Struffoli – A Sweet Neapolitan Christmas Tradition

December 20th 2010 by Laura Thayer

A traditional Christmas dessert in Naples, struffoli are tiny balls of fried dough covered in honey and mixed with candied fruit and other tasty decorations.

Sweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionSweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionCredits: Gioferre

Enjoy this delightful Christmas tradition from Campania this year!

The traditional Christmas meal just wouldn’t be complete in Naples and throughout Campania without a happy and colorful dish of struffoli arriving on the table. This Christmas dessert is created by frying many bite-sized balls of dough that are then coated in honey and mixed with candied fruit, nuts, sprinkles and other sweet toppings before being piled into a round wreath shape or a large mound. Easy to enjoy just a few at a time, they make the perfect little treat for the family to enjoy after a big Christmas meal.

Sweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionSweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionCredits: Flickr

Making struffoli is also a fun family activity, especially for young children who will enjoy rolling out the tiny balls of dough. The exact recipe varies from family to family in Campania, but the basic dough is made from mixing flour, eggs and salt. Some families even add lemon zest or a bit of limoncello or rum to the dough for extra flavor. The dough is then rolled out by hand into long ropes that are then cut into small pieces to be fried.

Sweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionSweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionCredits: Flickr

The dough balls are fried until they reach a nice color. The best struffoli are crunchy on the outside, but are light in texture. They cannot be too soft or else they will loose their shape when mixed with warm honey. Some recipes call for a mixture of sugar and honey to coat the struffoli, but this is because honey used to be expensive and was used very sparingly in recipes. For the richest flavor, it is best to use only honey for the topping.

Sweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionSweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionCredits: Flickr

After being coated in honey, the struffoli are mixed with a variety of sweet toppings such as candied orange, lemon or cedro peels, chopped nuts, candied covered almonds, sprinkles and just about anything else sweet and tempting. Once mixed, the struffoli are most often formed into a Christmas wreath shape, called a ciambella, or into a large mound.

Sweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionSweet Neapolitan Christmas TraditionCredits: Flickr

However your family decides to make the struffoli—whether simple or over the top—the best part comes when it’s time to eat them! Here is a basic recipe for struffoli to try at home for a taste of Campania this Christmas.

Ingredients for Struffoli
Makes one large wreath or plate of struffoli.
1 – 1 ¼ cups flour
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of limoncello or rum
Zest from half a lemon
Oil or lard for frying
1 cup honey for topping

Optional ingredients to your taste:
Chopped candied orange, lemon or cedro peels
Chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.
Candied covered almonds
Sprinkles and candied cherries

Mix flour, salt, eggs and limoncello or rum and lemon zest to form a dough. It will be stiff, but knead until it forms a smooth round shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.






  1. Slice the dough into about ½ inch pieces and roll out by hand into long ropes. Cut each rope into ¼ inch pieces.
  2. Fry the pieces in hot oil until golden in color, turning frequently to cook evenly. After frying, drain the excess oil from the fried dough balls on paper towels or a rack until cool.
  3. In large pan, heat the honey until hot and mix the struffoli in the honey until coated.
  4. Stir in the optional candied fruit and nut ingredients to your taste.
  5. Shape the struffoli into a wreath or mound and top with the optional ingredients of your taste and a few candied cherries.


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Struffoli – A Sweet Neapolitan Christmas Tradition