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Benne or sesame seeds  were brought to America by West African slaves. They were commonly used to enhance the flavors of foods or used as a thickening agent.  African slaves believed the seeds to be good luck. Benne wafers are a staple dessert for many people in South Carolina and they are often served during Kwanzaa as well. Melt in your mouth, crisp, chewy, nutty and caramelized benne or sesame wafer/cookies are perfect for the holidays. For a more traditional type cookie, leave them plain or make them festive by drizzling them with chocolate sauce. Both ways are equally delicious.
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5 from 2 votes

Benne Seed Cookies

Crisp, chewy, nutty and caramelized benne cookies or aka sesame cookies or benne wafers are perfect for your holiday or Kwanzaa celebrations.  For a more traditional type cookie leave them plain or drizzle them with melted chocolate. Both ways are equally delicious. 
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Southern, Southern American, West African
Keyword african recipes, soulfood recipes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes
Servings 50
Author April


  • 1 cup sesame seeds toasted
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate drizzle

  • 2 ½ cup melted chocolate
  • 2 ½ tsp coconut oil


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the seeds on an un-greased baking sheet for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Watch them carefully because they will burn fast. Set to the side to cool completely.
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a light colored baking sheet (see notes) with parchment paper. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add the slightly beaten eggs. Mix. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the benne seeds) to the butter and egg mixture. Mix until the dough forms. Add the sesame seeds and stir to combine
  • Using a ½ tsp, scoop the dough and with your hands form into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Do not place the cookies close together. Continue until you are done. If you are only making a few and want to store the rest, see notes below.
  • Reduce the temperature to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cookies into the oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes. The cookies should be still soft to the touch but golden in color. Remove from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes.

Chocolate Drizzle

  • Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 30 second increments . Add the shortening immediately and stir well. Using a spoon, drizzle cookies with chocolate. It doesn't have to be perfect. SEE NOTES.


If you want to add some chocolate drizzle to your cookies, let the cookies cool completely. Just drizzle a bit with a spoon or pour the melted chocolate into a plastic zip bag. Snip a tiny corner off using scissors. Garnish with more sesame seeds if you like.
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.