Onion Bialys

Onion Bialy

It’s unfortunate that the bialy has not achieved the same level of recognition as the bagel, as they are unquestionably as great. Originally from Bialystock, Poland, the soft rolls are made with a deep indent in the middle, rather than a hole, in which a small amount of filling (and sometimes a scattering of cheese) is added before baking – generally it’s caramelized onions and poppyseed. They’re regaining popularity at Jewish delis and bakeries in New York (particularly in the Lower East Side) and even Toronto, but I’ve never come across a bialy in Calgary. (Which isn’t to say they don’t exist… if you see some, let me know!) Fortunately, you can make your own – and if you have a veritable jungle of onions in your garden, this is a good way to attack them.

Fortunately, bialys are one step easier to make at home: unlike bagels, they don’t require boiling first, and are baked at a high temperature in a standard oven – no pressure to locate a wood-burning one. Sometimes, a second pan is placed on top to weigh them down as they bake, making them flatter, but I like them a bit pouffier… they will swell in the oven though, so make your indentations more dramatic than you’d ultimately like them to be. And if you’d like your bialys a bit more glossy, brush them with a little beaten egg before you fill them with caramelized onions and slide them into the oven.

Onion Bialy

This is a fun late-summer project, especially if you have kids home from school who are always hungry and bored and almost impossible to keep off electronics. Most kids I know love pounding and shaping dough – it’s an elaborate enough project to stretch through a day without requiring too much effort or attention – and they’ll likely get creative rummaging through the kitchen and baking bits of things into the middle of their bialys.

Onion Bialy

Onion Bialy
Onion Bialy

Onion Bialys


August 5, 2019



1 cup warm water

1 tsp active dry yeast

2 1/2-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt


canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 Tbsp butter

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp poppyseed (optional)

grated aged white cheddar or Gouda (optional)


1Place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle with the yeast. Let stand for a few minutes, until it starts to get foamy. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and stir until the dough comes together. Continue to stir, adding 1/2 cup or so more flour, until the dough comes together but is still tacky. Knead or stir with the dough hook on your stand mixer for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Leave in the bowl, covered with a tea towel, for an hour or two, until doubled in bulk.

2Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of oil along with the butter and when the foam subsides, cook the onion for 15 minutes or so, stirring often, until it’s soft and pale golden. If you like, stir in some poppyseed.

3Divide the dough into pieces (about 8 — but make any size you like) and on a parchment-lined baking sheet, shape each into a circle with a deep indent in the middle, like a small pizza with a thickish edge. (It will puff up as it bakes.) Put a spoonful of caramelized onions in the middle of each, and if you like, grate a bit of cheese overtop. Let them sit as you preheat the oven to 450F. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and deep golden. Makes about 8 bialys.


About Julie

9 comments on “Onion Bialys

  1. Kristi
    August 6, 2019 at 4:54 am

    Bialys!!! Yes!!!! Made my day to see this recipe.
    The SAIT culinary campus downtown sometimes has these in their bakery section at lunch time. At least that’s where I fell in love. Onion and bacon together as filling is really quite delectable.

    • Julie
      August 6, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Ooh, good to know! Love the SAIT downtown campus!!

  2. Kate Armstrong
    August 6, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Julie : thank you for doing a post on bialys because my absolute favourite cooking memoir book is Mimi Sheraton’s ‘The Bialy Eaters’

  3. Carol S-B
    August 7, 2019 at 7:41 am

    Mmm, Bialys. These look awesome. And Kristi’s remark about adding bacon? Oh, yeah!
    …also, I saw your post (FB? IG? not sure) about Edna Staebler’s “food that really Schmecks” recipe for simple fritters. They also look amazing. I have “More food that really Schmecks”. SHe writes well.
    Someday I’d like to propose a book exchange program: lend each other a favourite cookbook (and that way each person has a ‘hostage’ so they get their own favourite back 🙂 )… keep it for a week. Have a book return coffee klatch with a recipe from the book.

  4. Natalie Pettegrew
    August 15, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Made these with dinner last night. They were a big hit! Yum!! ..

    • Julie
      August 19, 2019 at 9:00 am

      So glad to hear it!

  5. Andrea Eisenberg
    September 9, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I am fortunate to have a copy of Inside the Jewish Bakery, which rescued and replicates traditional recipes of Jewish baked goods. The death of the bialy can really be traced to the Nazis entering Bialystock in 1941 and burning thousands of Jews inside the main synagogue, later killing those who remained. The bialy is known only because of the Jews who were already living in NY and making them. They are most assuredly not puffy as yours show. The key to a bialy is the flatness and intense chewiness. So what you have there may be a perfectly fine onion roll. But it’s not a bialy. And Jewish baked goods are almost always parve, so the idea of cheese on top (let alone G-d forbid, bacon) is quite disrespectful to the tradition.

  6. Veronica
    December 5, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Hello and thank you for the lovely recipe. Can these be frozen ? If so, before or after baking?

    • Julie
      December 6, 2019 at 11:18 am

      Definitely – and either! If you freeze them before baking, let them thaw/proof overnight (or for a few hours during the day) and bake as usual.

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