Whole Wheat Montreal-Style Za’atar Bagels

Whole Wheat Za'atar BagelsThe first time I bit into a warm manouche was with my best friend Amanda. Though the circumstance is fuzzy in my head, I remember the toasty pita was covered in blend of spices so fragrant you could taste them with a hearty inhale. Za’atar, I later learned, was that deep, herbal spice blend that made the manouche so aromatic and irresistable. I haven’t been able to get enough since that fateful day.

Za’atar is generic name for a blend of spices native to the middle east. The mixture varies by region but the base of spices is typically the same; thyme, oregano, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Sometimes with savory, sometimes with marjoram. I prefer mine made the way my best friend’s mom makes it (or at least how I think she makes it based on the many times I’ve eaten it) with the occasional addition of some fennel pollen which really pops with the earthy spices.

Whole Wheal Za'atar Bagels
Whole Wheat Za'atar Bagels
When added to the dough of these Whole Wheat Za’atar Bagels, it’s magic. Warm, yeasty Montreal-style bagels flecked with aromatic za’atar and sprinkled with a bit of extra tangy sumac and sea salt to really bring it home. They’re as special right out of the oven with butter as they are with homemade labneh and fresh tomatoes. They freeze extremely well, especially if you pre-slice them before freezing. Toast them up and pile them high with your favourite toppings. Whatever you do, be sure to breath them in good and long before eating. That’s the magic of za’atar.

Whole Wheat Za'atar Bagels

Montreal-Style Za’atar Bagels
adapted from NYTimes
Makes: 15-18 bagels, depending on size
Time: 15 minutes hands-on time, 40 minutes resting + baking
Notes: If you don’t like za’atar, feel free to leave it out. Instead, drag the bagels through sesame seeds when they come out of the boiling liquid and they’ll be very simlar to a Montreal-Style bagel.

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp (8oz, 1 packet) dry active yeast
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp salt 3 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp za’atar*
3 cups all purpose (unbleached) white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat all purpose flour

For boiling:
1/3 cup honey or maple syrupTo garnish:
Sea Salt

Stir the warm water and yeast together in a small bowl. Let sit until frothy, 5-7 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, salt, oil, and honey and egg + yolk. Stir 1 cup of the white flour and the za’atar in until fully incorporated. Add the rest of the white flour and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Dump bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding up to another 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour if needed, for no less than 10 minutes. The dough should be extremely supple and smooth. Cover with an inverted bowl and let rise for 20 minutes.Divide dough into 18 equal portions. Stretch or gently roll, using finger tips, each portion of dough into an 8 inch rope and bring the ends together to form a circle. Pinch the ends together and then roll gently with the heal of your hand to seal. It’s important the ends are well secured otherwise they’ll open when boiling. Place bagels on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets and cover with a clean towel for 20 minutes.
While the bagels rise, bring 16 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add the honey and turn down to a simmer. When ready, add the bagels 2 at a time to the simmering water. Let cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove with a deep-fryer spoon or slotted spatula/spoon and place on a few parchment lined baking sheets (6 per sheet). Sprinkle with sea salt and sumac. Repeat until all the bagels are boiled. Preheat oven to 500. Place 1 sheet of bagels in for 10-12 minutes or until starting to brown on the bottom. Flip bagels and cook for another 5-8 minutes, watching closely after 5 minutes so they don’t over cook. They should be golden brown. Serve warm with labneh (or cream cheese) and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. They’re really special when you toast them up, too. Keep in airtight container in the fridge for 1 week.

Whole Wheat Za'atar Bagels

makes a little over 1/2 cup

Use the rest of thiz za’atar to sprinkle over roasted vegetables or to mix into cottage cheese, soups, over eggs or a warm baked pita with labneh.

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup sumac
4 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano is especially good here)
1/2 tsp salt pinch fennel pollen (optional)

Stir all ingredients and pour into a glass jar. Store in a cool dark place for 2 months.


  1. Julie says

    Wow! These look amazing and the recipe is completely doable! I’m so excited to try them – thanks so much for posting!

  2. dozz says

    hey ! coming from a zatar-filled background this is heaven :)
    so when i finally gathered the guts to try, no idea what went wrong.. the dough didn’t grow that much and everyone around thought it too weird to boil. their shape was completely distorted in the water and they crinkled. any hints?

    • says

      Hi Dozz,

      Hm, was your yeast fresh? That’s the only thing I can think of that would affect the rise as the rest of the ingredients are so minimal.
      Let me know and I’ll take another look to see if it could be something else.

      Sorry they didn’t work out for you :(

  3. says

    I’m planning to make these bagels for the first time tomorrow, and I wanted to clarify a detail about the dough rising time before I get started. You write that the dough should rise for 20 minutes before being divided, and 20 minutes after – this seems like a very short time to me. I have no experience making bagels but lots of experience with other types of yeasted dough, so maybe this is normal for bagels? Did you do this in a very warm kitchen where dough rising time would be shortened? Approximately how much should the dough rise before being divided and shaped (i.e. does it double in size)? Thanks in advance!


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