Zeppole are sweet Italian doughnut holes that are pillowy soft on the inside and absolutely irresistible when tossed with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. A favorite family recipe, these are simple and quick to make; everyone will be begging for more!

Overhead photo of fried zeppole coated in powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar in parchment paper in a dark pan.

I began enjoying zeppole not long after my husband and I began dating; his mom makes them regularly throughout the year. While I have made and loved paczki (Polish doughnuts) for some time, I had never tried these delicious little fried dough balls before, but I was immediately smitten. 

They are sweet, heavenly doughnuts that have a light, crisp texture on the outside with a soft, chewy inside. It takes five minutes to mix together the batter, then just scoop and fry! 

What Are Zeppole?

I have always thought of zeppole as wonderful little Italian donut holes. They are made of a quick batter (no yeast required) and dropped into hot oil, frying up fluffy and light.

My mother-in-law makes them throughout the year, but always for March 19th, St. Joseph’s feast day. In Italy, they are traditionally eaten during the Festa di San Giussepe (the Feast of Saint Joseph), when they are sold in the streets and given as gifts.

The version always made in our family includes ricotta, sugar, eggs, flour, baking soda, and vanilla. This version is sometimes also referred to as “sfinge”. There are two other popular variations of zeppole:

Yeasted – These are created much like a yeasted doughnut; though instead of rolling out the dough and cutting into circles to fry, you will simply scoop out the dough and drop into the oil, just as you do in this recipe.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe – This version takes things up a notch! These are made with a choux pastry dough, which is then piped into the hot oil much like churros (but in a circular shape). Once they are fried and drained, they are filled and topped with pastry cream, and an Italian black cherry is added to the top!

A pile of fried zeppole on parchment-lined bowl with a bite taken out of the one on top.

Key Ingredients

While these are primarily made with pantry staples like flour, sugar, baking soda, eggs, and vanilla, I wanted to mention a couple of ingredients. (Check the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and quantities.)

Ingredients for zeppole prepped and labeled on a light pink background.
  • Ricotta Cheese – Use full-fat ricotta cheese for the best texture.
  • Oil for Frying – You want to use a neutral oil that has a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil, peanut oil, or canola oil. Avoid using olive oil for frying.

How to Make Zeppole

These come together quickly and easily! Here is how to make them:

Step 1: Heat the Oil – Pour about 2 inches of oil into a 3 to 5-quart heavy pot, attach a candy thermometer to the side, and set it over medium-high heat.

Step 2: Mix the Batter – In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then using a wooden spoon, mix in the ricotta, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir until combined (the mixture will have the consistency of a thick batter).

Three step by step photos of mixing together the batter for zeppole.

Step 3: Fry – Once the oil reaches 375 degrees F, begin frying a few at a time (do not crowd the pot) by scooping about 1 tablespoon of batter for each zeppole. Fry until golden brown all over, about 5 minutes, flipping over about halfway through.

Step 4: Drain and Serve – Transfer the zepppole to a paper towel-lined pan to drain, then toss in either confectioners sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

⭐️ If you have a deep fryer, you can absolutely use that instead of frying on the stovetop, if preferred.

Overhead photo of fried zeppole in parchment-lined pan with some dropped in a bowl of cinnamon sugar and others being rolled in powdered sugar.

Topping Ideas

You can coat the zeppole in anything you’d like, but these are some of our favorites:

  • Powdered Sugar – You can dust this over top of the doughnuts or roll them in a bowl filled with the sugar.
  • Regular (Granulated) Sugar – Just like some old-fashioned doughnuts!
  • Cinnamon-Sugar – Put this mixture in a bowl (use ½ cup sugar to 1 teaspoon cinnamon) and roll the still-warm zeppole in it.
  • Chocolate Sauce – Add a little drizzle over the top of the zeppole, or put some in a small bowl for dipping.
Side by side photos of zeppole being rolled in a bowl of cinnamon sugar, and also in a bowl of powdered sugar.

Can You Make Zeppole Ahead of Time?

Since zeppole are fried, just like doughnuts, they are best enjoyed the day they are made, ideally within a couple of hours.

The taste and texture begin to change the longer they are left to rest, so enjoy them while they are fresh!

How to Store and Reheat

While I highly recommend enjoying zeppole when they are freshly made, if you end up with leftovers (we sometimes do!), this is how I recommend storing them and then reheating:

  • Storage – Keep the zeppole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also store them in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months. 
  • Reheating (from fridge) – Wrap the zeppole in foil and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
  • Reheating (from freezer) – Place the frozen zeppole in a baking sheet and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until warmed through.
Fried zeppole tossed in powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar stacked in a low black bowl.

More Italian Desserts

If you make this zeppole recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Zeppole Recipe

Zeppole (Italian Doughnuts)

Zeppole are sweet doughnuts that often include ricotta cheese. They’re popular in Italy, especially on March 19th, which is St. Joseph’s Day.

  • 1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup (227 g) ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Cinnamon-Sugar, for dusting
  • Pour about 2 inches of oil into a 3-quart pot and heat over medium-high heat. Line a large plate or baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking soda.

  • Add the ricotta eggs, and vanilla extract and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to fully incorporate. The consistency will be like a thick batter.

  • Once the oil reaches 375 degrees F, begin frying in small batches of 3 or 4 at a time (do not crowd the pan). Scoop about 1 tablespoon of batter for each zeppole. The batter will puff up when dropped in the hot oil.

  • Fry for about 5 minutes, or until evenly browned on all sides, flipping over about halfway through.

  • Transfer the fried zeppole to the paper towels to drain, then roll in either powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

Nutritional values are based on one serving

Calories: 107kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 58mg, Potassium: 63mg, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 100IU, Calcium: 41mg, Iron: 0.3mg

Photography by Dee Frances

This recipe was originally published in March 2013.


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