Zeppole Recipe

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

Perfectly crisp on the outside and airy on the inside, these little Zeppole donuts are a classic Italian pastry that is unbelievably delicious and incredibly easy to make. With just a few simple pantry ingredients and this foolproof recipe, you can easily make these Italian sweet treats right at home to share with your whole family!

image for italian zeppole recipe

What is zeppole?

Very popular on St. Joseph’s Day in Italy and commonly found at Italian festivals, zeppole dates back to ancient Rome when people began frying dough and then topping it with sugar. They are basically little donuts made from pate choux pastry dough, which is the kind of dough that is also used to make cream puffs and eclairs. It’s a type of dough that doesn’t require any yeast or leavening agent and is first cooked on the stove. It’s then placed in a pastry bag to be piped out and fried to form various shapes and sizes. 

In this zeppole recipe, we will be making a simple type of zeppole that is basically fried donut balls that are dusted with lots of powdered sugar that you can pop right into your mouth. This version isn’t topped with any cream or formed into a fancy shape like other variations you may find. Yet, the core of the zeppole dough and the cooking process is exactly the same.

What do you need to make this recipe?

Equipment:

  • Saucepan – You will need a medium saucepan to cook the dough.
  • Wooden Spoon – Used to stir the flour into the dough. You can also use a heatproof rubber spatula.
  • Mixer – You will need a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer to beat the eggs into the flour mixture.
  • Deep Pot – A deep heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven is needed to safely fry the zeppole. A deep fryer can also be used if you prefer.
  • Pastry Bag – Needed to form the dough into donuts. A ziplock bag will work as well.
  • Kitchen Thermometer – Helpful in monitoring the oil temperature while frying the donuts. A candy thermometer can be used if that is all you have on hand. 
  • Slotted Spoon – Used to safely remove the zeppole from the hot oil.
  • Fine Mesh Sieve – Needed to dust the donuts with powdered sugar.

What ingredients do you need to make this recipe?

picture of ingredients to make zeppole recipe
  • Unsalted Butter – Always use unsalted butter unless a recipe states otherwise. Salted butter is best used as a condiment and not for cooking.
  • Water – Used to help the gluten form when making the dough in combination with the milk.
  • Milk – Whole milk is the best option, but 2% can also be used.
  • Sugar – Just a small amount of basic white granulated sugar is all you need to sweeten the pate choux dough.
  • Salt – A pinch of salt is an important ingredient that helps to balance the sweetness.
  • Flour – Simple all-purpose flour is all you need to make this Italian donut recipe.
  • Eggs – Large eggs add richness and flavor to the dough along with the butter. They need to be at room temperature for the best results.
  • Powdered Sugar – Also called icing sugar, it is used to garnish and sweeten the zeppole.
  • Oil – You will need a flavorless vegetable oil such as canola to fry the balls of dough.

How to make this recipe step by step

1. Begin the pastry dough

images showing step by step process for making zeppole: mixing the butter, milk, water, salt until the butter is melted, then add the flour and mix until smooth and creamy.

To start, add the butter, water, milk, sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan that holds at least 3 quarts photo 1. Then bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring often photo 2. Next, remove the saucepan from the heat and dump the flour in all at once photo 3. Now, stir the flour into the wet mixture with a wooden spoon until it’s fully incorporated and forms a compact ball photo 4. Then put the saucepan back on the stove and cook the mixture for a couple of minutes over low heat while stirring constantly. You will know the mixture is ready when it’s smooth and there is a film on the bottom of the saucepan.

2. Add the eggs and finish the dough

Once the base of the dough is made, transfer the flour mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment photo 5. You can also use an electric hand mixer for this step if you prefer. Now, allow the dough to cool for a few minutes. It’s crucial that you don’t add the eggs to hot dough. Then beat the eggs one at a time into the dough at low speed. It’s important that each egg be fully incorporated into the dough before you add the next one. Then after all the eggs are added, beat the mixture for another 1 to 2 minutes or until it’s glossy and has a smooth pipeable consistency.

3. Prepare to fry

Put the dough into a piping bag with a ½-inch opening or into a ziplock bag and then cut a ½-inch opening at the tip photo 6. Then heat about 4 inches of oil to 375˚F in a deep pot or in a deep fryer. However, it’s very important for safety reasons that you do not heat the oil until just a few minutes before frying the zeppole. It’s also a good idea to use a digital cooking thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil.

images showing step by step process for making zeppole: add the dough to a bowl, combine the eggs, add the mixture in a ziplock bag, fry them.

4. Deep fry the zeppole

Now, pipe 1-inch lengths of the dough into the hot oil being very careful not to splash yourself. The best way to do this step is to pipe close the surface of the oil and then quickly pull the pastry bag away. Then cook the donuts for 2 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown photo 7. You will most likely need to fry the zeppole in several batches so that you don’t crowd the pot. Then when each batch is done, remove the donuts from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil photo 8.

5. Dust with sugar and serve

After all the donuts have been fried, use a fine mesh sieve to dust them generously with powdered sugar and then serve them right away. You can also sprinkle them with a bit of cinnamon sugar instead or other spices if you like.

picture of zeppole on a serving bowl with an hand dusting them with powdered sugar

Try other Italian feast desserts:

Expert Tips

  • Use high-quality butter, milk, and eggs for richer, more flavorful zeppole. Egg yolks with a deeper yellow color and whole milk make a big difference.
  • The eggs should be at room temperature. I suggest you take them out of the fridge about an hour before you begin the recipe.
  • Cook the flour mixture over low heat and stir it constantly to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
  • The flour mixture must cool down before you can add the eggs or you risk turning them into scrambled eggs that won’t incorporate into the dough.
  • Fry the Italian donuts in batches. If you crowd the pot they will not evenly cook and can even stick together.
  • Do not exceed 375°F when frying or the donuts will not grow. Instead, they will stay deflated and raw inside if not cooked at the correct temperature.
  • Use a digital cooking thermometer to watch the temperature of the oil. When frying, if the oil gets too hot just turn off the heat until it comes down in temperature.
  • Wear long sleeves to protect your arms when deep frying.

Variations

In this delicious recipe, we cover a very traditional and easy type of zeppole to make. However, there are many variations of the pastry. As mentioned the Italian doughnuts can be made with different types of doughs, fillings, and toppings.

One of the most popular types is zeppole di San Giuseppe, also called St Joseph’s pastries, which has a ridged dough base with a creamy yellow custard filling and is topped with a single beautiful cherry. But there is also zeppole di San Gennaro which is made with common pizza dough that has been combined with ricotta cheese and fried into little balls that are then covered in sugar. Or, zeppole di Carnevale which are similar to San Gennaro but typically have a pastry cream filling.

As well as, two very simple types that are very different from each other. Zeppole di Natale alla Sorrentina served during the Christmas season is simple fried dough covered in colorful sprinkles. But the most unique type is zeppole calabresi which is also simple dough but with anchovies inside.

FAQ

How to store zeppole?

Zeppole is best eaten fresh. However, they can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap. They do not freeze well.

Are beignets the same as zeppole?

While they appear similar, they are not the same pastry. Beignets are French and square in shape. Yet, zeppole is Italian and round. Their recipes can also vary in the number of eggs used as well as the use of leavening agents.

image for italian zeppole recipe

Authentic Zeppole

Get ready for a delicious Italian treat – zeppole! This easy recipe covers all the steps to make your own beautiful and tasty zeppole in minutes.
4.75 from 4 votes
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Course: Dessert
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 218kcal

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup (118.29 ml) water
  • ½ cup (118.29 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tsp (8 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp (1.5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 (4) large eggs
  • ¼ cup (30 g) confectioners sugar
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

  • Add the butter, water, milk, sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan. Then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat while stirring often.
  • Remove the boiling wet mixture from the heat. Then add the flour all at once and stir it into the wet mixture with a wooden spoon until it’s fully incorporated and forms a compact ball.
  • Put the saucepan back on the stove and cook the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes over low heat while stirring constantly. When it’s done the dough will look smooth and there will be a film on the bottom of the pot.
  • Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. If using an electric hand mixer, put the dough in a large bowl.
  • Allow the dough to cool down for a few minutes.
  • Beat the room-temperature eggs one at a time into the dough at low speed. Each egg should be fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all the eggs have been added, beat the dough for another minute until it’s a smooth, shiny, pipeable consistency.
  • Put the dough into a piping bag with a ½-inch opening. You can also use a large ziplock bag and cut a ½-inch opening at the tip.
  • Heat the vegetable oil to 375˚F in a deep pot. You can also use a deep fryer if you prefer. Next, pipe 1-inch lengths of the dough into the hot oil. You need to pipe it close to the surface and pull away quickly. Then let the donuts fry for about 2 minutes on one side and then flip them over to fry for 2 more minutes. When done cooking, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil.
  • Generously dust the zeppole with powdered sugar and serve.
Serving: 100g | Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 112mg | Potassium: 73mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 498IU | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg
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