picks found at local grocers. But if you're used to the artisanal quality of freshly-baked New York bagels, you can definitely tell there's something different between those and the neatly-packaged ones in the bread aisle. Why is that?

The real difference between store-bought bagels and fresh ones

In a Reddit thread titled "r/Bagels," which, yes, we're now closely following, one user surprised the Internet with an interesting tidbit about bagels we weren't expecting. "Bagels made in a shop will typically be boiled," wrote Reddit user cptnobvious919. "That is what gives a bagel its distinct chewiness and flavor. They're made that day and fresh for that reason. A store-bought one was made in a factory somewhere, and [there's] a very good chance it was not boiled."

Boiled?! Cue us picking our jaws up from the floor, though it does make sense. According to The Kitchn, boiled bagels have a more dense, chewy crust, with high-protein flour giving them their doughy goodness.

Essentially, many store-bought bagel brands do not boil their bagels, which is why they have a noticeably different taste and texture. Basically, it's bread being a bagel imposter. We feel a little...betrayed.

Luckily, there are some pretty decent store-bought bagel brands out there. And The Kitchn took all the guesswork out of finding good bagels at the supermarket, taste-testing their favorites, and giving bagel lovers the lowdown on why Thomas' Plain Bagels and Trader Joe's Artisan Bagels topped their list. So the important takeaway here is that there's always hope of finding passable bagels in the bread aisle or freezer section of your local market if there's not a bagel shop near you to buy them fresh.