Savory Persian Herb and Cheese Hamantaschen

Amelia Saltsman
Recipe by
Amelia Saltsman

Hamantaschen, the traditional triangular Ashkenazic Purim pastries, are typically a sweet treat. I’ve taken a savory approach here, using spring herbs, a Persian favorite, to honor Esther and Mordechai’s heritage, as well as the season.

With their flaky dough, these Haman’s hats (or pockets or ears) are reminiscent of burekas, the small hand pies popular in Israel and the eastern Mediterranean. You can make snack-size hamantaschen or large ones for a vegetarian main dish (see the variation at the end of the recipe).

For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups (190 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170 g) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) ice water
For the filling:
1 bunch each Persian or regular mint, leek or garlic chives, pepper cress, green onions, and tarragon
3/4 cup (170 g) labneh, homemade or store-bought
6 ounces (170 g) feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

To Make the Pastry:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt with a fork.
  2. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and, using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some flattened pieces of butter still visible.
  3. Stir in the ice water, a little at a time, until the dough just sticks together when pressed between your fingertips.
  4. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and flatten into a thick rectangle.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated; let it rest at room temperature until soft enough to roll out, about 15 minutes.)

To Make the Filling:

  1. Finely chop enough of each of the herbs in any combination preferred to total 1¼ cups (75 g) lightly packed.
  2. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together the labneh and feta.
  3. Stir in the egg, then stir in the chopped herbs.

To Assemble the Pastries:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Have ready 2 sheet pans. If you like, line them with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the dough in half and rewrap and refrigerate half of it. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other half into a rectangle or circle 1/16 to ⅛ inch (2 to 3 mm) thick. Cut out 12 circles each 3½ inches (9 cm) in diameter, rerolling any scraps as needed.
  3. Mound 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each dough circle. Fold the sides of the dough up over the filling to form a triangle, leaving a nickel-size bit of filling exposed. Pinch the three corners of the triangle very firmly to seal. Arrange the pastries on a sheet pan, spacing them about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Refrigerate the first batch while you make more with the remaining half of the dough and filling. Top off the pastries with any leftover filling. Brush the pastries with the egg wash.
  4. Bake the pastries for 12 minutes; the bottoms will be light golden. Reduce heat to 375°F (190°C) and continue to bake until the crust is a rich gold and the filling is puffed and browned in places, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Using an offset spatula, transfer the pastries to a wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftover hamantaschen; they can be reheated in a 350°F (180°C).

Main Dish Variation:

To make 6 large hamantaschen, cut three 6-inch (15-cm) circles from each piece of dough. Use about ⅓ cup (70 g) of filling for each dough circle and fold as directed. As you complete shaping each hamantasch, use a wide offset spatula to move it onto the baking sheet. Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 15 minutes and at 375°F (190°C) for about 25 minutes.

Kitchen Note:

Unbaked hamantaschen can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to one week. Brush frozen pastries with egg wash just before baking, and increase oven times to 15 and 18 minutes, respectively.

Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen © 2015 by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photo by Staci Valentine.

Learn more about the history of Jewish Persian food and find additional recipes.