Sweet vs. Savory: Comparing Doughnuts and Bagels

Crispy yet soft doughnuts and delicious chewy bagels both have their place in a bakery. Bagels and doughnuts have a similar appearance, given their round shape and hole in the middle. Some say that it’s their preparation and flavors are what set them apart. We know better, though!

Doughnuts and bagels, both much-loved treats, have so much in common, but a great deal that sets them apart, too! We’ve gathered an entire list of how these two firm-favorite American treats compare, and you might be surprised to discover what we’ve found.

When comparing bagels and doughnuts, several things are to be considered: appearance, taste, texture, size, ingredients, cooking method, toppings, available flavors, health impact, popularity, and price. Of course, one also has to consider one’s personal preferences when it comes to taste.

Both bagels and doughnuts have evolved into breakfast staples, though they make great snacks, too. While you don’t really have to choose between bagels and doughnuts (both can be your favorites!), knowing how they differ can help you make a wiser choice! Consider the following things before choosing between a bagel and a doughnut:

1. Appearance

Doughnuts are traditionally round with a ring in the center, especially in the USA and UK, but may also be ball-shaped, elongated, or twisted when created within a particular culture. In addition, they may be covered in a wide variety of toppings, making them very colorful and attractive, especially for those who have a sweet tooth. 

Bagels are also traditionally round with a hole in the center, so it’s not uncommon for people to mistake one for the other in some instances. Bagels are mainly this round, but the sesame or poppy seeds and a wide variety of other savory ingredients set them apart. They can also be fancy and twisted into a hollow heart-shaped snack. 

2. Taste 

Doughnuts are unapologetically sweet, so if you’re not a fan of sugary things, you may drift towards choosing a bagel. However, it is not necessarily the dough that is sweet. Instead, doughnuts are decadent because of the glaze added to them or all the delicious frosting that sits on top. Plus, the addition of sprinkles and other sweet toppings makes doughnuts very sweet. 

Bagels are on the savory side and include a good amount of salt. A good bagel may be hard to come by in some places, so a good bagel with just the right taste is always appreciated.  

3. Texture 

Doughnuts are crispy on the outside yet light and fluffy on the inside. With a generous amount of crème or frosting, doughnuts hit the spot for crispy and creamy. In addition, they are made with very light dough, making them soft and airy. 

In contrast, bagels are heavy and very filling. They do have a crispness to them, and your first bite may be unlike a doughnut – but it’s the chewy center and the savory taste that lingers in your mouth, leaving you wanting more. 

4. Size

The average doughnut is 4.7-5.5 inches (generally 13 cm in diameter). You’ll also find mini doughnuts, especially at fairs and garden parks. These are cute and bite-size, so you’re able to consume much more. However, doughnuts can also be giant depending on where people make them, but you’ll always want them to be light – not dense. 

A regular bagel can measure up to 6 inches (15 cm in diameter). Bagels are usually a standard size and can become large, depending on whether or not you’re stuffing them like a sandwich.

5. Core ingredients 

People make bagels from high-gluten flour or bread flour, which makes them heavier and more filling than doughnuts. Doughnuts, on the other hand, are made from a lighter dough than bagels. They are also soft because bakers first leaven the dough with yeast.  

6. Are they boiled?

People usually boil bagels in water for a short time, which gives the bagel its chewy and somewhat crisp texture. People don’t cook doughnuts using this method. 

7. Are they fried in oil? 

Doughnuts are most delicious when they are deep-fried. People don’t cook bagels using this method. 

8. Are they baked in an oven?

Bagels can be baked in an oven for 10 – 15 minutes at 500°F, making the already crisp bagels crunchy. Doughnuts can also be baked like bagels (just not boiled like them) as a healthier option. 

9. Toppings 

When it comes to sweet toppings for doughnuts, the list is abundant. Doughnuts can be glazed or coated with frosting and covered with an array of toppings and sprinkles. We can fill doughnuts with jelly, crème, chocolate, caramel, jam, etc. In addition, people enjoy doughnuts sprinkled with rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, coconut, peanuts, chopped candy bars, and any other decadent thing a menu has to offer. 

When it comes to bagels, the list of fillings and toppings lends itself to a savorier selection. Sesame or poppy seeds and garlic may commonly coat a bagel. We can also fill bagels like a sandwich, loaded with cheese, tomato and basil, spinach, artichoke, blueberry, etc.

Chocolate, blueberry, lemon, and maple are among some of the most popular flavors for doughnuts. 

Many people prefer cheddar cheese, cinnamon, raisin, blueberry, onion, chocolate chip, and whole-wheat flavors for bagels. 

11. Considering health issues 

Because doughnuts are deep-fried and very sweet, and we bake bagels, people assume that bagels are healthier than doughnuts. Doughnuts indeed have a high calorie and carbohydrate content, but bagels have a high sodium content and could be even worse than doughnuts in some instances. Just one bagel can account for your daily sodium intake. So, if you’re asking which one is more unhealthy, the answer is simple: both. So, do remember to enjoy everything in moderation. 

12. Popularity 

People all around the world enjoy both doughnuts and bagels. Given that bagels are more costly to produce, and we end up waiting longer in a queue for people to fill them, you’ll find doughnuts to be plenteous. However, given the trend of people becoming more health-conscious, bagels seem to be more popular. 

Both doughnuts and bagels are mainly enjoyed in the Western hemisphere, especially in the USA and UK, where traditional doughnuts and bagels are round with a hole in the middle. But they are both enjoyed worldwide, even though you may not find them in conventional shape.

13. The price 

Often, bagels are more costly to produce, and it takes a longer time to bake them, so you would pay slightly more for bagels. However, depending on where you are, this might not always be the case.

14. When to eat it?

Doughnuts have evolved to be breakfast items, but the best time to eat a doughnut is just before you’re planning a workout or going for a jog to help you get rid of the calories! However, most people enjoy doughnuts as a snack throughout the day, and who can say no to doughnuts at teatime or as a midnight snack?

Bagels are standard breakfast items and are generally served in the mornings or at lunchtime. They are very filling, whether you’re grabbing one on the go to work or having a stuffed one for lunch.

15. Do you have a sweet tooth? 

If you have a sweet tooth, as most kids do, doughnuts are your best option. However, a cinnamon or raisin bagel may satisfy your craving. 

Final words

Doughnuts and bagels may look similar in appearance, but their composition sets them apart. If you’re trying to get into shape and can’t seem to resist either doughnuts or bagels, remember round is also a shape. And every time you reach out for a round doughnut or bagel, remember that the center of both is 100% fat-free! So enjoy your doughnuts and bagels.

Questions and Answers

Which is healthier, doughnuts or bagels?

Doughnuts are a type of fried confectionery, whereas bagels are a baked bread-like product. Doughnuts have a higher sugar content and are high in calories, and bagels are high in sodium content. If you’re trying to keep away from sugar, stay away from doughnuts, and if you’re trying to cut down your sodium intake, stray away from bagels. 

Which bagel is the healthiest?

Sesame seed bagels contain good fats and fiber, making them the bagel of choice. Other healthy options include pumpernickel, oat, and whole-wheat bagels. 

Doughnuts were America’s go-to for decades, but since people started paying attention to being health-conscious, the bagel is catching up with doughnuts. Plus, some people find bagels to be more versatile. You can split them, toast them, and add healthier nutritious options to create a sandwich.

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.