If you have an Instagram account, it was no doubt clogged with photos of rainbow bagels—with heavy schmears of Funfetti cream cheese, naturally—at some point last year.
While we’re firm believers that Funfetti does not belong anywhere near a bagel, the mere existence of this viral food fad proves the nation’s obsession with the holey rounds knows no bounds. And people are finally willing to take their bagels outside the cream cheese comfort zone. Attention, brunch hosts: Never stress out about cold pancakes or an underwhelming frittata again. Opt for a bagel-and-cheese spread instead. Technicolor swirls optional.
An everything bagel requires a strong and sturdy cheese, as any delicate or subtle flavors will be overpowered by sesame seeds, onion, and garlic. Who’s afraid of a little bad breath? Not you, so start with marinated feta—the cheese takes on a rounded flavor from the olive oil and herbs without losing its briny bite. Gobble it with an everything bagel for a breakfast with Mediterranean flair. Za’atar in your pantry? Sprinkle it on. Leftover pesto in your fridge? That works. Spare Piment d’Espelette on the spice rack? It’s at home here, too.
Or go in a totally different direction and melt raclette on the zesty bagel. The cheese’s pungency and slight meatiness harmonize with the crusty ring’s flavorful seeds, such as musky caraway and nutty poppy. Add some caramelized onions—and we wouldn’t turn up our noses at lardons, either—for the après ski pizza bagel you didn’t know you were missing.
Meredith Dairy Marinated Feta + everything bagel
Spring Brook Farm Reading + everything bagel
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Here’s the thing about a cinnamon raisin bagel: It’s dessert in disguise. But given the right cheese, it can hang with more savory pals. Bleu de Chèvre Cendré plays off the raisins particularly well, offering a salty-sweet combo. Less aggressive than other blues, this goat wheel craves sweet cinnamon to accentuate its creaminess.
Cinnamon raisin bagels beg for a generous amount of butter—amplify that classic pairing with Délice de Bourgogne, a triple-cream cow’s milk disk made in Burgundy that tastes like cream cheese and brie had a baby. This highly spreadable cheese makes the bagel come across less sweet, yet still plenty indulgent. Even Aunt Doris—who claims she doesn’t like “fancy cheese”—will come back for seconds of this combo.
Ferme de la Tremblaye Bleu de Chèvre Cendré + cinnamon raisin bagel
Fromagerie Lincet Délice de Bourgogne + cinnamon raisin bagel
There’s something very “me time” about the plain bagel chip, which is basically a vehicle for whatever you eat it with. Don’t think too hard about this one: You’ve had a long day, and you’re looking for an easy snack. That’s where dill havarti comes in. Put on some sweats and slice off a generous hunk—the soft texture offers a welcome contrast to the crunch.
Bagel chips can play with the big cheeses, too. The mushroom funk of the much-heralded Rush Creek Reserve doesn’t overpower the chips’ mild salty flavor. The best part? You can dunk crisps straight into the runny spruce bark–encased cheese wheel. No bowl required.
Roth Cheese Havarti Dill + plain bagel chips
Uplands Cheese Company Rush Creek Reserve + plain bagel chips
Feature Photo Credit: Binh Thanh Bui/Shutterstock.com