Benne or sesame seeds made their way to America through the transatlantic slave trade. Though they did not come by choice, these West African seeds came over in the 17th-18th centuries. Enslaved cooks used them to preserve food traditions.
The seeds were prized for enhancing flavor and thickening stews. Today benne cookies are still enjoyed, especially by Gullah Geechee descendants in the South Carolina lowcountry.
Their melt-in-your-mouth texture with nutty, crispy edges makes benne wafers a staple at celebrations like Kwanzaa. Drizzle with chocolate or enjoy their caramelized sesame essence. However you bake them, these cookies evoke a complex history in each bite.
NEVER MISS A RECIPE
Join our newsletter and stay up to date on all the newest recipes guaranteed to add a burst of flavor to your inbox.
These buttery benne wafers will melt in your mouth. Their nutty toasted aroma and caramelized crunch recalling memories of holidays past and dreams yet to come.
Crisp yet chewy, plain or dipped or drizzled in chocolate, these classic cookies will transport you through time and place with each delicious bite.
More than a treat, benne cookies connect us to those who came before while bringing sweetness and community to gatherings present. Savor the flavors, and let the seeds of benne inspire you to reflect, rejoice, and look forward to the future.
Traditional Benne wafers tend to be crunchy and crisp and plain. I prefer mine chewy and crisp. I also wanted to dress the cookies up for the holidays , so I drizzled them with melted chocolate.
For a more traditional cookie, feel free to ditch the chocolate. These cookies have so much flavor! I think you will quickly become addicted to its nutty, crisp but chewy, buttery rich unique flavor!
This is one of the most easiest cookies I have ever made. I love that it makes a big batch. You can whip these up delicious sesame cookies up in no time.
Benne seeds taste and story connect us to the past. So enjoy benne’s gifts in every cookie. I hope they bring sweetness and community to your Kwanzaa or any other holiday celebrations or parties.
Benne wafer quick tips:
- A light colored baking sheet will keep these cookies from burning. Dark colored ones will burn the cookies. I used a Nordic ware baking sheet. This one HERE.
- Do not place the benne cookies close together on the baking sheet or they may stick together. I suggest placing them 2 inches apart.
- Make sure you use parchment paper if not, the cookies may spread too much.
- These cookies bake up pretty fast. Make sure you put your timer on 6 minutes. Check them. If they are not golden colored yet, bake them for 2 more minutes. I take them out when the are golden brown but still soft to the touch. You definitely want to under bake them. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit for a couple minutes. They will continue to cook.
- If you are going to drizzle with chocolate, let the cookies cool completely. Don’t drown the cookies in chocolate. Just drizzle a bit with a spoon. Garnish with more sesame seeds if you like.
- Chill the chocolate drizzled cookies until the chocolate has set and dried.
- Store plain cookies in a tight lid container for up to 4 days at room temperature. Do not store chocolate drizzled cookies at room temperature.
- Store drizzled cookies in an air tight container, once the chocolate on the cookies is set/dry.
Benne Seed Cookies
- 1 cup sesame seeds toasted
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/8 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cup melted chocolate
- 2 1/2 tsp coconut oil
How to Roast Sesame Seeds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the seeds on an un-greased baking sheet for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Remove the benne seeds from oven and set aside to cool completely.Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Line a light-colored baking sheet with parchment paper.
Benne Seed Mix
- Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add eggs and mix until combined.
- Stir in remaining ingredients except sesame seeds until a dough forms. Fold in cooled sesame seeds.
- Scoop dough by the 1/2 teaspoon and roll into balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing apart.
- Bake at 275°F for 6-8 minutes until cookies are softly set but still pale golden on the bottom.
- Remove from oven and let cool on pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- For chocolate drizzle: Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between rounds. Add shortening and stir until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cookies
__________________ A light colored baking sheet will keep these cookies from burning. If you're using a dark baking sheet, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. __________________ Do not place the benne cookies too close together on the baking sheet or they may stick together. I suggest placing them 2 inches apart. Make sure you use parchment paper if not, the cookies may spread too much. __________________
These cookies cook pretty fast, therefore bake them between 6-8 minutes. They should be a light golden brown color. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool about 15 minutes. __________________ Store cookies in a tight lid container for up to 4 days at room temperature.