These Hamantaschen Cookies are made with a shortbread dough stuffed with sweet jam. While these popular Jewish cookies are traditionally enjoyed for Purim, we love them for Hanukkah too.
The Best Hamantaschen Cookies
Like mandelbrot, hamantaschen are a treat I grew up enjoying. These cookies, which are made with a shortbread dough and jelly center, are typically served on Purim. But we love them year-round and especially during Hanukkah.
Compared to many other Jewish desserts, hamantaschen cookies aren’t overly sweet and they’re quite simple to make. The dough can even be prepared a day in advance. While you can fill these with any jam you like, I typically do mine with half apricot jam and half raspberry jam. Apricot is a pretty traditional filling and I love raspberry, but use your favorite.
Even if you’re not Jewish, you’ll likely love these simple cookies – with their tender crumb and jam center, they’re similar to Christmas thumbprint cookies.
What Are Hamantaschen?
Hamantaschen are triangular cookies made of shortbread dough. The cookies are folded to form a center pocket that’s stuffed with anything from poppy seed filling, jams, and Nutella to savory fillings like smoked salmon.
Hamantaschen are typically enjoyed on Purim, which marks the day Esther told Haman she was Jewish. The name itself comes from Haman, and you’ll also hear these called “Haman’s ears”.
Of course, these tasty Jewish cookies aren’t JUST for Purim – they’re great for Hanukkah and Rosh Hashanah too!
What Do Hamantaschen Represent?
Purim Hamantaschen are said to represent the villain Haman’s hat. Haman was the King’s advisor who planned to execute all Jewish people and it’s said he always wore a triangle hat. Eating hamantaschen is meant to represent defying Haman.
These cookies are made with just 8 pantry ingredients, including many of the same ingredients you’d use to make shortbread cookies.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Unsalted butter – We’re adding salt separately so I recommend unsalted butter. It should be room temperature.
- Powdered sugar – Powdered sugar is used instead of granulated sugar, for an ultra tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- Egg – To bind the dough.
- Vanilla – For flavor.
- Orange zest – You can also use lemon zest.
- Flour – Use the spoon and level technique for accurate measuring.
- Salt – To heighten the other flavors.
- Jam – I make these cookies with half raspberry jam and half apricot jam but you can use other flavors or all of one or the other.
How to Make Hamantaschen Cookies
These Jewish cookies begin with a simple shortbread dough. The chill time is just an hour and working with the dough and cutting out the circles can be quite fun.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
- Form the dough. Cube the butter, then cream it with the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Beat until combined. Sift in the flour and salt. Blend until large clumps form.
- Knead the dough. Knead the dough into a smooth soft ball that’s slightly tacky but not sticky.
- Chill. Flatten the dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Roll out the dough. Dust your rolling pin with flour and roll the dough to between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut as many circles as possible. Collect the scraps, re-roll, and cut circles until you run out of dough.
- Transfer to a baking sheet. Slide a thin spatula under each circle and transfer to a baking sheet.
- Shape the cookies. Add a teaspoon of jam to the center of each cookie. Fold up the edges to form a triangle and pinch the corners gently but securely.
- Chill. Place the baking sheets in the fridge while you preheat the oven.
- Bake. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cookies just start to brown around the edges.
- Cool. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips for making Hamantaschen cookies – especially regarding how to fold them!
- How to tell when the dough is ready. Press a bit of dough between your fingers. If it holds, you’re good to start kneading it. If it’s crumbly, add 1-2 teaspoons of water. Be sure to add just a small amount at a time and only as much as you need, since needing to add more flour can make the pastry become tough.
- Don’t overfill the cookies. It’s tempting to add as much jam as possible, but the filling will spread to fill the cookie as they bake. Add more than a rounded teaspoon and it will boil over.
- Add an egg wash if needed. You can moisten the dough edges before adding the jam, if necessary. Brushing a very small amount of the egg wash over the dough can help it stay together.
- Don’t cover the center of the cookies. Make sure as you lift up the 3 sides and pinch the corners together, they don’t completely cover the filling. You want the center of the filling exposed.
- Keep a close eye on baking time. If your dough was rolled quite thin, it’ll bake quickly. I recommend checking them at 12 minutes and watching them carefully – especially if your oven runs hot.
Video: Hamantaschen Recipe
- Can I make the dough in advance? Yes, you can make the dough for these cookies up to a day in advance. Just keep it wrapped in plastic in the fridge until you’re ready to begin working with it.
- Storing leftovers. Hamantaschen are best served the day they’re prepared but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. You may want to put parchment paper between layers to keep the jam from sticking to the other cookies.
- Can I Freeze Hamantaschen? Yes, you can freeze hamantaschen for up to 3 months. Allow them to cool completely then transfer them to an airtight, freezer-safe container. Use parchment paper between layers. Thaw completely on the counter and enjoy.
More Hanukkah Recipes:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter , room temperature
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg , room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
- 2 & 1/4 cups flour , spooned and leveled
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons raspberry jam
- 5 tablespoons apricot jam
- Cut the room temperature butter into cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add in the powdered sugar and cream together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg, vanilla, and orange zest; beat until thoroughly combined.
- Sift the flour and salt into the bowl.
- Blend until the dough forms large clumps. (To test, take a little bit of the dough and press it together with your fingers; if it holds together, it’s good to go. If it feels crumbly, add water, 1-2 teaspoons at a time only if necessary. Be careful – too much water will require more flour, which will make the pastry tough.)
- Using your hands, begin to knead dough until it comes together into a smooth soft ball. (Try not to overwork the dough. It should be slightly tacky, but not at all sticky, with a good texture for rolling.)
- Flatten the ball of dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and have your jam ready to go.
- Unwrap the dough and place on a clean work surface that's lightly dusted with flour.
- Using a heavy rolling pin dusted with flour, roll the dough between 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. The chilled dough will be firm and initially a bit tough to roll out. Let it sit for a couple minutes to soften. (Don't worry too much if the dough breaks along the edges as you're rolling, since you will be re-rolling the scraps.) Lightly re-flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking, if necessary.
- Using a 3-inch cookie cutter or glass with a 3-inch rim, cut as many circles out of the dough as you can.
- Collect the scraps of dough, re-roll, and cut more circles. Repeat this process until you can't make any more circles from the dough. You should end up with about 30 circles (the thickness of your dough will determine how many you get.)
- Using a thin spatula, gently slide under each circle to release it from the work surface and transfer to the prepared baking sheets, 1- inch apart.
- Put 1 rounded teaspoon of jam in the center of each circle, then fold up the edges to form a triangle, pinching the 3 corners together gently but very well to secure the shape and prevent filling from leaking while baking. (Use the warmth of your fingers to smooth out where the dough has been joined or if there are any cracks.)
- Transfer baking sheets to the refrigerator to chill while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are just starting to brown around the edges. (Because the thickness of the dough can vary and can cook quite fast if rolled thin, start checking them at 12 minutes and watch them carefully, especially if your oven runs hot.)
- Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. They'll firm up as they cool.