Made with sweet cream butter, toasted sesame seeds and a hint of lemon, these Italian sesame cookies are a classic family favorite. They can be made in advance and kept for several weeks- at room temperature or frozen- in an airtight container.
If you know these cookies, you know. Perhaps you grew up with them like I did, or sampled a few from an Italian bakery (along with anise biscotti, pignoli cookies and rainbow cookies!). Whatever the case, I’d never dream of making Italian sesame seed cookies at home. Store-bought are excellent.
My research however, revealed that store-bought Italian sesame cookies are made with shortening or oil, which in comparison to butter, doesn’t compare in flavor. Not even close. Butter elevates this recipe in the most glorious way. You have to try it.
What Are Sesame Cookies?
Hailing from Sicily, Italian sesame cookies go by several names: Reginelle, Regina cookies and/or Biscotti della Regina. My version is buttery, slightly soft in the center, and kissed with lemon zest and vanilla extract. A shower of toasted sesame seeds hug the outer edges and I’m convinced the flavor improves over time.
You Will Need
- All purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Fine sea salt
- Baking powder
- Egg yolks (reserve the whites)
- Vanilla extract
- Lemon zest (optional)
- Sesame seeds
A Few Tips:
- This dough comes together very quickly- by hand or in a stand mixer- and needs a 30 minute to 1 hour rest in the fridge.
- Once baked, these cookies will last for several weeks in an airtight container and can be frozen too.
- The sesame seeds do not brown very much in the oven; feel free to toast them first.
Italian Sesame Cookies: How to Make it
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add cold cubed butter and rub the mixture between your fingertips; the texture should resemble coarse crumbs. Add egg yolks, milk, vanilla and lemon zest.
- Mix until a soft dough forms. Mound into a ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The chilling step helps the dough relax, making it easier to roll. You could even rest the dough over night if need be. PS: ignore the espresso cup in the above image (it’s not part of the recipe- I was thirsty).
- Cut the dough into wedges. Roll into eight 5-inch long logs. Then cut the logs into approximately (24x) 1 1/2-inch pieces (like homemade gnocchi), but slightly bigger.
- Dunk the dough pieces into egg whites and roll in sesame seeds.
- Arrange on a sheet pan and bake @ 350 F for 30 minutes until light golden brown.
More Italian Desserts To Try
- Rich & Fudgy Torta Caprese
- Soft & Chewy Pignoli Cookies
- One Bowl Italian Almond Ricotta Cake
- Italian Anise Biscotti
Made with sweet cream butter, sesame seeds and a hint of lemon, these Italian sesame cookies are a classic family favorite. They can be made in advance and kept for several weeks- at room temperature or frozen- in an airtight container. Recipe adapted (with changes) from Italy Magazine.
- 250 g (2 cups, lightly spooned & leveled) all purpose flour
- 100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 113 g (8 tbsp. or “1 stick”) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (cold-ish)
- 3 egg yolks (save the egg whites for coating)
- 2 tbsp. milk (full fat or any %)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tbsp lightly packed (optional).
- 3/4 cup sesame seeds, plus more as needed
Notes & Tips
You won’t need the full 3 egg whites for coating the dough in sesame seeds (1-2 is plenty). Feel free to portion out only what you’ll need and save/freeze the rest for another recipe.
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- By hand or with a stand mixer: Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the butter. With your finger tips (or paddle attachment if using a mixer) rub the butter into the flour mixture; the texture should look like coarse crumbs.
- Add the egg yolks, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest, if using. Mix until the dough holds together (it should be smooth- not sticky or dry). Roll the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes- 1 hr or overnight.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll into (8x) 5-inch long logs. Cut the logs into (24x) 1 1/2-inch pieces, like gnocchi but bigger.
- Dunk the dough in the reserved egg whites and then roll in the sesame seeds. Place onto the sheet pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes until light golden brown.
- Once completely cool, store the cookies in an airtight container for several weeks. Freeze for up to 1-2 months.
Keywords: Italian sesame cookies, sesame seed cookies, Regina cookies, Reginelle cookies, egg whites, all purpose flour, egg yolks