Sesame Seed Cookie Recipe / Benne Wafers (2024)

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posted by Amy Johnsonon June 2, 2010 (updated Feb 24, 2019) 45 comments »

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These traditional southern Benne Wafers are a special treat, and quite addicting too! They also make a great gift during the holidays so make an extra batch or two to share.

Benne (sesame seed) Wafers are popular in the low country of South Carolina. They’re a traditional treat in that area and have stood the taste test of time. It’s no wonder. These cookies are nutty and crunchy and sweet, and the perfect compliment to a bowl of ice cream or a cobbler.

Just like every other recipe here, these Benne Wafers are easy peasy and what you’ll end up with is a beautiful, translucent wafer.

Hereare the ingredients thatyou will need to get started: brown sugar, butter, an egg, flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla and/or course toasted sesame seeds.

Some recipes don’t call for toasted sesame seeds, but I think you’re missing out by skipping this simple step. To toast the seeds, just brown them on the stove top in a dry pan, stirring them occasionally to prevent scorching. It should only take a few minutes. And man alive, is it worth every second. Don’t skip that step. Trust me.

After sesame seeds are toasted, begin by creaming the brown sugar and butter together. Beat the egg, and combine it with the sugar/butter mixture. Next, sift the flour, salt and baking powder together, add it to the mix and combine until just smooth.

Finally, toss in the vanilla and toasted sesame seeds, and mix well.

Toasted sesame seeds smell wonderful.

On a foil, parchment or silicon baking mat lined baking sheet, drop teaspoons of batter spaced apart to allow for spreading. Bake in a 375-degrees F oven for approximately 12-13 minutes, until browned. Let cool for about a minute on baking sheet before removing to cool on rack. Makes about 50 1 1/2-2 inch wafers.

Do you have a traditional local food (especially dessert) to share?Do share.

Sesame Seed Cookie Recipe / Benne Wafers (7)

Benne Wafers Recipe

Yield: 50

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

This southern traditional cookie is so full of flavor and makes a great gift during the holidays.


  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons sesame seeds


  1. In a sauté pan or skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until brown. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Let cool.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the brown sugar and butter together.
  3. Add the beaten egg to the sugar/butter mixture, and combine well.
  4. Next, sift the flour, salt and baking powder together, add it to the mix and combine until just smooth.
  5. Finally add the vanilla and toasted sesame seeds and mix well.
  6. On a foil, parchment or silicon baking mat lined baking sheet, drop teaspoons of batter, spaced apart to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake in a 375-degrees F oven for approximately 12-13 minutes, until browned.
  8. Let cool for about a minute on baking sheet before removing to cool on rack.


Adapted from Charleston Receipts.

Makes about 50, approximately 2-inch wafers.

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originally published on June 2, 2010 (last updated Feb 24, 2019)

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45 comments on “Benne Wafers Recipe”

  1. AmandaReply

    That pic of you holding the cookie up to the light is amazing!!! What a beautiful recipe!

  2. Jamie | My Baking AddictionReply

    I have had these before, but for the life of me I cannot remember where. The look absolutely delicious!

  3. Roosalyn BrandReply

    How do I print out your photos? step by step, they look beautiful.

    I’m going to try to make them today anyway. Hope they turn out. RB

  4. HannahReply

    Please let me know how to store them for a xmas gift?

  5. CarolynReply

    Oh man, I want to make these so much! I wonder how they would fair with a low carb sweetener in place of sugar. Might be worht a try!

  6. dudut @mytwistedrecipeReply

    would love to try this sometime 🙂 looks and sounds delish!

  7. ShainaReply

    I need these (2 of them) with a big scoop of ice cream in the middle.

  8. Tara @ UnsophisticookReply

    I’ve never heard of these, but they sound delicious!

  9. Heather | Farmgirl GourmetReply

    Can I have 80 of those please? YUM!

  10. AmyReply

    I first had these years ago when visiting my parents. Someone had sent them a box of them for the holidays, and my Dad and I would sneak into the kitchen and gobble them down for a late-night snack.
    I’ve looked around quite a bit to find a recipe that duplicates the light, crispy, salty-buttery-sweet wafer I remember. This is the one! I’ve made them for friends and have been asked for the recipe, so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve shared it! They disappear fast! Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. Roses1Reply

    Wei-Wei, I checked your blog and you admitted that your oven doesn’t work properly and the bottom heating unit doesn’t heat. That’s most likely why this recipe didn’t work for you. It has nothing to do with this recipe so why bash it? This is a great recipe and the cookies are delicious!

  12. Amy King CatheyReply

    I just made these for a holiday party tonight. Being the good guest I taste tested them first. I’m glad I made a double batch! These are wonderful and so beautiful!

    • Amy Johnson

      So happy to hear you enjoy them as much as I do, Amy. They’re quite irresistible.

  13. ErikaReply

    Such a great recipe! Thank you. Since we first made them, one of my kiddos has had to go gluten free so we tried them with sorghum flour and they are still just as yummy – thought we would let you and your readers know about a substitution that worked since so few of our favorites have made the GF conversion well. Thanks again!

    • Amy Johnson

      That’s so good to know, Erika! Thank you for sharing.

  14. BobReply

    Try without sesame seeds and different flavors, coconut works good.

    • Bob

      And lemon

  15. BetsyReply

    You asked for a traditional dessert to share. I’ve only seen this in Michigan, but variations elsewhere with more ingredients. I didn’t find them necessary. Soooo easy! You will need the following:

    1 graham cracker shell, I buy mine. Keep the lid. 1 8oz block of Philly cream cheese – NOT low or no fat – the regular kind, at room temp. 1/2

    cup of lemon juice. 1 can Sweetened Condensed milk. Mix these 3 ingredients all together with a mixer, about 5 minutes until it sets up and
    gets pretty thick.. If it doesn’t, add just a bit more lemon juice. If it still doesn’t thicken, just pour into the crust, top with the plastic pie lid I told you to keep:) and refrigerate for an hour or so. Top with a can of cherry pie filling, or any pie filling you like,, about 1/2 inch or so from the edge so it looks pretty. Put one cherry on first to make sure that the pie filling doesn’t sink to the bottom. If the cherry does sink, refrigerate for a couple of hours and try another cherry because I know you ate that first one! That’s it.

  16. PamReply

    I have never made them but buy bags of them every time I go to Charleston. I think it is high time I try to make them for myself. Thanks for the recipe!

  17. Lilly FeherReply

    I give this recipe 5 stars. it is the best benne wafer recipe that I have tried. I store them in a mason jar so that they stay crisp. But warning you just can’t have one. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Amy Johnson

      I agree, it’s difficult to limit it to just one.

  18. AlieReply

    These cookies were not the delicate lace cookies my Southern Great Aunt Susie made. They were totally opaque and, if left in the indicated time, overcooked.
    Very disappointed in this recipe! I was trying to capture a fond memory of my childhood. The picture on the recipe drew me to it, but following the recipe to the letter, left me with over baked cookies. Then trying it with tiny tsp scoops at a lower temp, for less time still left me with over baked cookies. 🙁 not happy with this recipe.

  19. Coletta WalkerReply

    I first tasted these cookies 45yrs. Ago. My husband’s grandmother made them. I am thrilled with your recipe!
    Everyone has an oven that bakes a little differently than someone else’s. We just need to know how to adjust our times or oven temps.
    I live at sea-level…so I bake a few minutes less. I also cook with convection oven, another adjustment.
    There is nothing wrong with the recipe, folks! It’s great!
    After several batches , I have tried adding almonds and almond extract, for some variety. Yum. Then my last batch, I added poppyseed to all of that with the sesame seeds! 🥰
    Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  20. L. K. G.Reply

    A little hint * add a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil, lower your oven temp a bit. I use baking soda only and not powder (we like chewy cookies) and leave them on the pan for five minutes. You can adjust the recipe because of the extra oil.

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Sesame Seed Cookie Recipe / Benne Wafers (2024)


What is the difference between benne and sesame? ›

It's essentially the heirloom ancestor of sesame seeds--sesame and benne are the same species, but sesames have been bred to maximize oil output, which unfortunately has cut down on flavor. Chris Shepherd from Houston restaurant Underbelly was nice enough to send me, you can taste all that sesame used to be.

What is Benne wafers made of? ›

Benne wafers are a Lowcountry recipe that isn't familiar to many outside the region, but it's one that's well worth knowing. Made with benne (or sesame seeds), these crisp wafers have the rich caramel-y notes of lace cookies and deep toasty flavor thanks to the seeds.

What is the story behind Benne wafers? ›

They named the sesame plant “Benne Plant” because “Benne” was the West African word for good luck. The recipe for Benne Wafers began to spread and it is known that when plantation owners had large parties, their guests were sent home with some for good luck.

What does benne taste like? ›

If you've ever had the pleasure of nibbling cookies or other foods made with benne, you already appreciate its slightly sweet, nutty, buttery flavor contributions.

What is the English name of benne seed? ›

Sesame (/ˈsɛsəmi/; Sesamum indicum) is a plant in the genus Sesamum, also called benne or gingelly. Numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalized in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds, which grow in pods.

Are benne seeds the same as sesame seeds? ›

Whether you call them benne or sesame, both names technically refer to Sesamum indium. The plant's wild form is native to sub-Saharan Africa, and cultivation began at least 3,000 years ago.

Where do benne seed cookies come from? ›

Unique to the Lowcountry since Colonial times, Benne (the Bantu-word for sesame) was brought from East Africa (Madagascar), through West Africa, and brought over to the southern United States by the African slaves.

Why are Nabisco famous chocolate wafers so hard to find? ›

Nabisco Old Fashioned Chocolate Wafers have been a staple in our homes for generations. They are a key ingredient in scores of desserts. Unfortunately, Nabisco has "removed them from the product line to make room for new innovations." How is there not "room" for this beloved and much used cookie in their product line?

What is benne flour? ›

Benne was brought to the Carolina Sea Islands by enslaved Africans. We know benne today as sesame, but there is little resemblance in flavor or form between the two. Modern sesame is grown mainly for oil production.

What product introduced by slaves did benne cookies emphasize the use of? ›

The popular sweet snack known as benne wafers are an enduring result of their culinary influence on this coastal region. Enslaved laborers brought sesame seeds to South Carolina in the 1700s and planted them for use as cooking oil.

Where were wafers invented? ›

Origin. Wafers' origin dates to the 9th century Western Europe where the first waffle tong or waffle iron was discovered. The term wafer was first included in Middle English by 1377. In the 1890s, Josef Manner manufactured the first hazelnut cream-filled wafer sandwich.

Are tahini and sesame seeds different? ›

Tahini paste and ground sesame seeds are both made from sesame seeds, but they are different in terms of texture, taste, and uses. Tahini paste is made from ground sesame seeds that have been hulled, or had their outer layer removed. The seeds are then roasted and ground into a smooth, creamy paste.

Are there 2 types of sesame seeds? ›

They add flavour to food and are rich in calcium, magnesium and iron. The types of sesame seeds you are most likely to run into are brown, white and black. The first difference to be identified between black and white sesame seeds lies in their main cultivation and production locations.

What flavor is benne seeds? ›

When heated in cooking, new crop benne seeds possess lovely field flavors, characteristic nuttiness, and deep burnt-honey notes. Unlike modern sesame seeds, benne asserts its culinary presence by magnifying umami nuances in foods, making it unparalleled for use in both modern and historic recipes.

What is the difference tahini and sesame? ›

While you can find different versions of tahini on the market, tahini will usually have a pale color and more mellow flavor compared to Chinese sesame paste. Even though Chinese sesame paste isn't useful as a substitute for tahini, the same can't be said for the other way around.

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