Struffoli uses pantry staple ingredients to create marble sizes of dough that get deep-fried before being covered in a sweet honey glaze! A classic Italian treat that will quickly disappear from the table!
Italian Honey Balls
This Struffoli combines lightly sweetened deep-fried dough with a smooth honey glaze while also enjoying a light undertone of lemony taste from the lemon zest and lemon juice that gets used in this recipe! It’s certainly not an overpowering flavor, but it does wonderfully complement the overall taste of this dish!
In fact, it’s so wonderfully balanced flavor-wise that you’ll find yourself taking trip after trip over to the dessert table to refill your plate! This is totally justifiable since they’re only marble-sized, after all! 😉
What Is Struffoli?
Struffoli is deep-fried sweet dough that’s traditionally formed into marble-sized balls. However, the dough is also used in other fried desserts as well. This Neapolitan dish is also commonly called Honey Balls.
Why You’ll Love This Struffoli Recipe!
- Change Up The Flavor! You can easily change up the flavor of this Struffoli just by swapping out the vanilla extract for almond extract or rum extract.
- Turn It Into A Fun Shape! This dessert easily forms into shapes such as a wreath, heart, or even a Christmas tree!
- Make It Ahead! You can prep the dough the day or night before, so all you have to do is cook it the following day for a fresh, deep-fried treat!
- Easy Ingredients! Who doesn’t love scrolling around for fun new desserts to try? What’s even better is when you find one that looks phenomenal, and you check your pantry and are pleasantly surprised when you discover that you have all of the ingredients needed right at home to whip it up?!
What You’ll Need For Honey Balls
- all-purpose flour – Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 flour can be used for a gluten free version
- granulated sugar – for the signature sweetened dough
- lemon zest – and the signature citrus flavor, you could also use orange zest
- salt – for flavor
- baking powder – for the puff
- salted butter – A European butter will deliver the most flavor
- large eggs – I recommend using Nellie’s or Vital Farms brands
- vanilla extract – for flavor
- canola oil – just for frying, but will need at least 4 cups
- honey – the base and flavor for the syrup
- granulated sugar – can increase up to 1/4 cup if you want it sweeter
- lemon juice – adds to the citrus flavor in the dough balls
- sprinkles – optional garnish for the holidays
- powdered sugar – optional garnish
How To Make Struffoli
- Mix together flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt, baking powder, and small chunks of butter until the ingredients become mealy. Blend in the eggs and vanilla, then knead the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
- Form the dough into a ball and then allow it to rest at room temperature.
- Lightly flour your hands and the work surface, then roll out the dough and cut it into strips. Cut the strips again into 1/4 inch pieces and roll them into balls.
- Fry the dough in heated oil, being careful not to overcrowd the batches. Turn over the balls to be sure they turn golden on all sides.
- Remove the dough balls from the oil and transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain off any excess oil.
- Break open a ball from the first batch to check that the insides are nice and fluffy.
- Heat the honey, sugar, and lemon juice until it’s melted and smooth.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and gently stir in the Struffoli until all of the balls are evenly coated.
- Place the coated Struffoli onto a serving tray and arrange them in your desired shape. Then lightly cover with sprinkles and serve!
Can I Make Honey Balls Without Lemon Zest?
You definitely can, but the zest does give it a really nice citrus flavor. If you don’t have a lemon to zest, you could try replacing it with orange zest.
Can I Make Struffoli Balls Bigger?
Yes, if you prefer. Just keep in mind they will need a slightly longer cooking time.
How To Store Italian Struffoli
Finished Struffoli can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container or tightly wrapped for up to 3 days.
If the balls haven’t been glazed yet, you can store them in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer. Then, add the honey and sprinkles before serving!
Other International Recipes You’ll Love:
When I’m traveling, one of my favorite things to do is to order a popular local dessert to try, like this Struffoli! Try another dessert that’s popular somewhere else in the world without even having to travel outside of the house!
- Tres Leches Cake – This popular Latin American dessert is a light vanilla sponge cake that gets soaked in three milks and topped with whipped cream!
- Classic French Madeleines – A French treat that’s light, airy, and buttery yet has deliciously golden crisp edges!
- Basque Burnt Cheesecake – Silky, caramelized Spanish cheesecake that’s made without a crust and cooked at a high temperature!
- Pfeffernusse German Spice Cookies – Glazed German cookies that are loaded with spices, brown sugar, and honey!
- Hummingbird Cake – This classic Jamaican cake is made of mashed bananas, crushed pineapple, and shredded coconut!
👋 Let’s Connect!
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Struffoli (Italian Honey Balls)
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour divided (extra is for dusting hands and surfaces)
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter softened
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups canola oil enough to have about 2 inches of oil in your pot for deep frying
- 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 stand mixer, but this can be done by hand.
- Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 2-3 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 the oil to 375°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, heat 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!
- You don’t need to roll the dough pieces into balls after cutting them, the little pieces round out while cooking.
- How To Store: Finished Struffoli can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container or tightly wrapped for up to 3 days. If the balls haven’t been glazed yet you can store them in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer. Then just add the honey and sprinkles before serving!
- How can I make this into the shape of a wreath? Put a glass in the middle of the serving plate and place the glazed balls around it. Remove the glass when ready to serve.
- Can I use flavoring other than vanilla? Yes! Try using almond extract or rum extract!
- I don’t have a lemon to zest – will this still turn out? Yes, but it is really nice to have the citrus flavor added. If you have an orange, try using orange zest in place of the lemon zest.
- Could I make bigger balls? Yes, if you prefer. Traditional struffoli has marble size balls but the recipe will still work if you make larger balls. You may just need a slightly longer cooking time.
- Can I make the dough ahead of time and fry the balls the next day? Yes, just cover the kneaded dough with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. It may be kept this way for a day.