Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) stacked in a bowl.

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls)

Laughing Doughnuts are also known as Chinese Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls, and popular throughout Asia, especially during Lunar New Year because of the signature crack that resembles a smiling mouth! Their crispy sesame cookie exterior yields a lightly sweet cake-like interior, making it an irresistible snack.

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) stacked in a bowl.
Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls)

Laughing Doughnuts are also known as Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls, and popular throughout Asia, especially during Lunar New Year because of the crack that resembles a smiling mouth! Their crispy sesame cookie exterior yields a lightly sweet cake-like interior, making it an irresistible snack.

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) in a bowl.

Thirteen years ago, I quietly published my first post, breathing life into this little space of mine on the internet. It began as an endeavor with modest goals. This blog was my place to share family recipes and the stories behind them, to preserve the food memories I held dear, and the new memories to come. 

As the years passed, I realized that it became my way of preserving my mom’s binder of handwritten scribble. In her final years, she copied some of her recipes onto neatly written, laminated index cards, but there were so many recipes she never finished. Little did she know how much I would treasure them all; to this day, I am still cooking through her binder. And every year, on this blog’s birthday, I try to share a different recipe with you.

Now that Kitchen Confidante is a teenager, I leafed through her pages, trying to find the perfect recipe to celebrate. What is appropriate for a thirteenth birthday? 

I may not be superstitious, but I wondered, is there a lucky recipe in her binder? When I stumbled upon her recipe for Laughing Donuts, hastily scribbled on a yellowed sheet of dot matrix printer paper, it seemed like she was telling me, “this one.” It was a treat she used to make for an afternoon snack, and with Lunar New Year beginning this week, it seemed even more appropriate to make a batch!

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) stacked in a bowl.

What are Laughing Doughnuts?

Laughing Doughnuts are also known as Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls. They are popular throughout Asia, especially during Lunar New Year, because of the crack that appears during frying – its resemblance to a smiling mouth is said to represent the ability to laugh throughout the year!

Chinese smiling cookies are known as kai kou xiao (“open mouth laughing”) in Mandarin, “siu hao zou” in Cantonese, laughing donuts (ขนมหัวเราะ ) in Thai, and binangkal in the Philippines, where my parents are from. 

Some versions of binangkal are more bread-like and have milk in the recipe, but my mother’s version seems to straddle the two varieties. Her written recipe is more in line with Chinese sesame ball cookies and Thai laughing donuts, but without sugar. In testing this recipe, I couldn’t help but wonder if she accidentally omitted the sweetener, and I added some sugar to the recipe I am sharing with you. The version of her recipe I have settled on tastes just as I remember.

Between you and me, I can’t help but smile whenever I eat them, not only because of their crisp, cookie-like exterior with a lightly sweet cake-like interior but because it brings back memories of my mom. She didn’t necessarily wait for Chinese New Year, nor do you.

How to Make Laughing Donuts

Laughing doughnuts are simple to make with pantry ingredients! They are traditionally made with lard, but vegetable shortening is the ideal substitute, giving the doughnuts their light and flaky texture. Unsalted butter can also be used, but know that the texture will be a bit different.

  1. Make the dough

    Whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the eggs and melted shortening and mix until combined. Dump the mixture onto a work surface and knead until the dough forms a fairly smooth ball. Be patient working the dough, but if the dough is too dry, you can add a few drops of melted shortening or water until you get a workable consistency.Dry ingredients for laughing doughnuts in a bow.

  2. Roll the dough into balls

    Divide the dough into two balls. Working with one batch at a time, roll the first piece of dough into a cylinder, then divide the dough into 16 smaller pieces. Roll each ball until smooth. You should have 16 balls about 1” to 1 1/4” in diameter. Repeat with the second batch of dough, you will have 32 balls in total. Dip each ball in a bowl of water, then drop it in a bowl of sesame seeds, rolling to coat them on all sides. Use your hands to roll and press the seeds into the balls.Rolled dough for laughing doughnuts.

  3. Fry the laughing doughnuts/smiling cookies

    Heat the oil in a wok or deep-sided saucepan over medium heat until the oil is 300°F. Be sure you have at least 3 inches of oil in your pan. Working in small batches, carefully add the balls and fry, turning periodically, until the doughnuts are golden brown, puffed, and have developed signature crack. Use a spider or slotted spoon to carefully transfer the doughnuts onto a paper towel-lined tray to drain. Repeat until all the doughnuts are cooked.Laughing doughnuts frying in a wok.

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) in a serving bowl.

More Asian Dessert Recipes

Cassava Cake
Ginataang Bilo-Bilo: Filipino Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Ginataang Mais
Sapin Sapin

More Doughnut Recipes

Nutella Filled Mini Doughnuts
Baked Coconut Doughnuts
Blueberry Lemon-Glazed Baked Doughnuts

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) in a bowl.

Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls)

Laughing Doughnuts are also known as Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls, and popular throughout Asia, especially during Lunar New Year because of the crack that resembles a smiling mouth! Their crispy sesame cookie exterior yields a lightly sweet cake-like interior, making it an irresistible snack.
Laughing Doughnuts (Sesame Smiling Cookie Balls) stacked in a bowl.
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5 from 2 votes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Asian, Chinese, Filipino, Thai
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 32 doughnuts/cookies/balls
Calories 112kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 450 g
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar 127 g
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder 23 g
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup melted shortening or lard 52g
  • 1 /2 cup black or white sesame seeds
  • 4 cups grapeseed oil for frying (can substitute peanut oil or vegetable oil)

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add the eggs and melted shortening and mix until combined. Dump the mixture onto a work surface and knead until the dough forms a fairly smooth ball. Be patient working the dough, but if you find that the dough is too dry, you can add a few drops of additional melted shortening or water until you get a workable consistency.
  • Divide the dough into two balls. Working with one batch at a time, roll the first piece of dough into a cylinder, then divide the dough into 16 smaller pieces. Roll each ball until smooth. You should have 16 balls about 1” to 1 1/4” in diameter. Repeat with the second batch of dough, you will have 32 balls in total.
    Dip each ball in a bowl of water, then drop it in a bowl of sesame seeds, rolling to coat them on all sides. Use your hands to roll and press the seeds into the balls.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or deep sided sauce pan over medium heat until the oil is 300°F. Be sure you have at least 3 inches of oil in your pan. Line a tray or large plate with paper towels, and set aside.
  • Working in small batches, carefully add the balls and fry, turning periodically, until the doughnuts are golden brown, puffed, and have developed the signature crack. Use a spider or slotted spoon to carefully transfer the doughnuts onto a paper towel lined tray to drain. Repeat until all the doughnuts are cooked.
  • All the doughnuts to cool slightly, then enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store fully cooled doughnuts in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Nutrition

Calories: 112kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 98mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 23IU | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see! Tag @kitchconfidante on Instagram and hashtag it #kitchenconfidante

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  1. Quip it Good

    5 stars
    Happy 13th blog birthday! Can’t believe the Confidante is a a teenager now. Cue the oven door slamming shut and the donuts getting their sesame seeds just so to keep up with their peers’ seed style.

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth Ann Quirino

    5 stars
    First, happy blog anniversary! Congratulations on all your accomplishments. And has it been that long that we’ve been friends? Your recipes and stories have inspired me so much through the years, you have no idea. These Laughing Donuts are adorable. I will try making them. Thanks for sharing. More power and here’s to more wonderful posts from you, Liren!

    Reply
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