Bagel Battle Royale: Consumer Reports Chows Down To Find The Best

While you shouldn’t even bring bagels up with a New Yorker if you’re not prepared for a fight, the brave, expert testers over at our smarter siblings Consumer Reports took on a bready battle of epic proportions, as they sought the best bagel you can find in stores nationwide.

The trained testers at Consumer Reports picked eight plain bagels and four with “everything”: onion, garlic, sesame seed, poppy seed, and other toppings. In addition, they tested out Thomas’ Bagel Thins, which have lower calories and make having a bagel sandwich an easier experience on your jaw.

Taste is important — bagels should a slightly crispy crust, notable “pull” when bitten into (like good Italian bread), chewy innards, and a freshly baked flavor, says CR. Overall, the plain bagels from Dunkin’ Donuts (fresh), Lender’s (frozen), and Costco’s Kirkland Signature (packaged, at room temperature) and an everything bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts were all very good.

First the bagels were tested untoasted, and then toasted for another tasting (just try saying that three times, fast). Toasting can change the texture of a bagel, as in the case of Lender’s Original Plain, which lost some chewiness. On the other hand, Udi’s Gluten Free Plain improved with heat, gaining a less tough crust and a chewier texture.

Bottom line from CR: Dunkin’ Donuts, Lender’s Original, and Costco are the best choices, but be careful which Lender’s you choose: Its refrigerated Bagel Shop version was just so-so. Thomas’ Bagel Thins are a decent option if you’re watching your weight, though they taste more like rolls than bagels.

Check out more info on the testing at the source link below.

Who makes the best bagels? [Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    i never understood bagels…. croissants…now they are awesome.

  2. Cat says:

    After winter break, my Jewish room mate returned from NY with a large bag of bagels from a local bagel shop in his neighborhood. I wasn’t a fan of bagels, but they were the BEST, and I’ve never had anything like them since, not even at other independent bagel shops.

    Bagels from independent shops still beat packaged brands every time.

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      Agreed. If you’re in the East Valley (part of metro Phx), I can’t recommend this place enough to someone who wants a bagel:

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      I usually have pretty good luck with the bagels in my supermarket’s bakery. Pretty much as close to a NYC bagel as I’ve ever found here.

      • elangomatt says:

        Good for you, the things local grocery store bake shops call bagels are really just hunks of bread baked to look kinda like a bagel. The best I can do around here for bagels is Dunkin Donuts or Panera Bread.

    • Snaptastic says:

      THIS. If I ever have to travel to Denver for anything, I make room to eat here for breakfast or lunch. Awesome bagels (and bagel sammiches) that beat the crap out of the competition.

  3. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Einstein Bros.: A tasty baked good approximating the shape and size of a bagel, but is not one.

  4. caradrake says:

    I love Lender’s blueberry bagels with some strawberry cream cheese on top. Even better if I have fresh strawberries I can slice and add to them.

  5. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    Personally, I think the Bagel Hunger Games is much better than Bagel Battle Royale.

  6. sir_eccles says:

    You lost me as soon as you said “crispy crust”.

  7. cosmic.charlie says:

    None of these food stuffs tested count as bagels.

  8. Cat says:

    I’m waiting for the obligatory “I make my own bagels at home” comment.

    Then I’m going to go camp outside their kitchen door.

    (Extra points if your Bubbie makes them at home)

  9. zep says:

    Best bagels in Philly:

  10. AllanG54 says:

    My wife used to eat the Thomas’ Bagel Thins but they’re hard to toast because they burn easily due to them being the thickness of paper.

  11. kataisa says:

    Why hasn’t there been any studies done that shows eating bagels will cause diabetes?

  12. thepassenger says:

    wow, I’ve always thought Dunkin’s bagels are awful.

  13. These Are Not My Pants says:

    I grew up eating bagels in Staten Island and Brooklyn and I’ve never had anything else that compares (don’t need to fight about it, I’m content just knowing they’re the best). But I’ll agree that as far as nationwide availability goes, Dunkin Donuts has a pretty good bagel. Lender’s aren’t bad as far as supermarket brands go, but my toaster sucks so I rarely eat bagels at home.

  14. chemmy says:

    fresh ny bagels or GTFO

  15. alisonann says:

    as a New Yorker this post offends me.

  16. speaky2k says:

    So which 8 did they try? I have 4 different grocery stores, 2 independent bakeries, plus the chains such as Dunkin, Einstein, Manhattan Bagel & Panera all within 20 min from my house. Of my favorite, the one independent was best, but they closed a while ago due to the economy. Wegman’s grocery is a close second, now 1st due to the closure. The other grocery stores are not bad, but they depend on the day because of sitting time. The other independent was about the same as grocery store’s but better than chains. Dunkin I always found to be sub-par, Einstein a little beter, and Panera is probably tops of the chains.

  17. IGetsAnOpinion says:

    I moved from NJ, with a bagel store on every corner, to MD, where the only bagels available were the ones Consumer Reports tested. Those aren’t REAL bagels. I miss real bagels…

  18. katarzyna says:

    My favorite bagel place recently closed down. Any suggestions for great bagels in Macomb County, MI?

  19. Sarek says:

    Lenders frozen rated Very Good!?!?!?!?!
    Who did this taste test, natives of Antarctica?

    And why didn’t they include bagels from independent bagel stores and supermarkets in the ratings? (though both those sources vary widely)

    Back in the 1960s, all we could get in the hinterlands were Abel’s frozen bagels. (That uses the term “bagel” very loosely.) They were later bought out by Lenders.
    But I had relatives in a place so backwoods that *we* had to bring *them* the Abel’s as “Care packages.”

    • Caged Wisdom says:

      The article specifically states they were testing bagel brands that are available nationally. Please read more carefully before setting your phaser to indignant.

      Oh, and only Lender’s is available in my area of the three – no Costco, no Dunkin’ Donuts.

  20. framitz says:

    With plenty of local bagel shops making them fresh everyday I never considered buying them at a supermarket. Why would anyone do that?
    Fresh and still warm is good to go, more than a few hours old and I’ll pass.

    • Cat says:

      Why would anyone do that?

      Um, because we don’t have ANY local bagel shops making them fresh everyday?

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Because my supermarket is 5 minutes away and I go there for other things while the bagel shop is 10 miles in the other direction that I only pass once a week? Oh, and they charge almost double.

      Mind you I only buy the in-store bakery bagels. I never cared much for any of the national brands (I’ll eat a Thomas’ if I’m really desperate).

  21. dosdelon says:

    Too bad Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t in my state anymore. God I miss that place! :-(

  22. PunditGuy says:

    They didn’t test the Trader Joes ones, which are a hell of a lot better than Lender’s. I’ll have to try the Costco ones.

    • PercussionQueen7 says:

      Oddly enough, Trader Joe’s varies geographically. My ex and I both loved the bagels in Seattle, but the ones in northern California completely blow.

  23. dwfmba says:

    here’s an idea, go to a LOCAL BAGEL SHOP THAT ISN’T A CHAIN. If there aren’t any where you live, eat something else.

  24. Emperor Norton I says:

    The best bagels in Chicago are at New York Bagel on Touhy in Lincolnwood.
    Open 24 hours no less, but the parking lot sucks.

    The best in LA are at Western Bagel, which has a bunch of bakeries.

  25. RedOryx says:

    Christopher’s Bagels at the West Side Market in Cleveland. Nomnomnomnom

  26. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    Bagel Battle Royale – Also known as the Bagel Battle Quarter Pounder in the US.

  27. HogwartsProfessor says:

    We had a bagel store here for a while that made them from scratch, and some kind of water method. I don’t know really what that is but they were AWESOME. Also they sold sammiches. I could get this great fried egg sammich with cheese. With a SOBE orange-carrot elixir (sadly, hard to find but delicious), it was a great lunch.

    • thelauhingsun says:

      They boiled them. That’s how you make an actual bagel. If it isn’t boiled, it’s not a bagel.

  28. BradenR says:

    CR needs to quit wasting their time on food judgments. Flavor, texture, etc is decided by the buyer whose tastes probably live in their own little world. So stop it with the coffee, bagel, etc and do something worth reading about. Bagels especially are a waste of time as there is no bagel worth buying at a grocery store.

    • tooluser says:

      I still cringe from the breakfast cereal ratings they came out with in the early 1980s. The rank order was 100% in reverse order by the sodium content of the food. And it just happened that the very first sodium hysteria was in progress then. It damaged my trust in CR, apparently forever since I still remember it.

      • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

        If you think that was bad you should check out some of their old beer ratings.

  29. BradenR says:

    Once again CR proves they love to waste time and newsprint. Enough already with the inane food judgments. Taste is too highly individualized to decide what’s best. If they want to test for ingredients, hidden sugars, high sodium, etc. etc. fine but leave taste out of it. No bagel from a grocery store has merit anyway. Good bagels come from small bakeries for the home cook.

  30. beachmouse says:

    The displaced New Yorkers I know say that Ray’s New York Bagels (available in the freezer section of many major supermarkets such as Safeway, Von’s Publix, etc.) are almost always better than the fresh bagels available from small shops or grocers outside of greater NYC.

  31. JBlank912 says:

    Big Apple Bagels in Lutz, FL. As a relocate from NJ we were looking for good bagels. Big Apple Bagels was a touch of the NorthEast.Love em.

  32. LMA says:

    Me too! The very idea of even pretending to call the substance you get from Dunkin Donuts or Lenders “a bagel” is an obscenity if not an act of antisemitism to one’s taste buds! Tragically as a 16 year sojourner here in Maryland, my local options are pretty sad — Bagel City in Rockville being the “best” such as it is. But every time we go back to Westchester to visit with my folks, I bring back five dozen bagels and bialeys from the Bagel Emporium in Port Chester. We eat one dozen the first week or so, and freeze all the others; we can only fit about a dozen in our own freezer, so we put the other three in my bachelor friend’s freezer, with 13 of them as a bribe for the space.

    Now just don’t get me going on what are acceptable toppings on a “pizza …”

  33. tooluser says:

    May 2012 issue…now published in March 2012? Sounds like a ripoff for subscribers. Or is it a preview? I don’t like companies that play funny games with their customers.

    • NotEd says:

      Most magazines are written about 2 months in advance of the month indicated and published 1 to 1.5 months ahead. How is this different?

  34. Cacao says:

    Based on size alone, Lenders are the ones you should be eating. The Costco ones are *huge*.

  35. sn1per420 says:

    Costco?! You can’t be serious. Costco bagels taste like nothing. I’ll let the DD recommendation slide for people who don’t live in NJ/NY, but seriously, if anyone ever recommends Costco bagels near me, they better be prepared for an earful….

  36. tjytiedt says:

    Bell/Brooklyn bagels, Brooklyn NY. are the best frozen bagels that I have found. I get them at Marc’s in Columbus, OH, but their website states that they are available at grocery stores in many parts of the US. Six 4 oz. traditional (kosher?) plain bagels for 99 cents. Great at room temperature or toasted.

  37. NotEd says:

    Best bagels in Germantown, MD or maybe all the DC suburbs?

    Unfortunately I live in Illinois now.
    Thank god for in Naperville.

    • elangomatt says:

      I am forever in your debt if they do make good bagels. Shipping is so much more reasonable from there since they are relatively local. I’ve looked at shipping bagels from the NY area to the Chicago area and shipping is usually as much as the rest of the order.

  38. guspaz says:

    A consumer reports review to find the best bagel without including any Montreal bagels is kind of pointless, no? The answer to any “best bagel” review should invariably be either Fairmount or St-Viateur (each has its proponents), not even including them in the consideration pretty much invalidates the results.

  39. OldJohnB says:

    you’re killin’ me here-I’m here in Edmonton, alberta Canada, where we can get Timmie’s bagels-probably frozen-cinnamon raisin bagels, cranberry bagels. chocolate chip bagels?? and ones with asiago cheese maybe a touch of jalape√±o. Delicious? maybe. The real thing? nahh, not really. Kosher? don’t bet on it. I loved living in manhattan for a year for two of many reasons-Zabar’s and H&H bagels (this was back in the late 80’s). I haven’t been back there since, and there isn’t a good bagel bakery close to me. There are stores which sell things that are bagel-like….

    John B

  40. Weekilter says:

    Sorry, Consumer’s Reports should stick to the things they know: washing machines and lawn mowers. They don’t know from bagels.

  41. sweaterhogans says:

    This is false. I’ve tried all of those DD & Costco are just ok, and Lenders?! You’re kidding. For my personal taste, Genaurdi’s jalapeno bagels are the BEST. However, there is no Genaurdi’s anywhere near me so I can only buy some when I visit my parents 20 mi away. :(

  42. jerrycomo says:

    Viateur and Fairmount bagels >>>>>>> ALL THE COMMERCIAL BAGELS MADE IN THE WORLD.

  43. thelauhingsun says:

    Wait, we are talking about supermarket bagels? Hate to break it to you but those aren’t bagels. Those are round bread. That’s like saying you are on the hunt for the nation’s best pizza, but only look at frozen, packaged varieties. It’s OK to judge between frozen pizzas, but be clear that you are not judging actual pizza.