Poppy Seed Kolache

This kolache recipe is a classic Czechoslovakian variation with a poppy seed filling. The sweet yeasted pastry is folded up on itself as you would find in Minnesota.

My father gets a faraway look in his eyes when he remembers his Minnesota Czech grandmother’s poppy seed pastries.

Dad loves poppy seed filling, and armed with an old Better Homes and Gardens recipe, he set out to recreate the kolaches of his childhood.

I think he was successful (after quadrupling the filling to dough ratio in the recipe), so much so that the day after making and eating these, he announced that he had gained two pounds, prompting him to give up dessert for two whole days. (Please God, in my next life, could I have my father’s metabolism?)

My father makes these kolaches with canned poppy seed filling. If you want, you can make the filling from scratch; I’ve included a filling recipe that I found online.

More Sweet Breads to Bake

  • 4 to 4 1/2 (586 to 520g) , divided
  • (7-gram) active dry yeast
  • or ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons)
  • (50g)
  • finely grated
  • 1 (12.5-ounce) can filling (or make your own, see below)
  • 1/4 cup raisins, optional

Homemade poppy seed filling (if you are not using canned)

  • (145g)
  • (78g) finely chopped
  • (43g) finely chopped nuts (such as walnuts or pecans)
  • Mix 2 cups of the flour with the yeast and nutmeg:
    Combine 2 cups of the flour, plus the yeast and nutmeg or mace in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • Make the dough:
    In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt just until warm to the touch (120°F to 130°F) and butter is melted.

    Pour the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture mixture. Add the 2 eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds (if using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment).

    Scrape the side of the bowl, then beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

  • Deflate and divide the dough:
    Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

    Divide the dough in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Grease 2 baking sheets.

  • Roll out the dough and cut into squares:
    Roll each dough half into a 16×8-inch rectangle. Cut each rectangle into eight 4×4 squares.
  • Shape the kolache:
    Place 1 heaping tablespoon of poppy seed filling onto the center of each square. If you want, add a few raisins on top of the filling. Brush the four corners of each square with water. Draw the corners up and gently press together. Secure with a toothpick.
  • Brush with the egg wash:
    Beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of milk. Lightly brush the egg wash over the kolache.
  • Bake at 375°F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden.

    Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Remove toothpicks.

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Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.

A symbol of wealth and prosperity, poppy seeds are largely used in Eastern European baking because their consumption is associated with a bright future. Many recipes feature these tiny seeds, but Polish makowiec is one of the most famous and beautiful to look at when sliced. Its yeasted dough is filled with a sweet poppy seed spread and rolled for baking, and a pretty black and white swirl results when cutting the pastry.

Made during the holidays and found everywhere in Poland, makowiec is a family tradition. Each household has a favorite recipe. In general, the flavor shouldn’t be overly sweet, but some add apricot, raisins, honey, or fruit peel. It’s usually eaten as a snack with a cup of coffee or tea.

The traditional recipe calls for poppy seeds ground from scratch. There are manual poppy and grain seed mills that will do the trick, but instead, use a clean electric coffee grinder or buy one labeled for grinding spices, nuts, and coffee. A food processor is also a good alternative, as are a mortar and pestle, even if they require a lot more physical effort. For convenience, use poppy seed paste, available in the baking or international aisle of most supermarkets. For this recipe, you’ll need 25 ounces of poppy seed filling.

“The poppy seed rolls were soft and flavorful. I used a bullet-style blender with milling blade to grind the poppy seeds (in small amounts) and it did an excellent job. ” —Diana Rattray

For the Poppy Seed Filling:

  • , or 25 ounces poppy seed filling
  • granulated
  • 6 ounces ( ) , softened

For the Dough:

  • active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • (105 to 115 F), divided
  • (1 kg)
  • granulated
  • fine
  • , at room temperature
  • (1/2 cup) melted , plus more to brush over loaves

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Make the Poppy Seed Filling

  • Gather the ingredients.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • If grinding the seeds from scratch, place half of the poppy seeds in a coffee, seed, or spice grinder or in your food processor, without overcrowding. Process until the seeds have released some of their oil; pulse at high speed a few times. Repeat the process until all of the poppy seeds have been processed. Reserve.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, butter, milk, and lemon zest. Beat well.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Add the ground poppy seeds to the butter mixture, stir well to combine, and set aside.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Make the Dough

  • Gather the dough ingredients.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • In a small heatproof bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm milk.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, the remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm milk, 1/2 cup of melted butter, and the yeast mixture.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • With the paddle attachment, or by hand, beat until smooth. The dough should be sticky at this point.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Scrape the dough into a clean greased bowl. Sprinkle the top with a little flour and cover. Let stand in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until nearly doubled in size.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Shape the Rolls and Bake

  • Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Prepare 2 baking trays, layering them with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Spread half of the filling onto one of the rectangles.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Roll the rectangle up like a jelly roll.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Tuck the ends of the roll under so the filling will not leak out. Repeat with other dough and remaining filling to create 2 large rolls.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Place the rolls on the prepared trays. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise again until double in size.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining melted butter.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Remove the rolls from the oven and cool.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  • Dust rolls with confectioners’ sugar if desired. Cut the rolls into 1/2-inch slices and serve.
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada


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Make scrumptious pastries filled with my favorite Poppy Seed Filling. Once you taste it, you’ll see why it’s such a favorite in my family.

If you love sweet fillings, then you should try these Sweet Poppy Seed Pull-Apart Buns and these Easy Cheese Danish Pastries (VIDEO).

Table Of Contents

Recipe Details

Poppy Seed Filling is used in many pastries, especially European ones, and we typically incorporate it into most of our yeast breads. There is something so delicious about this sweet paste, and homemade is just the best!

  • TASTE: This filling is sweet and nutty. The walnuts and poppy seeds are highlighted by the golden sweetness of the honey.
  • TEXTURE: This Poppy Seed Filling is a paste that’s full of ground poppy seeds, finely chopped walnuts, and thick gooey honey.
  • TIME: This recipe will take 18 minutes.
  • EASE: This is so easy to make at home and you only need 4 ingredients.

What You’ll Need

Ingredient Notes

  • Poppy seeds- These seeds are the star of this dish and they add a nutty flavor, as well as hints of fruitiness.
  • Milk- This will be used to soak and soften the dry poppy seeds. Any type will work.
  • Honey- This sweet syrup adds thickness as well as great flavor to this Poppy Seed Filling
  • Walnuts- Choose raw chopped walnuts (or chop them yourself) so they add only their own nutty, tangy flavor.

Add-ins and Substitutions

  • Substitute condensed milk- Instead of honey, you can add condensed milk to your strained and ground poppy seeds for sweetness and a thick consistency.
  • Add raisins- Add some chopped raisins (or whole) for extra texture and sweetness. This is terrific as a pastry filling.
  • Make it dairy-free- If you soak the poppy seeds in water or plant-based milk instead of regular milk, then you can serve this to those who can’t have dairy.
  • Add citrus- The flavors in this Poppy Seed Filling go really well with citrus, so try it with some lemon or orange peel mixed in for bright, citrusy notes.

How to Make Poppy Seed Filling

Pro Tip: If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can also use a fine mesh sieve lined with coffee filters to drain the poppy seeds.

  • Grind the poppy seeds. Using a coffee grinder, grind the poppy seeds in small batches.
  • Combine everything and store. In a bowl, combine the ground poppy seeds, honey, and walnuts. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Recipe Tips

  • Use fresh walnuts- Walnuts have a lot of oil and they can easily go rancid in warmer temperatures. Make sure yours are fresh before using them, and store them in an airtight container.
  • Batch grind the poppy seeds in a food processor- If you want to grind more, use a food processor with a fine grinding plate. Otherwise, for small batches, a coffee grinder works fine.
  • Finely chop the walnuts- Since this is going to be a paste, you want to finely chop the walnuts, either by hand or with a food processor so the pieces are not too large and crunchy.
  • Store it immediately- Just as the raw walnuts can turn, so can this Poppy Seed Filling if it’s not stored correctly in an airtight container in a cool place.


Do poppy seeds need to be soaked before grinding?

Poppy seeds have a rough exterior. Soaking them breaks them down and makes them softer. The first step of simmering them in milk is enough of a soak to break down this coating.

Is it necessary to grind poppy seeds?

Yes, you definitely need to grind the poppy seeds. Since this is going to make a pastry filling, you want it to resemble a paste, not a bunch of individual seeds.

Serving Suggestions

This delicious Poppy Seed Filling is great in pastries, but can be served in other ways, too. Here are some delicious ideas to try.

  • Pastries: Use it in your favorite pastries, such as in this Danish Recipe with Almonds and Cream Cheese, Apple Strudel, Bite Size Poppy Seed Roll, or Easy Cheese Danish Pastry (VIDEO).
  • Breads: Stuff sweet and savory breads with this Poppy Seed Filling or spread it on top, such as with this Sourdough Bread, Brioche Buns (VIDEO), Khachapuri – Georgian Cheese Bread, and Brioche Hot Cross Buns (VIDEO),
  • Cakes: Fill delicious cakes with this nutty, sweet dish. Try it in this Russian Poppy Seed Honey Cake, Lemon Pound Cake (VIDEO), and Chocolate Honey Cake (Spartak Cake).
  • Donuts: Use this filling to brighten up homemade donuts. You can smear it on top or pipe it into these Air Fryer Donuts (VIDEO), Homemade Donut Holes, or Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts.

Make This Recipe in Advance

Make ahead: You can make this recipe days ahead and store it until you’re ready to use. Or if you want it fresh, soak and grind the poppy seeds, then store them in the fridge until you’re ready to mix in the honey and walnuts.

Storing: Store this Poppy Seed Filling in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Freeze: Freeze this paste in a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. It should last 3-4 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight and stir it well before using.

More Sweet Treats!

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Full Recipe Instructions

Reader Interactions

Poppy seed filling for hamantaschen or other pastries and baked goods is a great addition to your baking arsenal. I will show you how to make the base recipe flavored with lemon and so many optional flavor additions.

You will also love my olive oil hamantaschen dough.

For ease of browsing, find all of my Purim recipes in one place.

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Why you’ll love this recipe

Full disclosure here: I have never been a poppy seed hamantaschen lover. In fact, until I wrote my cookbook and included a recipe for a delicious poppy seed coffee cake, I didn’t think I liked poppy seeds in pastry, bagels or cake.

Still, a poppy seed (also called mohn) filling still isn’t my first choice as a filling for baked goods. But this blog isn’t for me, it’s for my readers. And so many of you love poppy seed hamantaschen.

And I know you’ll love this recipe. It’s easy and flexible – two of my favorite recipe characteristics. I’ll give you a base recipe plus lots of ideas for how to make this filling your own, depending on what flavor profiles you enjoy.

Ingredients You’ll Need and Substitutions

Poppy seeds: I purchased mine at a little local Russian market. Note the seeds might be called blue poppy seeds – that is ok! Also check your local groceries that sell products in bins and of course you can purchase online. But take note of the freshness as poppy seeds have a lot of oil in them and can go rancid. (store unused portion in the freezer). You can also buy in grocery stores in the spice aisle in a small jar – you may need more than one but it’s a good option.

Almond milk: I used almond milk to keep the filling dairy-free and potentially kosher. Plus almond is a good pairing with poppy seeds. But you can use other dairy-free milks or regular milk or even water.

Sugar: I used white granulated sugar but you could also try other sugars or an alternative sweetener like date syrup. But if you use a liquid sweetener like honey or date syrup, use about ⅔ as much as the sugar, because it’s sweeter. You may need to reduce the other liquids by just a smidge too.

Lemon juice and zest: Lemon is a wonderful complement to poppy seeds and provides a contrast to the sweet. No lemon? Try orange juice and zest.

Kosher salt: Just a dab to bring out the flavors.

Poppy seed filling flavor enhancements

I tested out many other flavor additions and found quite a few that were terrific if you want a complement to the poppy seed flavor and something a little different:

  • Cinnamon: this was our favorite because it enhanced the poppy seed flavor without masking it.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: Also a favorite because it tones down the sweetness just a bit and provides just a subtle chocolate background flavor.
  • Almond extract: Wonderful pairing but tread lightly because it can overwhelm the poppy seed flavor.
  • Raspberry jam: Very nice texturally and a good companion. Tends to mask the poppy flavor a bit but it was quite nice.
  • Toasted and chopped walnuts (almonds would be great too): Great pairing flavor-wise and texturally.
  • Vanilla extract: Nice on its own and could be paired with the cinnamon or cocoa powder too.
  • Lemon curd: I didn’t try this but I bet it would be great!

How to make this recipe

The key steps to this recipe are grinding up the poppy seeds and then mixing and cooking them until they thicken.

1.To grind the poppy seeds, I used a coffee grinder (that I don’t use for coffee). This is very handy for grinding any kind of spices. If you don’t have one, you can use a high speed blender such as Vitamix. Or put the poppy seeds in a plastic bag and use a heavy rolling pin to grind them down or even a mortar and pestle.

2. Place the ground poppy seeds, almond milk, lemon juice and zest, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Turn down to medium low to maintain a low boil. Let it cook for 10 – 15 minutes. It will thicken up but still be loose enough to slide easily off the spoon.

3.Taste your filling for sweetness and flavor and adjust if necessary. Then take it off the heat to cool. It will seem a little too loose at first, but once it cools down, the texture will be just right. Place it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

4. Optional mix-ins: Before you form your hamantaschen or other poppy seed pastry, experiment with some of the other mix-ins mentioned above, if you want. Start by taking just a small amount of the filling and just a bit of the mix-in (such as cinnamon or almond extract or chopped walnuts) and mix together. If you like the flavor combination, then you can divide the filling up and make different combinations or add one mix-in to the whole batch. Or just leave it as is.

Example of testing a mix-in of walnuts into a small amount of the poppy seeding filling.

Check out my poppy seed filling web story for a quick visual guide to this recipe.

Expert Tips and Recipe FAQs

  • Be sure the filling is chilled when you make your hamantaschen or other baked good.
  • Poppy seeds go rancid rather quickly, so check the date of the package you buy, smell them when you open the package, and store the package in the freezer, with a date written on it, after you open it.
  • Don’t overfill each cookie — less is more with hamantaschen! This is true of poppy seed filling, or any kind of filling.

Hamantaschen dough brushed with egg wash and ready to be filled with poppy seed filling.

How long will my poppy seed filling last?

It should last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for as long as 2-3 weeks. You can always smell and taste a small bit if you are unsure.

Can I freeze the poppy seed filling?

Yes, you can freeze it, again in an airtight container marked with the date and it should be ok in the freezer for 3 to 6 months. Once thawed, use it within 3 days.

What else can I use my poppy seed filling for?

Poppy seed filling can be used in pastries such as a babka, or Hungarian beigli or Czech kolaches, just to name a few. Try it in a thumbprint cookie or as a layer in a coffee cake.

Can I add other fruits or nuts to poppy seed filling?

Many poppy seed filling recipes add raisins in after it is cooked. And as I mentioned above, walnuts and almonds are a nice addition. This filling recipe is wonderful as is, but it is like a blank canvas for you to make all your own with other flavors and ingredients.

More Purim Recipes on OMG! Yummy

If you eat gluten-free, be sure to check out these gluten-free hamantaschen on Fearless Dining.

Jewish Holiday Baking

  • Grind the poppy seeds, with a coffee grinder or a high speed blender such as a Vitamix. Or put the poppy seeds in a plastic bag and use a heavy rolling pin to grind them down or even a mortar and pestle.
  • Place the poppy seeds, almond milk, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat.
  • Turn down to medium low to maintain a low boil. Let it cook for 10 – 15 minutes. It will thicken up but still be loose enough to slide easily off the spoon.
  • Taste your filling for sweetness and flavor and adjust if necessary. Then take it off the heat to cool. It will seem a little too loose at first, but once it cools down, the texture will be just right. Place it in the refrigerator until ready to use. This recipe makes 1 cup of filling.
  • Optional mix-ins: Before you fill your hamantaschen dough or other poppy seed pastry, experiment with some of the other mix-ins, if you want. Start by taking just a small amount of the filling and just a bit of the mix-in (such as cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, almond or vanilla extract, raspberry jam, or chopped walnuts) and mix together. If you like the flavor combination, then you can divide the filling up and make different combinations or add one mix-in to the whole batch. Start with just a little, you can always add more. For example: ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon for ½ cup of poppy seed filling, as a starting point.

hamantaschen, poppy seeds, purim

Let us know how it was!

  • Mix poppy seeds, 3/4 cup sugar, hot milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and lemon juice together in a bowl until combined; cover and refrigerate while making bread. The filling will set up and thicken as it chills.
  • Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl. Cut in butter with 2 knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add yeast mixture and egg yolk; stir to make a soft dough.
  • Spread half of the poppy seed filling over each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the 1-inch border back over the filling on all sides and press down. Pick up the shorter side of a dough rectangle and roll it like a jelly roll; repeat with second rectangle. Pinch ends together or tuck ends under to prevent filling from leaking out.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Beat egg white in a bowl until frothy; brush loaves with beaten egg white.
  • Bake in preheated oven until dark golden brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove loaves from the oven and cover with a clean kitchen towel until cool to keep crust soft. Cool completely before slicing.

Poppyseed roll, known as “Makowiec” in Poland, is a traditional holiday dessert. It’s one of the most popular yeast cakes in Poland.

Benefits of poppy seeds

I typically bake this delicious recipe during the fall and winter months. Many Polish people believe that the more poppy seeds you eat, the wealthier and luckier you become. Others also appreciate its health benefits. Indeed, poppy seeds, or rather the minerals contained in the oil derived from poppy seeds, are very beneficial for skin, nails, and can even help with digestion.

Allow some time to make your poppyseed filling

Baking poppyseed roll from scratch takes time, unless you purchase a pre-made poppyseed filling. Outside of Poland it can be difficult to find the pre-made poppyseed filling, so you might need to make it from scratch. Making it at home requires time because you will need to boil the poppyseeds, grind them if you prefer a smoother texture, and then cook them with fruits and nuts. I don’t grind my poppyseeds, but traditionally many bakers do.

During the winter months, when evenings are longer and we tend to spend more time at home, dedicating some time to prepare the poppyseed filling might be less inconvenient. Perhaps this is also why it’s a popular dessert around the holidays.

In a hurry? Purchase the pre-made poppyseed filling.

If you prefer to skip the hassle of making your own poppyseed filling, you can purchase the poppyseed roll kit here. The kit contains a can of pre-made poppyseed filling and a bag of flour ideal for baking yeast cakes.

Any well made poppy seed roll requires a well made yeast dough.

Another great feature of poppyseed roll is the yeast cake. It complements the taste and texture of poppyseeds in perfect harmony. The nutty-like flavor of poppyseeds combined with vanilla and the subtle wheat taste of the yeast cake is divine.

Poppyseed Roll

  • (I used “Luksusowa” type 550)
  • dry active yeast
  • grams (1.1 lb)
  • candied orange peal
  • cranberries, dates, or apricots
  • (start with 3 and add accordingly)
  • pecans or walnuts
  • The night before, or at least 3 hours earlier, prepare the raisins by soaking them in boiled water.
  • After boiling the poppy seeds, strain the extra water using a large sieve placed over a bowl to catch the water. I also add cheese cloth to prevent any of the tiny seeds from escaping.
  • Set the poppy seeds aside for 20-30 minutes to cool off and fully drain.
  • Traditionally in Poland people grind the poppy seeds after boiling them, but I find it just as delicious without the extra step of grinding. If you prefer to have a very smooth poppy seed texture, then you can grind the poppy seeds using a meat grinder if you have one at home.
  • In the meantime, strain the water from the raisins you soaked the night before. Chop the pecans or walnuts, or both, into small pieces. And then chop the dates, apricots or cranberries. You can mix all three, or use other dried fruits that you like most, like figs.
  • Cool off the mixture for at least 15 minutes and your poppyseed filling is done!

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