Hamentashen are crunchy, crumbly, just sweet enough triangle shaped cookies with a center filled with sweet poppy seed or fruit fillings. They’re a popular treat on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
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These crunchy filled cookies are gorgeous to look at, especially if you use an assortment of fillings. Some of my favorite fillings are the very traditional poppy seed filling, strawberry jam, peach jam, or blackberry jelly. Nutella makes is a break from tradition, but a delicious one!
What is Purim?
Purim is sort of a raucous Jewish holiday with a good story. This guy named Haman was King Ahaseurus of Persia’s top minister. This other guy, Mordecai (who happened to be Jewish), was also high ranking, but not as high Haman.
Mordecai thought Haman was full of it, so he dissed him and Haman got super pissed. But the king loved Mordecai because he had once saved the king’s life. In fact, the king ordered Haman to honor Mordecai for this good deed, which really ticked Haman off.
Haman got so mad that he concocted a plan to not only kill Mordecai, but to kill all of his people (the Jews). Knowing the king was partial to Mordecai, he made vague accusations about a group of dangerous people within the kingdom. And he convinced the king to sign an order to allow Haman to kill all of them.
But Queen Esther, who happened to be Mordecai’s niece/adopted daughter and also a Jew, found out about his plan. And she concocted a plot of her own to stop it.
Esther convinced the king to throw a party to “honor” Haman. Once the party was underway, she revealed, in dramatic fashion, that that she was Jewish. And also that she was the niece/adopted daughter of Mordecai. And finally, that Haman had tricked the king into approving Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews so that he could kill Mordecai.
In the end, the King had Haman executed. And guess who got Haman’s job? Yeah, obv. It was Mordecai.
I guess it’s a bit of grisly story. But it’s commemorated with much merry making, drinking, dressing in costumes (it’s sometimes referred to as the Jewish Halloween or the Jewish Mardis Gras), exchanging gifts of food, and eating these delicious filled triangle cookies!
Why is hamentashen triangular?
Have you ever heard the phrase “ask 2 Jews, get 3 answers?” We Jews love food symbolism, and we also love to debate all the possible interpretations of a thing. There are at least three different answers for the question of why hamentashen are triangular.
Some say the three-pointed cookies represent a three-pointed hat Haman wore. To take a bite out of Haman’s hat is to defy him and, well, to say screw you, Haman. We see your evil plan and we’re stopping it. But… did Haman wear a three-pointed hat? Who’s to say? There’s no mention of it in the original story.
Others say the cookies represent Haman’s ears that (trigger warning!) were cut off of his head before he was hanged. Apparently they used to do this in medieval Europe—cut off a man’s ears before they executed him. Whoa. That’s intense. And, um, gross.
The more plausible explanation is that they were originally called “mohn tashen” in German. Mohn meaning poppy seeds and tashen meaning pockets—cookie pockets filled with poppy seeds!
These poppy seed-filled cookies became a popular Purim treat among European Jews in the early 19th century.
Mohntashen sounds a lot like hamentashen, doesn’t it? Makes perfect sense!
Fruit jams and preserves, chocolate, and other fillings are also common these days but were introduced more recently.
When these cookies got popular as a Purim treat, apparently the rabbis felt they needed to provide symbolic meaning. In Hebrew, tash means “weakened.” So they said, well, we eat these cookies because Haman was weakened. I mean, I guess I can see the logic, but I’m not buying it.
Personally, I’m going with the hat explanation.
What makes this hamantaschen recipe the best?
I love this recipe because the dough is super easy to handle. Most hamentashen dough is made with butter. While buttery dough is delicious, it can be hard to shape and handle.
This dough uses oil instead of butter. It is every bit as delicious as the buttery kind, but in my opinion, much easier to deal with.
Using oil instead of butter also makes this recipe parve if that is important to you.
What ingredients do you need to make hamentashen?
The ingredients for hamentashen are simple pantry ingredients, similar to any basic cookie recipe. You can use any type of jam or preserves for the filling, or use poppy seed filling. You can even use something like Nutella!
Here’s what you need:
- Oil (any type of neutral flavored oil, like sunflower seed, safflower, corn, vegetable, or canola oil)
- Baking powder
- Vanilla extract
- Filling (jam, preserves, jelly, poppy seed filling, etc)
How do you make it?
These hamentashen are super easy to make. Because the dough uses oil instead of butter, it is much easier to handle than other the dough in other recipes.
It also means that you can make it in one bowl with nothing but a spoon or whisk for mixing. Here’s how:
- Mix the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until well combined.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until well combined in a stif dough.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour (or longer).
- Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into circles.
- Dollop the filling onto the circles and fold up the sides to form a triangle around the filling.
- Bake until lightly golden brown.
Tips for success
These Hamantaschen are especially easy to make since the oil-based dough is so easy to handle. Here are a few more tricks to making perfect hamentashen:
- Be sure to roll the dough out to an even thickness. I find that somewhere between 1/8 and ¼ inch is perfect—thick enough that it doesn’t fall apart instantly when you try to shape it, but thin enough that it cooks thoroughly and evenly.
- For the ideal size and shape, use a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter. If you don’t have one, you can use a drinking glass that size.
- Don’t add too much filling. As tempting as it is to load up on the jewel-colored, sweet-tasting jams and preserves, too much filling will prevent the cookies from holding their shape. The triangles will bust open and filling will bubble out all over the place. About a teaspoon of filling is just right if you’re using a 2 ½-inch round cutter.
- Place the filling on the dough round before folding up the sides.
- There is an endless variety of possible fillings. Poppy seed filling is the most traditional. I like the Solo Poppy Seed Filling. Or you can make your own poppy seed filling!
- You can also use fruit jams, jellies, or preserves. Some modern-day bakers have strayed far from tradition to use fillings like Nutella or peanut butter.
- Use an assortment of fillings for a particularly attractive display, or if there is one filling you just love, just go ahead and use that for the whole batch.
- Pinch the corners and sides of the dough together well when you create your triangle. This will keep them from opening up during baking.
More Jewish holiday recipes you’ll love
- Sufganiyot or Jelly Donuts for Hanukkah
- Potato Latkes for Hanukkah
- Classic Chopped Liver
- Vegetarian Chopped Liver
- Honey Cake
- Check out all of my Jewish Recipes!
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup neutral-flavored oil (safflower, sunflower seed, canola, etc.)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup filling of your choice (Solo Poppy Seed Filling; fruit jam, jelly, or preserves; or a non-traditional filling like Nutella)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar,
and vanilla extract.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir with a
wooden spoon (or feel free to use an electric mixer), until well combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk. Wrap the dough disk in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to about
1/8-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch round cutter.
- Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each of
the dough rounds. Fold up three sides and pinch them together to form a triangle around the filling, making sure to leave the center open so that the filling is visible.
- Bake for 12 to14 minutes, until the cookies are very lightly
browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Amount Per Serving Calories 89Total Fat 4gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 12mgSodium 31mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 0gSugar 3gProtein 2g
Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.