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What’s the difference between a bagel and a doughnut?

Both bagels and doughnuts are two completely different delights each created with their own specific ingredients.

What’s the difference between a bagel and a doughnut?

At first glance a bagel and a doughnut have one obvious similarity, for the most part, that they both have a hole in the middle. The similarity ends there though as one is generally sweet while the other savory.

The difference in texture between the two is also quite stark, one fluffy and light, the other chewy and dense. These factors help dictate the manner in which we eat them, and the quantity at one sitting.

What’s the difference between a bagel and a doughnut?

First off, the ingredients used to make bagels and doughnuts are somewhat different. They both use flour as their main ingredient along with leavening agents and water.

Bagel dough typically uses high-gluten flour while doughnut dough is generally made with all-purpose flour. The different flours result in bagels’ chewiness versus doughnuts fluffiness.

Salt is used in both ring-breads, but much less in doughnuts. Sugar plays a crucial role in doughnuts, while traditional bagels don’t use sweeteners they can be used in small amounts to provide a subtle contrast to the savoriness.

In order to get the dough to leaven, each uses different agents. Bagels use baker’s yeast that give them their distinctive flavor, while baking soda or baking powder is used in doughnuts, the latter is more neutral in flavor and the former combines with acidic ingredients to add a slight tanginess.

A vital ingredient in doughnuts is fat, in the form of oil or butter, which is absent from bagel recipes. That can be added later when you split your bagel and apply toppings.

Then there is how bagels and doughnuts are cooked. Bagels are first boiled briefly in water, which gives them their characteristic crisp crust. New Yorkers claim that the mineralization in the city’s water supply is what makes them unique, and ‘the best’. Afterward, they are given their covering, if needed, and baked in an oven.

However, doughnuts are deep fried in hot oil until they are golden and crispy. After which they can be glazed or have other toppings added to them like powdered sugar or icing.

The Savory Suitcase blog breaks down the finer details of the ingredients and preparation of these two beloved breakfast treats.

The different origins of bagels and doughnuts

Both have their own national celebrations. While that of National Doughnut Day, 7 June, is well documented, the history of National Bagel Day, 15 January, is a bit hazy, but not the origins of the savory chewy rings.

Its history dates back to th 13th century Jewish bakers in what is now Poland that made a similar ring-shaped bread called obwarzanek. The bagel, while it had come to our shores with the waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe, stayed mostly a staple in Jewish communities and for New Yorkers. However, with the “ethnic foods” trend of the 1970s, bagels came raging onto the scene.

The exact origin of doughnuts is unknown, but fried breads were common across many ancient cultures. Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, now Manhattan, brought with them ‘olykoeks’ or oily cakes. The surge in popularity in the United States came with the “Doughnut Lassies” of World War I who fried up the sweets for soldiers fighting in the trenches.

Bagels and doughnuts vying for the hearts of Americans

Health consciousness, and yuppies, helped it overtake the doughnut in popularity in the 1990s. While the per calorie intake is greater for a single bagel, barring what is schmeared on to one, it has far less sugar and fat than a doughnut. That and people generally can’t stop after just one doughnut, nor two.

But the tides have been turning back in favor of the indulgent doughnut, with more Americans expected to consume them this year than bagels according to Statista estimates. The number of people expected to consume bagels is predicted to increase by about 1.5 million from 2020 levels to over 205 million in 2024. Doughnuts on the other hand are forecast to gain 6 million more mouths seeking them out in the same time frame climbing to over 207 million people.