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Italian Sesame Seed Cookies are the perfect sweet treat to serve with a cup of coffee or espresso.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

Holiday cookie baking season has begun – and these simple, sweet Italian Sesame Seed Cookies are a must-make treat for the cookie tray.

This very simple, buttery Italian Sesame Seed Cookie recipe comes from our favorite Italian cookbook, The North End Italian Cookbook. These sweet-but-not-too-sweet cookies can be flavored with either vanilla extra or anise extract, depending on your tastes.


Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

How do you make Italian Sesame Seed Cookies?

The Italian Sesame Seed Cookie batter comes together in a snap and is made with simple ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.

You’ll cream together butter, granulated sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla (or anise) extract and baking powder. Then you’ll add flour until a soft and pliable dough comes together.

After allowing the dough to rest a bit, you’ll form balls that are dipped first in milk, then in sesame seeds. Then each ball is shaped into a rectangle and placed on a cookie sheet for baking.


Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

Your Italian Sesame Seed Cookies bake up light and airy and the sesame seed coating adds a little crunch as well as flavor to every bite!

I noted above that you can swap in different extracts based on your flavor preferences, and you can also swap in toasted sesame seeds for a more intense sesame flavor if you like!

These Italian Sesame Seed Cookies are the perfect addition to your holiday cookie tray – especially if you want to offer a lighter, simpler cookie option in addition to the more rich and indulgent cookies on the dessert table. I think they are perfect served with a shot of espresso or a cup of coffee.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

You may enjoy these other classic Italian Cookies:

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Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 3 dozen
  • Category: cookies
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: Italian


1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 whole eggs

½ cup plus two tablespoons whole milk, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon baking powder

4 cups all-purpose flour, or less

2 ½ cups sesame seeds, see Notes below


Place softened butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment and beat until smooth and pale, about one minute.

With mixer running on low, add one egg at a time. Scrape bowl and mix again.

Add two tablespoons of milk along with vanilla and mix just a few seconds to incorporate.

Add baking powder and mix.

With mixer running, gradually add flour until you have used 3 ½ cups. Check consistency of dough. It should be soft and pliable but not sticky. Use a little more flour as needed.

Use remaining flour to dust your counter and pour dough out onto flour and knead a few minutes, cover and let rest 15 minutes.

While dough is resting, preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place oven rack in top most position.

After resting, pour ½ cup of milk into a medium bowl and the sesame seeds into another.

Using a one-ounce scoop, scoop out 36 portions of dough onto your counter using all of the dough. Then roll each in between your palms to form 36 balls.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Take one ball at a time and dip in milk then roll in the sesame seeds. Pick up the coated ball and form into a rectangle with your hands getting the height between half an inch and three quarters of an inch high and place on cookie sheet.

Repeat for all 36 balls and place on the two pans, 18 per sheet. They don’t rise or spread very much so they can be somewhat close together. I staggered the rows to fit 18 per pan with plenty of space between them.

Bake on top oven rack for 15 minutes, baking one pan at a time.

Use a spatula and slide them off onto a cooling rack that is sitting over a sheet pan to catch the sesame seeds that fall off.

Cool and serve.


Club stores and some supermarkets often sell sesame seeds in larger 16-ounce containers or you can order them here.

Keywords: Italian Sesame Seed Cookies


Italian Sesame Seed Cookies


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  • Linda wrote:

    Thank you for this recipe. I was wondering if you had to dip the cookie in milk before rolling in sesame seeds? The dough seems wet enough to hold the seeds.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Linda – we followed the original recipe which included the milk. I’m not sure you’ll get a super thick coating of sesame seeds to stick without it, but if that doesn’t bother you, you can skip the milk.

  • Cindy Ball wrote:

    What are your thoughts on Anise flavoring? My Dad would bring a store bought prepackaged version home at Christmas and I always liked them. But my memory is with the anise flavor.

    • Martha wrote:

      Sure Cindy – you could substitute that if you prefer.

  • Mary B wrote:

    This was a great recipe. Everyone loved them. I am usually a stick to the recipe person but wondered how it would be if you used Almond Extract instead of vanilla? As I was munching on my fifth or sixth cookie, I wondered about adding an almond hint to the cookie. I don’t experiment much, hence the question. Someone “in the know” can tell me if it’s worth trying.
    Either way.. these were soooo good. I wish Sesame Seeds weren’t so pricey… like pine nuts!

    • Martha wrote:

      Sure Mary – vanilla is the flavor that was in the original recipe, but I think half vanilla, half almond (or all almond) would also be delicious!

  • Karen wrote:

    Excellent recipe! Raves , and I mean RAVES, from friends. My only change is that I bake for half an hour.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Karen!

  • Doris wrote:

    Does this recipe work out for altitude of 5000 ft?Where do you hail from?

  • Don Henry wrote:

    Can you mix this up and put in the fridge over night? Thank you

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Don – Although we haven’t tried doing so ourselves, Jack and I both think you’d be fine doing so. We’d suggest bringing it fully back to room temperature before baking. Hope you enjoy the cookies!

  • Rhonda Enright wrote:

    I have made these cookies since I was
    sixteen years old, now 67, I’m looking for a delicious keto recipe. Do you have a keto recipe for this?

    • Martha wrote:

      I’m sorry Rhonda – we don’t…we haven’t done a lot of keto sweets – mostly just savory recipes.

  • Joy Manzotti wrote:

    Very easy to make..gonna store in a tin and put out on thanksgiving..thank you!!!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Joy!

  • Dorann wrote:

    I am in the process of putting an Italian cookie tray together. Being of Italian descent myself I grew up on these cookies. What a great addition to my collection. Thank you very much. They are yummy.

    • Martha wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe Dorann! (Hope they are half as good as the ones you had growing up!)

  • Laurie S wrote:

    Oh my goodness! This recipe was a trip down memory lane. I used to buy similar cookies from a bakery in San Francisco on the border of the Chinatown and the Italian districts in the 80s. I savored these and didn’t want to share with my parents or siblings! I can’t wait to try these!

    • Martha wrote:

      I hope our recipe is as good as the ones you remember Laurie!

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