Make Benne Wafers at Home


benne wafers

I buy and bring home a container of benne wafers every time I go back to the South. These simple butter cookies are crispy, delicate and not overly sweet.

You never find benne wafers anywhere else, and I am not sure why. They get their origin from African slaves who originally brought over and introduced sesame (or benne in Bantu) seeds. Sesame, along with other African transplants like collard greens, sweet potato and black-eyed peas, was planted all over the South and is used in many Southern and African dishes today.

My favorite use of the sesame is in these cookies. To make them you first must toast the seeds to develop a richer, nuttier flavor. You can toast them on a baking sheet in the oven for a few minutes at about 275 F, but I like to do them in a skillet over medium-low heat so I can stir them and watch them carefully. They are so small that they can easily burn. I have had to throw away plenty of burned batches in the past so be careful here!

Unlike most cookies, you actually want these cookies to spread out when they bake. I hate it when my chocolate chip cookies turn into a flat, crispy cookie, but that is exactly what these cookies should do, so embrace it.

I encourage anyone who has never tasted a benne cookie to make these. They are surprisingly easy to make and the main thing you have to watch out for is not to over or under cook them. They can be a little delicate and crumble so follow the cooking instructions well.

I think benne wafers make a nice hostess gift. They are also great to have around for breakfast with coffee or tea and an afternoon snack. If you want them to be a full dessert, serve them with a pint of ice cream (anything vanilla based or cinnamon would work but even chocolate would be great too).

I can’t believe that I have never made these cookies until now. No reason to fly home just to pick up cookies! I am planning to have benne wafers around more often now, especially since my husband ate the whole box I recently brought home!

Benne Wafers


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted


  • Preheat oven to 325 F.
  • Adjust oven rack to the middle position.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick mat.
  • In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • With an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar together until fluffy and well combined (approximately 2 minutes).
  • Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined.
  • Add the flour mixture slowly and beat until incorporated.
  • Fold in the cooled toasted sesame seeds.
  • Drop a heaping teaspoon of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart (this is important as the cookies will spread).
  • Bake until the tops of the cookies bubble and the edges turn deep brown, (approximately 8 to 9 minutes).
  • Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. As these are paper-thin cookies, this allows the cookies to finish baking from the residual heat of the baking sheet, as well as letting them set up enough so that they don't fall apart when transferred.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 15 minutes. Stored in an airtight container.



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Writer. Cook. Hockey player. Skier. Snowboarder. Mountain biker. Mother of two great danes. Wife. Marketing expert. And, most fulfilling, Co-editor of Dishing!

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