Homemade Italian struffoli is so good during the holidays. These fried dough balls with honey are sweet and tasty. Whether you know them as Christmas honey balls or fried cookies with honey glaze and sprinkles, they’re a wonderful addition to your festive menu. This is the best struffoli recipe!
Struffoli cookies are Italian honey balls or Italian honey cookies, made with struffoli dough and warm honey. These tiny balls of crisp-fried dough are a classic Italian dessert. The whole family is sure to love these golden brown small balls with rainbow sprinkles or rainbow nonpareils. Perhaps they will become your favourite holiday treat.
What are Christmas Struffoli?
Before taking a closer look at the best struffoli recipe, you might like to know more about this tasty Italian dish which is a real holiday favourite. Struffoli are fried little balls of dough, and they’re a typical component of dessert table spreads on Christmas Eve in Italy, along with St Joseph’s Day. The dough balls are small, about the same size as marbles. In fact, this type of dough is used in various Italian baked treats, chiacchiere for example.
Christmas honey balls are light inside and crunchy outside. Homemade Italian struffoli are usually decorated with honey and sprinkles. Orange zest and cinnamon are popular ingredients too, although Christmas struffoli recipes do vary.
Homemade Struffoli Ingredients
For these fried dough balls with honey dessert, you’ll need flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and eggs. Lemon and vanilla are added for flavour and then you will need festive sprinkles to decorate your homemade Italian struffoli. Optional garnishes for the best struffoli recipe include candied cherries, nuts and powdered sugar. Any of these are wonderful on the tiny dough balls, or use them all!
How to Make Christmas Struffoli
These fried cookies with honey glaze and sprinkles are fun to make. Christmas baking is always fun anyway, but I especially love making Christmas honey balls.
First of all, you will combine flour with lemon zest, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Then mix in the butter. It’s easiest to do this with a pastry cutter but just use a fork if you don’t have one.
Next you can mix in the vanilla and eggs, then knead the resulting dough. Let the dough rest for an hour then you can roll it into strips and cut it into pieces. Fry the Christmas struffoli for a couple of minutes then drain them.
After that, you can work on the sauce. Boil the honey with lemon juice and sugar then mix in the dough balls. Finally, arrange the homemade Italian struffoli in the shape of a Christmas tree, wreath or whatever else you like. Then just add the sprinkles and divide into individual servings and enjoy this traditional Italian Christmas treat. I promise you will definitely find this to be a super-easy struffoli recipe.
How to Store Homemade Italian Struffoli
These fried dough balls with honey are best served right away when they’re nice and fresh and still warm. But this recipe serves about ten people so you might not eat it all if there aren’t as many of you. The best struffoli recipe will be fine for up to 3 days as long as you keep it covered.
Another idea is to keep just the fried balls in the refrigerator and then make the honey glaze before serving. Yet another option is freezing the dough balls then adding the honey and sprinkles when you’re ready to serve it. Also, the raw dough will keep overnight if you want to start making fried cookies with honey glaze and sprinkles a day ahead.
How to Serve Struffoli
Since Christmas honey balls are sticky, you might be wondering how to eat them. Actually there are different ways. I like to make a wreath shape and then divide it into servings.
You could also add portions to festive muffin cups. Remember you can add optional toppings before serving too, when adding the sprinkles, like candied fruit or nuts.
5 Top Tips for Perfect Struffoli
- Struffoli balls expand when you cook them, so don’t worry about small pieces of dough being too small. They won’t be!
- While they cook you can avoid them sticking together by tossing the uncooked balls in a little flour before adding them to the oil.
- I usually use canola oil. You can use another oil if you prefer. Anything with a high smoke point and neutral flavour will work. Safflower, peanut or corn oil would work.
- Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil is hot enough before adding the dough balls.
- Rainbow nonpareil sprinkles look good on this traditional struffoli recipe. Green, red and white ones would be perfect for a more Christmassy look.
Homemade Italian struffoli is a wonderful treat for the holidays. In Italy a lot of home cooks make it for St Joseph’s Day. Did you know St Joseph is the patron saint of pastry cooks? Other options include sfinge (sugar-covered dough fritters) and zeppole. But for me, these classic fried cookies with honey glaze and sprinkles are the perfect Christmas dessert! Italian foods at Christmas time always have so much history and meaning for families.
Italian Struffoli FAQs
Yes, you can freeze the dough balls before coating in honey. Once fried and completely cooled, place in an airtight freezer safe container and store for up to 2 months. When ready to serve, unthaw the dough balls, warm them to room temperature and add the honey and sprinkles.
These fried dough balls with honey are best served right away when they are still warm. If you have leftovers, the struffoli will be fine for up to 3 days as long as you keep them in an airtight container.
Italian Struffoli Christmas Honey Balls Recipe
Easy Homemade Italian Struffoli Christmas Honey Balls
- 2 1/2 Cup flour divided plus extra is for dusting hands and surfaces
- 2 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 Teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter softened
- 3 eggs
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 Cups canola oil enough to have about 2 inches of oil in your pot for deep frying
- 1 Cup honey
- 2 Teaspoon sugar
- 1 Teaspoon lemon juice
- 4 Tablespoons sprinkles
- powdered sugar optional garnishes
- candied cherries optional garnishes
- nuts optional garnishes
- In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt and baking powder.
- Cut the butter up into small chunks and add this to the bowl as well. Mix until this is mealy. Blend in the 3 eggs and vanilla. I use a standing mixer, but this can be done by hand. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Shape into a ball, cover the dough and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Lightly dust your hands and work surface so the dough doesn’t stick to you as you are working with it.
- Roll out the dough, then cut it into strips about as wide as your index finger. Roll the strips into ropes about ¼ inch thick. Then cut into ¼ inch pieces (they should be about marble sized). I find it easiest to line up the ropes and cut a bunch at one time.) Make sure all the pieces are separated on your board, so they don’t stick together while cooking.
- Heat oil to 375 degrees F, hot enough so the balls of dough cook quickly and don’t absorb too much oil.
- Fry the dough balls in non-crowded batches, just until golden – it will only take a couple of minutes. Turn with a slotted spoon or wire strainer to make sure they turn golden on all sides. As each batch is cooked, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels.
- In a large pot, boil together the honey, sugar, and lemon juice until melted and smooth. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the struffoli and stir gently until all of the balls are evenly coated.
- Arrange the struffoli into a wreath shape, or mound like a Christmas tree, on a serving plate. Lightly cover with sprinkles and serve!
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.
Let me know if you try this Italian Christmas dessert recipe. These are the best struffoli and perfect for the festive holiday season. Italian honey balls in the shape of a Christmas wreath will become a Christmas tradition if you family.
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Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.