Benne wafers on small plate with blue cloth napkin

Benne wafers (Charleston's Classic Sesame Seed Cookies)

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: benne wafers, charleston cookies
Servings: 14 dozen cookies
Author: Caroline Lindsey
Benne wafers are traditional cookies from Charleston, SC made with benne (sesame) seeds. Bite-sized and crunchy, they make excellent tea cookies and are ideal for wedding or shower favors or Christmas gifts! This easy, old fashioned Southern recipe will give you that unique, traditional South Carolina Lowcountry flavor you’re looking for!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup benne or sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • If using sesame seeds, rather than authentic benne seeds, toast seeds in dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until well mixed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make it extra fluffy to add volume to the dough so you get the full number of cookies out of it! Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to combine after each egg.
  • Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture. Stir in benne or sesame seeds and vanilla extract.
  • Drop dough by scant 1/2-teaspoons-full (I did a little less than 1/2 teaspoon to make them more bite-sized, since the dough spreads quite a bit) onto parchment paper about 1 inch apart. If desired, spoon dough into a ziplock bag and trim off the corner, or into a pastry bag, and pipe tiny amounts onto the parchment paper instead of using spoons. 
  • Bake for 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies onto a rack to cool.
  • Store in an airtight container or separate into baggies as gifts or favors.

Notes

The recipe I adapted from says it makes 4 dozen cookies at 1/2 teaspoon each. I got 14 dozen cookies at (scant) 1/2 teaspoon each. I'm sure the scant half teaspoon allows for some of the difference, but creaming the butter longer until it's extra fluffy may make the rest of the difference in quantity.