Homemade Struffoli Recipe

If you've ever celebrated a big fat Italian Christmas, you've probably encountered a tempting platter of honey-covered dough balls. Struffoli, as per Nonna Box, comes from Italy's Campania region, although it may have its roots in neighboring Greece. The name is thought to come from the Greek word "strongoulos," meaning round or spheroid, though despite any ties to Greece, struffoli is very much considered an Italian dessert. Every Italian nonna's got their own way to make struffoli, but in its most basic form, it's a fairly simple dish: fried dough formed into balls, then drizzled with honey.

Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone describes the struffoli she makes as having a "crisp outer texture" and being "rich and buttery on the inside." She likes to flavor hers with Grand Marnier, although the traditional liqueur used in Italy has often been an anise-flavored one. You certainly don't have to use Grand Marnier, though — you can always sub in a cheaper orange liqueur or else a different liqueur such as amaretto, or you could use a sweeter liquor like brandy or rum. Rapone acknowledges that you can also just leave the booze out, saying "it's still delicious" if you do.

Gather the ingredients for homemade struffoli

To make the struffoli, you'll need flour, salt, baking powder, and eggs. You'll also need the zest from a lemon and an orange as well as some of the juice from that lemon. For flavoring, you will need honey, Grand Marnier or other liqueur (if desired), and vanilla. While Rapone says "I prefer the flavor of vanilla bean paste," she does note that "you can use vanilla extract instead." Finally, you may need some nonstick cooking spray, and if you want to add a decorative touch to the struffoli, you can opt for either sprinkles or powdered sugar.

Make the struffoli dough

Before you get started making the dough, Rapone advises removing the butter from the fridge and cutting it into ½-inch chunks an hour ahead of time, that way it can come to room temperature. Meanwhile, you could also zest the orange and lemon and squeeze enough lemon juice to equal 2 teaspoons, then set the juice aside.

Once your butter is room temperature, you can mix the flour, salt, baking powder, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon each of the orange and lemon zests in the food processor, then add in the butter. Blend until the mixture appears course –- as Rapone describes the dough, it should look "like wet sand." At this point, add the eggs, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of liqueur, then mix until the dough forms a ball. Take that dough ball and wrap it in plastic, then stick it in the fridge for an hour.

Form the struffoli balls

Dust your countertop or cutting board with flour, then place the dough on the floured surface and cut it into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a "snake" about ¼-inch in diameter, then cut each one into smaller chunks about ¼-inch in size. Roll the chunks into balls. As Rapone tells us, these will be "about the size of a blueberry."

Toss these dough balls in about ¼ cup of flour, shaking off the excess. Rapone also suggests dropping the floured balls in a sieve, then shaking it to remove any surplus flour.

Fry the struffoli

Pour a sufficient amount of oil into a deep, heavy pan so that it reaches about 2 inches up the sides. As Rapone explains, though, "You want to make sure there is at least 4 [inches] of empty space to the top of the pan for safe frying." Heat the oil to 375 F, and use a thermometer to make sure that it reaches that temperature and stays there.

Once the oil is at 375 F, put about ¼ of the dough balls into the pot and fry them until they are light golden in color, which should take two to three minutes. Use a slotted spoon or similar implement to remove the fried dough and drain it on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until you've fried all of the dough balls.

Make the honey syrup

As the dough balls are cooling, mix the honey with the remaining sugar and liqueur and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Heat these ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, allowing them to come to a slow boil while stirring occasionally. You'll need to cook the syrup until the sugar dissolves, a process that may take about three minutes or so.

Assemble the struffoli

Remove the paper towels from under the fried dough balls, being careful not to spill them, then shake the plate a bit so the dough balls separate. Pour the honey syrup over top, stirring to make sure all of the dough balls are evenly coated.

Spray a drinking glass (size doesn't really matter) with nonstick spray, then place it in the center of a round serving platter that's about 14 to 18 inches in diameter. Arrange the struffoli around the glass in a circular shape — if you do so using your hands, Rapone suggests that you might want to spritz a little cooking spray on them first. (On your hands, not on the struffoli.) Drizzle any remaining honey syrup over the top of the struffoli. If you want to decorate the struffoli with sprinkles or powdered sugar, do so after the struffoli has had a chance to cool down.

Allow the struffoli to rest before serving

Let the struffoli sit for at least an hour or up to a day before serving it, and remember to remove the glass first! Rapone says that struffoli is "typically a holiday dish, [so] there are usually other desserts to go with it," and these might include Italian cookies, pastries, and/or gelato or perhaps some fresh fruit to cut the sweetness a bit.

Rapone calls struffoli "party-friendly" and says that when she makes this dessert she just "set[s] it out for people to serve themselves." If you prefer that people not have their hands all over your creation, you can create a more germ-free version by skipping the serving platter and glass and instead filling cupcake liners to create individual serving portions.

Homemade Struffoli Recipe
5 from 50 ratings
This homemade struffoli recipe features sweet little dough balls that are fried to perfection.
Prep Time
Cook Time
struffoli balls with powdered sugar and sprinkles
Total time: 42 minutes
  • 2 ¼ cups flour, divided
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or other liqueur, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • nonstick cooking spray
Optional Ingredients
  • sprinkles, for decorating
  • powdered sugar, as garnish
  1. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon each of lemon and orange zest, 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor, mixing until well combined.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse. Add the eggs, 1 teaspoon of liqueur, and vanilla, then mix until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Dust a work surface with flour, then cut the dough into 6 pieces and roll each piece into a "snake" about ¼-inch in diameter. Cut each segment of dough into ¼-inch pieces roll each one into a small ball.
  5. Toss the dough balls in ¼ cup of flour, then shake off the excess.
  6. Pour 1 cup of oil (or however much you need) into a deep, heavy-bottomed pan to come up about 2 inches. Heat the oil to 375 F — make sure it stays at this temperature, not higher or lower.
  7. Add about ¼ of the dough balls to the oil and fry them until they're lightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Remove the fried dough with a slotted spoon and drain it on a paper towel-lined plate.
  9. Repeat until all of the dough balls have been fried.
  10. Mix the honey, the remaining sugar, remaining liqueur, and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice in a saucepan. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.
  11. Remove the paper towels from under the fried dough balls, then shake the plate so they're evenly distributed.
  12. Pour the syrup over the dough balls and toss so they're evenly coated.
  13. Spray the rim of a glass with non-stick cooking spray and place it in the center of a round serving platter, about 14 to 18 inches in diameter. Arrange the struffoli on the platter in a circular shape around the glass.
  14. Drizzle any remaining syrup over the top. Decorate the struffoli with colored sprinkles or powdered sugar, if desired.
  15. Let the struffoli rest for at least 1 hour (or up to a full day) before serving, then remove the glass from the center.
Calories per Serving 675
Total Fat 37.1 g
Saturated Fat 6.4 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 85.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 82.5 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Total Sugars 53.9 g
Sodium 214.9 mg
Protein 6.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe