Benne Cookies

Benne Cookies

Emily Meggett, who published her first cookbook, “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes From the Matriarch of Edisto Island,” at 89, learned how to make these crisp wafer cookies from her grandmother who learned from generations before. Benne seeds, sesame seeds that enslaved Africans brought with them to the southeastern shores of America, have long been a staple in Gullah Geechee cooking. They are an important component in rice dishes and savory crackers and are the stars of these buttery wafers. Regular sesame seeds will work fine, especially if you toast them in butter, but Mrs. Meggett suggests you try to buy benne seeds, an heirloom seed that is available online. They have a nutty, almost burned honey flavor and bring out the umami in the cookies.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 40 persons



  1. Step 1

    Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 large cookie sheets with butter.
  2. Step 2

    Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the benne seeds, stirring them until coated. Toast the seeds, stirring frequently, until fragrant and darkened a shade, 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to burn the seeds and turn down the heat if needed. Scrape onto a plate and let cool completely.
  3. Step 3

    Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
  4. Step 4

    In a large bowl, cream together the remaining 8 tablespoons/115 grams butter and both sugars until well combined and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add the cooled toasted benne seeds and the vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture.
  5. Step 5

    Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the cookie dough at least 2 1/2 inches apart on 1 prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Remove the wafers from the cookie sheet immediately and place on waxed or parchment paper to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough on the second cookie sheet, reusing the first sheet when it’s cool, if needed.