Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies-Biscotti Regina are an easy to make, crunchy and lightly nutty Sicilian cookie. These delicious cookies are not too sweet and are covered in toasted sesame seeds. A perfect cookie to add to your Christmas cookie tray! Great for breakfast or for an afternoon coffee break.
Also known as Italian Sesame Seed Cookies or Biscotti Reginelle (Queen’s Cookies), this scrumptious cookie is covered with crunchy sesame seeds and is sure to become a favorite!! A traditional Sicilian cookie that is easy to make, crunchy, not too sweet, with an addictive nutty flavor from the toasted sesame seeds.
You may not know that yes, these are traditional Sicilian cookies, but did you know that they are also very Arabic. More on this part of the recipe below…
Besides the Sicilian S Cookies, these are one of my other top Sicilian cookies to enjoy for breakfast! Or just with a nice cup of espresso. It’s one of the first cookies I ever tried as a little girl when I lived in Sicily. And now, just one bite of this cookie instantly transports me back to being with my Sicilian family.
My Sicilian nonna had 3 sisters (Elena, Angelica, Tomassina)and they would visit each other every single day (I know this for a fact from a treasure trove of all of my dad’s letters from his mamma)! Even when their kids were born (and my nonna had 7 kids!), the sisters would come by to say hello. I could imagine them sitting around chit-chatting and going over the latest happenings in the family.
Maybe they would be discussing what was happing below the balcony that morning. Maybe discussing who is sick or who just recently died. Or going over family farm shop talk. No matter what would be the topic, something just baked would be shared and it made sure they were connected and taking a pause.
This is part of my #projectsicilia where I make something authentic Sicilian to keep memories of my dad alive.
On every one of my recent visits to Sicily, my cousin Ciccio brings me to his favorite bakery (it must always where he suggests, because it’s the best bakery, and they treat him with respect), and we get a few different cookies to bring home to have for breakfast.
These Sicilian cookies are a really nice recipe to bake with kids. This is one of the cookies my kids have always had fun baking with their nonna! It’s not that hard to make and they always helped rolling them in the sesame seeds.
What are Sicilian Sesame Seed cookies called in Sicilian?
Sicilian Reginelle or Biscotti Regina in Sicilian dialect are called ca’giugiulena . The word giuggiulena derives from Arabic gialgiala, Arabic for sesame seeds. Or you may hear them called viscuotta ‘nciminati. The reginelle in Palermo are one of the cookies enjoyed for the Festa dei Morti (Day of the Dead holiday).
What is the history of Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies-Biscotti Reginelle?
These not overly sweet and super crispy sesame cookies are originally from Palermo, but they are found all over the beautiful island of Sicily. The story goes that they were named after Queen Margherita of Savoia, hence, Biscotti Regina-Queen cookies.
Sicily was invaded by many different cultures over the centuries. The Phoencians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and the Spanish (just to name some of the conquerors!). Each invasion left a strong influence on the uniquenesses of everything about Sicily! The Arabs brought with them citrus, sugar, rice and even sesame seeds. Which is why these are such a famous Sicilian cookie with an Arabic influence.
What ingredients are in Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies?
Here is the list of ingredients. Keep in mind that in Sicily, this recipe is varies even from city to city. In some areas they use lard (strutto)and some areas of Sicily will add orange rind. And some recipes will even include saffron and I have heard about even cumin being added. (Full recipe is below)
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- margarine (or unsalted butter or lard)
- white sesame seeds
- milk (I used unsweetened almond)
- vanilla extract
How to make Sicilian Sesame cookies?
Gather all your ingredients.
The first step is to lightly toast the sesame seeds. I’ve seen recipes where you don’t toast the seeds, but I prefer to lightly toast them.
The second step is to whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
The third step is to mix the margarine (or butter or lard) with the sugar until it’s nice and fluffy.
The fourth step is to mix the wet mixture into the dry mixture.
The fifth step is to add the milk a bit at a time (I used unsweetened almond milk). This is if you were using an egg, when you would add it in. I made these vegan and used almond milk in place of egg.
Here is how the dough is when it’s ready.
The sixth step is to form the cookies and roll them around in the toasted sesame seeds.
It’s important to roll the cookies the same size, that way they’ll bake evenly. You could brush a little milk on the cookies before rolling in the seeds to help them stick better (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t).
You could make them even bigger (I’ve seen these cookies pretty big in Sicily).
The final step is to bake them until their golden. I spread mine out over two baking sheets.
Can you make Sicilian Sesame seed cookies without eggs?
Yes! I made these without eggs and used almond milk in place milk. So they are totally dairy-free and also vegan.
What shape are Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies?
In the area of Taormina I have seen them shaped sort of oval- oblong. In Palermo they are rectangular. You could make them sort of oval like I did.
How to store biscotti regina?
These cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. They will even keep their crunch (I made mine without egg).
Some other delicious cookies recipes to try:
- Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Mostaccioli-Italian Christmas Spice Cookies
- Cuccidati-Sicilian Fig Cookies
- Italian Lemon Knot Cookies
- Sicilian Savoiardi Cookies-Ladyfinger Cookies
Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies-Biscotti Regina
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ¼ cup margarine softened (or unsalted butter or lard)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp milk I used unsweetened almond milk
- Preheat oven to 350°. Place a rack in the center of the oven.
- In a large skillet, add the sesame seeds and on medium heat, lightly toast them. Keep stirring them as they’re getting a little colors, as you don’t want them to get too brown. Set them aside in a casserole or large dish to cool down (that’s where you will be dipping the cookies into them).
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper (I used 2) and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
- In another large bowl, by hand or with an electric mixer, beat together the margarine (or butter)with the sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and stir to combine (or beat with the mixer to combine).
- Add in the flour mixture a little bit at a time. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl to combine well. Add in the milk a tablespoon at a time, until you have a soft dough.
- Dump out the dough onto a clean work surface. Work the dough just a bit until it is smooth and cohesive, adding just small portion of flour if it’s needed to bring the dough together.
- Scoop out small portions of the dough to make 2-inch cookies. Brush with a little milk and roll them in the container with the toasted sesame seeds.
- Space out the cookies 1-inch apart on the baking sheets (depending on how precisely you scoop out portions, should make about 22-24 cookies).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.