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Struffoli: An Italian Christmas Tradition

Posted on: December 9th, 2012 by Robin

Who doesn’t love fried dough, especially at the holidays?

Here is a recipe for struffoli, a traditional Italian treat that my mom used to make every Christmas. Struffoli consists of fried dough balls decorated with bright sugar sprinkles. You can arrange them to look like a wreath, a tree, or a towering cone. The end result is a tower of golden honeyed bites, just daring you to grab one every time you walk past. Irresistible!

This recipe is great for families because everyone can pitch in! Kids can mix the ingredients,  roll the dough into ropes, cut them into slices, and dust the dough balls with sprinkles once they’ve been fried.

The only other  major decision your dessert cooking team must make together is whether to go with vanilla flavor or anise flavor. Of course, you can always make two different batches or  take a vote!

These honey balls are great with a cup of coffee (or hot cocoa) as you put your feet up and enjoy the holidays. Check out the recipe below, and hop over to this cute video for even more struffoli inspiration!


  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Orange zest– optional (add to wet ingredients at beginning)
  • Quart of vegetable oil for frying
  • Colored sprinkles OR confectioners sugar
  • 1 pound of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, to be added to melted honey for flavor

You’ll also need…

  • Slotted spoon for placing and removing the dough into hot oil
  • Paper towels to dry dough after frying


Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Add dry to wet and stir till smooth. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead for ten seconds. Mold the dough into two flat discs and place in plastic bag or wrap in wax paper. Rest in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Take out of refrigerator and tear off several chunks. Roll these chunks into a snake-shaped pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Then, cut each snake into 1/2 inch sections. These get fried in oil. If you have eager helpers, each piece of dough can be rolled between two palms into a sphere. The perfect sphere part is optional!


Now the tricky part: frying the dough in oil! I recommend that you fry between 350 and 375 degrees, using a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. Place at least 2 inches of oil in a saucepan or pot, and lower the balls into the oil with your slotted spoon. You can fry a few balls at time, until they are puffy and golden brown. For safety, wear long sleeves and an apron while frying. (Only adults should be frying! Don’t let kids do this.)

Meanwhile, melt the honey at a low temperature in a saucepan on the stovetop. When the dough balls golden, remove them with your spoon and pat them dry with paper towels. Then, stir them in the warmed honey and arrange them however you wish.

Sprinkle with sprinkles, and voila!

Robin is a certified professional chef and 2011 graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Prior to that, she enjoyed a career as mom, director of adult education for her town and director of religious education for her church. She can make puff pastry, classic French food, Italian peasant food, ice cream and really good PB&J. A devout believer in lifelong learning, she loves to try new foods, recipes and techniques, and invite her friends and family to come over for a bite.