Pronounced "beh-nee", this is the African term for the sesame seed that took root in the South Carolina Lowcountry around the 1800s.
Benne seeds are still a wildly popular ingredient in South Carolina, especially in Charleston. Every Charlestonian has a bag of benne seed wafers somewhere in the pantry, and area chefs feature the seeds in every iteration possible. Benne seeds are sesame seeds, but there are distinct heirloom variants, like Sea Island Benne Seeds, that are unique to the Lowcountry. These heirlooms recapture the powerful nutty, fragrant flavor that commercial sesame seeds in the US often lack. Benne seeds are packed with protein and B-vitamins. These seeds are often toasted before being added to a dish and from there are used as a spice and garnish on dishes drawing inspiration from Asian to African to classic Southern cuisines.
Dry Goods, Anson Mills Benne Seed
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