Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys

Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys

Bialys are breakfast breads, similar to a bagel, but not quite the same. They’ve got a crusty exterior and soft, chewy inside, can be topped with lots of different things and are delicious with a cup of coffee. Make these onion poppy sesame bialys and see what the fuss is about.

Homemade bread.  Close your eyes and envision it.  Think of the warm, cozy aroma.   The crusty exterior.  The lusty-soft interior. Speckled with onions, poppy and sesame seeds.   Imagine it toasted… with a smear of good salted butter or cream cheese.  Now open your eyes and say hello to onion poppy sesame bialys.

onions in a pan

“What’s a bialy?” you ask.  Well, it’s sort of like a bagel, but baked instead of boiled. Rather than being rolled and formed into a circle, a bialy is flattened and pricked in the center, so it has more of a divot than a hole.  

bialy dough

And to me, bialys shouldn’t be split like bagels, they should be toasted and torn into bite-sized chunks that you liberally schmear with your favorite topping before popping the whole bite into your mouth, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head and groaning in satisfaction.  

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adding salt to dough
bialy dough in a bowl

This recipe makes a dozen rolls and it isn’t difficult, but it takes a while because it’s a yeast dough and requires several rises. 

onions and poppy seeds in a pan

The filling for bialys can vary with your mood, but for this bialys recipe I went with onions and a combination of poppy seeds and sesame seeds. You could also use Everything Bagel seasoning, but watch the salt content as some blends can be high in sodium.

bialy dough on a floured surface

After the dough has risen, divide it into 12 equal balls and work with one at a time to form into rounds.

pricking bialy with a fork

Flatten and prick the center and top with the onion mixture.  Dusting your towel and baking sheet with cornmeal prevent the dough from sticking and yield that familiar underside.

fresh baked Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys

Bialys should be made the day before you want to eat them or can be frozen and taken out as needed.  

Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys from overhead.
Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys with coffee cup

 Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys on plate

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Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys in basket
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5 from 3 votes

Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys

If you’ve never had a bialy – pronounced bee-ya-lee, now is the time to try.  Like a bagel, but a little thinner and without the hole in the middle.  They’re baked, not boiled and are absolutely delicious toasted with a schmear of cream cheese.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword bagel, bialys, poppy seed
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 day 13 hours 35 minutes
Servings 12


for the sponge

  • 2 ¼ cups warm water 105-110 degrees, divided
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Crisco or other solid vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup minced onions
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups bread flour

for the topping

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onions minced
  • 2 teaspoons poppyseeds
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

for the dough

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • the sponge above
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour plus more for dusting work surface


Make the sponge

  • Into a small bowl, add 1/4 cup of water, the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Stir to combine and set aside for five minutes until yeast dissolves and becomes creamy.
  • Add the vegetable shortening to a small pan and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and stir until onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer the onions and shortening into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the remaining 2 cups of water, the sugar and black pepper. Confirm that the mixture is no hotter than 110 degrees – otherwise, let it cool for a few minutes. Then add the yeast and mix with the paddle on low speed. Add the flour in a steady stream until the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the sides, if they stick. Cover with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise at room temperature for 1 1/4 hours.

Make the topping

  • In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and saute the onions, poppy seeds and sesame seeds together until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the dough

  • Brush the inside of a large bowl with a little of the melted butter and set aside – the remaining butter will be used for coating the top of the dough.

Mixing and rising

  • When the sponge is ready, return the bowl to the stand mixer and fit it with the dough hook. On low speed, beat in the salt and as much flour as needed to make a dough that cleans the sides of the mixing bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes. Smooth the dough into a round and place it in the buttered bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, Position the oven racks on the bottom two levels of the oven. Place a large ovenproof skillet on the bottom rack. (When it’s time to cook the bialys, mix 1/4 cup water and 4 ice cubes and place them in the skillet — this will create steam for the cooking.)
  • Spray a large baking sheet with vegetable spray and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Set aside.
  • Half an hour before you’re ready to bake the bialys, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Shaping the dough

  • Divide the risen dough in half – leave the other half in the bowl, covered with a towel. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the first half of dough into 6 equal balls. Work with one at a time and keep the others covered with a towel. Shape the dough into a round and flatten out the center to create a 1/2″ inch wide rim. I did this by pushing lightly out from the center until the bialy had a substantial divot, rimmed by half an inch of dough. Prick the center with the tines of a fork. Transfer to the baking sheet and cover with a another clean kitchen towel. Continue to form the other 5 dough balls and place them on the baking sheet. Spoon a little of the onion mixture on top of each bialy and again, prick the centers with the tines of a fork.
  • Add the ice water mixture to the pan inside the oven. Place the sheet pan with the bialys on the rack above the ice-water skillet. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 450 degrees and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven (and turn the oven back to 500) and cool the bialys on a rack.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining dough balls.


Bialys are great toasted with salted butter or a schmear of cream cheese, if you’re feeling indulgent, add smoked salmon, thin slices of red onion and ripe slices of tomato!


Calories: 295kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 583mg | Potassium: 91mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 0.7mg

Don’t Forget To “Pin It” For Later!

Follow this step-by-step recipe for homemade Onion Poppy Sesame Bialys! A delicious breakfast bread with a smear of salted butter or cream cheese!

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    1. My family really enjoyed these – we served with cream cheese, red onions, capers and smoked salmon with a little lemon wedge.