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Sambusak - Filled Savory Pastries Recipe


Flaky sesame-seed crusted pastries are filled with a savory beef or cheese mixture. These are traditional Jewish pastries for Hannukah and the Sabbath, but you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy them. Great for appetizers, and they freeze well.

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 20 hours

Total Time: 21 hours


  • Dough:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature (see directions)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • Cheese Filling:
  • 1-1/2 pounds Muenster cheese, grated
  • 3 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups sesame seeds
  • Meat Filling:
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chopped kosher shoulder beef
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts


Before you begin: If you wish to remain kosher, use margarine instead of butter in the pastry dough when making meat-filled pastries and butter for the cheese-filled sambusak. If you do not need to remain kosher, the choice of butter or margarine in the dough is up to you. Cheese sambusak are traditionally served for Hannukah and meat sambusak for the Sabbath.

Prepare Pastry Dough:
Combine flour and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter or margarine with a mixer. Alternately blend in the flour mixture and water. When dough begins to come together, knead until it forms a ball. Set dough ball aside to rest and prepare filling.

Prepare Cheese Filling:
Mix Muenster cheese, eggs, baking powder, salt, and sesame seeds until combined.

Prepare Meat Filling:
Gently saute onion in olive oil about 5 minutes until soft, but not browned. Add chopped beef to onions and brown the meat thoroughly. Let cool to room temperature. Add allspice, salt, cinnamon, and pine nuts to meat mixture.

Make Sambusak Pastries:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place 1/2 cup sesame seeds on a plate. Roll heaping tablespoon-size pieces of dough into a ball and press lightly on one side into the sesame seeds. With seed side down, roll into a flat round about 3 inches in diameter. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of the round and fold dough in half so edges meet. Tightly crimp edges. Repeat until dough and filling are used up.

Bake filled sambusak pastries on ungreased baking sheets for 15 to 20 minutes until golden.

To Freeze Sambusak Pastries:
Place unbaked pastries on a tray lined with parchment paper. Freeze until firm, then remove to a heavy freezer zip-top bag. Remove all the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. Bake frozen sambusak pastries on an ungreased baking sheet in a 400-degree F. oven until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Yield: about 60 pastries

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