What to Savor This Holiday Season: Sesame Cookies

Cookies are often associated with the holidays, when many of us participate in cooking rituals and gather to share food.  But in this age of fake food and fad diets, some holiday treats can leave us thinking less about pleasure and more about guilt and stress. It’s in the spirit of healthy holiday baking that I look to my spice rack during this time of year.

Healthy eating isn’t about deprivation; it’s about making the best of each meal.  Spices make food more enjoyable by adding flavor without extra calories or extra fillers.   Many common spices work beautifully in baked goods and support our bodies by boosting metabolism and aiding digestion.  The cookie recipe I’m sharing here includes sesame seeds and a mixture of spices – anise, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper – which according to Ayurveda, balance the cold, drying effects of winter.  The cookies’ spices and mild sweetness make them a great digestive biscuit; they’re also wonderful for kids if processed sugar is a concern.

This gluten- and sugar-free recipe is quick and easy to assemble.  It produces a thick, rather sticky batter.  When cooked, the batter puffs and creates a soft, chewy cookie.  I’ve chosen to use honey as a sweetener but molasses or maple syrup would also work.  Although sweeteners are a controversial issue, I’m of the belief that whole food sweeteners are healthier and easier to digest than processed sugar. 

Food is about emotion, and when it’s best, it’s about love: for oneself, friends, family, the environment, or simply the craft of cooking.  And as Family Circle Food Director Regina Ragone noted in a recent interview, “…cookies are really important to people.”  Just consider the happiness conjured by the fragrance of cookies baking in a hot oven on a cold day, or the fervor caused by Hillary Clinton’s 1992 comment about them, which led to the quadrennial presidential cookie competition.  Although everyone you love won’t be able to perch on your counter while these subtly sweet, spicy sesame cookies are baking, I’m sure no one will be displeased if you present them as a holiday gift.



(Makes approximately two dozen cookies)

1 cup sesame tahini

1/3 cup almond flour

1/3 cup honey

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon anise seed

¼ teaspoon cardamom

¼ teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, whisked

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

Black and white sesame seeds, for garnish


  1. Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Mix the ingredients in a medium whisking bowl.  (This batter is rather thick, so I suggest adding each ingredient in the order listed and mixing after each addition.)
  4. Drop tablespoon sized portions of batter onto baking sheets, leaving a few inches of space between each one.
  5. Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. 
  7. Let cool before removing from baking sheets.

Photo Credit: Photos by Shiraz Leyva