If you think poppy seeds are destined to be relegated to muffins and bagels, think again. This tiny seed packs a mighty wallop and can be used in a number of ways — whether that’s to add a little extra oomph in the way of health benefits or a surprising twist on one of your favorite recipes. Because we understand the plight of the poppy seed, we’ve decided to highlight this ingredient. Here’s a look at the health benefits, history, and a few tasty ways to whip up your own poppy-centric concoctions. Let’s dive in:
A Brief History of the Seed
Every great hero needs an origin story, and the tiny poppy is no different. Poppy seeds first rose to popularity in the Middle East. Ancient Egyptians harvested poppy seeds, and they spread throughout the region from Arab traders traveling through Persia, India and other nearby countries.
Since the Bronze Age in approximately 3000 BC, people have used poppy seeds to help with all kinds of ailments, from infertility to insomnia, as well as a sedative. As far back as the 2nd century, people have been using poppy seeds to make opium, which was used medicinally for centuries.
On the culinary side of things, poppy seeds have long been a staple on breads and other foods. Ancient Greeks and medieval Europeans alike have used poppy seeds as a condiment for their baked goods.
Poppy Seed Health Benefits
With other seeds like chia and flax taking all the credit where nutritional benefits are concerned, poppy seeds may feel as though they are something of an afterthought. But the truth is, these little guys add more than just some extra crunch and a hint of subtle flavor. They’ve got some serious benefits that’ll make you want to add them to every recipe from here on out.
Here’s the lowdown some of the benefits poppy seeds have to offer:
- A good source of fiber — Look, you always need more fiber, and if you’re looking to up your intake, poppy seeds deliver 14% of your daily requirement in just two teaspoons. Add this to your usual rotation with fruit and whole grains, and you’ll feel full longer, keep cholesterol at bay, and lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- And minerals — Poppy seeds contain a solid lineup of minerals you might not get elsewhere unless you’ve got a really good multivitamin in your regular rotation. With calcium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc, poppy seeds help with everything from building bone strength and muscle tissue to delivering the right amount of oxygen to your blood stream.
- As well as antioxidants — Like berries, green tea and the superfoods of the world, poppy seeds are high in antioxidants, which help ward off the early signs of aging, aids in cancer prevention, and helps boost your immune system, so you’ll be better prepared to fight off whatever viruses come your way.
- A source of “good fats” — Poppy seeds are high in oleic acid, a fatty acid known for its ability to lower “bad” cholesterol in the body, which minimizes risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke.
- B-complex vitamin-rich — Poppy seeds contain a mix of B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid and niacin, all key ingredients in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Since we’re talking recipes, it’s worth mentioning that sure, you could just stick those magical seeds into your recipe and call it a day, but you also can optimize the flavor and texture of these tiny treats, in order to take your seed game up a few notches. Totally optional, but give these ideas a try.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll cover it anyway. If you’ve got a spice grinder, run your poppy seeds through before using in your favorite recipe. The grinder breaks up the seeds, making them softer and easier to consume, but it also releases more of the aromatic goodness you love so much.
Soaking seeds ahead of time can have a similar effect to grinding, and may be especially useful if you’re making a dessert that calls for poppy seeds. If the recipe calls for liquid, add the poppy seeds to the milk, water or oil used in the mix. If using milk or water, microwave or heat on the stovetop until it becomes very hot. Add poppy seeds to the mix, letting them steep until the liquid has completely cooled. Then add to the recipe as directed. You’ll get more flavor mileage out of your cookies or cake.
Recipes: Poppy Seeds for Baking
Now that we’ve got your brain thinking about all the seed possibilities, we’ve put together some ideas to help you best take advantage of the health benefits, and of course the added flavor and textural layers. From sweet to savory, fresh baked to just refreshing, here’s a few ideas to get the juices flowing.
Poppy seeds offer a unique taste, elevating our favorite cookies, cakes, ice creams and everything in between. With their subtly floral, earthy notes, which change ever so slightly depending on the conditions of the soil, climate and more, poppy seeds make everything just that much sweeter. Here are a few dessert recipes that honor the origins of the seeds, as well as take a new approach toward flavor.
Orange Poppy Seed Cake
Nuts and seeds. A vegan match made in heaven, especially when poppy seeds enter the fold.
We’ve taken a classic poppy seed cake and made it a little more inclusive. Don’t worry, you won’t miss a thing.
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 1¼ cups of all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Grease a six-inch cake pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add wet ingredients—oil, vinegar, sugar, maple syrup, orange juice and almond milk to a mixing bowl. Whisk together or use an electric mixer and blend until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.
In a separate bowl, add dry ingredients—flour, poppy seeds, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and orange zest. Mix together until completely blended. Then gradually add dry ingredients to the wet mixture, folding in, and then blending until smooth.
Add the batter to the pan, and make sure the mixture is distributed evenly through the dish. Put pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Poke the middle with a toothpick. It should come out clean. If not, bake for a few more minutes.
Cool for 20 minutes and serve with fresh fruit or vanilla ice cream.
Poppy Seed-Date Thumbprint Cookies
A seedy take on a classic cookie, these thumbprint cookies are sure to delight and don’t require the ability to sculpt pastries into perfect shapes. To make this recipe easiest on you, make the filling before the cookies, as it takes a bit longer. You can also make it ahead of time and store in the fridge for a couple days before baking.
Poppy Seed-Date Filling
- ¾ cup poppy seeds
- ¼ cup chopped, pitted dates
- 8 ounces of coconut cream
- A handful of golden raisins
Rinse poppy seeds in a strainer, then add them to a medium-sized pan. Add 3 cups of water to the saucepan and let the water simmer with the seeds. Turn off the burner and let the seeds cool for 30 minutes.
Drain the seeds, then put them through a grinder. Use a coffee grinder or a spice grinder, not a food processor. If you use a food processor, the seeds will get stuck, and it’s just not a great idea.
Transfer ground seeds to a mixing bowl, then add the coconut cream. Add raisins and dates. Use an electric mixer to get these ingredients more thoroughly blended together.
Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to use the filling. It will keep for a few days.
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons almonds, chopped very finely — use a food processor for best results
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 whole egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup poppy seed filling
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease your cookie sheets. In a large mixing bowl, add butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla extract, and cream the wet ingredients together with an electric mixer.
Fold in oats, flour, salt and almonds, and continue blending with the electric mixer. Roll dough into balls, then place on the cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.
Bake for about five minutes, then remove from oven. Using your thumb, gently press down on each cookie, and fill each thumbprint with the poppy seed topping.
Cook for about 7 minutes or until cookies are golden brown around the edges. Let cool and serve.
Easy Poppy Seed Chia Pudding
This recipe is deceptively healthy. With its blast of fruit and omega-3-rich chia seeds, this pudding could work as both smart start to the day and a mid-afternoon treat when you need a pick-me-up most. Plus, it’s pretty darn easy to make. This recipe makes about 4-6 servings.
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- ½ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup poppy seeds
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 banana, peeled and mashed
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix vigorously using a whisk. Cover the bowl with a lid and refrigerate overnight, or, if you’re impatient, at least three hours. As the pudding soaks, the seeds expand, creating the consistency you’re looking for.
When ready to serve, whisk again, or quickly blend the pudding with an electric mixer. Top with granola and bananas, coconut, or eat as-is.
You can store any leftovers for about three days in the refrigerator.
Savory Poppy Seed Recipes
We’re talking salads and beyond. Poppy seeds work well with a variety of flavors, like roasted meats or light and refreshing salads. They go great as part of a sauce or topping, as well as baked right into a delicious dinner roll. Here are a few ideas for how to incorporate poppy seeds into your regular meal rotation.
Poppy Seed Pesto Pasta
A twist on an Italian classic, this delicious dish can be enjoyed warm or stored in the fridge and eaten cold. Poppy seeds play well with citrus, basil and garlic flavors, and add an unexpected pop of texture to the mix. Add chicken or shrimp, or top with some grated Parmesan if you’re so inclined.
- 12 ounces of dry pasta — opt for smaller varieties such as fusilli, penne or shells
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for sautéing the garlic
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
- ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
- 6 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons of fresh basil, finely chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and make pasta according to directions on the packaging. As the water boils, add a small amount of oil to a skillet and add garlic to the mix. Cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly.
Add poppy seeds to oil mixture, cooking for roughly a minute. This will help release the fragrant aroma in the seeds. Remove seeds and garlic from heat and set aside.
In the base of a food processor, add lemon juice, basil, walnuts and remainder of olive oil, and blend together until ingredients are thoroughly distributed. Next, add poppy seed and garlic into the mixture, again blending on low until all ingredients are sufficiently mixed.
When pasta is done cooking, remove from heat and drain. Rinse noodles with cool water to stop cooking. Transfer pasta to a large bowl and toss with pesto mixture, coating the noodles evenly. Serve as-is or cool in the fridge.
Avocado-Poppy Chicken Salad
When you think chicken salad, you generally think of a whitish blend of mayonnaise, chicken and some suggestion of a vegetable. We’ve revamped the recipe with a healthy dose of poppy seeds and creamy avocado. This version is great over toasted baguette or all on its own.
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 1 green apple, cored and cut into small cubes
- ½ cup arugula, chopped
- 1 large avocado
- 3 tablespoons of poppy seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 1½ cups of chicken
- Olive oil to taste
Cut avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out inside of fruit, and place in a large mixing bowl and mash until smooth. Cube chicken and add to mixing bowl, along with green apple, onions, poppy seeds and lemon juice, and stir all the contents together, until all ingredients have been coated with the avocado.
Add a little olive oil, and blend everything together. Add more if you’d prefer the mixture a little smoother, but otherwise add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in chopped arugula and serve.
This works both atop toasted bread or on a bed of greens if you’d like to keep things a bit lighter. Enjoy!
Roasted Pork Chops With Apricot Poppy Seed Glaze
Let’s get our heads out of the realm of salads and desserts. This hearty dish is the perfect accompaniment to roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes and a nice glass of wine. Finish the day off right with some simple pork chops with a satisfying twist.
- 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons apricot jam
- Salt and freshly ground pepper corns to taste
- 1 onion, loosely chopped
- 1 rack of pork chops, about 5-6 pounds
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. As the oven heats up, combine mustard seeds, poppy seeds, brown sugar, olive oil, jam, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
Vigorously whisk wet ingredients until completely blended together, then set aside. Set the pork chops in a roasting pan with onion scattered on the bottom, and sprinkle salt over the meat. Let salt sink into the meat for a few minutes, then coat with the sauce, using a culinary brush spatula or just your hands.
Place the roast in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 degrees and roast for an additional 45 minutes. Pork should be a light pink inside when ready to serve. Test with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s ready — meat should be heated to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Let cool and serve.
Poppy Seed Rolls With Parmesan
Okay, this wouldn’t be a compilation of poppy seed recipes without one mention of a bread. Great alongside a hearty dinner on a Sunday night or, let’s face it, as a snack any time of day, these seeded rolls are perfect with a little butter or dipped in your favorite olive oil.
- 1 cup boiling water, plus an extra couple tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons yeast
- 2½ cups of flour, white or whole wheat, it’s up to you
- 6 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic paste
- 1 egg
- 6 tablespoons poppy seeds
In a large mixing bowl, add the boiling water and sprinkle with yeast. Set aside until the yeast has dissolved. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes.
Add salt, seeds, garlic, parmesan and flour to the yeast mixture and mix together, using a wooden spoon or electric mixer on low, until the mixture becomes a smooth dough. Increasing mixer speed to medium, blend for another minute or so, then transfer dough to a floured work surface. Knead until the texture resembles satin, then place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a moist towel and set aside for an hour and a half.
At this point, the dough will have doubled. Uncover and punch dough until it becomes deflated, then cover again and set aside for another hour and a half.
Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper, setting aside.
Remove dough and roll out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead until deflated, then divide the dough into 8 even rounds, placing on the baking sheet.
Whisk the egg with one tablespoon of water. Brush the rolls with egg wash. Top with extra parmesan or poppy seeds if desired, or leave as is.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rolls rise once again for another hour or so. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
After rolls have doubled in size, put them in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. They should be a golden brown when done. Remove from oven and serve when cool.
Got Seeds on the Brain? Let Sincerely Nuts Be Your Source for Poppy Seeds Online
At Sincerely Nuts, we’re a lot more than just nuts. We’ve got poppy seeds by the pound or in quantities that suggest you’re opening your own poppy seed-themed bakery — yes, we do carry a 25-pound option. In any case, if you’re as hungry as we are, we’ve got you covered for all the poppy-tinged desserts and savory dinner options you’re surely bookmarking by now.
And if you need more than just poppy seeds, we’ve got nuts, candy, dried fruit and more for all your baking and snacking needs.