Recipe for Benne Cookies

The seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa honors African-American heritage and culture. Primarily observed in the United States, the holiday was created in 1966 by author and activist Dr. Maulana Karenga, who wanted to provide an opportunity for commemorating African history. Kwanzaa is a week long celebration during which the seven guiding principles of Kwanzaa are observed, and festivities include lighting the kinara, decorating homes, and gift giving. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the feast, or karamu, is prepared. The karamu menu combines several traditional African American, African, and Caribbean recipes. Benne (sesame seed) cookies are a dessert served during Kwanzaa, and they represent the African belief that eating sesame seeds yields good luck.


Benne Cookies

1 cup sesame seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325° F. Prepare cookie sheets with cooking spray or parchment paper.

Toast sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat until slightly brown.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Stir in the egg.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and mix well.

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

Drop teaspoons of the batter onto the prepared cookie sheet, leaving space in between.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown.

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