If you’ve ever eaten an everything bagel, you’re familiar with the “everything” spice blend: a crunchy mix of garlic, onion, sesame and poppy seeds, and salt. This addictive flavor palette was once exclusive to actual bagels — but in recent years, everything bagel seasoning has exploded in popularity. It’s now used, as its name suggests, on just about everything. Read on to discover how this unique spice blend went from bagel shop delicacy to to pantry staple, plus learn how to make your own seasoning at home.
What is everything bagel seasoning?
The word “everything” is pretty broad, but the essential everything bagel seasoning mix contains a blend of dried garlic flakes, dried onion flakes, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and salt. “Whenever I talk to bagel makers, they always tell me everything is their most popular flavor, and that it’s so popular that now they bottle their homemade everything seasoning,” says Jason Diamond, a journalist who’s written about bagels for The New York Times and New York Magazine. Everything bagels evolved out of the stuff bagel makers had left over after making single flavor bagels. “It’s sort of a beautiful idea of not letting anything go to waste, and it turned into the bagel flavor most people go for,” Diamond explains. The everything bagel has economical roots, but it’s become the perfect pick for those of us who are indecisive and literally just want a little bit of every single thing.
How did everything bagel seasoning get so popular?
An oral history on the site TasteCooking.com traces the everything bagel’s dramatic history — and like so many culinary favorites, a number of different people claim to have invented it. These people include David Gussin, who worked at a New York bagel shop as a teen in 1980 and told his boss to toss some surplus seeds on a bagel; Joe Bastianich, a chef who said he had the idea to use extra seeds as a topping as a teen in 1979; Seth Godin, a “marketing guru” who claimed, “in 1976, at age 16, I was making everything bagels. So were a lot of people”; and Brandon Steiner, a businessman who avowed that when working the night shift at a bagel shop in 1971, “I’d get bored, so I started screwing around with the bagels, adding different kinds of seasoning to them… And just like that, the everything bagel was born.”
TasteCooking.com calls everything bagel seasoning “a default way for chefs to sprinkle a bit of New York City sensibility across their cuisine” and notes that “the craze was only fueled when Trader Joe’s began selling shakers of Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend in February 2017.” Trader Joe’s products have both novelty (you can only buy them in-store) and reasonable prices, so they frequently inspire cult followings — and Everything but the Bagel is no exception.
Today, you can buy everything bagel seasoning from a variety of brands. (You can even find generic versions at the drugstore.) Speculating as to why the seasoning remains so beloved, Diamond points out that “we’re really at a place where strong and bitter flavors are popular. I think for some people that didn’t grow up eating a lot of food with seasoning or salt, it serves as an easy gateway into different flavors.” Everything bagel seasoning is also a helpful cheat for those who are eating low-carb but want to add a dash of bagel taste to their meals without consuming any actual bread.
How do I use everything bagel seasoning?
The possibilities are endless. You can sprinkle everything bagel seasoning on pretty much anything that needs a hit of crunchy, roasted, savory flavor. Trader Joe’s recommends putting theirs on grilled chicken, buttered popcorn, baked potatoes, creamy dips, pizza dough, salad dressings, pasta, mac & cheese, or panko-breaded anything. The site EatingWell.com has a list of 50 different ways to use the seasoning, including on salmon, cornbread, chicken tenders, and more. You can even use it in desserts, for a satisfying sweet-and-salty mix; the ice cream brand Jeni’s makes an everything bagel flavor that’s described as “the flavor you never knew you wanted.”
“I’m often surprised at how good some of these weird desserts or baked good takes on everything bagel flavors can be,” Diamond admits. When he first saw the ice cream, he assumed there was, “no way [it] was going to be good… And then, somehow, it was.” As it turns out, the appeal was simple. “What do you eat with a bagel? Cream cheese. Ice cream, cream cheese, basically could be the same thing.” The Jeni’s ice cream flavor is currently sold out (it’s the only Jeni’s flavor that’s out of stock right now, if that tells you anything) — so if you’re curious, try sprinkling some everything bagel seasoning on vanilla ice cream for a similar effect.
Can I make my own everything bagel seasoning?
Absolutely! In fact, everything bagel seasoning is probably one of the easiest things you can make at home. You may have all the ingredients in your pantry already, and there’s no cooking or complicated prep work involved. The Food Network‘s everything bagel seasoning recipe calls for:
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- ¼ cup poppy seeds
- 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
- 3 tablespoons dried garlic flakes
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
Toss all the ingredients together in a small bowl, and store them in an airtight container for up to one month. You’ll have delicious seasoning that’s ready for sprinkling on whatever dish you desire. Just remember: Whether you’re a bagel aficionado or a recent convert to everything seasoning, have fun with the flavor and stay open to new variations.