Struffoli, Italian Christmas Classic

Nicoletta December 23, 2016

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Struffoli, a classic Christmas Italian dessert, is made of deep-fried little dough balls, very aromatic due to the citrus zest and limoncello then coated in honey and topped with sprinkles, and candied fruit. It is usually shaped into a pyramid/tree or a wreath.

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic

Are you ready for Christmas? We’re slowly getting there.



It’s Christmas time

The Christmas tree is halfway decorated, we finished our little shopping, the decorations outside in the backyard are waiting to be plugged in and light up the whole neighborhood. Our cats are enjoying the merry atmosphere: our white male cat Wonton is enjoying lying on the new skirt under the Christmas tree, midway on the train tracks. He just sits there, underneath a canopy of lights, while his sister, Bailey, plays with the hanging ornaments.



An Italian classic

Christmas baking is somewhat done. Last on the list, this beautiful, delicious, traditional Italian dessert: Struffoli. They are a classic on the Italian Christmas table, they are typical of Naples but widespread throughout Italy with different names according to the Region. During Christmas time they are present in every house or bakery, in various shapes and decorations.

Struffoli  are deep-fried little dough balls, very aromatic due to the orange and lemon zest and a touch of liqueur (we used limoncello but you can use also anise liqueur. If not using liqueur, replace it with 1 Tbsp of orange or lemon juice). The fried balls are then coated in honey, sprinkles, and candied fruit and shaped into a Christmas tree, a wreath, or a pyramid. It is a rich, fragrant dessert, served mostly at Christmas or New Year.


In my memories, Struffoli were made by my aunt, zia Teresa, in cute mounds of sticky deliciousness wrapped in nice rigid cellophane closed with a ribbon. It was presented to the table among echoes of oohs and aahs in anticipation of the wrapping being opened. When unwrapped, eager hands grasped those little morsels in a very unorthodox serving manner, slowly deconstructing the shape of the Struffoli until there were none… All that remains is an empty platform and time till the next Christmas when the excitement begins again.

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic

Wanting to be in the Italian Christmas spirit, we decided to make our own Struffoli. A trip to the Italian Centre Shop brings us home with all the ingredients needed to put this wonderful festive dessert together.  You need a little bit of time, rushing never amounts to anything good anyway. This recipe is festive and it needs playfulness, joy, and passion that will be felt by anyone who experiences it. It is Christmas, after all.

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic

The dough

All in all, the dough is quite easy to make and it can be done in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. However, since it is a traditional recipe, I like to make it in a bowl with a wooden spoon, then finish kneading it on a wood board. The dough needs to rest, this is very important, at room temperature, for 30 minutes, wrapped in a towel, or covered by an upside-down bowl. It already smells amazing as the orange and lemon zest always assures a smile on your face. 

Cutting and shaping

Now then the fun part begins. You can ask for help, especially kids, or in my case, Loreto who likes to play, shaping the dough morsels into little balls. Cut a slice of dough at a time and leave the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. Roll out the piece of dough into a thin rope, then, with a knife, or a bench scraper, cut little pieces of dough, about 1 cm. Then, then roll each piece in the palm of your hands shaping it into little balls. Leave them on the wood board, or place them on a baking sheet lined with a clean towel.

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic


I like anything fried, but I don’t like frying so, I call Loreto, my “fry guy”, who leaps into the kitchen eager to get started with utensils in hand. Fry only a few of the balls at a time, and do not let them brown too much. Then, place them on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel. 

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic

Crunchy on the outside, soft inside

These golden morsels of deep-fried dough are light and fragrant, crunchy on the outside, soft and airy inside, hosting delicious highlights of orange and lemon and a subtle nuttiness in the dough. While they are cooling off, melt the honey in a wide pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Next, take off the heat and add the struffoli. Also, add half of the sprinkles and some of the candied fruit and stir, making sure to coat all the balls. The honey adds sweetness in a very nonchalant way holding the texture of the candied fruit and sprinkles. 

Struffoli-coating with honey


Lastly, the assembling part begins, again in playful mode. As a matter of fact, we are trying to make a tree or a pyramid. The honey will keep the shape together but don’t get discouraged if you will need more than one attempt, especially when reaching the top. The dough balls love to roll down and create their own shape and design. But whatever shape you create, the flavor is what counts. Aromatic and sweet, this classic dessert will be the highlight of Christmas, reminding us of the importance of love, family, and tradition.

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic

Wreath shape

Additionally, if you want to shape it into a wreath, place a glass in the middle of your serving plate, then, spoon the struffoli around the glass. Let it sit for 2-3 hours, then gently remove the glass and reshape the few dough balls that inevitably will have fallen down.

Struffoli-shaped into a wreath

From our kitchen to yours, Buon Natale! Merry Christmas!

Song of the day: “Jingle Bell Rocks”, any version.

Struffoli, Italian Christmas Classic

Struffoli, Italian Christmas Classic

  • Author: Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop/Frying
  • Cuisine: Italian


Struffoli, a classic Christmas Italian dessert, are made of deep-fried little dough balls, very aromatic due to the orange and lemon zest and limoncello then coated in honey and topped with sprinkles and candied fruit.

Based on a traditional Neapolitan recipe found on TavolArteGusto


  • 400 g (scant 2 1/2 cups) flour type 00
  • 3 eggs, organic, free run
  • 80 g (1/3 cup) butter, melted and cooled
  • 40 g (3 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp limoncello (or anise liquor, or orange liquor)
  • 1 orange, the zest
  • 1 lemon, the zest
  • 1 leveled tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • about 600700 ml peanut oil (or any other vegetable oil) for frying


  • 250 g (1 cup) acacia honey
  • 3 Tbsp sprinkles
  • some candied fruits/cherries
  • some sugar pearls


  1. Melt the butter and let it cool.
  2. In a big bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, a pinch of salt, the orange and lemon zests.
  3. Add the melted butter, and the limoncello (or any other liqueur).
  4. With the help of a wooden spoon mix everything until you get a pebbly consistency.
  5. Make a hole in the middle and add the eggs, then blend it with the wooden spoon, until almost smooth. Remove from the bowl and finish kneading it by hand on a wood board until smooth.
  6. Shape into a log, flatten it, cover it with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rest, at room temperature, for 30 minutes.
  7. After the resting time, cut a slice of dough about 1.5 cm thick and roll it out into a long piece of rope, about 1 cm in diameter. Leave the rest of the dough covered.
  8. With a sharp knife or a bench scraper cut the rope into pieces about 1 cm big, then roll each piece in the palm of your hands shaping it into little balls.
  9. Repeat until all the dough is finished.
  10. Heat up the peanut (vegetable) oil in a wok, or a not too big pan with tall sides, on medium heat.
  11. Place a few of the dough balls at a time on a wire mesh colander or slotted spoon, and gently submerge them in the hot oil. Cook for about 30-40 seconds, stirring every now and then. Don’t let them brown too much.
  12. Once cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  13. In a wide pan over low heat melt the honey, stirring constantly.
  14. Take off heat and add the struffoli. Also, add half of the sprinkles and some of the candied fruit and stir, making sure to coat all the balls.
  15. Before the honey hardens, place them in a serving dish and start shaping them as you most like, a pyramid, or a wreath.
  16. Add more sprinkles, candied fruits/cherries, and optional, almonds.


If you are not using any liqueur, replace it with 1-2 Tbsp of orange or lemon juice.

Struffoli last about 1 week at room temperature. I simply cover the top loosely with foil. A cake dome works too.

To eat, place a few of the struffoli in each plate and eat with your hands.

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[This post is sponsored by The Italian Centre Shop. We’ve been compensated but all opinions are our own].

Struffoli, an Italian Christmas Classic

Need another classic Italian Christmas dessert?

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  • Avatar
    Reply Dana December 23, 2016 at 11:08 am

    These look ah-maaaazing. I mean, you can never go wrong with classic Italian sweets at Christmas. I have an Italian Aunt who makes a bunch of sweets like this, one of her specialties is crustoli. SWOON.

    Also, KITTY CAT!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 23, 2016 at 11:38 am

      You’re so right, you can’t go wrong with classic Italian sweets 😉 ! Thank you so much, Dana! Enjoy your aunt’s crustoli, yum! and all the other Christmas delicacies. My kitty cats say Hi! and Merry Christmas! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Colleen Milne December 23, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Nicoletta, your desserts are always show stopping, but this one has to be my favourite so far. It’s like little liquor infused donuts. So yummy. And Wonton is a super cute name for a cat BTW 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Oh, you’re so sweet, Colleen! Thank you! Struffoli are really amazing 😉. Wonton says thank you, he likes his name too 😄.

  • Avatar
    Reply Samantha @mykitchenlove December 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    These sound and look like the most amazing tiny doughnuts!! And I love the little pile with sprinkles – so cute. They’d actually be perfect for toddler birthday parties too. Merry Christmas!!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 23, 2016 at 3:58 pm

      Thank you so much Samantha, although the texture of this little dough balls is not exactly like a donut, ’cause they’re crunchy on the outside 😉 . This would sure be a fun project o do with kids! Merry Christmas!!

  • Avatar
    Reply Hilary December 23, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    What a fun and festive dessert- I have never heard of Struffoli, but might just give it a try! Happy holidays 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 23, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Happy Holiday, Hilary, and thank you! It is a fun and delicious dessert, would love if you give it a try! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Teresa December 23, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    That’s so gorgeous, Nicoletta – what a great holiday display and delicious dessert!

    I’m not sure if you often check the email you used to sign up for the Dorie’s Cookies giveaway on my blog, but if you can email me at onewetfoot at gmail dot com with the answer to this question, 26 X 15 =_____, before the end of the day tomorrow, the cookbook is yours! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply Teresa December 23, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      I forgot to mention – I’ll need your address/phone no. for the courier! 🙂

      • Nicoletta
        Reply Nicoletta December 23, 2016 at 8:54 pm

        Thank you so much Teresa! It looks pretty but the best part is to eat it! 🙂 . What great news!! I won Dorie’s Cookies Cookbook! Now, that’s a great Christmas present! More thank you coming your way! Email sent!

  • Avatar
    Reply Margaret @ Kitchen Frau December 23, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    What a unique and amazing looking dessert! And fried dough! It’s gotta taste fantastic. I love that the little balls are crunchy on the outside and soft inside. I can just imagine how quickly it is gone when you’ve got a bunch of eager fingers reaching for those delectable balls. My family would devour it. Merry Christmas to you both. Wishing you special times with your families.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 26, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Thank you so much Margaret! Hope you’re having a wonderful time with your family. The Struffoli go pretty fast, one little ball at a time.

  • Avatar
    Reply Fran Augenstein December 11, 2017 at 8:54 am

    I am looking for a recipe my Mom (from Puglia) use to make with ground almonds, choc,with a taste of cinn. and maybe was a hard cookie and wonder if you have a suggested recipe??

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 11, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Hi! Yes, I know what you are looking for! They are called Mostaccioli but unfortunately I do not have them among my recipes (they were not my heritage although I like them!). If you want the original ones from Puglia I found this website and they seem exactly like what you are looking for: . Otherwise, if you are willing to try one of my blogger friend’s recipe, they are not the ones from Puglia but I bet still close and delicious, this is the link: . Let me know how it goes!

      • Avatar
        Reply Fran Augenstein December 11, 2017 at 9:25 am

        Thank you for responding so quickly..will try and get back to you..

  • Avatar
    Reply stacey Tynion December 19, 2017 at 4:23 pm


    I love stufoli and make them every year. My recipe (my grandmothers, of course) is much plainer. But the concept is the same. But I need HELP.
    My stufoli have always come great, very crunchy. But this year, I must have done something wrong. They are chewy. What could I have done wrong? Please let me know so i can avoid this in the future.


    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta December 19, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Hi! Sorry to hear that. Not knowing the ingredients you used and the preparation you followed, it’s hard to tell. Did the dough rest enough time? Was the oil hot when you deep fried the dough balls? This recipe make very crunchy and aromatic little dough balls. Is your recipe similar to this one? Give me more details and maybe I can help.

      • Avatar
        Reply stacey Tynion December 20, 2017 at 9:07 am

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly…

        Like I said this is a very plain recipe. Both my grandmothers cooked very simply – one was from a town outside of Naples (this recipe) and the other from a small island off Sicily.
        The recipe my grandmother handed down was just:
        2 pounds of flour, a pinch of salt and sugar, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 3 tablespoons of oil and 12 eggs. That’s it. the flavor all comes from the honey and confetti sprinkles that you add after the dough has been fried.
        I fried them in hot oil, all I had was olive oil so that is what I used.

        • sugarlovespices
          Reply sugarlovespices December 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

          I am trying to think what could have happened to make them chewy. I love olive oil, but maybe for frying it is not the best, it might be too heavy and soak the dough balls too much and make them chewy? Or sometimes it just happens you have a bad day when baking… 😊. Happy Holidays!

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