| | |

Italian Sesame Cookies – Sicilian Biscotti Reginelle

A little crunchy, slightly soft in the middle and subtly sweet, Italian Sesame Cookies are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.  These classic Italian favorites get their nutty flavor from the toasted sesame seeds that coat the outside of the cookie and give it its crunchy texture.

a pile of sesame cookies next to a blue cup filled with espresso.

Sesame Cookies are simple but scrumptious cookies.  These traditional Sicilian cookies are typically made for the holidays along with Pignoli, Chocolate Spice cookies and Cuccidati.    But their sweet flavor and crunchy goodness will make them your favorite cookies for everyday snacking.   

WHAT ARE ITALIAN SESAME COOKIES

Italian sesame seed cookies originated in Palermo, but they can be found on Christmas cookie trays all over Sicily.  Apparently, they were named after Queen Margherita di Savoia, hence the name Biscotti Reginelle, which means Queen Cookies.  Regina is the Italian word for queen, so the cookies are sometimes referred to as Biscotti Della Regina, Regina Cookies or Reginelle cookies.  In our family, we called them viscotti cu la giuggiulena which simply means Sesame cookies in Sicilian.

As with many family recipes, everyone puts their own spin on them to suit their tastes. In each family those changes are then carried on as the “traditional” version.  It is no different with Sicilian sesame cookies.  I have seen versions of this recipe with orange zest, vanilla, or anise extract.  Because lard was easy to come by, traditionally that is what was used to make these cookies.  Now many families have begun to use butter or shortening instead. 

Ingredients for making sesame cookies on a cutting board with black labels over each one.

INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS FOR SICILIAN SESAME SEED COOKIES

The ingredients needed to make these traditional Sicilian cookies are pantry staples that you probably already have at home.

  • All-purpose flour works best for this recipe.
  • Shortening gives the dough a great consistency that it does not need to be refrigerated.  I have never used butter to make these cookies so I can’t say how well it would work in place of the shortening.
  • Eggs and milk should be at room temperature. You will need one egg white in addition to the whole eggs.  The egg white will be used to help the sesame seeds stick to the cookies. 
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds have a very nutty flavor and are delicious on these cookies.  You can use raw or white sesame seeds and toast them yourself or use them as they are.  If you can’t find sesame seeds in your grocery, they are readily available in Asian markets. 

​STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, sugar, milk, and lemon juice with an electric mixer.  Add the shortening and beat for two minutes on medium speed.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until it is completely absorbed, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.  The cookie dough will be soft, but it should not be sticky.
  3. Scrap the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it a few times until you have a smooth dough ball.  
  4. Break off a piece of dough and roll it into a log about 1/2″ thick and about 5 inches long.  Fold the log in half and then twist the ends to form a braid, or to make them more traditionally, make logs that are 1″ wide by 2 inches long and flatten them slightly.
  5. Beat an egg white in a small bowl and prepare another bowl with the sesame seeds.  Dip the cookies in the egg white and then roll them in the sesame seeds.
  6. Place the cookies about 2″ apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake the cookies in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown.
  7. When the cookies are done, let them rest on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

TIPS FOR THE BEST SESAME COOKIES

Toasting the sesame seeds brings out their delicious nutty flavor.  I would highly recommend taking a few minutes to do this.  Simply place sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium low heat and toast them for a few minutes until they start to turn slightly golden. 

For even baking, turn the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time.

When making the cookies into braids it is easier to place them on the cookie sheets, brush them with egg white and then dunk them into the sesame seeds.  

A pile of sesame cookies on a board next to a cup of coffee.

If you want to enjoy sesame cookies the way they do in Sicily, serve them after dinner with a glass of marsala wine or vin santo.  These crunchy cookies are perfect for dunking in the wine, just like you would a classic biscotti.  In Italy these are also eaten at breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea and of course they are the perfect addition to a cookie tray on special occasions or for the holidays.

Storage

One of the things I love the most about these Italian cookies is that they store so well.  Placed in an airtight container, they will last for about 2 weeks at room temperature.  This is also a great recipe to make ahead and freeze.  Just place them in a freezer safe container with wax paper between each layer and they can be frozen for 2 months.  

Braided sesame cookies on a wooden board.

FAQ’S

What is the history of Regina cookies?

The cookies were originally made in Palermo, which is the capital of Sicily and they were named after Queen Margherita di Savoia.  Other than this it is hard to find historical accounts of this cookie recipe. We know that Sicily was conquered and occupied by many different countries and cultures over the years. One of the cultures that influenced Sicilian cuisine is Arabic and the Sicilian word for sesame seeds is “giuggiulena” which derives from the Arabic word juljulàn (or giolgiolan).

How many calories are in Sesame cookies?

In this recipe there are approximately 104 calories per cookie. I am not a nutritionist, so I rely on an application to calculate the nutritional values of my recipes, therefore the values provided are an approximation.

Are sesame seeds a healthy fat?

According to Healthline.com sesame seeds have a number of health benefits:
“Sesame seeds are a good source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.
Regularly eating substantial portions of these seeds — not just an occasional sprinkling on a burger bun — may aid blood sugar control, combat arthritis pain, and lower cholesterol.”

OTHER ITALIAN COOKIES

Aside from the cookies mentioned above, if you are looking for more Italian cookie recipes, you can’t overlook the jam filled Pizzicati or chocolate covered Italian Butter cookies. Both are tender, delicious and a hit with the kids. Then there are traditional Christmas favorites like soft and cakey Anginetti, Ricotta Cookies and Lemon Ricotta cookies. Any or all of these classic Italian cookies are perfect for any occasion.

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this recipe for Italian Sesame Cookies or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest for more recipes your family will love!

Sesame Cookies – Italian Biscotti Reginelle

Italian Sesame Cookies are sweet, crunchy cookies perfect for dunking in a cup of coffee, tea or a glass of sweet wine! These classic cookies are often included on Christmas cookie trays, or part of a special occasion dessert table. But they are so easy to make that you can enjoy them year round.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Cookies, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Servings 60 cookies
Calories 104 kcal

Equipment

  • Electric mixer or Stand Mixer
  • Cookie Sheets
  • Parchment Paper
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients
  

  • lbs All-purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • ½ lbs Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs large, room temperature
  • ¼ cup Milk room temperature
  • ½ tsp Lemon juice fresh squeezed
  • ½ lbs Shortening
  • 1 Egg white
  • cups Toasted Sesame Seeds

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350℉. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and set aside.
  • In a large bowl mix together the eggs, sugar, milk, and lemon juice with an electric mixer.  Add the shortening and beat for two minutes on medium speed. The shortening will be broken up but won't cream.
  • Turn the mixer speed down to low and gradually add in the four mixture. Beat until the flour is completely absorbed, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.  The cookie dough will be soft, but it should not be sticky.
  • Scrap the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it a few times until you have a smooth ball of dough.
  • Break off a piece of dough and roll it into a log about 1/2" thick and about 5 inches long.  Fold the log in half and then twist the ends to form a braid, or to make them more traditionally, make logs that are 1" wide by 2 inches long and flatten them slightly.
  • Beat an egg white in a small bowl and prepare another bowl with the sesame seeds.  Dip the cookies in the egg white and then roll them in the sesame seeds.
  • Place the cookies about 2" apart on prepared baking sheets.  Bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown. When the cookies are done, let them rest on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Notes

Baking Tips 

Toasting the sesame seeds brings out their delicious nutty flavor.  I would highly recommend taking a few minutes to do this.  Simply place sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium low heat and toast them for a few minutes until they start to turn slightly golden. 
For even baking, turn the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time.
When making the cookies into braids it is easier to place them on the cookie sheets, brush them with egg white and then dunk them into the sesame seeds.

Storage

One of the things I love the most about these Italian cookies is that they store so well.  Placed in an airtight container, they will last for about 2 weeks at room temperature.  This is also a great recipe to make ahead and freeze.  Just place them in a freezer safe container with wax paper between each layer and they can be frozen for up to 2 months.  

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookiesCalories: 104kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 2gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 20mgPotassium: 30mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 14IUVitamin C: 0.02mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 1mg
Keyword sesame seeds, sweet, crunchy, traditional Italian cookie, christmas cookies
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Similar Posts

2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Such a great coffee cookie! And the crunch and flavor of the sesame seeds makes them extra yummy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.