Authentic Struffoli Recipe (Italian Honey Balls)

Jump to RecipeLeave a Comment

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Authentic Struffoli Recipe (Italian Honey Balls)– these tiny fried dough balls are covered in delightful citrus-scented honey syrup and decorated with colorful sprinkles. Follow this step-by-step photo guide to make the BEST Italian struffoli recipe.

See more Italian Christmas Recipes.

Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Best Struffoli Recipe

You are in for a real treat with the BEST homemade struffoli recipe! Some find the little fried dough balls hard, dry, or even too oily. I’ve done all the work to create the perfect softness in the center and slight crispness on the outside with a delightful honey-citrus taste. Follow the step-by-step photo guide to achieve the perfect holiday treat.

The perfect texture from the airy interior to the sticky-honey-orange crispy exterior.

More Italian desserts- Traditional Panettone Recipe (Italian Christmas Cake), Classic Italian Tiramisu Recipe (Authentic), Italian Pandoro Christmas Tree Cake, Zeppole Recipe (Easy Italian Donuts), Bomboloni Recipe (Cream filled donuts), and BEST Authentic Sicilian Cannoli Recipe.

close up of one struffoli fried dough ball with a bite taken out. Light and airy inside.

What are Struffoli?

Struffoli are a typical Italian Christmas dessert. At Christmas time and during the holiday season, you can find beautiful arrangements of these fried dough balls with honey sauce in every Italian pastry shop. They are shaped in a beautiful wreath shape and covered in festive sprinkles. The circular shape has a biblical reference and means good fortune.

struffoli honey dough balls with sprinkles on a serving platter- wreath shape.  Orange and Christams ribbon on background.

Simple Ingredients

ingredient shot for recipe

Dough

  • “00” flour, or all-purpose flour
  • Large eggs
  • Butter
  • White Sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Liquor (grappa, orange liquor, rum, brandy, white wine, or limoncello)
  • Orange zest (or lemon zest)
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Sunflower oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil for frying
ingredient shot for recipe

Honey Syrup

  • Wildflower or Acacia honey
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice (or lemon juice) 

For Decoration

  • Rainbow Sprinkles (nonpareils) 
  • Candied fruit (optional) 

See the recipe card for quantities.

Equipment Needed

adding sprinkles to the wreath of struffoli honey balls

How to Make Struffoli

This Struffoli recipe is easy to make. Making the tiny dough balls takes a bit of time, but it is a fun tradition for family or friends to do together. This easy recipe guide makes struffoli achievable for anyone.

Making the Struffoli Dough

Add eggs and sugar to the bowl of a food processor; pulse until creamy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Be patient and let the sugar and eggs get to the creamy texture.

Place orange zest, liquor, and vanilla extract in the bowl and process until combined.

process of making struffoli dough- adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Add flour and baking powder to the mixture and pulse until a few times (not too much).

proccess of making the struffoli dough- adding butter a bit at a time.

Add the butter pieces and pulse until thoroughly combined. The dough will be sticky.

final dough before placing in the fridge.

Wrap the dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

Shaping Struffoli into Small Dough Balls

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: dough after resting

When the dough is chilled, transfer it to a lightly floured surface.

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: cutting the dough in four even pieces

Divide dough into four even sections.

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: cutting dough into tiny pieces

Roll each section into a long rope, about the same thickness as your finger.

Cut each rope of dough into sections ½ to 1-inch wide. Hint: I prefer mine to be slightly larger than the standard marble size. 

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: dough balls ready to fry.

Roll each section into small balls in the palms of your hands – the balls should be the size of a hazelnut or marble (they will puff up when frying!).

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: rolling out dough and resting on a cookie sheet

Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover them with a clean kitchen towel as you roll out all the balls. 

Frying Struffoli Dough Balls

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: carefully palcing raw dough in hot oil with slotted spoon.

Prepare a large plate or baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Set it next to your stove.
Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to reach a frying temperature of 350°F. (Use an instant-read candy thermometer to determine the oil temperature). Or, test one dough ball to see if bubbles form around it, and it quickly turns a golden brown color. 

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: dropping dough balls in hot oil.

Fry dough balls in hot oil (batches of about 15).

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: stirring the dough balls in the hot frying oil.

Stir a couple of times until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes.

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: dough balls taken out of frying oil with slotted spoon.

Use a slotted spoon to help the dough balls move in the oil to get a nice, even golden brown color.

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: taking out fried dough balls and putting on paper towels.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the dough balls, carefully shake the excess oil back into the pan, then transfer the fried dough to the paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: dough balls in fryer

Repeat frying with the remaining dough.

Make Honey Coating and Assemble Struffoli

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: making the honey and orange mixture.

Add honey and orange juice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine. Cook, continuously stirring with a wooden spoon, until the honey is runny, about 5 minutes.

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: adding honey syrup to the fried dough balls in a large bowl.

Transfer the fried dough balls to a large mixing bowl. Pour the honey mixture on top of the struffoli.

Toss to combine until the struffoli are fully coated with the honey mixture. 

process of making authentic struffoli recipe: putting tall glass on serving platter.

Spray a tall cylindrical drinking glass with non-stick cooking spray and set it in the center of a round serving platter, plate, or cake plate (alternatively- use a springform pan to set and shape the struffoli balls). You can also serve them in a large mound on a serving plate. 

placing dough balls on serving platter with cup in the middle

Use a rubber spatula to mound the glazed struffoli balls to form a wreath around the glass. 
Allow the struffoli to set for 2-3 hours (you can make up struffoli until this part 1 day in advance).

close up honey dough balls with sprinkles on a serving platter- wreath shape.

Before serving, remove the glass from the center of the wreath. Sprinkle liberally with rainbow nonpareils.

Recipe Variations

Have a little fun with the toppings for these homemade struffoli. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

  • Toppings – chocolate drizzle, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, candied maraschino cherries, and candied orange or other candied fruit are fun variations.
struffoli honey dough balls with sprinkles on a serving platter- wreath shape. Orange and Christams ribbon on background.

How to Serve Struffoli

Struffoli are traditionally served in a circular wreath shape. This is done by spraying clean all glass with cooking spray and pacing in the center of a round serving platter.

Place the prepared struffoli around the cup and let it set. Once set, remove the cup, and the struffoli will hold the traditional wreath shape.

Alternatively, you can make a mound of the struffoli on a plate, and they will taste and look beautiful!

struffoli honey dough balls with sprinkles on a serving platter- wreath shape. Orange and Christams ribbon on background.

Storage Instructions

Like any fried food, struffoli are best enjoyed fresh. Store any leftover struffoli in an airtight container. Keep them at room temperature for 1-2 days. You can store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but I don’t recommend it. They will turn hard!

*If you want to make them ahead of time, see the FAQ section.

Top tips

  • Don’t Overmix! Mixing the struffoli dough too much will guarantee tough dough and hard-as-a-rock fried balls – so sad for all the work of these soft little dough balls!!
  • Oil temperature. The oil should be between 350F-360F when you start frying. If the oil is not hot enough, the chiacchiere will absorb too much oil and feel and taste greasy. If the oil is too hot (burning/smoking), it’ll give an unpleasant burned oil flavor to the pastry.
  • Toss the Struffoli as they fry. When the struffoli are frying, help them move around the hot oil with a slotted spoon. In this way, they get a nice even golden brown color.
  • Let rest on paper towels – As soon as they come out of the oil, place them on kitchen towels to stay nice and crisp.
  • Use a slotted spoon to stir the dough balls and gently lift the finished ones, draining any excess oil before moving to the baking sheet lined with paper towels.
  • Sprinkles. Add sprinkles a few hours before serving, or the color will melt into the honey.

FAQs

When do you eat Struffoli in Italy?

Struffoli are typically enjoyed December-Janurary. Struffoli Napoletani are fun to make and delicious to eat! They are commonly served on Christmas Eve, Christmas lunch, and New Year’s Eve dinner in Italy. They symbolize wealth and signify a prosperous New Year. Similar to the tradition of Italian Lentils. In some areas of Italy, they reappear in February and March for carnival or Mardi Gras.

Can Struffoli dough be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze struffoli, but it is not recommended to freeze the uncooked dough. Freeze the already-fried dough balls. Make the dough, form the balls, fry them, and let them cool for about 30 minutes. Place them into plastic freezer bags and freeze them for up to one month. When ready to serve, take them out of the freezer and defrost them at room temperature. Make the honey syrup and toss the defrosted struffoli in the syrup. Serve!

Can you make struffoli ahead of time?

Yes, you can make struffoli ahead of time. The fried and cooled dough balls can be made and refrigerated (for up to 5 days) or frozen (up to 1 month) in an airtight container. When ready to use, bring them to room temperature and coat them with the warm honey mixture. Coat with sprinkles right before serving.

Struffoli vs Pignolata

Essentailly struffoli and pignolata are made the same. In different regions of Italy there are different ways to call a familiar dish. Both recipes are fried dough balls drenched with a citrus honey coating.

How to say Struffoli

The Italian pronunciation for Struffoli (also known as Honey Balls) is – [ˈstruffoli] or /ˈstruf.fo.li/.

Best Sprinkles for Authentic Struffoli

Rainbow nonpareil sprinkles are the most traditional sprinkles for decorating struffoli. The bright colors are festive, and their texture adds a yummy crunch. Honestly, you can use whatever small festive sprinkles you have on hand. If the sprinkles are too big or heavy, they will run off the honey glaze.

Where do Struffoli Originate?

Struffoli are native to the Southern Italian region of Naples but are widely popular all over Italy. The nuns used to prepare them in the convents and gave them to the noble families. Some think the Greeks, who colonized the Gulf of Naples in the 7th century BC, brought the original Struffoli recipe to Italy. In Greek cuisine, the greek word is “loukoumades,” which are small sweet balls covered with sugar, similar to our Italian struffoli.

close up of one struffoli fried dough ball with a bite taken out. Light and airy inside.
children;s hands reaching for Struffoli on a platter

More Classic Italian Desserts

💙 MADE THIS RECIPE AND LOVED IT? 💙 Please leave a ⭐️STAR rating and COMMENT below- I love connecting with you! Tag me with your creations on Instagram and find me on Pinterest.

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
cover photo.

Struffoli Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 3 reviews

Struffoli Recipe (Italian Honey Balls)– these tiny fried dough balls are covered in delightful citrus-scented honey syrup and decorated with colorful sprinkles. They are fun to make with family and friends and are a classic Italian dessert. 

  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

Dough

  • 2 cups of “00” flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of liquor (grappa, orange liquor, rum, brandy, white wine, or limoncello)
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest (or lemon zest)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cups Sunflower oil or vegetable oil, for frying

Honey Glaze

  • 3/4 cup of Wildflower or Acacia honey
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice)

For Decoration

  • Rainbow Sprinkles (nonpareils)
  • Candied fruit (optional)

Instructions

Dough 

  1. Add eggs and sugar to the bowl of a food processor (see notes for making by hand); pulse until creamy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Be patient and let the sugar and eggs get to the creamy texture. Add orange zest, liquor, and vanilla extract, and process until combined.
  2. Add flour and baking powder to the mixture and pulse until a few times (not too much). Add the butter pieces and pulse until thoroughly combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Wrap the dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

Shaping Dough

  1. When the dough is chilled, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into four even sections.
  2. Roll each section into a long rope, about the same thickness as your finger. Cut each rope of dough into sections ½ to 1-inch wide. Hint: I prefer mine to be slightly larger than the standard marble size. 
  3. Roll each section into small balls in the palms of your hands – the balls should be the size of a hazelnut or marble (they will puff up when frying!). Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover them with a clean kitchen towel as you roll out all the balls. 

Frying Dough Balls

  1. Prepare a large plate or baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Set it next to your stove.
  2. Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to reach a frying temperature of 350°F. (Use an instant-read candy thermometer to determine the oil temperature). Or, test one dough ball to see if bubbles form around it, and it quickly turns a golden brown color. 
  3. Fry dough balls in hot oil (batches of about 15). Stir a couple of times until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to help the dough balls move in the oil to get a nice, even golden brown color.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the dough balls, carefully shake the excess oil back into the pan, then transfer the fried dough to the paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat frying with the remaining dough.

Honey Glaze 

  1. Add honey and orange juice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine. Cook, continuously stirring with a wooden spoon, until the honey is runny, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the fried dough balls to a large mixing bowl. Pour the honey mixture on top of the struffoli and toss to combine until the struffoli are fully coated with the honey mixture. 

Serving the Struffoli 

  1. Spray a tall cylindrical drinking glass with non-stick cooking spray and set it in the center of a round serving platter, plate, or cake plate (alternatively- use a springform pan to set and shape the struffoli balls). You can also serve them in a large mound on a serving plate. 
  2. Use a rubber spatula to mound the glazed struffoli balls to form a wreath around the glass. 
  3. Allow the struffoli to set for 2-3 hours (you can make up struffoli until this part 1 day in advance).
  4. Before serving, remove the glass from the center of the wreath. Sprinkle liberally with rainbow nonpareils. (note: serve within 3 hours of adding sprinkles, or their color will start to melt into the honey. It will still taste delicious even if the sprinkles melt).  

Notes

Struffoli Dough by Hand

  • Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well, and add the mixed wet ingredients (make sure to beat egg and sugar until pale and creamy in with hand mixers).
  • Whisk with a fork to incorporate wet and dry ingredients until crumble forms. Add chunks of butter and keep incorporating and mixing the dough. Dough will be sticky.
  • When the dough comes together, place it on a lightly floured surface—Knead for about 10 minutes or until shiny and smooth. Cover and let rest. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as follows.

Alternatively, you can use your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to knead the dough.

Top tips

  • Don’t Overmix! Mixing the struffoli dough too much will guarantee tough dough and hard-as-a-rock fried balls – so sad for all the work of these soft little dough balls!!
  • Oil temperature. The oil should be between 350F-360F when you start frying. If the oil is not hot enough, the chiacchiere will absorb too much oil and feel and taste greasy. If the oil is too hot (burning/smoking), it’ll give an unpleasant burned oil flavor to the pastry.
  • Let rest on paper towels – As soon as they come out of the oil, place them on kitchen towels to stay nice and crisp.
  • Use a slotted spoon to stir the balls and gently lift the finished ones, draining any excess oil before moving to the baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Making Ahead of Time

The fried and cooled dough balls can be made and refrigerated (for up to 5 days) or frozen (up to 1 month) in an airtight container. When ready to use, bring them to room temperature and coat them with the warm honey mixture.

Freezing Struffoli

Yes, you can freeze struffoli, but it is not recommended to freeze the uncooked dough. Freeze the already-fried dough balls. Make the dough, form the balls, fry them, and let them cool for about 30 minutes. Place them into plastic freezer bags and freeze them for up to one month. When ready to serve, take them out of the freezer and defrost them at room temperature. Make the honey syrup and toss the defrosted struffoli in the syrup. Cover with sprinkles and serve!

 

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 1 hr 15 min
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Sweet
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

You May Also Like

About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

7 Comments

  1. Really enjoyed this recipe! Wasn’t able to get as light and airy dough balls as in the photos, but maybe next time. Added caramelized hazelnuts as well.

    Very fun and festive and yummy!






  2. You mention salt in the list of ingredients, but I don’t see included in the directions. Should one assume it is added with the flour and baking powder?

  3. This is the best recipe and the easiest recipe. I love it! Thank you so much for sharing: When I was younger my MomMom used to make Honey Balls. Reminds me of the past. You simplified this recipe!