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 had a few from an Italian bakery (next to the rainbow cookies). Whatever the case, I’d never dream of making Italian sesame seed cookies at home; store-bought are excellent. But store-bought are usually made with shortening or oil, which in comparison to butter, doesn’t compare in flavor. Butter elevates this recipe- you have to try it.
Hailing from Sicily, Italian sesame cookies go by several names: Reginelle, Regina cookies and/or Biscotti della Regina. They’re 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 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.
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 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