Matzoh is to Passover what hamantaschen are to Purim, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jews foiling a plot by the villainous Haman, advisor to King Aẖashverosh, to destroy them, courtesy of Mordecai and his adopted daughter — and eventual queen — Esther.
And on Purim — which this year is celebrated from sundown on Sat., March 15 to sundown on Sun., March 16 — Jews eat hamantaschen, triangular scone-like pastries with various fillings, which resemble Haman’s three-cornered hat. It is our effort to proverbially drink Haman’s milkshake, if you will.
In recent years, hamantaschen bakers have branched out and they’re now filled with everything from gummy worms to cookie dough, and goat cheese to peanut butter and jelly.
But traditionally, they were a whole lot simpler. Below is a ranking of those classic hamantaschen fillings, from worst to best.
11. Poppy seed
Poppy seeds are actually the most traditional hamantaschen filling. But let’s be real. They best belong on another Jewish carb: bagels. Also, in one massive heap like this, they look like caviar. No thank you.
There are few desserts I turn down: Fig Newtons are one of them. The grainy consistency of this fruit in preserve form is only slightly more pleasant to the palate than that of the poppy seeds. Sure, they’re sweeter, but they still make for pretty schlocky ‘taschen.
I have no problem with plums. But the idea of them shriveled up is not something I can get behind. And visually, who wants to eat that? However, Passover is coming up and prunes could really come in handy in a binding situation, if you know what I’m saying.
The nuttiness of the date ranks this hamantaschen filling slightly better than a prune, even though it looks slightly more like something that will come out of you at the end of Purim. Plus, dates allow your Great Uncle Heshy to make all kinds of jokes, so bonus points for that.
You know when you get some mixed berries (from your kosher grocer, of course) and you eat the strawberries first, the raspberries second, the blueberries third, and then throw away the rest? Exactly. Surrounding blackberries in a delicious crumbly dough helps slightly, but they are what they are. Perhaps it should’ve been enough (dayenu), but no. No, it is not.
Here’s where the hamantaschen sort of, kind of get good. Dried apricots are perpetually included in some sort of “dessert” plate your Aunt Sylvia brings over and they are perpetually one of the only things left on said plate (perhaps with some prunes) at the end of the night. But the sweetness of the dough and the peach-y taste of the apricot together? It’s a pretty decent nosh.
Obviously, these are scrumptious and will have you kvelling. But it’s kind of cheating. I mean, they’re basically mini triangle apple pies. McDonald’s has been doing it for years in rectangle shapes. Bubbe would not approve.
Raspberries are like the strawberry’s red-headed step-sibling. Obviously, they’re better than any of the kaka-colored fruit-filled hamantaschen in the top half of this list, but still, they fall slightly short. We can do better.
Listen, the phrase “cherry on top” didn’t come out of nowhere. They’re perfectly red, deliciously sweet and you can futz around with the stems while you’re bored during whatever Purim celebration you’re going to. Win/win.
Obviously, adding chocolate to the list is a game changer. And no, these are not traditional Purim treats, though they aren’t quite as far-fetched as Nutella-filled hamantaschen, which of course now exist and which is, of course, mishegas. If I were going on taste and taste alone, chocolate would take the cake. But what is a Jewish holiday if not one filled with tradition? Nothing, I (and Tevye) tell you.
SHALOM! Now we’re talking. Traditional? Check. Yummy? Check. Visually appealing? Check. Strawberries are the superior fruit and thusly, the superior filling. I think the whole mishpocheh can agree. Mazel, strawberry jam-filled hamantaschen. You win!