What you need to make your delicious struffoli

Anise Liqueur

Ever wonder what gives struffoli that extra dash of magic? It’s the anise liqueur! This secret ingredient brings a burst of aromatic flair, adding a unique twist to the beloved Neapolitan treat. Picture subtle hints of licorice dancing with sweet honey โ€“ that’s the enchantment anise liqueur weaves into every delightful bite of struffoli. It’s the kind of flavour that transforms a dessert into a cherished experience, a taste of tradition wrapped in the joy of indulgence.

Butter or Lard?

*When it comes to the heart of struffoli, the choice between butter and lard is a culinary crossroads. The traditional recipe calls for lard, infusing the golden orbs with a rich, intensified flavour. Picture a taste that harks back to the roots of Italian tradition, a lusciousness that elevates the entire struffoli experience.

However, for those seeking a different culinary adventure, butter stands as a worthy contender. A substitute in equal measure, butter introduces its own nuanced charm, offering a slightly different taste to the beloved honey-coated spheres.

Whether you sway towards the richness of lard or the familiar embrace of butter, each choice adds a layer of character to the dough, shaping the essence of every struffolo. The decision is yours to make, creating a personalised touch to this iconic Italian delight.

Candied Pumpkin

In the realm of struffoli, candied pumpkin emerges as a delightful addition, transforming each golden sphere into a sweet masterpiece. These bite-sized gems, adorned with the vibrant hues of candied pumpkin, add a burst of flavour and visual appeal to the ensemble.

Crafted with care, candied pumpkin is prepared by simmering pumpkin pieces in a concoction of sugar and spices until they become lusciously sweet and tender. Once adorned with these sugary jewels, struffoli takes on an extra layer of sweetness and charm.

Whether you choose to make your candied pumpkin or source it with love, the result is a confectionary symphony that makes every struffolo a small, but significant, work of art.ย 

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Orange or Lemon Zest?

When it comes to infusing struffoli with a burst of citrusy brightness, the choice between orange or lemon zest is a culinary decision that shapes the essence of this beloved Italian treat.

Opting for orange zest (that’s what I like to use!) imparts a sunny and slightly sweet note, elevating the struffoli with a hint of warmth and a touch of Mediterranean sunshine. The orange zest dances harmoniously with the honey, creating a flavour profile that’s both vibrant and comforting.

On the flip side, lemon zest brings a zingy and refreshing twist to the struffoli. The citrusy notes add a tantalising brightness, creating a delightful contrast to the honeyed sweetness. It’s a burst of zesty freshness that invigorates the taste buds with every bite.


In the world of struffoli, honey reigns supreme as the golden elixir that binds each delightful morsel. The choice of honey isn’t just a mere ingredient; it’s a nuanced decision that can elevate your struffoli to sweet perfection.

When selecting honey, consider the following:

  • Wildflower Honey: Its robust and varied floral notes can add complexity to the sweetness, enhancing the overall flavour profile of your struffoli.
  • Orange Blossom Honey: Infused with the essence of citrus blooms, this honey brings a subtle citrusy undertone, complementing the zest of your struffoli.
  • Clover Honey: With a mild and versatile profile, clover honey is a crowd-pleaser, allowing the other flavours in your struffoli to shine.
  • Acacia Honey: Known for its light and delicate taste, acacia honey won’t overpower the delicacy of struffoli, letting its nuances shine through. This is my personal favourite.

Ultimately, the best honey is the one that aligns with your taste preferences. Whether you go for the bold richness of wildflower honey or the gentle sweetness of acacia, your choice will be the golden touch that sweetens every moment of struffoli indulgence.

Coloured Sprinkles

As struffoli take their final form, it’s the coloured sprinkles that add a festive flair, transforming these golden orbs into vibrant, celebratory delights. Picture an array of tiny, colourful confetti that not only pleases the eyes but also promises an extra crunch in every joyful bite.

These whimsical embellishments come in an array of hues, turning each struffolo into a mini work of art. As you generously sprinkle them atop the honey-coated spheres, you’re not just adding colour; you’re infusing a sense of jubilance and merriment to your struffoli ensemble.

Whether you opt for a rainbow of colours or a thematic palette, the coloured sprinkles bring a playful touch, making struffoli not just a treat for the taste buds but a visual delight that adds a sprinkle of joy to any festive occasion. 

Let’s make our delicious honey balls!

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Struffoli: Italian honey balls on a white platter with Christmas decoration in the background

Struffoli: traditional Neapolitan Christmas treat

  • Author: Silvana
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 20 portions 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Indulge in the sweet symphony of festive flavours with this traditional Italian honey balls recipe, known as Struffoli. These golden delights, crispy on the outside and tender within, are infused with aniseed liqueur and coated in luscious honey. Adorned with vibrant candied fruits and coloured sprinkles,ย  these delicious honey balls promise to elevate your holiday celebrations to a whole new level of sweetness. Let’s dive into the joy of creating these irresistible treats!


Units Scale
  • 500 grams of white spelt flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 grams of sugar
  • 50 grams of softened butter
  • 100 ml of aniseed liqueur
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • The zest of an orange (or lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of bicarbonate
  • 250 grams of honey
  • Candied pumpkin
  • Red glace cherries
  • Coloured Sprinkles
  • Silver balls
  • Sunflower oil


  1. Place the flour in a large bowl, creating a well in the centre.
  2. Add whole eggs, softened butter, 100 grams of sugar, anise liqueur, vanilla essence, grated orange zest, salt, and baking soda to the well.
  3. Knead the mixture for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, uniform, and no longer sticks to your hands.- Shape the dough into tubes with the thickness of your index finger.
  4. Cut the tubes into 1 cm pieces.
  5. Fry the pieces in hot oilย  at 170ยฐC (or 340ยฐF) until they achieve a lovely golden colour.
  6. Lift the fried pieces with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander to drain.
  7. In a large pot, add 50 grams of sugar and one or two tablespoons of water.
  8. Melt the sugar over low heat until you get a thick syrup.
  9. Add the fried struffoli and the honey.
  10. Stir well with a wooden spoon until all the struffoli are evenly coated with honey.
  11. Remove the coated struffoli from the pan and place them on a plate.
  12. Decorate with candied pumpkin and glace cherries, coloured sprinkles, and silver balls.


Anise liqueur imparts the distinctive flavour to struffoli, but feel free to experiment with Limoncello, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier as delightful alternatives.

For a nod to traditional Southern frying, swap sunflower oil for 1 kg of lard, maintaining a constant temperature of 170ยฐC.

Embrace authenticity by using lard instead of butter; substitute it equally for a richer, intensified taste.

Opt out of making candied pumpkin by incorporating candied orange peels or exclude them altogether based on preference.

Extend the delight by storing glazed struffoli under a glass cloche for 7-10 days.

Fried, unglazed struffoli can be safely stored in a tin box for up to 2-3 weeks.

Avoid freezing, as it is not recommended for optimal texture and taste.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Deep Fried
  • Cuisine: Italian
Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes


What is struffoli made of?

At the core of struffoli’s delectable composition are fundamental ingredients carefully combined to achieve a harmonious blend. The key components include:

  1. Flour: The primary structural element providing the foundation for the struffoli dough.
  2. Eggs: Essential for both richness and binding, eggs contribute to the desired texture of the struffoli.
  3. Sugar: Serving as a sweetening agent, sugar forms the basis for the honey coating.
  4. Butter or Lard: The choice between butter and lard imparts distinct characteristics to the struffoli, influencing the flavour profile.
  5. Anise Liqueur: A unique and aromatic addition, anise liqueur is pivotal for the distinctive taste of struffoli. Substitutes such as Limoncello, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier can be employed.
  6. Orange or Lemon Zest: Providing a citrusy note, grated zest enhances the overall flavour.
  7. Salt: A modest amount of salt serves to balance sweetness and elevate the taste.
  8. Bicarbonate: Acting as a subtle leavening agent, bicarbonate contributes to the dough’s lightness.

When seamlessly combined, these elements give rise to the struffoli dough, ready to undergo shaping, frying, and final embellishment with honey, candied accents, and coloured sprinkles. Each struffolo encapsulates the meticulous interplay of these foundational constituents, ensuring a timeless and cherished culinary experience.

What does struffoli mean in English?

“Struffoli” usually is translated to “honey balls” in English. The name is believed to originate from the Greek word “strongoulos,” meaning rounded.

What is another name for struffoli?

Struffoli are also known as cicerchiata, and pignolata, and each has its unique characteristics and regional origins.

  1. Struffoli: Originating in Naples, struffoli are small, deep-fried dough balls coated in honey. The name is believed to come from the Greek word “strongoulos,” meaning rounded. Struffoli are popular during festive occasions and have variations in different regions of Italy.
  2. Cicerchiata: Hailing from regions like Umbria and Abruzzo, cicerchiata is similar to struffoli but often larger in size. The dough balls are tied with honey and have the shape of cicerchie, legumes. The name “cicerchiata” reflects this resemblance. The poisonous seeds of cicerchie led to the cautionary use of this term.
  3. Pignolata: Pignolata is another variation of these honey-soaked delights, and it has its roots in Southern Italy, particularly in Calabria and Sicily. It features fried dough balls arranged in a cake-like shape and covered in honey or sugar glaze. Pignolata may also incorporate nuts or candied fruit.

Where did struffoli originate?

The exact origin of struffoli is uncertain, but they are believed to have ancient roots in Naples, Italy. Some theories suggest Greek influence in the Gulf of Naples during the time of Partenope, with the name “struffolo” derived from the Greek word “strongoulos,” meaning rounded. The true origin remains a culinary mystery, but struffoli have become a beloved and traditional Italian treat.

Who invented Struffoli?

The invention of struffoli is not attributed to a specific individual or culture. Struffoli, a traditional Italian sweet, is believed to have ancient origins in Naples, Italy. The exact inventor is unknown, and the sweet’s creation is often associated with the culinary traditions of the region, possibly influenced by Greek or Middle Eastern culinary elements. What we do kow is that in Naples, struffoli were once prepared in convents, by the nuns of various orders, and given as gifts at Christmas to noble families that had distinguished themselves through acts of charity.

What part of Italy is struffoli from?

While the traditional method is to serve it chilled, there’s no harm in enjoying it at room temperature or slightly warmed if you prefer.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

โ€œCiao, Iโ€™m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, Iโ€™ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. Iโ€™ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and letโ€™s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!โ€


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