turkish sesame bagel

Simit Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Turkish Sesame Bagel

Simit is a beloved Turkish street food that I’ve fallen in love with over my visits to Istanbul. Picture a golden, sesame-crusted bread that is perfect for breakfast or a quick snack. While it looks like it came directly for a corner bakery, it is actually very simple to make.

The key to simit is its unique texture and flavor, achieved through a simple mix of ingredients and steps. This sesame-coated bread is not only delicious but also versatile, making it a staple for anyone looking to expand their baking repertoire.

History and Significance

Simit is more than just a snack; it’s a cultural icon in Turkey. I remember my first trip to Istanbul, where the scent of freshly baked simit filled the air as I wandered the streets.

getting ready to eat simit

This traditional bread has an ancient history. It dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Old records and local tales talk about simit being sold by street vendors as far back as the 17th century.

Simit has a special place in Turkish street food culture. You’ll often see vendors, called simitçi, balancing trays filled with simit on their heads, shouting “simit, gevrek!”. Gevrek means crispy and refers to the sesame-covered crust.

In Istanbul, simit is a common breakfast item. It’s often paired with cheese, olives, and tea, making it a typical Turkish breakfast. The crunchy, sesame-coated crust and soft interior make it perfect for dipping into a warm drink.

Over the years, simit has symbolized more than just food. It’s a sign of comfort, tradition, and home for many Turks. During migration periods, it remained a connection to their roots for those who left Istanbul.

Eating simit today ties us back to its rich history. It reminds us of family breakfasts and the bustling streets filled with friendly vendors.

Making and enjoying simit isn’t just about food; it’s about savoring a piece of Turkish heritage.

Ingredients Overview

A table filled with flour, water, yeast, and sesame seeds. A mixing bowl and a rolling pin sit nearby

In making Simit, it’s essential to gather a few key ingredients. We’ll look at the main components that shape the bread and some optional toppings and sides to enhance your experience.

Main Ingredients

Flour: The base of Simit is all-purpose flour. This provides the structure and texture of the bread.

Yeast: This is vital for the dough to rise. I use active dry yeast, ensuring it’s fresh to get a good rise.

Salt: It enhances the flavor. A little goes a long way in balancing the taste.

Sugar: I add a small amount to help feed the yeast, making the bread a bit tender.

Water: Lukewarm water (90-110°F) helps activate the yeast. It is crucial for forming the dough.

Olive Oil: Gives the dough flexibility and taste. Some people use butter. I don’t.

Sesame Seeds: These are what give Simit its distinct look and nutty flavor. They should fully coat the outside.

Molasses or Silan: This is mixed with water to create a sticky coating that helps the sesame seeds stick.

Optional Ingredients for Toppings and Sides

Sea salt: My kids’ favorite. Don’t overdo it.

Za’atar: One of the most popular spices in my kitchen as you probably already know.

Everything but the bagel: This is great on many baked stuff. It is not my top choice for simit but it is a matter of taste. I use it on my everything bagel popcorn and love it.

Making the Simit Step-by-Step

To make perfect simit, you only need three simple steps: making the dough, shaping the simit and adding the toppings. After that, obviously, baking.

Making the Dough

First, I mix all my dry dough ingredients except the salt. I use 4 cups of all-purpose flour or sometimes bread flour for a better texture, 1 tablespoon of dry yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I mix it lightly with a spoon in a large mixing bowl.

I add 1/3 cup of olive oil and a cup of lukewarm water and start the mixer on slow.

After 2-3 minutes of mixing, I add 1 tablespoon of salt and continue to mix on medium for additional 6-8 minutes.

When the dough feels right, I shape it into a ball and place it in a greased bowl, covering it with a damp cloth.

Shaping the Simit

the simit dough twisted and ready on parchment paper

After the dough has risen, I punch it down and divide it into 8 small pieces.

I take each piece and divide it to two equal pieces.

Each piece is rolled into a thin rope, about 10-12 inches long.

I take the two piece, connect them together at one end and start twisting it until the end.

Then, I join the ends of each rope to form a ring, gently pressing the ends to seal them together.

Adding the Toppings

I like to use silan. You can find it in many stores and online.

Grape molasses and pomegranate molasses also works well.

two turkish bagels side by side

I create a water bath by mixing the silan (or molasses) with water in a shallow bowl.

Each simit ring is dipped into the molasses-water mixture, ensuring it’s fully coated.

After coating with molasses, I dip each ring into toasted sesame seeds.

I make sure the simit is generously covered, as the sesame seeds add a lot of flavor.

Using a spoon helps to scoop the seeds on top of the simit for an even coating.

Once coated, the simit is ready to bake, promising a crunchy and tasty crust.

Baking the Simit

Baking the simit doesn’t require any special chef level capability.

First, I set my oven to 400°F (200°C). It’s important to let the oven fully preheat to ensure even baking. To get the best crust, I line my baking sheets with parchment paper.

The simit rings are placed on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. I ensure there’s enough space between each ring so they don’t touch while they bake.

I usually set a timer for around 20 minutes. During this time, I resist the urge to open the oven door too often. Maintaining a consistent temperature ensures the simit develops a beautiful golden brown crust.

showing the inside of a simit

To know when the simit is done, I look for that distinct golden brown color on the sesame-coated surface. I also check the bottom, which should be firm and slightly crispy.

If I’m not sure, a gentle tap on the bottom of the simit should sound hollow, indicating it’s fully baked. Keeping a close eye during the last few minutes can make a significant difference in the final outcome.

Serving Suggestions

Simit is incredibly versatile, perfect for breakfast, with lunch or as a snack.

The only problem I encountered with simit, is that it tends to disappear very quickly 🙂

Here are a few ways you can enjoy it:

The best time to eat it is when it is cooled down just a bit. You would want to eat it warm, but not too hot where it burns your mouth.

For a savory touch, try pairing simit with cheese like marinated feta or labneh spread. Olives add a nice briny contrast. If you prefer a sweet option, butter with jam is always a favorite.

Simit also goes well with eggs. Their rich, creamy texture pairs beautifully with the crunch of simit.

Storing and Reheating

Simit can be easily stored for later enjoyment and reheated to bring back its fresh taste and texture. Follow these tips to keep your simit delicious.

simit with a mix of toppings

Best Practices for Storage

To keep simit fresh, store it in an airtight container at room temperature. It will stay good for about 2-3 days this way. If you need to keep it longer, put the simit in a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

Tip: Before freezing, make sure the simit is completely cool to prevent ice crystals from forming.

Reheating Leftovers

When you’re ready to enjoy your leftover simit, it’s easy to reheat. Defrost frozen simit, then, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the simit on a baking sheet and heat it for a few minutes until warmed.

For a quicker option, use a toaster. Simply place the simit in the toaster for a few minutes. This method works best if your simit isn’t too thick.

Making Gluten-Free Simit

For a gluten-free option, use a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix. Add xanthan gum for structure, ensuring your simit isn’t too crumbly. Be mindful that gluten-free dough might need more water to reach the desirable elasticity.

turkish sesame bagel

Simit – Turkish Sesame Bagel

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Dough rest time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Appetizer, Baked Good, bread, Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine Mediterranean, Turkish
Servings 8 people


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup silan/molasses
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sesame seeds


  • Activate Yeast: Dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast in 1 cup warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes until frothy.
  • Make Dough: Combine 4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix until dough forms.
  • Knead Dough: Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  • First Rise: Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
  • Shape Simit: Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 20-inch rope. Fold rope in half, twist, and form a ring. Press ends together to seal.
  • Prepare Coating: Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Mix 1/2 cup molasses and 1/2 cup water in a bowl. Place 1 cup sesame seeds in another bowl.
  • Coat Simit: Dip each ring in the molasses mixture. Then dip in sesame seeds to coat.
  • Bake Simit: Place rings on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  • Cool and Serve: Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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