Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (2024)

There’s no denying that Italian food and dessert cuisine is among the most popular in the world. Just think of famous Italian desserts like a creamy cup of chocolate gelato or a luscious pistachio tiramisu.

Table of Contents hide

Equipment

Ingredients

How to make and assemble stuffoli step by step

Expert tips for making Italian honey balls

Struffoli variations

FAQs

Easy Struffoli Recipe

What does the word struffoli mean?

Regional Variations of Struffoli

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (1)

One such amazing authentic Italian sweet treat is called struffoli, little fried dough balls smothered in gooey honey and other toppings and served during the Christmas season in the Campania region.

A holiday favorite of both the young and old in Italy, this authentic struffoli recipe begins by having you make little dough balls and then deep frying them until crispy and golden brown.

The dough balls are then covered in honey and assembled on a serving plate, one on top of the other, in the shape of a dome or pyramid. The final step is a generous topping of sprinkles, sugar pearls and even candied fruit. This sweet treat is usually served during special occasions or festivities.

Equipment

Equipment:

  • rubber spatula and/or wooden spoon
  • large bowl
  • cutting board/flat surface such as a baking sheet
  • knife
  • high-sided frying pan about 7 in | 18 cm
  • slotted spoon
  • plates
  • paper towels
  • round serving platter
  • food processor (optional)
  • airtight container

Ingredients

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (2)
  • All-purpose flour (3.2 cups | 400 grams) – this is the main ingredient of the struffoli dough balls.
  • Lemon (1) – you will need one organic lemon to make the lemon zest that goes into the dough balls and offers a fresh, lemony flavor.
  • Orange (1) – wash one organic orange very well and then make zest from the rind to use in the dough.
  • Granulated sugar (3.33 tbsp | 40 grams) – the sweet dough requires regular sugar, and then you will also need icing sugar when making the Italian honey balls glaze.
  • Salt (1/4 teaspoon) – just a pinch of regular table salt.
  • Baking powder (1 teaspoon) – while this wasn’t always added to struffoli, we find that it makes the dough balls a little lighter and not as hard.
  • Unsalted butter (5.71 tbsp | 80 grams) – the butter needs to be melted and left to cool before using. Some recipes call for simply “cutting in” room temperature butter, which you can try if you prefer not to melt it.
  • Eggs (3 medium) – some nice, fresh farm eggs will ensure a delicious flavor just like in other Italian desserts.
  • Anise liquor (2 tablespoons) – this liquor can be hard to find outside of Italy, so you can substitute with rum or brandy. If you prefer not to use liquor, you can substitute with the same amount of lemon juice or orange juice.
  • Vegetable oil (2.54 cups | 600 ml) – canola oil for frying, or whatever oil you prefer to use for deep frying.
  • Honey (0.9 cup | 300 grams) – a wildflower honey that is in a liquid state is best to use in this recipe, but if you have honey with a lot of crystals that has hardened you will simply need to heat it for a little longer when making the glaze.
  • Powdered sugar (2 tablespoons) – icing sugar melts quickly into the honey, so you don’t have to heat for too long when you make the honey syrup.
  • Vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon) – we love the vanilla aroma, but you can skip this ingredient if you want.
  • Sprinkles (3-4 tablespoons) – some cute rainbow sprinkles make this struffoli dessert look so festive.
  • Sugar pearls (1-2 tablespoons) – an optional addition, color-coordinated sugar pearls can really dress up this dessert.
  • Candied fruit (3.38 tbsp | 50 grams) – a completely optional addition, people sometimes prefer to use candied cherries because of their bright festive color.

How to make and assemble stuffoli step by step

Make the struffoli dough: Melt the butter and leave it to cool (photo 1). In a large bowl, or in a food processor if desired, mix together the flour, orange and lemon zests, salt, and baking powder (photo 2).

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (3)

Then add the sugar, the cooled melted butter, and the liquor (photo 3) and stir with a wooden spoon until you get a fairly hom*ogeneous mixture. Create a hole in the center of the flour and add the eggs (photo 4) and stir in well.

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (4)

The mixture should start to form a compact ball (photo 5). Knead with your hands until the mixture is very well mixed and has no lumps. Form the soft dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap (photo 6) and leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (5)

Make the struffoli balls of dough: Cut off a piece weighing about 50 grams and roll it on a flat, cool work surface with your hands to form a long cylinder of about 0.4 in | 1 cm in width. With a knife, cut the dough cylinder into 0.4 in | 1 cm pieces (photo 7), you can either use the irregular balls as they are or roll each piece until it’s round with your hands, they should be about the size of a hazelnut.

Use all the remaining dough, placing each dough ball on a lightly floured surface or baking sheet and then very lightly dusting them with flour (photo 8).

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (6)

Frying dough balls: In a frying pan with high sides, pour in the vegetable oil and turn on a medium heat. Keep track of the temperature using a thermometer if you are not used to deep frying. Heat it until it reaches 375° F | 190° C, you can turn up higher if desired.

Fry the dough balls in batches of about 15 tiny balls. It should take around one to two minutes per struffoli batch before the dough balls turn a light golden brown (photo 9).

Now, line a plate with paper towels. Once the dough balls are done, use a slotted spoon to remove them and place them on the plate and let the towels absorb the excess oil. Change the towel for each batch.

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (7)

Honey glaze and sprinkle topping: In a very large saucepan, combine honey, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla (photo 10). Heat the mixture, stirring frequently, over low heat with a spoon until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and add all the fried dough balls carefully into the mixture (photo 11).

Stir the mixture slowly by turning the honey over the balls, making sure not to damage or crush them. Add most of the sprinkles and candied fruit as well and mix gently (photo 12).

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (8)

Arrange and decorate the dessert. Once all the fried dough balls are covered with the honey mixture, transfer them to a serving platter and arrange the honey balls on the serving platter in a mound or pyramid. You can set aside any extra honey syrup.

After you’ve assembled the dough balls on the serving platter, carefully pour any of the remaining honey syrup on top, if desired. Next, decorate the dough balls immediately with the remaining sprinkles and any other edible decorations on top. Your struffoli are now ready to eat!

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (9)

Enjoy your struffoli with one of these Italian drinks:

  • Homemade Limoncello
  • Refreshing Aperol Spritz
  • Americano co*cktail

Expert tips for making Italian honey balls

  • Use hot oil. You need to use the right oil temperature, so make sure your frying oil is very hot, 375° F | 190° C, so that the fried dough struffoli have a delicious taste and the tiny balls aren’t soggy or oily. We recommend using a thermometer if you are not a frequent fryer.
  • Use liquid honey. It is much easier to make this honey syrup recipe with honey that is already in a liquid state and isn’t hard or crystallized.
  • Get creative. Don’t just dump the struffoli honey balls on the plate and call it a day. In Italy, cooks take their time arranging the struffoli into beautiful pyramids or a Christmas tree or wreath shape and use carefully chosen colored sprinkles (even rainbow sprinkles, if you can’t decide on a color scheme) and decorations so the dessert looks festive and inviting. You can also get creative with the serving dish, using colorful plates or a cake stand. Some people like to create individual servings for a party by using cupcake liners.

Other traditional Italian dessert recipes:

  • Authentic Italian Sfogliatelle Recipe
  • Authentic Italian Tiramisu Recipe
  • Authentic Italian Rum Cake Recipe
  • Zeppole di San Giuseppe
  • Authentic Italian Cannoli Recipe

Struffoli variations

  • Substituting anise liquor. The traditional struffoli Italian honey balls recipe calls for an anise liquor, but it is somewhat hard to find outside of Italy so many people simply use rum or brandy instead. However, the alcohol is actually optional and you can still create these scrumptious honey balls without it by using the same amount of fresh-squeezed lemon juice or orange juice instead.
  • Baked struffoli. Instead of frying the dough balls, you can put the small balls of dough on a lined baking sheet (or one you prep with nonstick cooking spray) and bake them in a preheated oven at 355° F | 180° C for 12 minutes or until they brown evenly and then coat with honey in the exact same way.

FAQs

Can I freeze struffoli?

We do not recommend freezing struffoli. The little balls of dough don’t defrost well and won’t have the firmness necessary to be mixed with the honey.

How should stuffoli sweet treats be stored?

The Italian honey balls should be stored in an airtight container or a covered serving dish at room temperature for up to 10 days.

When is stuffoli made?

In Naples today, struffoli is mainly a holiday treat. But for the rest of Italy, it is prepared and available during most festivities, especially religious holidays. You can even easily spot it during Carnevale.

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (11)

Easy Struffoli Recipe

This authentic struffoli recipe doesn’t require complicated techniques and is easy to make. Basically struffoli is just fried dough balls with drizzled honey and topped with sprinkles. You don't need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy this dessert, so roll up your sleeves and get started right now.

4.41 from 145 votes

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Course: Dessert

Prep Time: 30 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes minutes

Servings: 10 servings

Calories: 838kcal

Author: Guido Pedrelli

Ingredients

For dough balls:

  • 400 grams (3.2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 (1) lemon zest
  • 1 (1) orange zest
  • 40 grams (3.33 tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 80 grams (5.71 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 3 (3) eggs medium
  • 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) anise liquor rum or brandy can be substituted with orange juice or lemon juice
  • 600 ml (2.54 cups) vegetable or canola oil for frying

For coating and decorating:

  • 300 grams (0.88 cups) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (3 to 4 tablespoons) sprinkles
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons (1 to 2 tablespoons) sugar pearls optional
  • 50 grams (3.38 tbsp) candied fruit optional

Equipment

  • 1 1rubber spatula and/or wooden spoon

  • 1 Large bowl

  • 1 cutting board/flat surface such as a baking sheet

  • 1 knife

  • 1 high-sided frying pan about 7 in | 18 cm

  • 1 Slotted Spoon

  • 2 plates

  • 1 paper towels

  • 1 round serving platter

  • 1 Food processor optional

  • 1 Airtight container

Instructions

Mixing the dough

  • Melt the butter and leave it to cool.

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, lemon and orange zest, salt and baking powder.

  • Now add the sugar, the cooled butter and the liquor and stir with a wooden spoon until you get a fairly hom*ogeneous mixture.

  • Create a hole in the center of the flour and add the eggs and stir in well. The mixture should start to form a compact ball.

  • Knead with your hands until the mixture is very well mixed and has no lumps. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

  • Cut off a piece weighing about 50 grams and roll it on a flat, cool work surface with your hands to form a long cylinder shape of about 1 cm in width.

  • With a knife, cut the dough cylinder into 0.4 in | 1 cm pieces. You can either use the irregular balls as they are or form smooth round balls, to do so roll each piece of struffoli into small 0.4 | 1 cm tiny balls about the size of a hazelnut.

  • Place them all on a lightly floured surface and lightly dust the balls with flour.

Frying the dough balls

  • In a frying pan with high sides, pour in the vegetable oil and turn on high or medium heat. Keep track of the temperature using a thermometer. Heat it until it reaches 375° F | 190° C.

  • Fry the balls in batches of about 15. It should take around one to two minutes per batch. The balls should be a light golden brown.

  • Line a serving plate with paper towels. Once the balls are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on the plate and let the paper towels absorb the excess oil.

Glazing and decorating the dough balls

  • In a very large saucepan, make the honey syrup by combining honey, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. Heat the mixture, stirring frequently, over low heat with a spoon until the sugar dissolves.

  • Turn off the heat and add all the fried dough balls carefully into the mixture. Stir the mixture slowly by turning the honey over the balls, making sure not to damage the dough balls. Add most of the sprinkles and candied fruit as well and mix in gently. Set aside any extra honey.

  • Once all the balls are evenly coated with the honey mixture, transfer and arrange the balls on a serving platter in whatever shape you want, from a pyramid to a wreath. You can also leave a hole in the center and insert half a washed lemon or orange.

  • After you’ve assembled the balls on the serving platter, carefully pour any of the remaining honey mixture on top, as desired.

  • Next, use the remaining sprinkles and any other edible decorations to decorate the top of the honey coated balls and your struffoli is ready to be served!

Serving: 100g | Calories: 838kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 64g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 32g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 80mg | Potassium: 123mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 277IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 2mg

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What does the word struffoli mean?

The word “struffoli” actually comes from the Greek word “strongoulos,” which means shaped like a ball. According to some historians, struffoli Italian honey balls may have been inspired by sweet fritters called “loukoumades” during the Magna Grecia Era in southern Italy.

Another possible influence on this popular holiday pastry is the Spanish piñonate. It has some of the same ingredients as the struffoli balls, however its shape is like a tube and it has anise. This dessert is also a popular dessert during the Christmas season.

Regional Variations of Struffoli

Like many other traditional Italian dishes, the authentic struffoli recipe has similarities with other desserts in other parts of the country. One pastry that has some similarities with struffoli is Cicerchiata. Typical of the Abruzzo region, these Italian honey balls are prepared the same way and basically have the same ingredients. Another Italian honey balls recipe is the the one from Taranto called “sannacchiudere.”

Another version of struffoli is the “porceddhuzzi” that is typical of the Calabria region. However, instead of being shaped like balls, they are shaped like dumplings. And there’s also the Sicilian version called “mpagnucate,” which is mainly served during Carnevale and is crunchier than struffoli.

Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe from Nonna in 55 Minutes! (2024)

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