Zeppole Recipe

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Finished, savory, zeppole - how to make zeppole

Finished, savory, zeppole - how to make zeppole

Zeppole Recipe

The word zeppoli is Italian dialect for zeppola (the plural is zeppole).  Zeppoli are deep fried dough balls or fritters that can be made savory or sweet and are often made on Saint Joseph Day in various parts of Italy (made specifically as as sfinge or a cake on March 19th).

Our family, which hails from Calabria, prepares zeppoli as a savory bread during the Christmas holiday (primarily on New Year’s Eve and Day).  We make a plain and a fish filled variety with salty anchovy (click here for my introduction to anchovy ).Italian-American’s have come to embrace and love zeppoli and most Americans prepare the fried delicacy as a sweet topped with powdered sugar (found, for example, at Italian American street festivals or feasts).  At times, zeppoli are refereed to as funnel cake, Italian doughnuts, etc.  In Italy, zeppoli are consumed mostly south of Rome (specifically, in Naples, Sicily, and Calabria).

I’ve always loved zeppoli especially when made fresh and served piping hot from the fryer.  Some of my fondest memories include frying zeppoli in my grandmother’s, New Jersey, basement on New Year’s Eve morning.  The following recipe is derived from Nonna Rosa Scordo.

A few readers have asked if the associated sfinge is similar to zeppole.  The short answer is that sfinge seem to be a sweet fried product that is often sprinkled with honey, sugar, or cinnamon.  Sfinge batter also differs in that it contains ricotta, sugar, and vanilla.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • Salt (1 pinch)
  • 3/4 cups of water
  • 1 package of dry yeast
  • Anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 6-7 cups of soybean or corn oil

Zeppole dough is very loose and requires the right touch to get the consistency correct. You're looking for a wet yet clingy texture.

Frying, savory, zeppole - how to make zeppole

Frying, savory, zeppole - how to make zeppole

my mother frying zeppoli in her basement; notice the aluminum foil used to guard the appliances, counter top, and stove!


Combine and mix the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a large bowl.  Thereafter allow the dough to rest and rise for 2-2.5 hours; the dough should be soft to the touch (remember you’re not making bread dough which is usually a bit firmer).  At this point you’re reading to shape your zeppoli which is simply pulling the dough into individual pieces.  Place a single anchovy, if desired, into the center of your zeppola and fold dough over to make a ball.  As with any recipe that include deep drying heat your oil to roughly 350ºF (use a large pot)  Carefully drop the zeppoli into the hot oil and cook until golden brown (making sure to turn the dough balls to ensure even cooking).  Consume the zeppoli immediately, preferably with homemade wine (click here for my guide to making homemade wine).

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  • http://www.butterflydiary.com Charu

    I feel I want this, even though I’m vegan!

  • http://gasgrillportablestore.com Garry

    Your food make me hungry. This make me think about fried banana and put icing sugar on top, eat with ice cream.

  • Andrew

    Also nice with a ricotta/flour batter (a.k.a. ricotta fritters) although maybe just for sweet zeppole rather than savory. Love the aluminum foil… although your mother is braver than I, because as careful as she is to protect her kitchen surfaces, her forearms are bare. That hot oil sure burns when it splatters on your skin. A light and careful hand with a slotted spoon sure hleps.

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  • Gracegale7

    delicio my dad hails from Calbria too and we just love the food munga munga!!! (sorry not sure of spelling eat up eat up)

    • scordo

      Glad you love Italian food! I think you meant “delizioso” and “mangia”; a good tip if you’re unsure of how an Italian word is spelled is to use Google Translate: http://translate.google.com/

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  • D Scordo Mackie

    My aunt Rosa Scordo from Argentina also makes the same for Christmas, love them!

  • Cathie

    My Mom was from Sicily…She made these all the time even made them sweet with chocolate chips…She also made the zucchini fritters all the time…made with all different veggies too.

    • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

      Wow, chocolate chips (good idea!).

  • http://www.facebook.com/josephine.loiaconoowens Josephine Loiacono Owens

    My Mother was born in Calabria & would make these every New Year’s Eve! Of course in her basement back in New York as well. She never wrote a recipe down & when since she passed away 3 years ago I have been searching every where for this recipe and trying to make them! Every one I found made it the sweet way but she made it exactly like this including the anchovies for my Dad. Mille Grazie for this recipe! I can now carry on my Mom’s tradition.

  • sherry

    When I combine the 1 1/2 cups of flour, pinch salt, package of yeast and 3/4 (100°f) water my mixture is dry, not wet like your. Am I suppose to not put all the flour in the bowl to see I need all the flour? My fried dough looks rough and bumpy, not smooth like yours. Why? They dont golden up nice either.

    • vincenzo

      so many fond memories when my mother used to make these. she used her hand as ladle to drop the zeppoli into the oil. my question to is how many zeppoli does your recipe make and do you let the yeast and water sit before adding the flour?

      • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

        yes, you can let the water and yeast sit a bit. I don’t have an exact amount but you should have enough for a large party.

  • bobby

    Is this the same recipe they use in the feast’s in New York?

  • HungryItalianRunner

    How long do you fry it? I made it last weekend and over cooked it :( I don’t have a deep fryer so I’m doing it just on the stove with oil. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/aurora.barbuto.5 Aurora Barbuto

    I am an Australian of Calabrese heritage. My mum makes them with a potato and flour base (like gnocchi). We eat them straight out of the pot too! The kids like to roll them in sugar to make them sweet but when I make them, I add soaked sultanas to the mix for a sweet version (you won’t need to roll them in sugar as they are sweet enough)

  • Steven Choolfaian

    also Calabrese and put the foil on the stove LOL

    • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

      haha, indeed! that’s my mother’s basement kitchen…

  • Debbie Perrine Converse

    My Italian aunts’ (from Areinzo-near Naples) recipe included 3 beaten eggs and 1 cup scaled milk, I stick butter- and add figs, dates, and nuts. Roll in powdered sugar if desired. We ate them on Christmas eve and served with LOTSA LOVE!

    • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

      Looks like your zeppole are the sweet variety – they sound great! Our family has only made the savory version which we also eat during the holidays.

  • terry

    Hi there!

  • LadyJane27

    Hello, my grandmother, who was born near Naples, used to make the most delicious Zeppole. Your receipe is most like hers. My question, back in the day, did they use another kind of oil or lard to make these? I look forward and appreciate your response.

    • http://www.scordo.com/ Scordo.com

      good question, I’ll do a bit of research and get back to you.