A Food Lover’s Guide to Purim
Purim is the Jewish calendar’s biggest party festival. The holiday celebrates the biblical story of the heroic Queen Esther, a Jewish woman who rose to become the Queen of Persia and saved her people from destruction at the hands of her husband’s ill-intentioned advisor, Haman.
People celebrate Purim by gathering in synagogues to read Esther’s story aloud. They then head off to parties to celebrate the ancient victory by wearing costumes, getting tipsy, and, of course, eating. The foods of the Purim Seudah (or feast) have symbolic meanings that connect celebrants to the story of Esther’s heroism.
Here are some of Purim’s most delectable foods and traditions.
Hamantaschen, the triangular cookies that hold a variety of tasty fillings, are Purim’s most recognizable food. The name translates from Yiddish as “Haman’s pockets,” and the cookie fittingly represents the pockets of the Purim story’s primary villain, Haman.
In Eastern Europe, where hamantaschen originated, they were traditionally filled with sweetened ground poppy seeds, thick prune jam, or apricot preserves. These are the fillings you’ll see in our most traditional Hamantaschen recipe.
→ Get the Recipe: Easy Homemade Hamantaschen
Those fillings remain popular today, but in recent years bakeries and home cooks have also taken creative license with hamantaschen, swapping out the typical preserves for spreads like lemon curd, peanut butter, halva, marzipan, caramel, Nutella, and apple butter.
Why not try our cookie butter hamantaschen drizzled with white chocolate? On a festive holiday like Purim, the more cookie varieties the merrier!
Kreplach and Other Triangular Foods
In addition to hamantaschen, some Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews serve kreplach, meat-filled soup dumplings that keep their filling hidden inside, the way Queen Esther initially had to hide her Jewish identity.
Kreplach also falls under the Ashkenazi tradition of eating triangle-shaped foods for Purim. Some people say triangular foods represent the tri-cornered hat Haman wore, although that type of hat wasn’t typical of Esther’s era. They could also reference the three prophets, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Purim Dishes Beyond Eastern Europe
While hamantaschen and kreplach are specific to the Ashkenazi tradition, Jewish communities across the globe have their own Purim foods. Here are a few examples.
- Moroccan Jews make yeast bread shaped like Haman’s face with hardboiled eggs baked directly into the bread that symbolize his eyes.
- In Italy, Jews make orecchi di Aman, fried strips of dough served in honey syrup that represent Haman’s ears. Without doubt, there seems to be a global trend of immortalizing the guy in baked good form.
- Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus’ kingdom is said to have extended into Ethiopia, and so Ethiopian foods, like this spinach and lentil stew, are sometimes served for Purim.
Some people celebrate Purim with Persian dishes to honor Queen Esther’s home. The following recipes also happen to be vegetarian, another nod to Esther, who was believed to be vegetarian.
What to Drink for Purim
Jewish tradition does not have a particularly strong drinking culture, but on Purim it is customary to celebrate with alcohol (for those of-age, of course!). People throw parties, dress up in costumes and masks akin to Mardi Gras, which falls around the same time, and toast one another with wine and spirits.
If you want to keep your celebration kosher but aren’t a fan of Manischewitz, we have some not-so-sweet Israeli kosher wines we can recommend.
Mishloach Manot: Food Gifts
Each Purim, it is customary to bundle up small gifts of food — typically a few hamantaschen and another edible goodie or two — and deliver them to friends and family. The idea behind this tradition stems from the notion that Purim is meant to be a joyous holiday, and sharing these food gifts ensures that everyone will have enough to celebrate with.
If you’re gifting baked goods like hamantaschen, we recommend packaging them in these pretty Moretoes Bakery Boxes.
Delivering mishloach manot, which literally means “sending of portions” in Hebrew, also offers a chance to drop by for a visit with friends.
How do you celebrate Purim? Do you have any special family traditions?