• Nitika Mehra

Poppy Seeds | Khus Khus: Nutrition Solutions By Various Civilizations For Thousands of Years

Updated: May 15

Poppy seed is an oilseed obtained from the opium poppy. The tiny, kidney-shaped seeds have been harvested from dried seed pods by various civilizations for thousands of years. It is still widely used in many countries, especially in Central Europe, where it is legally grown and sold in shops. The seeds are used whole or ground into meal as an ingredient in many foods – especially in pastry and bread – and they are pressed to yield poppyseed oil. They are used around the world in various cuisines.



Poppy seeds are less than a millimeter in length, kidney-shaped, and have a pitted surface. It takes 3,300 poppy seeds to make up a gram, and between 1 and 2 million seeds to make up a pound. In a 100 gram amount, poppy seeds provide 525 Calories and are a rich source of thiamin, folate, and several essential minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc (table). Poppy seeds are composed of 6% water, 28% carbohydrates, 42% fat, and 21% protein.


Poppy seeds called "Khas Khas" or "Khus Khus" in India, along with the tulsi (basil) seeds, are added to the thandai (chilled shakes) and sharbats (Indian cordial), such as the milkshake, rose milk, almond milk, khus khus milk, etc. In Indian cuisine, white poppy seeds are added for thickness, texture and flavor to recipes. Poppy seeds are widely used in many regional Indian cuisines.



Whole poppy seeds are widely used as a spice and decoration in and on top of many baked goods and pastries. In North America they are used in and on many food items such as poppyseed muffins, rusk, bagels (like the Montreal-style bagel), bialys, and cakes such as sponge cake. Poppy seeds can also be used like sesame seeds, added to hamburger buns or to make a bar of candy. The bars are made from boiled seeds mixed with sugar or with honey.


The poppy seed paste is used for fillings in pastries, sometimes mixed with butter or milk and sugar. The ground filling is used in poppy seed rolls and some croissants and may be flavored with lemon or orange zest, rum and vanilla with raisins, heavy cream, cinnamon, and chopped blanched almonds or walnuts added. For sweet baked goods, sometimes instead of sugar a tablespoon of jam, or other sweet binding agent, like syrup is substituted. The poppy seed for fillings are best when they are finely and freshly ground because this will make a big difference in the pastry filling's texture and taste.


Eating large quantities of poppy seeds can cause a phytobezoar which can block the bowels, though this is unlikely if the seeds are consumed in moderation as an ingredient in cooked or baked foods. Allergy (type 1 hypersensitivity) to poppy seeds is rare, but has been reported and can cause anaphylaxis.


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