How to Soften Poppy Seeds

By Kristen | May 29, 2020

The Difference Between Nuts and Seeds

A sprinkling of nuts or seeds added to almost any dish boosts flavor, texture, and nutrition. Technically, nuts are the fruits of trees. But everything we call a nut is not technically a nut. For instance, peanuts are legumes and pine nuts are actually seeds. Seeds are self-contained, nutritional powerhouses. I think of seeds as tiny suitcases filled with all of the nutrition required for growing a mature plant under the right conditions (just add soil, water, and sun).

Why Soften Seeds?

The most commonly used seeds for cooking include sesame, sunflower, flax, pumpkin – and our favorite – poppy seeds. Soaking seeds in water before cooking or baking softens them, unlocking the nutrition inside (much like rain would in nature), and allowing our bodies access to absorb the health benefits of seeds. Poppy seeds are rich in calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Softening seeds before cooking and baking with them also allows for easier digestion and unleashes their flavor.

How to Soften Poppy Seeds

The best way to soften poppy seeds for use in a recipe is to soak them in whatever liquid the recipe calls for, whether it’s milk, water, melted butter, or oil. You will want to heat the liquid before adding the seeds to soak. Allow the poppy seeds to sit in the mixture until it comes down to room temperature before proceeding with your recipe. You will not drain the poppy seeds before using them; simply add them to the recipe when the liquid gets added. Although the poppy seeds will absorb some of the warm liquid while soaking, it will not make a noticeable difference in the outcome of the recipe.

Grinding Poppy Seeds

Another way to soften poppy seeds is to grind them. This technique is used to make poppy seed filling for strudel, coffee cake, and other specialty baked goods. To soften poppy seeds for grinding, measure the seeds you will need into a mixing bowl. Add warm water just to cover the poppy seeds. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and set it aside on the countertop for one to three hours. When you are ready to grind the seeds, simply add them to a food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Again, you do not need to drain the seeds before proceeding to grind them.

There are so many easy ways to incorporate poppy seeds into your diet, with or without softening them. I use them in muffins, scones, quick breads, dressing, and salads. They also make a nice topping when sprinkled on yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit.

Happy cooking,

Kristen is a professional chef living, working, and playing in Washington, D.C.

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