Are New York bagels gluten-free?

New York bagels are famous worldwide for their chewy texture and delicious flavor. However, for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, enjoying an authentic New York bagel can be difficult or impossible. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye, and it gives breads and baked goods their stretchy, elastic quality. Conventional bagels are made with wheat flour, which contains gluten. So are traditional New York bagels naturally gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look.

What Makes New York Bagels Special?

There are a few key factors that set New York bagels apart from bagels made elsewhere:

  • New York bagels use bread flour, which has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. This gives them a chewier texture.
  • They are boiled before baking, which gelatinizes starches in the dough and results in a shiny, dense crust.
  • Traditional New York bagels contain malt syrup or malt barley flour, which impart flavor and color.
  • They are hand rolled and cooked in wood-fired ovens, which gives artisanal appeal.

So by their very nature, New York-style bagels rely on wheat flour and malted barley to achieve their signature taste and texture. This means that traditionally, New York bagels are not gluten-free.

Gluten Content of New York Bagels

Most bagels, including New York bagels, are made with bread flour or high-gluten flour. This gives them an elastic dough capable of forming the characteristic bagel shape.

Bread flour contains about 12-16% gluten, while high-gluten flour has an even higher gluten content of about 14-16%. In contrast, all-purpose flour only contains 8-12% gluten.

So New York bagels have a higher gluten percentage than many other baked goods made with all-purpose flour. The gluten develops into a strong gluten network during mixing and kneading, providing structure and that signature chewy bite.

Risks of Gluten for People with Celiac Disease

For people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy, consuming gluten can cause a range of symptoms and adverse health effects. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Even small amounts of gluten can trigger celiac symptoms.

For people with celiac disease, eating a New York bagel could result in:

  • Digestive issues like diarrhea, bloating, gas and abdominal pain
  • Fatigue and malnutrition from impaired nutrient absorption
  • Skin rashes and dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin lesions)
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Weight loss or failure to thrive (in children)

Over time, consuming gluten can lead to complications like osteoporosis, infertility and certain cancers for those with celiac disease. That’s why following a strict gluten-free diet is important for managing celiac disease.

Availability of Gluten-Free New York Bagels

While traditional New York bagels are not gluten-free, some bakeries are now offering gluten-free versions so those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy the New York bagel experience.

Gluten-free New York bagels are made with flours like:

  • Brown rice flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Chickpea flour
  • Almond flour
  • Sorghum flour

These alternative flours form the basis of dough for gluten-free bagels. However, achieving the right texture can be tricky without gluten. Bakers may add ingredients like xanthan gum, psyllium husk or eggs to improve the dough’s structure and mimic the chewy quality of wheat-based bagels.

Many gluten-free New York bagels are also vegan, avoiding ingredients like eggs and dairy. They may be sweetened with maple syrup or honey instead of barley malt syrup.

Gluten-free New York bagels are becoming more widely available at dedicated gluten-free bakeries, health food stores, and even some grocery stores. However, the quality can vary greatly. Here are some tips for finding the best gluten-free New York bagels near you:

  • Check the ingredients list carefully to verify the bagels are certified gluten-free, with no traces of wheat/gluten
  • Look for bagels made with a blend of gluten-free flours rather than just a single flour like rice flour
  • Seek out freshly made bagels from bakeries that specialize in gluten-free foods
  • Be willing to pay a little more for artisanal, small-batch gluten-free bagels to ensure quality

Making Gluten-Free Bagels at Home

For the closest approximation to real New York bagels, your best bet is buying them from a reputable gluten-free bakery. But it is also possible to make good gluten-free bagels at home with some trial and error.

Here are some tips for DIY gluten-free New York bagels:

  • Use a blend of 2-3 gluten-free flours like sorghum, tapioca, brown rice, almond or chickpea flour.
  • Add xanthan gum or psyllium husk to help bind the dough.
  • For flavor and rise, add yeast along with apple cider vinegar and baking powder.
  • Don’t skimp on kneading to develop the dough’s structure.
  • Shape the dough into bagels and boil briefly before baking.
  • Top with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion/garlic for authentic New York style.

With some adjustments, you can create chewy, dense and flavorful gluten-free bagels at home. But keep in mind they will still differ in texture from wheat-based bagels.

Nutrition Comparison of Gluten-Free and Regular Bagels

From a nutritional standpoint, gluten-free and traditional New York style bagels differ in a few key ways:

Nutrition Fact Gluten-Free Bagels Regular Bagels
Calories Slightly fewer calories on average Higher calorie count
Carbohydrates Similar carb content, but not 100% whole grain Higher fiber from whole wheat flour
Protein Varies based on gluten-free flour blend Higher protein from wheat flour
Micronutrients May be fortified with vitamins/minerals Higher B vitamins like folate

Gluten-free bagels are often lower in fiber and protein compared to whole wheat flour bagels. But they can still be a good source of nutrients like iron, calcium and fiber if fortified.

Finding the Healthiest Gluten-Free Bagel

Within the category of gluten-free bagels, there is still variety when it comes to nutrition and ingredients. Here are some tips for finding the healthiest gluten-free New York style bagel for you:

  • Opt for bagels made with a blend of ancient grains like amaranth, quinoa, millet or teff for more protein and nutrients.
  • Avoid bagels with refined flours and gums high on the ingredients list.
  • Check the fiber content and aim for at least 2-3g per serving.
  • Look for lower sodium options, under 200mg per bagel.
  • Seek out bagels without added sugars.
  • Pick whole grain varieties that use flours like buckwheat, brown rice or sorghum.

With the right combination of gluten-free whole grains and minimal processed ingredients, it’s possible to find healthy gluten-free bagels with a similar nutrition profile to whole wheat flour bagels.

Are There Bagels for People with Other Dietary Needs?

In addition to gluten-free options, New York bagels can also accommodate other dietary needs or preferences:

Vegan Bagels

Many bakeries offer vegan New York bagels, excluding eggs and dairy. These are made with plant-based ingredients and vegan-friendly sweeteners.

Paleo Bagels

Paleo dieters can find New York style bagels made with almond flour, coconut flour, cassava flour and natural sweeteners like maple syrup that fit diet guidelines.

Keto Bagels

For keto and low-carb diets, high-fat nut flours like almond flour can be used to make bagels with very little starch or sugar.

Low FODMAP Bagels

FODMAP-friendly bagels avoid ingredients like wheat, garlic and onions. Gluten-free bagels tend to be lower in FODMAPs.

Allergy-Friendly Bagels

Many New York bagel shops can accommodate common food allergies to ingredients like eggs, dairy, nuts or sesame seeds.

Are Gluten-Removed Bagels Considered Gluten-Free?

Some companies are producing “gluten-removed” bagels and breads made from wheat that has been processed to remove gluten. However, experts caution that these products are usually not safe for people with celiac disease.

There are a few important considerations with gluten-removed bagels:

  • The gluten reduction process does not remove 100% of gluten, so trace amounts usually remain.
  • The FDA does not regulate products labelled “gluten-removed.”
  • Cross-contamination with gluten is still possible during processing and cooking.
  • The products do not guarantee safety for those highly sensitive to gluten exposure.

So while gluten-removed bagels may be suitable for those with mild gluten sensitivity, they are generally not recommended for people with celiac disease until more data confirms their safety and gluten levels.

Finding Gluten-Free New York Bagels While Traveling

Part of the experience of visiting New York City is eating an authentic New York bagel! With proper precautions, those adhering to a gluten-free diet can still enjoy this tradition while traveling in New York.

Some tips for finding gluten-free New York bagels while visiting:

  • Research dedicated gluten-free bakeries that offer fresh bagels daily.
  • Check for user-recommended spots with gluten-free menus.
  • Stop by grocery stores with large gluten-free sections like Whole Foods Market.
  • Visit early in the morning to get the widest selection of freshly baked bagels.
  • Call ahead to make sure your chosen cafe/bakery has gluten-free bagels in stock.
  • Mention your gluten restriction clearly when ordering to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Carry gluten-free snacks in case you can’t access safe bagels when traveling.

With planning and caution, you can enjoy delicious gluten-free New York bagels while traveling in NYC or other bagel-loving cities.

Are There Health Risks Associated with Gluten-Free Diets?

Gluten-free diets have grown in popularity beyond just those with celiac disease and medical necessity. When followed carefully, gluten-free diets are safe for most healthy people.

However, there are some potential downsides of going gluten-free without medical reason:

  • Gluten-free versions of grains and breads are often lower in B vitamins, iron and fiber.
  • Heavily processed gluten-free products may contain additives and unhealthy fats.
  • Gluten-free junk foods and sweets can still cause weight gain.
  • Following fad diets may undermine a healthy relationship with food.
  • Going gluten-free can lead to social isolation or anxiety around food.

To minimize risks, choose whole, nutrient-dense gluten-free foods and supplement with nutrient-rich fruits, veggies, protein and dairy. It’s also important to consult a doctor before starting a gluten-free diet for non-medical reasons.

Are There Any Health Benefits to Going Gluten-Free?

For those with gluten intolerance, celiac disease or wheat allergy, eliminating gluten provides clear health benefits and reduces adverse symptoms. However, research does not show clear benefits of gluten-free diets for the general population.

That said, potential benefits of gluten-free eating for non-celiac individuals may include:

  • Reduced gastrointestinal distress in those sensitive to gluten
  • Lower inflammation markers for some people
  • Increased consumption of whole grains and fiber
  • Elimination of processed foods containing gluten
  • Increased awareness of dietary choices and food labels

In general, there is not strong evidence that gluten-free diets improve health, energy or weight loss in those without medical necessity. The most important part of a healthy diet is simply eating whole, nutritious foods.


Authentic New York bagels are traditionally made with gluten-containing wheat flour and barley malt. While these iconic bagels are not gluten-free, many bakeries now offer gluten-free versions so those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance can take part in this culinary tradition.

When prepared with care using blends of whole grains, gluten-free New York bagels can closely mimic the taste and texture of the original while providing a safe, wheat-free option. While not exactly the same as regular bagels, high quality gluten-free bagels allow everyone to enjoy a comforting carb-loaded New York breakfast.

By being an informed consumer, carefully inspecting ingredients lists, and sticking to reputable gluten-free bakeries, people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can stay safe while savoring a delicious gluten-free New York bagel.

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