Benne Wafers

Traditional South Carolina benne wafers, thin, crispy, toasted sesame seed cookies.

Benne Wafers
Elise Bauer

Please give a warm welcome to one of my dearest friends, Steve-Anna Stephens, who is guest authoring this post of one of her favorite recipes for the Southern classic, benne wafers. Steve-Anna sent us a tin of these cookies and we devoured them. So good! ~Elise

When I was a little girl growing up in Alabama, every year our family would get a Christmas gift in the mail from Charleston.

Amidst the usual holiday mayhem, no one really paid a lot of attention to the tin of benne wafer cookies that emerged from the package – except for me.

While everyone else was busy indulging themselves with homemade Christmas fudge and stocking candies, I was stealthily and systematically emptying the tin of benne wafers. As I recall, the round, flat cookies were arranged in stacks in paper liners around the tin.

Instead of eating a whole stack of cookies from top to bottom, I would eat one from the top of each stack, hoping no one would notice how many had actually gone missing.

Benne Wafers
Elise Bauer

The draw for me then, and now, is the combination of three flavors: the nutty taste of the toasted benne (sesame) seeds, a hint of salt, and the caramel sweet flavor from the brown sugar – a chewy crunchy dessert trifecta.

Sesame seed cookies, or benne seed cookies as we call them in the South, are a classic South Carolina tradition. It is believed that enslaved Africans brought benne seeds to Colonial America sometime in the 17th century.

After trying several recipes in search of one that lived up to my recollection (including a number of recipes from my stash of Southern cookbooks), my favorite comes from Gullah Net. In South Carolina, communities of people descended from enslaved Africans are referred to as Gullah communities.

Benne Wafers

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Dough chilling 30 mins
Total Time 75 mins
Servings 48 servings


  • 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted

  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

  •  1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven and prepare baking sheet:

    Preheat oven to 325°F. Cover cookie sheets in parchment paper, silpat sheets, or lightly oil them.

  2. Toast sesame seeds:

    Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until they are golden brown.

  3. Make cookie dough:

    Beat the brown sugar and butter together in a medium-sized bowl for several minutes until fluffy.

    Beat in the egg.

    Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder, then add these dry ingredients to the butter, sugar, egg mixture, mix well.

    Stir in the toasted sesame seeds, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

  4. Chill dough (optional):

    Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. This makes it easier to drop the cookies on the sheets.

  5. Bake:

    Drop by teaspoonful onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving space for the cookies to spread. Bake at 325°F for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown.

    Cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheets, then transfer to a rack to continue cooling.

Recipe source: Gullah Net


Benne wafer tins from Olde Colony Bakery

Benne Wafers
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
44 Calories
2g Fat
5g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 48
Amount per serving
Calories 44
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 15mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 21mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.