Poppy Seed, Prune or Something Else:  Some History of Hamantaschen

Created by Rabbi Shari Shamah, Jewish Life Specialist



  • Hamantaschen are called Oznei Haman (אוזני המן) in Hebrew


  • Origins of the Purim treat:
    • They are triangular shaped to be reminiscent of Haman’s Pockets, Haman’s hat, or Haman’s ears.
    • The triangular shape (3 corners) is also said to represent the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Which is taken to signify the faith that the Jews showed, and which weakened Haman’s resolve.


  • Oznei Haman – “Early versions of the cookies were more commonly known as oznei Haman, meaning “Haman’s ears.” The late Jewish food historian Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Foodtraces that phrase — but not the cookie — to the Roman scholar and poet Immanuel ben Solomon (c.1261-1328) who, thanks to “a misinterpretation arising from the medieval Italian custom of cutting off a criminal’s ear before execution,” argued that Haman’s ears had been cut off after he was hanged, at the end of the Purim story.”  https://time.com/4695901/purim-history-hamantaschen/


  • Which came first, the cookie, or the connection to Purim?

Poppy seed cookies were already in existence in Europe since the Middle Ages.  It could be that Ashkenazi Jews made the connection between the Purim story and the cookie.  In German ‘mohn’ is poppy and ‘tasche’ is pocket.  There was a pastry called a mohntasche.  Mohn sounds a lot like Haman… https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/how-hamantaschen-became-a-purim-staple/


  • What about the filling?
    • The poppy seed filling often found in Hamantaschen could be a link to beans and seeds mentioned in the context of Queen Esther.
    • During the 3 days she fasted before seeing the King and revealing her Judaism, Esther, to keep Kosher, only ate beans and seeds. Similarly, the Prophet Daniel only ate beans to avoid being fed non-Kosher food.


וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אָמַר: זֵרְעוֹנִים, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר: ״וַיְהִי הַמֶּלְצַר נוֹשֵׂא אֶת פַּת בָּגָם וְנוֹתֵן לָהֶם זֵרְעוֹנִים״.

And Rabbi Yoḥanan said a third understanding: He gave her vegetables, which did not pose a problem with regard to the kosher laws. And so it states with regard to the kindness done for Daniel and his associates: “So the steward took away their food and the wine that they should drink; and gave them vegetables” (Daniel 1:16). (Megillah 13a)


נַס־נָ֥א אֶת־עֲבָדֶ֖יךָ יָמִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וְיִתְּנוּ־לָ֜נוּ מִן־הַזֵּרֹעִ֛ים וְנֹאכְלָ֖ה וּמַ֥יִם וְנִשְׁתֶּֽה׃

“Please test your servants for ten days, giving us legumes to eat and water to drink. (Daniel 1:16)


What is your favorite flavor hamantaschen?

Raspberry is the most popular flavor for some, with poppy seed coming in second.   Chocolate or Nutella came in third with Apricot the fourth most popular flavor.  https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/the-ultimate-ranking-of-hamantaschen-fillings/


In recent years, savory hamantaschen have also gained in popularity with fillings such as caramelized onions, pizza, spinach, and more.  Creativity is key!


And the most important fact about Hamantaschen… after you roll and fill them, if you chill your dough before baking for about 10-15 minutes it will help them keep their triangular shape!!!



(Shameless plug for the Hamantaschen challah I made…)