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Zeppole Recipe (Easy Italian Donuts)

Zeppole Recipe (Easy Italian Donuts) are crispy on the outside and super light and fluffy on the inside. These little Italian doughnuts resemble those found in bakery shops all over Italy. This recipe for zeppole is my nonna's recipe straight from Italy!

  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 18-20 zeppole 1x


Units Scale
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk, warm
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 cups 00 flour, or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten (at room temperature)
  • Zest of 1 orange (or lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups vegetable oil, for deep frying, plus more for greasing
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar or granulated sugar for serving


Make Dough 

  1. Cut the butter into small cubes and let sit at room temperature until softened.
  2. Heat milk in the microwave or a small saucepan over medium heat until warm but not hot to touch (110°F to 115°F). Sprinkle yeast over the warm milk and sit until bubbly and foamy, about 10 minutes. If yeast doesn't bubble, it is not active, and you need to start over with new yeast.
  3. Place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until combined. Add the milk and yeast mixture, beaten egg, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat with the dough hook on medium-low speed until a dough forms, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the butter chunks and continue to mix on medium-low speed until all the butter is incorporated about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes total. The dough will be very sticky and smooth. 

Let Dough Rest 

  1. Lightly coat a medium bowl with vegetable oil and transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Shape Zeppole 

  1. Once the dough is proofed or doubled in size, you are ready to shape and fry the dough. 
  2. Grease hands with a little bit of oil. Roll each piece into a ball using a tablespoon to scoop the dough. You may need to cut it with a pair of kitchen shears to seperate it.
  3. Place the prepared balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp paper towel as you roll the rest of the dough. 

Fry Zeppole 

  1. Heat 4 cups vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until 350°F. Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet with paper towels.
  2. Fry the zeppole in batches of about 5. Add the zeppole to the hot oil and fry, stirring with a slotted spoon a few times, until golden brown and puffed 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the zeppole to the baking sheet covered with paper towels to absorb excess oil.


  1. Roll the warm zeppole in granulated sugar or dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.


Top tips

  • Room temperature eggs and butter. This will help the dough rise faster and be more elastic.
  • Activate yeast. Ensure the milk is warm enough to activate the yeast but not so warm that it kills it—a temperature of around 110°F.
  • Hot oil. Maintain oil temperature around 350°F. You can lower or raise the heat to keep a stable temperature. Too low of a temperature and the doughnuts will absorb too much oil; too high and they will brown faster on the outside and stay raw in the middle.
  • Work in batches and often stir for proper cooking. Overcrowding the pot with zeppole can lower the oil temperature and cause them to stick together and not brown properly. 

Make ahead of time

You can make zeppole ahead of time. After frying them, please place them in an airtight freezer container and freeze them for up to 3 months.
Alternatively, you can prepare dough balls, place them on a tray lined with parchment paper, cover them with plastic wrap, and freeze them until ready to fry. Take the prepared dough balls out of the freezer 1-2 hours before frying to reach room temperature and fry as directed.
The best way to reheat Italian donuts is by wrapping them in aluminum foil and warming them in the oven. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This also works if they are frozen.

  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 10 min + rest time
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Sweet
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: zeppole, Italian donuts, doughnuts, fried dough