How Long Do Bagels Last and How To Store Them?

Bought a couple more bagels than usual, and wondering how much time you have until they go stale? How long do bagels last?

Or maybe you’re wondering what’s the best method of storing them so that they stay fresh longer. How do you store bagels?

If either sounds familiar, this article is for you. In it, we’re going to talk about:

  • the shelf life of bagels, depending on where you store them
  • storing bagels at home: should you leave them on the counter (at room temperature), put them in the fridge, or freeze them?
  • knowing if your bagels are done for and should be discarded

Interested in learning more? Read on.

Tip

While I focus on store-bought bagels in this article, the same rules apply to homemade bagels.

Bagel in hand

How Long Do Bagels Last?

CounterFridgeFreezer
Bagel2 – 3 days3 – 7 days3+ months

Most fresh bagels keep quality for 2 to 5 days if you leave them on the counter and sealed. If you put them in the fridge, you get an extra day or two of storage, but they often go stale faster. Finally, bagels that you freeze retain quality for at least 3 months.

Those estimates are pretty safe and work for most types of bagels. Of course, some bakeries make bagels that last even 10 days ([ODD]), but your typical bagel will start to stiffen up after 2 to 3 days of storage.

Tip

Your personal preferences are at least as important as the guidelines above. If you love the crisp crust or chewy interior of a freshly baked bagel, but don’t particularly enjoy ones that sit on the counter for more than a day or two, try freezing any excess bagels and see how it goes.

Like with bread, besides knowing the rough shelf life of bagels, you also need to know how to store them properly.

Bagel closeup on sesame seeds
Bagel closeup on sesame seeds

How To Store Bagels

You can leave your bagels in their paper bag if you’re going to eat them within a day or so. If you want to keep them for several days, transfer them into a plastic bag. You can also refrigerate bagels, and that requires a bag or an airtight container to keep them sealed.

Leaving bagels on the counter in a half-open paper bag isn’t the best storage method, but it works okay if you’re going to eat that bagel the day it was baked.

For longer storage, chucking your bagels in a resealable bag (e.g., a freezer bag) is one of the most popular options.

Warning

While storing your bagel in a plastic bag keeps it from going stale for a few extra days, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. That bagel might gradually lose its crust and become bready ([NB]). Test yours to know if it keeps well in that bag or not.

Bagel closeup

Another option is to let it sit unsealed (and go stale) and then reviving the bagel by spritzing it with about a dozen water droplets ([NB]) and toasting it whole. That should bring back its softness. If you toast your bagels anyway, try out this method.

If you decide to refrigerate your bagels, make sure they’re sealed tight (e.g., in a freezer bag or airtight container). A tight seal keeps them from drying out and absorbing any strong smells.

And if you’re not quite fond of your bagels after a few days in the fridge, toast them in the toaster before eating.

Last but not least, there’s freezing. Freezing bagels is a super simple way to preserve them. It takes only a couple of minutes, and if you freeze bread, you already know how to go about it.

Tip

Many bakeries recommend freezing bagels that you won’t consume within 2 to 3 days. It’s worth a try if you haven’t already.

Bagel halves with honey

Do Bagels Go Bad? How To Tell If Your Bagel Has Gone Bad?

Bagels, sooner or later, grow mold. Those preservative-free ones might go moldy after a week or so, while others keep safe for longer. But most bagels become stale after only 3 to 4 days of storage, and that’s when most people discard them.

Of course, even after hardening, bagels are okay to eat ([ODD]), assuming there’s no mold or any other visual or smell changes. The issue is that stale bagels taste so-so at best, and that’s why stale baked goods often end up in the trash can.

Bagel sandwich with lettuce, chicken, and sauce
Bagel sandwich with lettuce, chicken, and sauce

There are two ways you can freshen your stale bagels:

  • Toast them. You can toast bagels in a toaster oven or use a regular oven. Preheat it to 375°F (or 190°C) and leave them there for 4 to 5 minutes. If they’re particularly dry, spritz some water drops on them (or even dip in hot water) beforehand. Here’s a great guide on toasting bagels on the Serious Eats website if you want to learn more.
  • Microwave them under a damp paper towel. That’s another option to soften that dry and hardened bagel ([ODD]). Start by microwaving the bagel for 20 seconds and see how it goes. If it needs more time (or moisture), continue in 10-second increments.

If you often end up with stale bagels, try both of these methods and see what works best for you.

Tip

If you need a fresh bagel for breakfast on a busy weekday morning, reviving your stale bagel in the microwave is definitely worth testing out.

Bagel with honey
Bagel with honey

Frequently Asked Questions about Bagels

Do bagels need to be refrigerated?

Definitely not. It only makes sense to keep your bagels in the fridge if it’s hot and humid (e.g., it’s the middle of summer) where you usually store them. That combination accelerates the hardening of bagels, and storing them in the fridge instead solves the issue.

How long do bagels last in the fridge?

While bagels keep for about 3 to 7 days in the refrigerator, most bakeries advise against chilling bagels in the refrigerator. While the low temperature slows down any mold growth ([ODD]), the bagel often goes stale even faster. Toasting those bagels might be a must to get decent quality.

Bagel with lettuce and baked chicken
Bagel with lettuce and baked chicken

Sources