Celebrating Purim Hamentashen: sweet vs. savory

By: Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When I was growing up, there were two kinds of hamentashen fillings: prune or poppy. I don’t remember being fond of poppy, so my preference was for prune. Since I love fruit, it was great when the cookies began being filled with other fruit flavors in addition to prune. Although cherry and blueberry ones are my favorites (and not easy to find), I don’t mind the other fruit fillings. Raspberry and apricot seem to rule the hamenstashen world, although chocolate ones also seem popular. Well, popular with everyone except me. Chocolate and hamentashen just don’t go together. Then again, I’m the one who grumbles when my synagogue has chocolate-chip challah, rather than raisin. It’s not that I don’t like chocolate: I really do. It just feels out of place in these foods.
Nowadays, nothing seems out of place when it comes to hamentashen. I’m speaking of the trend toward savory hamentashen that has become popular over the past few years. For some reason, chefs seem eager to turn sweet things into savory and savory things into sweet. There is no reason that cookie dough can’t be used for savory items, but that doesn’t make them hamentashen, which are cookies. Cookies, by nature, are sweet. The only reason these savory items have been called hamentashen is that they resemble the original cookie’s three-corner shape. However, if someone wants to invite me to a meal featuring savory hamentashen with sweet ones for dessert, I won’t complain. Trying new recipes – as long as someone else is doing the cooking – is always fun.
For those seeking new sweet flavors to shake things up or who want to try a savory hamantashen for an interesting twist to their holiday meal, below are some websites with recipes to try. These are only a few among the hundreds of sites and recipes featured online, so feel free to search for even more treats for the holiday.
Worried about making perfect hamentashen dough? There’s a two minute video at My Jewish Learning that should help: www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/how-to-make-the-perfect-hamantaschen-with-videos/.
If you’re looking to try exotic flavors, check out https://whatjewwannaeat.com/. Among the sweet flavors are bananas foster, lemon lavender, strawberry champagne rainbow, chocolate bourbon and mint chocolate. The website contains a few savory recipes, including Shakshuka, caramelized onion, and pita and hummus hamantaschens.
Duff Goldman fans can find his basic recipe at the Food Network site, www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/duff-goldman/hamentashen-recipe-2042308. He suggests using raspberry or apricot preserves, although he also includes the recipe for a poppy seed filling. There is one big difference between his recipe and others: his dough includes brandy. 
Have dietary restrictions? Find a recipe for dairy-free hamentashen at https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/dairy-free-hamantaschen/. A sugar free one is available at https://thesugarfreediva.com/sugar-free-hamantaschen/. There are several sites that offer gluten free hamentashen: https://littleferrarokitchen.com/gluten-free-hamantaschen-for-purim/ and https://elanaspantry.com/gluten-free-raspberry-hamantaschen are just two. Those who need to avoid both sugar and gluten can try out the recipe at www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/gluten-free-sugar-free-hamantaschen-recipe.
The Chabad website offers 13 hamenstashen recipes, including sweet and savory ones, at www.chabad.org/recipes/recipe_cdo/aid/2742168/jewish/13-Unique-Hamantaschen-Recipes-for-Purim.htm. The site tells if recipes are meat, dairy or pareve, and give health and allergy warnings. Those looking to avoid milk should try the meat or pareve ones.
Everything from pizza to guacamole hamentashen can be found at www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/how-to-make-savory-hamantaschen-six-ways/.
The Bon Appetite website offers hamentashen with fillings from different parts of the world, including Spain, Russia, India, Mexico and the Middle East. Find out more at www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/5-savory-hamantaschen-recipes-with-culinary-inspiration-from-spain-russia-india-mexico-and-the-middle-east.
Hadassah magazine has featured hamentashen recipes over the years. You can find some sweet and savory ones at www.hadassahmagazine.org/tag/hamantaschen/.
Parents looking for easy recipes to make hamentashen with their children can check out the links at https://pjlibrary.org/beyond-books/pjblog/february-2017/super-easy-hamantaschen-recipes-to-make-with-kids. The page features three potential recipes, along with a link to another site that shows the correct way to fold hamentashen.
Really want variety? Check out the 36 hamentashen recipes at Buzzfeed. (Visit www.buzzfeed.com and search for “36 Mouthwatering Hamantaschen To Make This Purim.”) The links with each photo will take you to the recipe on other sites. However, it’s fun just to scroll down and look at the different ones offered. Among my potential favorites on the savory side are the egg roll and taco hamentashen. On the sweet side, I don’t think I would turn down a baklava hamentashen. The oddest one is a sushi hamantaschen, but it doesn’t qualify as a cookie, so it really doesn’t deserve to be called a hamentashen.