Struffoli Fried Honey Balls

Friday, November 29, 2019
Here's the story behind them behind these delicious fried Italian cookies called Struffoli.

Struffoli is an absolute requirement at the end of a Neapolitan Christmas day dinner.

For centuries they were prepared in convents by nuns and then distributed to noble families at Christmas as a thank-you for their generosity.

Each convent had its own closely guarded secret recipe.

The sugary aromas drifted from the convent ovens Neapolitans would gather near the convent gates waiting to purchase them through a barred window or the convent wheel which may explain the long-held preference for buying desserts rather than making them at home.

These deep-fried balls of dough are the size of marbles, crunchy on the outside, fluffy and light inside then covered in honey.

Some are decorated with colored sprinkles, pieces of candied orange rind, or candied pumpkin.

An amazing honey glaze over delicate puffy fried dough rounds.

An Italian must make at Christmas time if they last that long before our Italian Christmas Eve traditions.

There are so many names for them besides Struffoli, like honey chichers, honey balls, fried honey cookies, pignolata, honey dipped dough balls, just to name a few from different Regions in Italy.

We love holiday foods, you may also like to scroll through our 25 Favorite Cookies and our One Stop Cookie Shop.

A traditional and classic fried cookie and it just wouldn't be Christmas without them in our family!

Buon Natale, scroll all the way down to the recipe card for printable instructions.

A Little More History

Struffoli recipe is a classic sweet of Neapolitan cuisine.

Crispy honey balls with a tender heart seasoned with candied fruits or sugar decorations.

In Naples, this is traditionally a Christmas dessert, but in the rest of Italy, these delicious honey balls are a delicacy for all major festivities!

My mom taught me at 11 years old the traditions of an Italian Christmas and this is certainly one that lives on in my heart every year, a true classic and delicious way to remember her and grandma when they made these together.


Currently, Struffoli is exclusively a typical Christmas recipe, but only in the Naples territory.

This custom dates back to the XVIII Century thanks to the nuns, which have been the habit to prepare these little honey balls as a present for the nobles of the city.

Originally, Struffoli were prepared all year long, and beyond Naples, they are still prepared for the major festivities, particularly Mardi Gras.

Easy and Delicious

I always make these around Christmas time myself.

I love to use fancy tins shaped into Christmas trees and give them out as gifts.

These are easy to make and very delicious even a day or two after they are prepared.

Just follow my step-by-step instructions.

Ingredients You Will Need to Make Struffoli Fried Honey Balls

  • flour
  • eggs, beaten
  • butter
  • white sugar
  • salt
  • Marsala wine or favorite white wine
  • vanilla
  • honey
  • colored candy sprinkles

PLEASE READ Tips for Making Struffoli

  1. the dough will be very soft and sticky(this is normal)
  2. flour your knife and board and just as you would do making pasta add some to the baking sheet when adding so they do not stick together
  3. these will be nice and soft inside and crunchy on the outside use a very deep pot, the flour will foam up and spill over if you don't use a deep saucepot or deep fryer
  4. make sure you heat the oil and test one first that the oil is hot and sizzling before adding them to the pot
  5. a deep electric fryer will evenly cook these perfectly (see below for the affiliate link)
  6. they should fry until deep golden in color
  7. boil the honey until it reaches a nice amber color
  8. they are very hot so don't try and eat one until they are completely cool after adding the hot honey
  9. sprinkle the candy immediately or they will bounce off all over the place (yes that has happened to me so I know now!)

Tools You Will Need to Make Struffoli

  • deep saucepot or deep fryer
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • slotted spoon
  • slotted flat pancake turner

Making the Cookies

I like the cuts to be around 3/4 of an inch.

You can roll them into small round balls after cutting.

Keep them floured heavily so they don't stick together.

My mom and grandmother took the time to roll them into balls, which is the traditional style and why they are called honey balls here in America.

Some Suggestions

  • Roll out the dough on a floured board
  • Remember to keep them spaced apart or they will stick together
  • Slide them off with a pancake-slotted turner tool
  • Store in plastic containers, some disposable holiday tins
  • These can be frozen without the honey and then place in the hot honey right from the freezer
  • Do not place them on paper plates 

A Great Christmas Tradition

This is our holiday favorite.

It is also of both the young and the young at heart in Italy, their tradition.

Typically, Struffoli is assembled, one on top of the other, like a dome or pyramid on a plate, I just add them to the containers I am using.

Then the Struffoli is topped with sprinkles, colored sugars, or bits of candied fruits.

These delicious honey cookies are usually served during special occasions or festivities with espresso.

Although, you can totally adjust the honey mixture and toppings according to your preference.

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Here are more of our favorite cookie recipes:

Cucidati Fig Sicilian Cookies

24 One-Stop Cookie Shop

Fried Bow Tie Cookies

25 Holiday Cookies

Struffoli Fried Honey Balls

Struffoli Fried Honey Balls
Yield: 22
Author: Claudia Lamascolo
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 15 MinTotal time: 25 Min
These classic Italian cookies are called Struffoli which is a dough deep fried and then coated with honey. This is an Italian traditional cookie made at Christmas time.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala wine or your favorite white wine ( we like Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 2 1/4 ounces colored candy sprinkles


  1. Melt the butter in the microwave or on low heat in a small pan.
  2. Add the flour to a large bowl.
  3. Add sugar and salt and whisk together.
  4. Make a well in the middle.
  5. Drop in the eggs, wine, vanilla, and melted butter.
  6. Mix all the ingredients together, and it will look shaggy.
  7. Break off pieces of dough and roll them into ropes about the size of a pencil using lots of flour.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1/4 inch pieces using plenty of flour so they don't stick together.
  9. Note: with floured hands, you can roll these pieces into little balls if you want them to be perfectly round, I just cut them and add them to the floured parchment line baking sheets.
  10. Do not stack on top of each other keep them heavily floured and apart.
  11. In a deep saucepan, or electric frying pan, heat oil about 3 to 4 inches deep
  12. Try one to see if it sizzles then the oil is ready.
  13. Every stovetop is different I set mine to medium-high heat.
  14. Always experiment to see if the oil is cooking these all the way through before placing many in the pot.
  15. Fry balls until golden in color.
  16. Drain on paper towels and set aside to make the honey syrup to pour on top.
  17. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring 1-1/2 cups of pure honey to a boil.
  18. I add 2 teaspoons of sugar.
  19. Let honey boil gently until it looks a little darker almost a light amber caramel color and coats the spoon, for approximately 5 to 7 minutes, before adding little dough balls, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until they are well-coated.
  20. Remove balls from honey with a slotted spoon and place them in a deep dish or mound them on a platter.
  21. Sprinkle the surface evenly with multicolored tiny ball sprinkles.
  22. Cool before eating.

Nutrition Facts



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Disclosure: This recipe was originally shared in 2009. It was edited and re-published in 2019.