I firmly believe that there’s no better way to start your day than with a generous serving of carbs. Sure, you can get those carbs through cereal, toast, even a croissant. But if you ask me (and anyone with sense), the best way to get your carbs in the morning is with a bagel. Is there anything more magical than smearing a freshly toasted bagel with the cream cheese flavor of your choice, piling on the toppings and eating it as a sandwich when you’re on the go? Or maybe you take the sausage, egg and cheese route for something heartier. If you ask me, bagels are even perfect in their simplest form, with no more adornment than a small pat of butter.
But before you even start to ponder toppings, you have to decide what flavor of bagel to get. With so many choices at your fingertips, it can be difficult to make a decision. Luckily, I’ve put together this definitive ranking of some of the most popular bagel flavors so you never have to fall victim to bagel regret again.
There’s nothing wrong with plain bagels—but there’s nothing that exciting about them, either. They don’t have much flavor to them, so they mostly serve as a neutral base for whatever you choose to eat them with. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it might be exactly what you’re looking for if you really want to pile on the toppings. But when you want to keep things simple, there are better bagel options to choose from.
9. Poppy seed
Poppy seeds may not add much in the way of flavor, but I do like that they give a plain bagel a bit more character and texture. The downside, though, is that you’ll be left with black crumbs in your lap for the next couple of hours. I’d personally never go out of my way for a poppy seed bagel, but if you’re looking for something subtle but still more interesting than a plain bagel, the poppy seed variety may be what you’re looking for.
This might be a hot take, since everything everything bagel-flavored has been wildly popular for years at this point. But everything bagels are just okay. There’s perhaps too much going on to really let the toppings shine. Sure, if you’re just giving you bagel the butter or plain cream cheese treatment, an everything bagel may be the way to go. But other flavors may be better suited to a more delicious breakfast.
7. Cinnamon Raisin
Most of the flavors on this list are on the savory side, but if you’re the kind of person who craves a sweet bagel in the morning, then cinnamon raisin can seem like a good option. I think the cinnamon raisin variety are at their best when they’re relatively plain—they don’t take well to a bunch of toppings. If you are going to opt for a cinnamon raisin bagel, just make sure it’s heavy on the cinnamon, light on the raisins. Too many raisins can make your bagel taste too soggy and chewy.
Onion bagels are delicious. The main downside is that they can leave your breath smelling funky after you eat them. If you are going to opt for onion, you may want to eat it at home so you can use some mouthwash before you venture out into the world.
Egg bagels may not seem like anything special at first glance, but they have a richness that you won’t find with any other flavor of bagel. They can taste fuller and heartier than most other bagel flavors you’ll find, which makes them an excellent choice for using in a breakfast sandwich. Yes, their flavor profile is on the neutral side, but their beautiful golden color makes them infinitely more attractive than a plain bagel.
Sure, cinnamon raisin is an okay flavor, but if you really want a great fruit-infused bagel, you’ll go for blueberry. It’s important that you choose the blueberry variety with actual pieces of blueberry inside, not the ones that are tinted with an unnatural blue color and contain no real fruit. You can keep the toppings minimal to let those fruity notes shine.
It’s garlic. On a bagel. Do I even need to say more? Garlic tastes good on everything, so of course it works as a bagel flavor.
For cheese lovers (which anyone with good sense is), Asiago bagels are a step above most others. You don’t have to go out of your way to find cheese to add as a topping to your bagel because it’s already baked into the crust. Asiago cheese has a distinctly salty, funky (in a good way) flavor, which transforms a bagel from a plain piece of bread into a hearty breakfast—even before you add anything else to it. Plus, nothing beats the crispiness of the exterior of a toasted Asiago bagel.
Salt may just be the most important ingredient in your kitchen—it goes on pretty much everything, and it brings out the flavor in even the blandest of foods. A sprinkling of flaky salt can add crunch to your breakfast, but most importantly, it highlights all the other flavors you’ve got going on. There are few more delicious ways to start your day.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.