Classic Struffoli

updated Jan 4, 2024

The best part about these tiny balls of dough? The sticky-sweet honey syrup lathered over them after frying.

Serves6 to 8

Prep40 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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Struffoli is not only a fun word to say. The classic Italian dessert, also known as Italian Honey Balls, is a festive that’s traditionally served during Christmas time, just like panettone, pizzelle, and pignoli.

Tiny balls of dough are fried until golden-brown. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, they’re then tossed in a sticky-sweet honey syrup and decorated with rainbow sprinkles. You’ll find these glistening mounds on Italian dessert spreads all holiday season long. Here’s how to make it.

Credit: Olivia Mack McCool

Tips for Frying the Struffoli

Deep-frying is what gives the struffoli balls their delicious flavor and light texture. There are a few things to keep in mind for guaranteed success.

  • Bring your oil up to 350°F. If the oil is cooler than that, they’ll be too oil-logged; if it’s hotter than that they will cook too quickly and burn.
  • Prepare a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Have a baking sheet ready to go to transfer the cooked struffoli onto. You don’t want to be fumbling to get one ready once the balls are already perfectly golden-brown.
  • Use a slotted spoon or metal spider. You’ll need to stir the balls and gently lift the finished ones, draining any excess oil. 

Can You Freeze Struffoli?

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: This dessert is a bit labor-intensive to make. The recipe is not hard, by any means, but it takes some time and patience to roll and fry all the little hazelnut-sized balls. Rest assured that it’s well-worth it! But in case you don’t want to be frying on Christmas morning while your family is hanging around the kitchen, there is a hack to make them ahead: freeze the already-fried dough balls.

Make the dough, form the balls, fry them, let them cool a little and then pop them into plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to one month. When you’re ready to serve them, take them out of the freezer to defrost. Make the honey syrup and toss the defrosted struffoli in the syrup. 

Credit: Olivia Mack McCool

What Kind of Sprinkles Should I Put on Struffoli?

Rainbow nonpareil sprinkles are the most traditional choice of sprinkles for decorating struffoli. The colors make the dish super-festive, and their texture adds a satisfying crunch. These sprinkles also come in holiday colors if you’d prefer those. 

Struffoli Recipe

The best part about these tiny balls of dough? The sticky-sweet honey syrup lathered over them after frying.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


For the struffoli:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1

    medium orange

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 3 cups

    canola oil, for deep-frying

For assembly:

  • 3/4 cup


  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed orange juice

  • Cooking spray

  • Sugar sprinkles


  1. Cut 2 tablespoons unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces and let sit at room temperature until softened. Meanwhile, finely grate the zest of 1 medium orange (2 teaspoons), then juice the orange to get 1 tablespoon orange juice to use for the honey syrup. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon (1 1/2 teaspoons).

Make the dough:

  1. Place 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, the orange and lemon zests, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is fully incorporated and the flour has a little more texture, about 5 pulses.

  2. Add 3 large eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pulse until the mixture forms a ball, 12 to 15 pulses. Dust your hands with flour and remove the dough from the food processor. Form into a ball, then wrap completely in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  3. Lightly dust a baking sheet and a work surface with flour. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece on the work surface into a 1/2-inch thick rope that's 10 to 12 inches long. Cut the rope crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces with a bench scraper or knife. (You should get 20 to 24 pieces.) Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.

  4. Heat 3 cups canola oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until 350°F, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with paper towels.

  5. When the oil is ready, fry in 4 batches: Carefully add the dough balls to the hot oil and fry, stirring a couple times, until puffed and golden brown all over, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the dough balls, carefully shake off the excess oil back into the pan, then transfer the fried dough to the paper towel. Repeat frying the remaining 3 batches of dough.

Make the honey syrup and assemble:

  1. Place 3/4 cup honey and the orange juice in a large skillet over medium heat and stir to combine. Cook until the honey is warmed through and syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes.

  2. Add all of the dough balls to the skillet. Turn off the heat and gently toss until well coated. Remove from heat and let cool in the skillet for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, coat the outside of a straight-sided glass with cooking spray and place in the middle of a round platter or cake stand.

  3. Using a big spoon, pile the struffoli around the glass, creating a wreath shape. Drizzle any remaining honey syrup over the top and decorate with sprinkles. Let sit for 10 minutes then carefully remove the glass and serve.

Recipe Notes

Frying: If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a small piece of bread into the oil. If it immediately turns golden, the oil is ready.

Make ahead: You can make struffoli 2 days ahead and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Hold off on decorating with the sprinkles until you’re ready to serve, otherwise their colors could bleed.