a hard bread roll shaped like a ring See related entries: Carbohydrates Culture Bagels are cooked first in water and then baked. Bagels first became popular in New York City as a type of Jewish bread. They are often eaten there with cream cheese (= soft white cheese containing a lot of cream) and smoked salmon (= fish with pink flesh). see also lox Word Origin early 20th cent. (as beigel): from Yiddish beygel.