Chinese Air Fryer Sesame Balls Recipe (煎堆)

Fried Chinese Sesame Balls, a.k.a 煎堆 (pronounced “Jian Dui“), are probably my brother’s most favourite Chinese dim sum dish to order. If it comes with a sweet black sesame filling, then that’s a bonus and he’ll be over the moon about it. It’s not at all difficult to make them from scratch at home, but I’ve always felt rather daunted by deep-frying at home. But now that we have an air fryer, it’s a no brainer to try out how to make air fryer sesame balls at home! And my filling of choice? Sweet black sesame, of course.

Sesame balls are a pretty popular pastry in China and Hong Kong. I’ve always considered them a variation of Tangyuan, but deep-fried to golden perfection instead. The exterior should be crispy and fully coated with sesame seed, while the dough has an elastic chewy texture with a sweet filling sitting inside its hollowed centre. Common fillings include sweet lotus paste, black sesame paste, or red bean paste.

To make them at home, it’s simply a matter of putting together the glutinous rice dough and assembling it with the filling. Ingredients such as glutinous rice flour and black sesame paste should be easily found at Asian supermarkets. I made the filling myself using black sesame powder and honey – easy peasy and no need to panic if your local Asian supermarket doesn’t sell it.

A plate of Chinese sesame balls

How to make Chinese Sesame Balls with an Air Fryer

Ingredients

  • Glutinous Rice Flour – typically found at Asian supermarkets. Also available on Amazon
  • Boiling + Lukewarm Water – to make the dough
  • Sugar – to sweeten the dough
  • Black Sesame Powder, Honey – to make the Black Sesame Paste. Or simple buy ready-made pastes at Asian supermarkets
  • White Sesame Seeds – raw & non-toasted
  • Vegetable Oil – for cooking
Sesame-coated glutinous rice flour dough balls

Recipe notes

Notes for prepping the dough:

  • When prepping the dough, it’s important that you use hot water. This is because the hot water stretches the glutinous dough to expand during the cooking process and offer that chewy texture. Otherwise, the dough will be quite stiff and it may even burst during the cooking process.
  • Make sure you are using raw non-toasted white sesame seed so that you get a golden sesame coating instead of burnt seeds. To help the sesame seeds to stick to the dough, slightly wet your fingers over the balls before rolling them in.
  • Fully coat the balls with sesame seed – the dough would expand during the cooking process and stretch some gaps in between.

Notes for air frying:

  • As per most air fryer recipes, preheat the air fryer for a few minutes before you start cooking.
  • Always oil the air fryer basket and sesame balls before cooking.
  • Start witth 160C to cook the dough first (about 15 minutes) and then turn it up to 200C for the golden crispy exterior (about 3 minutes). If your starting temperature is too high, it may cause the dough to burst; while if it’s too low, it would turn out soggy.

Notes for serving & storage:

  • Sesame balls are best served when fresh.
  • You can prepare the sesame balls the night before, freeze them in an air-tight container, and cook directly from frozen the next day.
  • Store any leftover sesame balls in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in the air fryer before eating.
A plate of Chinese sesame balls

Air Fryer Chinese Sesame Balls (煎堆)

ET Food Voyage
Make these Air Fryer Chinese Sesame Balls this Lunar New Year, featuring crispy golden exterior, chewy mochi-like dough, and a sweet filling!
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 18 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine Asian, Cantonese, Chinese
Servings 12 balls
Calories 132 kcal

Equipment

  • Air Fryer
  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 180 g Glutinous Rice Flour
  • cup White Sugar
  • ¼ cup Boiling Water
  • ¼ cup Lukewarm Water
  • ½ cup White Sesame Seeds
  • Vegetable Oil

For the black sesame filling

  • ¾ cup Black Sesame Powder
  • 6-7 tbsp Honey

Instructions
 

Making the dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 60g Glutinous Rice Flour and White Sugar. Mix together with boiling water until combined.
    180 g Glutinous Rice Flour, ⅓ cup White Sugar, ¼ cup Boiling Water
  • Allow to rest for 5 minutes until slightly cooled down. Knead in remaining glutinous rice flour and ¼ cup lukewarm water. Add more water if needed, 1 tbsp at a time, to form a smooth dough.
    ¼ cup Lukewarm Water
  • Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Making the black sesame paste

  • In the meantime, make the black sesame paste by mixing together black sesame powder and honey until it forms a thick paste.
    ¾ cup Black Sesame Powder, 6-7 tbsp Honey
  • Optional: divide the black sesame paste into 12 portions and roll each portion into a small round ball

Assembling the sesame balls

  • Divide the dough into 11-12 even portions. Roll each portion into a round ball.
  • Slightly flatten the dough ball. Using your fingers, create a little well by pinching the edges.
  • Scoop about ½-¾ tbsp black sesame paste (or insert the black sesame paste ball) onto the centre of the dough then gather the edges to seal the dough.
  • Roll the ball in your palms to make sure it's round and smooth. If any cracks appear, simply dab a little bit of water to smooth it out. Repeat for the remaining dough.
  • Place white sesame seed in a shallow bowl. Slightly wet your fingers and dab it all over the dough ball. Fully coat each dough ball with white sesame seed. The little dab of water helps to make the sesame seed stick onto the dough.
    ½ cup White Sesame Seeds

Cooking the sesame balls with an air fryer

  • Preheat the air fryer to 160°C.
  • Brush a layer of oil over the air fryer basket. Place the sesame balls into it – do not overcrowd and leave a little bit of space in between each ball as they will slightly expand during the cooking process. Cook in batches if necessary.
    Vegetable Oil
  • Cook the sesame balls for 15 minutes. Give the basket a little shake and briefly brush another layer of oil over them.
  • Turn up the air fryer temperature to 200°C. Cook for another 3 minutes until the sesame balls are golden in colour. Serve warm.

Notes

Notes for prepping the dough:
  • When prepping the dough, it’s important that you start with boiling water. This is because the hot water stretches the glutinous dough to expand during the cooking process and offer that chewy texture. Otherwise, the dough will be quite stiff and it may even burst during the cooking process.
  • Make sure you are using non-toasted white sesame seed so that you get a golden sesame coating instead of burnt seeds. To help the sesame seeds to stick to the dough, slightly wet your fingers over the balls before rolling them in.
  • Fully coat the balls with sesame seed – the dough would expand during the cooking process and stretch some gaps in between.
Notes for air frying:
  • As per most air fryer recipes, preheat the air fryer for a few minutes before you start cooking.
  • Always oil the air fryer basket and sesame balls before cooking.
  • Start with 160C to cook the dough first and then turn it up to 200C for the golden crispy exterior. If your starting temperature is too high, it may cause the dough to burst; while if it’s too low, it would turn out soggy.
Notes for serving & storage:
  • Sesame balls are best served when fresh.
  • You can prepare the sesame balls the night before, freeze them in an air-tight container, and cook directly from frozen the next day.
  • Store any leftover sesame balls in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in the air fryer before eating as the dough would turn stiff after it’s cooled down.
Keyword Air Fryer Recipe, Chinese New Year, Chinese Recipes

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Chinese Air Fryer Sesame Balls Recipe

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