They are the official cookies of the Jewish holiday Purim.
Marked by costume parties and copious drinking, Purim is a raucous Jewish holiday that celebrates a foiled plot to kill all of the Jews in ancient Persia.
Haman was one of the Persian king’s royal advisers who had it in for the Jews, and especially for a particular Jew named Mordecai. Unfortunately for Haman, the king took a liking to Mordecai’s beautiful niece, Esther, and made her his Queen. By wielding her royal influence, Esther convinced the king to save the Jews and kill Haman instead.
Hamantaschen translates to “Haman’s pockets” and there are a lot of theories about what they represent — his hat, his ears, his pockets full of evil bribe money.
More importantly, they are triangular cookies traditionally made out of a delicious shortbread dough and filled with fruit preserves, poppy seeds, or marmalade. In celebration of their salvation, Jews eat them during Purim, which is on February 23rd and 24th this year.
The traditional flavors are apricot, fig, prunes, strawberry — that kind of thing.
Here are the standouts.
1. Caramel Apple Hamantaschen
A dulce de leche and stewed apple filling turn Hamantaschen into mini apple pies by any other name. Find the recipe here.
2. Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Savory Pizza Hamantaschen
Jews are encouraged to drink freely as they listen to the story of Purim being read annually from the Scroll of Esther (also known as the Megillah). Why not substitute the traditional wine and Hamantaschen with these Hamanpizzas and beer?
3. Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Hamantaschen
This recipe substitutes more traditional fruit fillings with a thick caramel sauce poured inside after baking.
4. Coffee Cake Hamantaschen
This cookie’s streusel-inspired filling of apple butter, brown sugar, and assorted chopped nuts is sure to give biscotti a run for its money as a coffee accompaniment.
5. Candy Cane Cheesecake Hamantaschen
This recipe allows Jews to appropriate the candy cane for their own holiday. They’re not just for Christmas anymore!
6. French Onion Soup Hamantaschen
In addition to Gruyere cheese, Worcestershire sauce is the key. Find a detailed recipe here.
7. Gluten-Free Hamantaschen
Yes, it’s possible! Celiac sufferers rejoice.
8. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hamantaschen
9. Chocolate, Raspberry and Coconut Hamantaschen
Try this trifecta of awesome like this.
10. Rum and Raisin Hamantaschen
A Trinidadian filling of macerated prunes, raisins, currants, and Angostura bitters soaked in rum or cherry brandy gives the traditional dried fruit filling a boozy twist. Photo and recipe from TriniGourmet.com.
11. Gingerbread Hamantashen with Spiced Apple Filling
Who says gingerbread is only for Christmas? Ginger, allspice, cloves, and molasses give seasonal spice to the traditional shortbread base in this recipe.
12. White Chocolate and Cherry Hamantaschen
13. Pumpkin Whole Wheat Hamantaschen
This variation is essentially a Purim-adapted pumpkin pie empanada.
14. Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Hamantaschen
This salty-sweet combo is tried and true.
15. Rose-Water Almond Hamantaschen
Since the story of Purim takes place in Persia according to the Megillah, the characteristically Persian flavors of rose-water and almond make this recipe regionally appropriate.
16. Fruit Hamantartlets
Ditch conventional dried or jelly fruit fillings in favor of these fresh fruit “hamantartlets”.
17. Mediterranean Hamantaschen
This homage to the Purim story’s Mediterranean setting combines tomato, basil, and goat cheese for a simple, savory appetizer.
18. Hamantaschen Truffle Pops
Abandon the traditional cookie altogether with this trendy cake-pop adaptation.
19. Samoa Hamantaschen
It’s Girl Scout Cookie season, and this Samoa-inspired hamantaschen delivers the much beloved toasty coconut, caramel, and chocolatey drizzle in triangular form.
20. Baklava Hamantaschen
Baklava is a traditional Persian pastry made of layered phyllo dough, mixed nuts (commonly pistachios and almonds), and a heavy dousing of rose water-infused syrup and cardamom. This recipe swaps rose-water for apricot as a nod to traditional Hamantaschen fillings, while taking the cookie back to its biblical roots.
21. Gluten-Free Pecan Pie Hamantaschen
Gluten-allergic folks can celebrate not only Uncle Mordechai’s heroic rescuing of the Jews, but also this rice and coconut flour variant on the classic shortbread Hamantaschen dough.
22. PB & J Hamantaschen
A dollop of peanut butter turns a humdrum jelly-filled Hamantaschen into a whole new ooey-gooey experience.
23. Lemon Bar Hamantaschen
A tangy lemon bar encased in shortbread? Yes please.
24. Zebra Hamantaschen
This swirled light and dark confection embodies the Übermensches and evil tyrants present in all biblical stories.
25. Spelt Brown Sugar Hamantashen with Red Currant Agave Filling
Purim goes gourmet with this elegant Hamantaschen upgrade.
26. Savory Meat Pie Hamantaschen
From afar these may look like traditional Hamantaschen, but take a bite to discover they more closely resemble beef empanadas. Give meat-filled Hamantaschen a shot with this recipe.
27. Chocolate & Peanut Butter “Inside Out” Hamantaschen
Try this Reese’s-esque cookie interpretation.
28. Midnight Mint Hamantaschen
This bittersweet and minty Hamantaschen recipe was inspired by the classic Girl Scout Thin Mint.
29. Chocolate Raspberry Hamantaschen
The use of almond flour gives this classic pairing of chocolate and raspberries a nutty, gluten-free spin. Find the recipe here.
30. Marble Coconut Hamantaschen
The recipe for these black and white Hamantaschen is quite involved, but the outcome is almost too beautiful to eat (but presumably too delicious not to).
31. Cardamom Scented Hamantaschen with Pear & Goat Cheese Filling
Though not a cookie, this savory take on the Hamantaschen makes a nice, arguably more nutritious complement to its dessert brethren.