Poppy Seed Nut Squares

Nitzan Yarden Susid

45 minutes

Makes a 20x30cm (8x12-in) baking pan

Poppy Seed Nut Squares

Poppy Seed Nut Squares. Photo by: Matan Choufan


Pastry chef Nitzan Yarden Susid fondly recalls the family tales of her grandfather’s poppy fields on Moshav Be’er Tuvia in the 1960s. Every year, around Purim, the fields would be filled with large red flowers. However, as she recounted to journalist and researcher Asaf Abir in his article “In Search of Lost Poppy Seeds  those days are gone.

Every poppy yielding edible seeds also produces something else; when the stem or husk of the seeds is damaged, a milky white resin seeps out: opium. International agreements dictate that only a few countries can cultivate poppies commercially; the Czech Republic and Turkey supply approximately half of the world’s legal poppy seeds and opium. In Israel, farms that once cultivated poppies were gradually shut down, including her family’s farm. 

Susid emphasizes that the flavor of fresh poppy seeds is unique — sweet and nutty, with a delicate bitter undertone. She blames marketers for the common practice of selling pre-ground poppy seeds, which tend to go rancid quickly and develop an unpleasant aftertaste.

In honor of Purim and in remembrance of her family’s poppy fields, Susid shared this recipe for flaky shortbread squares topped with a poppy seed filling, subtly seasoned with lemon zest to complement the rich flavor of the black seeds. In this recipe, the flavor of the nuts takes center stage, providing a gentle introduction to the distinct flavors of poppy seeds.

Be sure to buy your poppy seeds from a specialty spice shop and ask them to grind them for you. Use them immediately or store them in the freezer for up to a week.


For the poppy seed filling:

¼ cup (50 grams) sugar

¼ cup (70ml) milk

½ cup (50 grams) freshly ground poppy seeds

2 egg yolks

A pinch of lemon zest

2 tablespoons honey

½ cup (50 grams) ground almonds

⅔ cup (80 grams) hazelnuts or walnuts, finely chopped

For the base and topping:

1¾ cups (250 grams) flour

½ cup (50 grams) almond flour

200 grams (7oz) cold butter, cut into cubes

½ cup (100 grams) sugar

A pinch of salt

¼ cup (50 grams) heavy cream


1.   Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).

2.  Prepare the poppy seed filling: Bring the milk and sugar to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Mix in the poppy seeds and remove from the heat.

3.  Add the remaining ingredients, mix, and let cool slightly.

4.  Make the dough: Add the flour, almond flour, diced butter, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and grind to a crumbly mixture. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture, for the topping.

5.  Add the heavy cream to the crumbly mixture in the food processor and grind just until a dough is formed.

6.  Press the dough into the base of the pan in an even layer. Spread the poppy filling on top, and sprinkle the crumbs on top.

7.  Bake for 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature before slicing it into neat squares.