An easy take on a traditional carnival snack, this homemade Zeppole Recipe is fluffy, sweet, and guaranteed to knock your socks off. Paired with Nutella for dipping, they’re a crowd-pleasing dessert no one can resist!
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What Are Zeppoles?
A type of pillowy Italian donuts, Traditional Zeppoles are a type of pastry made out of fried cream puff dough, similar to Bomboloni, and are often filled or topped with pastry cream and/or chocolate sauce. However, we also love to serve ours with a dusting of powdered sugar and Nutella.
The exact origins of the treats remain unknown, but there are several theories. For instance,
- Many believe that Saint Joseph, a carpenter from southern Italy, invented Zeppoles. In addition to being a carpenter, it is said that St. Joseph was the first to master the art of deep frying. Because of this, Italians often serve this fried treat during the Festival of St. Joseph.
- Others from Northern and Central Italy believe that this was a dessert developed to celebrate Father’s Day. It is a common street food in this region that you can find all year round.
- Lastly, some believe this recipe dates back even further in time and originates in Tunisia. Apparently, an Egyptian traveler came across a delicious fried cheesecake in the city of Tunis around 1465. He recorded the recipe and by the time he made it to Palermo, Italy, he worked with a baker to recreate it!
No matter their origins, Zeppole donuts remain a popular carnival treat and are enjoyed all throughout the world
What Is In a Zeppole?
Similarly to cream puffs and churros, traditional Italian Zeppole recipes use choux dough to form the base of the Zeppole dough. However, we discovered a shortcut, and make ours with a bit of a twist!
- Eggs – Use large, room temperature eggs.
- Buttermilk Pancake Mix – This is our secret weapon for the easiest Zeppole recipe you’ll ever make! It creates the same taste and texture with half the work.
- Baking Powder – Make sure it’s fresh to ensure your dough rises.
- Salt – Just a pinch helps enhance the flavor of the rest of the ingredients.
- Sugar – Granulated sugar is included in the dough, and powdered sugar is sprinkled on top so you get plenty of sweet flavor in every mouth-watering bite. Some people like to use a cinnamon sugar mixture for coating their Zeppole, but the choice is up to you!
- Ricotta Cheese – This gives the dough an extra airy quality and a unique tang that distinguishes this delicious treat from other fried dough recipes. For the best results, we recommend using full-fat Ricotta.
- Vanilla Extract – We highly recommend using pure, high-quality vanilla extract and not imitation varieties. Trust us, you can taste the difference!
- Oil (for frying) – We use vegetable oil, but any neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point such as peanut oil or canola oil can be used.
- Nutella – Technically optional but highly recommended, we love to serve our homemade Zeppole with a side of warm homemade Nutella for dipping!
How to Make This Easy Zeppole Recipe
Although these little doughnuts may look gourmet, they’re pretty simple to make. Follow the steps below, and you’ll have Italian doughnuts worthy of being displayed in the best pastry shops.
- Whisk. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk until they’re smooth and air bubbles begin to form. Add the pancake mix, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is well combined and a bit crumbly.
- Combine. Scoop in the Ricotta, and gently fold it into the dough until it is smooth.
- Heat. In a deep, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. To take the guesswork out of the process, we like to use a deep-fry thermometer to test the temperature of the oil and make sure it reaches between 325 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Deep Fry. Use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop to portion out bite-sized donuts balls, and gently drop each ball into the hot oil. Be extra careful to drop the dough right above the oil. The higher they are, the longer they fall, and the more likely they are to make a splash, which we don’t want! Work slowly and carefully to avoid burns. Cook the dough, turning each Zeppole regularly until they turn golden brown.
- Drain. Using a slotted spoon, remove the deep-fried dough from the oil, and set the dough balls on paper towels to drain any excess oil. Repeat this process until all the dough has been fried.
- Serve. Add a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar on top, and serve warm with a side of Nutella and fresh berries for yummy treats the whole family will enjoy!
Make Ahead and Storage Options
Zeppoles are best enjoyed right away while they’re still warm.
If you’re feeding a crowd or not planning on eating them immediately (can’t relate), keep them warm in the oven at a super low temperature (less than 200 degrees) for up to 15 minutes. Just wait to add the powdered sugar until just before eating. Otherwise, it’s likely to burn.
If on the rare chance you have leftovers, keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Or, store the uncooked dough in the fridge for up to 2 days, and fry it just before eating.
We don’t recommend freezing homemade Zeppoles cooked or uncooked.
Common Questions About This Homemade Zeppole Recipe
Beignets are French pastries most commonly associated with New Orleans. They’re made from a yeast dough that is deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Meanwhile, a Zeppole is an Italian pastry that is made from choux pastry dough, deep-fried, and often stuffed with a sweet filling and dusted with powdered sugar. Beignets have a lighter, fluffier texture and a distinct rectangular shape while Zeppoles are round and looser in shape, similar to donuts.
Zeppole is pronounced “zeh-po-lay” using an “a” sound a the end.
If you don’t want to deep-fry your dough, you can use an
More Delicious Desserts
If you enjoy this Zeppole recipe, you won’t want to miss out on more of our favorite dessert recipes below!
- Nutella Stuffed Biscuit Doughnuts
- Strawberry Cheesecake Chimichanga
- S’mores Braided Pastry
- Fried Ice Cream
Homemade Zeppole Recipe (Easy Italian Donuts)
- Crack the eggs into a medium mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the eggs until air bubbles start to form.2 large eggs
- Add the pancake mix, baking powder, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat together with the eggs until the mixture is crumbly.1 cup buttermilk pancake mix, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Scoop in the Ricotta cheese, and fold the mixture until smooth.1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- Heat the vegetable oil in a deep dish pot or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Use a deep-fry thermometer to ensure the oil reaches between 325 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit.Vegetable oil
- Use an ice cream scooper to shape dough balls, and gently drop them into the hot oil. *See note below.
- Cook the Zeppoles for about 3 minutes each, regularly turning them in the oil until they're golden brown.
- Remove the Zeppoles from the oil, and place them on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
- Dust with powdered sugar, and serve warm with Nutella.Powdered sugar for dusting, Nutella for serving
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.