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14 Store-Bought Bagel Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

14 bagel packages on table
14 bagel packages on table - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

Bagels are the apex of the bread world. They're practically a food group for folks who live in New York City, where great bagels seem to be a dime a dozen. But if you aren't fortunate to live in the five boroughs or near one of the best bagel shops in your state, you will be relegated to selecting a brand from your local grocery store's bakery, bread, or freezer section.

Living in an area devoid of good bagels, I often have to rely on a store-bought brand to satisfy my cravings. I examined some of the most popular brands available in local stores, including Walmart, Stop & Shop, and Aldi, to help you choose the bagel brand that will give you the most authentic New York-style bagel experience. My version of the perfect bagel has a deep sheen that convinces me it was boiled rather than just baked, along with a chewy, elastic texture that clearly distinguishes it as a bagel rather than just a big piece of bread with a hole in it. I then ranked these bagels from worst to best to decide which ones were worthy of your shopping cart.

Read more: 23 Whole Foods Baked Goods, Ranked

14. O'Doughs Thins Gluten Free Bagels

O'Doughs bagel with package
O'Doughs bagel with package - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

We have heard good things about O'Doughs gluten-free bagels, so we were initially excited to try them. This was the only bagel thin we sampled because it's the only type of bagel the company makes. Initially, when we opened the bag (which was partially frozen but still in the non-refrigerated bakery section of our store), we were impressed to see how moist and spongy it was -- but it wasn't a texture we associated with bagels. It was more like a yellow sponge cake -- both in color and texture. We were also a bit weirded-out that the bottom of the product was completely soft and sheen -- almost like it had been polished with a sander.

When we first bit into this bagel, we audibly said, "Oh, well, this doesn't taste gluten-free." But within the first few seconds it spent sitting on our tongue we quickly realized that it had the same mushy quality as other gluten-free bread products we've tried in the past. It became a mushy ball in our mouths before we even started to chew it.

This was the least bagel-like product we sampled, and we would rather see it covered in icing and called a cake. Gluten-free folks should have access to quality bagels, but just not this one.

13. Udi's Gluten Free Bagels

Udi's gluten free bagel package
Udi's gluten free bagel package - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

After our initial run-in with O'Doughs, we were not excited to try another gluten-free bagel. When we pulled the Udi's gluten-free bagel out of its bag, we immediately noticed that it resembled a slice of wheat bread that had been left out the night before. It looked porous and spongy -- the opposite of what we would have wanted from a boiled bagel with a very clear sheen. Since this was a frozen bagel, we nuked it in the microwave for a minute. Within about 20 seconds of it sitting on our countertop, we noticed the consistency of the bagel became immediately dry and stale.

The flavor on this bagel was certainly off — both with and without cream cheese. The bagel had an unappetizing chew that was not akin to a bagel in any capacity, and flecks of the bagel went to the back of our molars immediately. Another thing that annoyed us about these bagels was that they weren't all cut down the center, which made them difficult to pull apart.

If we're competing in a race between Udi's and O'Doughs, Udi's takes the cake -- unequivocally. But there's no mistaking this bready, gluten-free bagel for one of the tastier and more true-to-definition options.

12. Dave's Killer Bread Bagels

Dave's Killer Bread Bagels in bag
Dave's Killer Bread Bagels in bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

Dave's Killer Bread was the only bagel we sampled made from organic, whole grains, which gives it the appearance of a wheat bagel rather than just a plain one. When we took a deep whiff inside the bag, we noticed that the aroma was tangy, almost bordering on sourdough territory. Once we opened the bagel halves, we detected more complex rye notes. This is great for bread but not necessarily great for a bagel.

When we ate a piece of this bagel sans cream cheese, we felt that we were just eating a big piece of mealy wheat bread. There was no bagel-like chew, nor was there a distinct pull. In fact, if you had given us a piece and asked us what kind of bread product it was, we would probably say dinner roll over a bagel.

We really wanted to like Dave's Killer Bread. It has a great mission as a "second chance employer" that hires folks with prior criminal convictions. And honestly, its 21 Whole Grains and Seeds sandwich bread is one of our favorite healthy breads you can buy at the grocery store. But the brand needs to go back to the drawing board if it wants to have a shot at the race for the best store-bought bagel.

11. Thomas' Bagels

Thomas bagels in bag
Thomas bagels in bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

Thomas' Bagels has the biggest store presence of all the bagels we sampled. We were shocked to see the nearly floor-to-ceiling display at our local Walmart covered with every variety of Thomas bagels possible -- from onion to blueberry to cinnamon raisin. Even the endcaps featured piles of these bagels on top of one another.

Maybe one of the reasons our Walmart had so many Thomas' products to choose from was because the store couldn't give them away fast enough. Our memories of eating these stale, boring bagels flooded back to us the second we took a bite. We couldn't say that this bagel tasted like anything besides wheat. Plus, although the outside of the bagel is spongy, there is no contrast between the consistency of the crust and the inside of the bagel. Finally, this bagel is so tall that you would have to unhinge your jaw to eat it with a bacon, egg, and cheese filling.

The only pro of this bagel was that it was round -- like a true bagel should be -- and it wasn't as mealy as our lower-ranked brands. We're sorry the bar is just that low.

10. David's Deli Bagels

David's Deli bagels with bag
David's Deli bagels with bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

The David's Deli bagels were the first brand we sampled. Thanks to the clear perforations on the side of each bagel, they were relatively easy to split. We also noticed that these bagels were much smaller in size than other bagels we sampled.

Our main issue with this bagel was that it tasted like a sad, confused English muffin. It was dry and more muffin-like than bread-like. We thought that assertion was especially true when we saw the cornmeal on the bottom of the bagel coming off as we took it out of the bag. A swipe of cream cheese helped improve the consistency of the bagel a little bit -- but only to distract from the blandness of the bagel underneath. On the looks and taste of it alone, we highly doubt these bagels were boiled, nor were they a proud offering of the brand.

9. L'Oven Fresh Bagels

L'Oven Fresh Bagels with bag
L'Oven Fresh Bagels with bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

We give L'Oven Fresh from Aldi some credit. It was one of the cheapest bagels we sampled, and we've had good experiences with this brand overall. In fact, we had a bag of blueberry L'Oven Fresh bagels in our freezer because we greatly appreciate the brand's price and consistency.

So, we were a bit surprised that these bagels were much doughier and thicker than the relatively dainty blueberry L'Oven Fresh bagel we know and love. The consistency was a whole lot of bread and a little chew, but not enough to confuse it with a fresh New York-style bagel. We appreciate that these bagels are also relatively small compared to the monstrosities from other brands we sampled. The shine of these bagels makes us think that they could pass as being boiled, but the lack of chew and overwhelming breadiness makes us want to leave this bag on the shelf next time we're shopping.

8. Einstein Bros. Bagels

Einstein Bros. Bagel bag
Einstein Bros. Bagel bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

We don't live near an Einstein Bros. bagel franchise, so it was exciting to try one of these bagels at home. When we opened the bag, we immediately noticed how bulbous these bagels were. Plus, the bagels aren't sold pre-sliced, which compounds the difficulty of cutting these oddly-shaped balls of bread.

We were really disappointed in this brand. There was no shatter on the crust, and each bite was just bread after bread. These bagels also didn't have the same level of chew as the company's close rival in this race, Panera. The only good thing we found about these bagels was their color, which takes on a light golden luster. Overall, if you want a decent bagel, you should go to an Einstein Bros. store in person and buy one rather than pick up a bag of these bagels at your local grocery store.

7. Pepperidge Farm Bagels

Pepperidge Farm Bagels with bag
Pepperidge Farm Bagels with bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

These Pepperidge Farm bagels were remarkably easy to split in half and had a boiled coating that was about the same color and consistency as our other top-ranking bagel brands. The pull was slightly better than our lower-ranking bagels, which further cemented Pepperidge Farm's spot in the middle of our rankings. However, we thought the inside was drier than the Panera Bread bagels, and it was very apparent that these bagels lacked any complex flavor. They were just dry and carby and didn't do much for our tastebuds.

When we moved to the next stage, the cream cheese test, we noticed that these bagels had an average taste. Considering that Pepperidge Farm bagels were some of our more expensive options, we would have liked a better chew and deeper, maltier flavor. The best part about these bagels was their size and puff, which would make for an easy-to-eat and Instagram-friendly breakfast sandwich.

6. Panera Bread Bagels

Panera bagel with bag
Panera bagel with bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

When we saw these bagels, we first thought that they resembled the ones we remember having at the brand's café when we were younger. The bagels had a distinct shine, and we were excited to sample one since we had only been working with bland bagels thus far in our taste test.

We would confidently assume that Panera bagels were boiled based on color and sheen alone. The outside of the bagel had a slight chew and a solid bite — almost like it had been enriched with something to give it a brioche quality. However, we didn't see any milk or eggs listed on the label that would substantiate this claim.

Overall, the flavors of this bagel weren't bad. The chew factor wasn't the New York level we looked for in this review, so we were obviously disappointed. The brand carries a lot of weight because of how popular (and may we say, decent, in the world of fast-casual bagels) its in-store offerings are. If you buy a bag expecting the Panera café experience, you'll be sadly mistaken.

5. Lender's Bagels

Lender's bagels in bag
Lender's bagels in bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

If there's one thing we remember about Lender's from our childhood, it's that something about the bagels just tasted off.

Upon first glance, we noticed that the texture of these frozen bagels was rather doughy — like the bagel was underbaked — rather than bready and overbaked like our lower-ranked brands. This quality gave the Lender's bagels a very toothsome pull and unprecedented chew -- which was great. It wasn't like the chew of a good New York bagel, though. In fact, we decided that eating one of these bagels was an intensive jaw workout in itself, so we were done after a few bites. The pull and elasticity of this bagel put it in the same class as our top bagel options, but there was no way it would take a top spot.

If you're looking for a big bagel to put your breakfast sandwich on, this isn't one of them. These bagels are quite petite compared to Thomas' and Walmart's Marketside bagels. The color is also quite pale, which doesn't do any favors for this bagel in making it more appetizing.

4. Stop & Shop Bakery Mini Bagels

stop and shop bakery mini bagels
stop and shop bakery mini bagels - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

We specifically tried to avoid sampling mini-bagels to standardize our rankings. But our local Stop & Shop only had this size of its bakery plain bagels, so we went with it.

These mini-bagels were beyond difficult to pull apart. In fact, we ended up mutilating one just to make enough space for our cream cheese. This was unfortunate, considering that everything else about the bagel was average. There was a nice sheen on the outside, while the inside had the same level of breadiness as other store-bought bagels we sampled.

We would have liked to try the full-sized bagel to see if it was possible to have a flat bagel that was less bulbous and easier to pull apart. This might alleviate the other fundamental issue with these bagels: they're too puffy. We would have been satisfied with these mini-bagels if they were merely half the height.

3. Stop & Shop Bagels

Stop & Shop plain bagels
Stop & Shop plain bagels - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

We purchased this Stop & Shop generic bagel brand (found in the bread aisle) to compare to the Stop & Shop bakery mini bagels. Luckily, this bagel delivered what the mini bagels lacked. Each one had a very distinct shine, a perfectly round shape, and a pleasant smell. It was much simpler to split the bagels in half, and we noticed that the top and bottom halves were about the same size, eliminating the persistent dome issue we saw with other brands.

This bagel has a much better chew factor than lower-ranking brands like Thomas'. It was still breadier than what we would have wanted from the perfect bagel, but it had the best structure and boiled coating compared to its lower-ranked competitors. Like other bagels we sampled, this one was much more pleasant to eat with cream cheese than dry since the flavor of the bagel on its own was relatively one-note. We were also pleased that this was one of the cheaper brands we sampled, and we think the price is worth the value of this product.

2. Walmart Marketside New York Style Bagels

Marketside plain bagels in bag
Marketside plain bagels in bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

We found these plain "New York Style Bagels" in the bakery section of our local Walmart. The bag looked promising since the bagels appeared to be just about the size of the ones you'd get from a reputable Jewish bakery. Plus, there was a good, shiny crust. Could it be? Was this the perfect store-bought bagel that we were looking for?

Not quite. While the outside of the bagel was firm to the touch and had a slight spring to it, this bagel was unequivocally bready. But, it was still leaps and bounds above other, more expensive brands like Thomas' and Pepperidge Farms because there was a better ratio of an almost-waxy coating to the inside of the bagel.

Calling this bagel New York-style is a bit of a stretch. But Walmart's Marketside bagels win our hearts over for their balanced, round shape and proper color. It was one of the few bagels we sampled that we would consider buying from the store if we needed to satisfy a bagel-and-lox craving.

1. Ray's New York Bagels

Ray's New York bagels in bag
Ray's New York bagels in bag - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

The "New York" part of the name gave us a lot of hope. We even saved this frozen bagel for last on the off-chance that it would give us something to write home about -- or at least something that didn't make us question if our standards were too high. Not only did it have a shiny coating that covered the entire bagel, but it also had a shape, size, and color that matched what we would expect from a shop-quality bagel. We were instantly giddy.

The smell of this bagel was divine and, again, reflective of the New York-style bagels we know and love. When we bit in, we were sent to a state of bagel bliss. This was our winner -- we didn't even have to think about putting cream cheese on it (though we still did, for the sake of consistency, and it was rightfully fantastic). This bagel had the perfect chewy contrast between the outside and the inside. It had a slightly malty flavor — almost bordering on pretzel-like — that made it seem like it was straight out of the city.

This bagel was very clearly boiled and baked with love. We didn't even care that it wasn't pre-sliced. This is the closest bagel we could find to the authentic New York bagel experience. Thus, it was well-deserving of the carby crown.

Methodology

Bagels stacked on wood background
Bagels stacked on wood background - Sara Klimek/Tasting Table

As a self-proclaimed bagel connoisseur, I am familiar with the process and craftsmanship that goes into making a good one. Of course, the gold standard of bagel-making is the New York-style bagel, which features a shiny crust, perfect toothsome pull that strains your teeth slightly when you bite into it, and overall elasticity that separates it from just a large slice of bread. I used this benchmark as my comparison point for this taste test.

To standardize the results, I sampled all the bagel varieties on the same day that they were purchased. This eliminated the worry that the bagels would have staled between purchasing and eating. I also stuck to plain bagels for this experiment to assess the base flavor of the bagel rather than any toppings or fillings.

At the start of this experiment, I decided not to toast any of the bagels, as I am a strong believer that bagels shouldn't have to be toasted to be good. I sampled each bagel plain and then with plain, full-fat cream cheese to assess the flavor.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.