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Struffoli (Neapolitan Holiday Dessert)

This traditional Italian Struffoli Christmas dessert is popular Neapolitan tradition in Italy and other areas of southern Italy.

Commonly called honey balls in the US, struffoli are best described as small balls of sweet dough, fried and then dipped in honey and decorated with chopped nuts, colored sprinkles, cinnamon, and grated citrus peel.

overhead view of struffoli arranged like a wreath on white dinner plate

The History of Struffoli and Other Names

Struffoli are a big Italian tradition in southern Italy including the Campania region of Italy, where my parents are from and so, as you might imagine, I have enjoyed these treats since I was born! The honey balls are traditionally shaped into a wreath or a little tree for Christmas. 

In Campagna, these are called struffoli, but in other parts of Italy, they are called cicirata or turdiddi (Calabria), cicerchiata (Umbria and Abruzzi) or strufoli (with only one “f” in Sicily). 

The history of these struffoli is said to date back to convents in Italy where nuns would prepare these each Christmas for families who were known to be generous donors. 

Other popular Christmas sweets include panettone and Italian wedding cookies, ricotta cookies, and pignoli cookies

Ingredients and How to Make

The dough ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Oil
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt

These come out very tender, and I’ve found the key to keeping them tender is to coat them immediately after frying and consume them within a few days. They’re still very good afterward, but they’ll develop more of that crisp, nut-like texture.

overhead view of ingredients for honey coating of struffoli (colored sprinkles, honey, cinnamon, nuts and orange zest)

The honey-coating ingredients include colored sprinkles, honey, and sugar with optional cinnamon, sliced almonds, orange zest, and maraschino cherries. 

collage of photos showing the overall dough making process for struffoli

Step 1. Mix the dough, shape into a square, cover and let it rest

collage of struffoli making; rolling the dough and cutting into pieces

Step 2. Cut the dough into strips, roll each one out thinly, and then cut into small pieces

overhead view of warming honey with cinnamon in saute pan for struffoli

Step 3. Make the honey coating. I use honey and sugar at a minimum.

collage of overview of honey ball (struffoli) making process: fry the dough balls and coat with the honey

Step 4. Fry the dough balls, and then coat them with honey and decorate!

Top Tips for Making Struffoli

  • There is no need to roll each piece of dough into balls. They puff up and appear roundish. 
  • The longer the dough balls are fried, the harder they get. Fry until slightly golden and then remove from oil with slotted spoon. This is a personal preference, as they can also be considered dough “nuts” when fried longer. 
  • The dough balls will double in size during frying
  • Use a dish lined with a paper towel to drain the dough balls after frying
  • Feel free to substitute other sliced nuts for sliced almonds
  • May decorate with candied/maraschino cherries 
  • To add additional sprinkles or nuts, do so while honey is still warmish or they will not stick. 

Storage and Freshness 

These stay fresh for up to a week (no need to refrigerate unless you are in a very hot climate where the honey may melt)! You may also freeze the uncoated fried dough balls and then coat a few days for needed. I have heard of people also freezing after decorating/coating but I have not tried this (cover with plastic wrap first!). 

3/4 view of decorated struffoli with colored sprinkes

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More Italian Christmas Desserts

📖 Recipe

overhead view of struffoli arranged like a wreath on white dinner plate


Our struffoli features golden-fried honey-kissed dough balls adorned with a festive medley of nuts, sprinkles, cinnamon, and citrus zest! Makes one dinner-plate sized mound or wreath. Recipe can be doubled, or tripled.
5 from 3 votes
Author: Marie
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
To make glaze and coat the struffoli 10 minutes
Total Time 56 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8
Calories 458 kcal


For the dough

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp oil vegetable or canola work best
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour* Up to 4 cups or enough flour to make a soft dough (start with lesser flour and add as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the honey topping

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 medium orange grated (zest only) (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon optional

For frying and decorating

  • canola oil enough to fill a frying pan with 1/2 to 1 inch of oil or use deep fryer
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp non pareils plus more for topping
  • maraschino cherries cut in half and dried off


To Make Dough and Cut

  • To the bowl of a standing mixer, add eggs, oil, and powdered sugar and beat with the wire whisk attachment until frothy (about 1 or 2 minutes)
  • Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Combine baking soda, flour, and salt in a small bowl, and then add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and knead in the mixer (add flour in increments to avoid flour spillover or creating a "flour cloud").
  • Add more flour if needed to produce a soft dough that is not sticky.
  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap or a plastic container that is airproof and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes or so or up to a few hours in the refrigerator.
  • When ready to begin rolling and cutting the dough, unwrap dough and form into a square; then cut the square into 4 or 5 strips.
  • Roll each strip into long ropes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter.
  • Cut the ropes into small nuggets about 1/4 inch in size. it is not necessary to roll each piece into a ball – they will puff up into a round shape when cooked.
  • Use flour sparingly when needed to prevent sticking.

To Fry

  • Set a large pan with enough canola oil to fry (about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil) over medium high heat and heat for a few minutes (you'll know it's ready by dropping one piece of struffoli in it and seeing it bubble).
  • You may also use a deep fryer set to 350 or 375 F.
  • Fry the dough balls in small batches; don't crowd the pan or the oil temperature will drop too much.
  • The dough balls should be ready in one to two minutes – as soon as they begin turning golden brown.
  • Remove dough balls from oil with slotted spoon and place on dish lined with paper towels.
  • If you are not making the honey syrup right away, store the dough balls in a covered container overnight, or you may also freeze for up to one month. I feel like it's best to coat them right away but many people do this at a later time.

To Make the Coating

  • Using a medium to large deep pan, add honey, and sugar (and orange and cinnamon if using) to the pan and then cook gently over medium heat until the sugar melts.
  • Add the struffoli and gently toss in the syrup to coat well. Cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. If you have a digital thermometer, they are done when the syrup reaches 235 or 240 degrees.
  • Remove pan from heat. Let cool very slightly and toss in the nonpareils. If you add them too soon, they will bleed, and too late, they will not stick.

To Shape

  • To shape the wreath, place a small glass in the center of a dinner plate and arrange struffoli all around. Top with additional sprinkles if desired while the honey balls are still warm (otherwise they won't stick).
  • To portion into cups, use cupcake liners staged in a cupcake pan and spray the liners well with cooking spray. Add the struffoli while they are still warm – work quickly before they set.

To Serve

  • Stuffoli are best served within a day or two of making, but some people keep them for a while – the struffoli get harder as the days go on.


  • There is no need to roll each dough ball individually. They puff up and appear roundish. 
  • Shake off extra flour before frying by staging the unfried balls in a mesh collander and shake over the sink. Too much flour in the oil will cause excessive bubbling.
  • The longer the dough balls are fried, the harder they get. Fry until slightly golden and then remove from oil with a slotted spoon. This is a personal preference; these can be thought of as dough “nuts” when fried longer. 
  • Use a dish lined with a paper towel to drain the dough balls after frying
  • Feel free to substitute other sliced nuts for sliced almonds
  • May also decorate with candied/maraschino cherries 
  • To add sprinkles or nuts, do so while the honey is still warmish, or they will not stick.
Updated 12/25/2023 with my mom’s recipe, which is my favorite!


Calories: 458kcalCarbohydrates: 81gProtein: 8gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 105mgPotassium: 179mgFiber: 3gSugar: 47gVitamin A: 425IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 49mgIron: 3mg
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