This struffoli recipe is the perfect holiday treat! Make crispy Italian honey balls with fresh oranges, pantry staples, and colorful sprinkles.
Fried dough balls covered in honey and sprinkles are a classic Italian holiday treat, especially for Christmas and Easter.
While they require a bit of prep work, they are really quite simple to make – and you probably already have most of the ingredients on hand!
Struffoli Recipe – Tips and Tricks
- Flour your surface. The dough is very sticky! Plenty of flour prevents the pieces from clumping together while you roll out, cut, and fry them.
- Choose a neutral cooking oil. Vegetable or canola oils are the most popular choices for deep frying. Others with a high smokepoint such as peanut, corn, or safflower are fine as well – just be aware of any allergies.
- Make sure it’s hot! The oil needs to reach a full 350°F before you add the balls of dough. Check the temperature between batches and let it come back to temp if needed.
- Don’t want a wreath shape? You can simply stack the Italian honey balls in a loose tower on the platter or create individual servings with festive foil cupcake liners.
- Include extra toppings. Candied cherries, almonds, and citrus peel are sometimes used as extra decoration for this tasty treat.
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Food Processor – This is simply a shortcut to bring the dough together. You can certainly form it by hand the old fashioned way.
- Deep Skillet for frying, plus a Slotted Spoon or Metal Strainer to lift the fried dough balls out of the hot oil
- Candy Thermometer – Ensuring your oil is the correct temperature is the key to success!
- Large Saucepan – Choose a heavy-bottomed one so the heat is distributed more evenly and doesn’t burn the honey glaze.
FAQ – Common Recipe Questions
Can I make this struffoli recipe ahead of time?
It depends. Once assembled, it should be served within a few hours.
The dough can be formed the night before and rest in the refrigerator overnight. Then you can fry and stack the treats the next day.
Or, you can fry the dough balls a day or two beforehand and store them in a sealed container once cooled. Just before serving, prepare the honey glaze and assemble.
How long do leftover Italian honey balls last?
These donuts are best within a few hours of cooking, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days.
Don’t refrigerate or they will become hard and inedible.
Can I use different sprinkles?
Rainbow nonpareils (tiny round sprinkles) are the traditional choice for a struffoli recipe, but you could use Christmas colors to make them more festive!
Sanding sugar is another option if you’re looking for a more elegant finish. Or, leave off the sprinkles altogether.
I would avoid anything too large like jimmies or cake sprinkles, which will overwhelm the delicate fried dough balls.
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Italian Struffoli Recipe
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Vegetable oil for frying, 5-6 cups
- 1 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Rainbow nonpareils
- In the bowl of a food processor, whisk eggs until frothy. Add orange zest, vanilla, sugar, and melted butter and mix until combined and foamy.
- Add flour and baking powder to the mixture and pulse just until combined. The dough will be very sticky.
- Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into four sections.
- Roll each section into a long rope, about the same thickness as your finger.
- Cut the rope into sections ½”-1” wide. Roll each section into a ball – the balls should be no larger than the size of a marble.
- Sprinkle the balls of dough with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other while rolling the remaining dough.
- Heat the cooking oil (at least 3-4” thick) to a frying temperature of 250°F.
- Fry dough balls in batches of 10 or so. Roll dough balls quickly in the oil so they brown evenly on all sides. They will turn golden brown quite quickly – use a slotted spoon to lift them out of the oil and set on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- To make the honey glaze, combine honey, orange juice, and ½ cup granulated sugar in a large saucepan. Simmer over medium heat while stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the fried dough balls into the large saucepan and toss to fully coat the balls with the honey glaze.
- Spray a tall cylindrical glass with cooking spray and set in the center of a round plate (you can also use a springform pan as the sides help hold everything in while the struffoli sets.
- Mound the glazed dough balls to form a wreath around the glass. Sprinkle liberally with rainbow nonpareils.
- Allow the struffoli to set for 2-3 hours. Remove the glass from the center of the wreath and serve.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published November 2021
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