Rainbow Bagels (vegan)

Rainbow Bagels (vegan)

When Rainbow Bagels hit our screens on The Great British Bake Off I knew I had to recreate them. Here’s my recipe and simple method for the most colourful bagels you’ve ever seen!

Red and yellow and pink and green…

The Great British Bake Off loves an over the top bake – that’s why they have the show stopper round after all. But, I must admit I was a little surprised to see rainbow bagels find their way into the technical challenge of bread week. Bagels are a tricky bread to master at the best of times and splitting the dough 5 ways and kneading in unnatural colouring seemed a little at odds with what the Bake Offer is all about. But I am a sucker for “rainbow” anything so I jumped at the chance to bake my own.

I studied the episode with care. This wasn’t going to be my first time making bagels (far from it) but it was going to be my first time making them multi-coloured. When it came to colouring the dough I was flabbergasted with the technique. You can read Paul Hollywood’s full method here but essentially it involves rolling out each coloured dough into a long rectangle and then layering them on top of each other. (A bit like a multi coloured mattress). You then cut the big block of dough into strips before twisting and rolling them into a long sausage. Last but not least you pinch the ends together to form a circle.

I’m sure the method has been developed as a “simple” way of getting uniform bagels that are roughly all the same shape and size. But, if you’ve ever tried rolling dough out for a pizza you know it’s not easy. And I didn’t fancy trying to do that 5 times whilst trying to make sure they were all the same size. Instead, I preferred to use my hands. My method involves breaking the dough into little balls. I place them in rows so I can make sure I’ve got enough pieces of each colour. The counter top ends up looking like a rainbow before you’ve even shaped them into bagels! I then take one of each colour, roll them into thin sausages, plait them, pinch the ends together and voila. You have a rainbow bagel.

It might sound more fiddly than Paul’s method but I just felt like I had more control this way. I much prefer working with my hands than a rolling pin. (Says the girl who mixes her dough with dough hooks…the irony is not lost on me!)

Do you need any fancy equipment?

I’ve seen all sorts of contraptions sold on the internet to help you get perfect bagels every time. (Like silicone bagel cones that keep the hole in the middle while they puff up in the water.) A bowl, saucepan, well greased baking tray and a slotted spoon are the bare minimum you will need. I am a little lazy and use a mixer with dough hooks to make kneading a breeze but you can get great results just using your hands! The one bit of advice I do have though is that after boiling, the bagels become very sticky, and so I don’t recommend using baking paper on your baking tray – it sticks like glue!!! A greased baking tray will work but I prefer to use a silicone baking mat to make sure they peel off perfectly every time.

So what makes these bagels “vegan”?

Most bread recipes are plant based. Unless you’re making an enriched dough (which means it’s had milk, butter, eggs or a combination of all three added) you’re really just talking about flour, yeast and water. That being said, bagels have a slight sweetness about them and sometimes this comes from honey. We have been using caster sugar instead of honey in our basic bagel dough for a while now so no issues there.

The one additional thing you you might want to keep an eye out for is the food colouring. If you choose to use natural food colouring they are usually made from plants but if you see cohineal or carmine on the label then it’s been made from ground up bugs. Most bright food gels however are completely artificial and so shouldn’t contain any animal products.

You can see all of my #gbbobakealong challenges here.

The recipe

A pile of Rainbow Bagels sliced open

Rainbow Bagels (vegan)

The classic bagel recipe has had a colourful make-over. Find out just how easy it is to make brunch worthy rainbow bagels at home.
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Prep Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Breakfast, lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 10 people


  • Silicone baking sheet



To make the dough

  • Add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt to a large mixing bowl.
  • Slowly add the water to the bowl and bring together into a firm dough - it should not be too wet or sticky.
  • Knead the dough either (1) by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 10 minutes; or (2) using the dough hooks on an electric mixer for 5 minutes, or until the dough is a soft, springy, smooth ball.
  • Cut the dough into 5 equal sized pieces and add 3-5 drops of food colouring to each ball so that you will end up with three distinct balls of coloured dough.
  • Knead the food colouring into the dough either by hand or using dough hooks on an electric mixer.
  • Add more food colouring and continue to knead until you have an even, bright colour.
  • Cover the balls of dough and leave for 1 hour or until each ball of dough has doubled in size.

To shape the bagels

  • Once the dough has risen, break each ball into 10 smaller balls.
  • Take one ball of each colour and roll them into long thin sausages.
  • Plait the thin sausages until you have a long rope.
  • Gently squeeze the ends of the rope together so you have a round, bagel shape and place on a lightly greased baking tray.
  • Repeat until you have used up all of the dough.
  • Cover the bagels and leave them to rise again for another 20 minutes until they have risen and puffed up.

To cook the bagels

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the bicarbonate soda.
  • Carefully place the bagels into the water and let them boil for 30 seconds on either side.
  • Once the 1 minute is up remove the boiled bagel from the pan with a slotted spoon and place back on to the lightly greased baking tray.
  • Sprinkle with bagel seasoning or sesame seeds if desired.
  • Repeat until you have boiled all of the bagels.
  • Place the bagels in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. (They will be slightly springy to the touch ).
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Keyword bagel seasoning, bicarbonate soda, caster sugar, food colouring, sea salt, strong white bread flour, yeast
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

More vegan recipes from the Great British Bake Along!

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