Photo by Susan Barocas

Crunching Poppyseeds on Purim

These flaky, gluten-free cookies are eaten for Norouz, the Persian New Year, and by Persian Jews for the holiday of Purim since both holidays often fall close together on the calendar. The story of Purim takes place in ancient Persia, so it is wonderfully appropriate that these Persian treats include rose or orange blossom water to evoke the floral-scented air of the royal palace gardens where Esther so often walked. And, of course, the poppy seeds are part of many Purim dishes with various meanings including the destruction of the murderous Haman as we crunch the seeds with our teeth.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies


  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sunflower, safflower, avocado or other good vegetable oil (no corn or soy) 
  • 2 tablespoons rosewater or orange blossom water
  • 3-4 cups fine white rice flour
  • About 1/3 cup poppy seeds

Beat the eggs with a whisk or electric mixer until they are lighter in color and frothy. Add sugar and beat again until the mixture is pale yellow. Beat in the oil and rosewater or orange blossom water until well blended.

Using a wooden spoon, add the rice flour about a cup at a time, blending well after each cup, just until the dough a soft dough forms, easy to handle and firm enough to make into balls. How much rice flour you will need to use will depend on the humidity in the air, the size of your eggs and the qualities of the flour itself. When ready, cover and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or even overnight to let it hydrate.

To bake, take the dough out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you want to use it so it’s easier to work with. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Use your thumb to make a small indent in the top of each cookie and fill with a good pinch of poppy seeds. Keep the seeds in a circle shape in the center of each cookie. Alternatively, gently press each ball into a thick disk, then use a fork lightly, first one direction and then across to create a crisscross pattern. Lightly sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheets around in the oven halfway through, until the cookies are starting to brown on the bottom. Let cool before moving from the cookie sheets. Lovely served garnished with edible rose petals. Store unrefrigerated for up to 3 days. The cookies can be frozen for up to two months in a freezer-proof container with layers separated by parchment or waxed paper. 

Writer, chef and cooking instructor Susan Barocas is co-founder/co-director of Savor: A Sephardic Music & Food Experience, created in 2022 with Ladino singer Sarah Aroeste to present memorable experiences in Sephardic history and culture.