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Zeppole Recipe (Easy Italian Donuts)

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Our easy Nutella Zeppoles are about to knock your socks off! This traditional carnival snack has the fluffiest texture. We are truly obsessed, and know you will be too.

What are Zeppoles?

Zeppoles are the most delicious carnival snack! They are deep-fried balls of dough. Sometimes they are served as is, other times they are filled or topped with pastry cream and / or chocolate. We personally love to serve these with powdered sugar and Nutella!

This fried dough is a beloved Sicilian recipe, but there are a few theories as to their origin. No one knows exactly when this recipe became popular but here are a couple of theories by food historians:

  • Many believe that these were invented by Saint Joseph, a carpenter who was from southern Italy. 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 that 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!

While no one knows the exact origin of this tasty dessert, we love this little piece of food history! It is fun to imagine what it would have been like to develop this first time.

 

Why we use pancake mix instead of flour

Once we discovered that pancake mix is not just reserved for breakfast, we became so excited! We have been experimenting with pancake mix in place of flour for quite some time, and really think we are onto something.

This is a great shortcut to up-level any dessert. Flour is the primary ingredient in pancake mix, so it can replace it in any recipe. In addition to flour, pancake mix typically also includes a combination of salt, sugar and baking powder. This helps to give some extra lift to both the flavor and texture of your baked good.

If you ever find yourself out of flour and are googling “what can I use to substitute flour,” remember this trick! Pancake mix is the perfect substitute for flour when baking. Be sure to try our Baklava Skillet Pancake using buttermilk pancake mix!

How to make easy Zeppoles

  1. Crack eggs into a medium mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the eggs until air bubbles start to form.
  2. Add pancake mix, baking powder, cane sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat together with the eggs until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Next, scoop in the ricotta cheese and fold the mixture until it is smooth.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in a deep dish pot or a dutch oven over medium heat. When it is hot, you are ready to start frying!
  5. Use an ice cream scooper make dough balls and gently drop the balls of dough into the hot oil.
    • Note: You want to drop the balls into the oil right at the surface. The higher above the oil you are, the more likely you are to make a splash. Be very careful with this step to avoid burns!
  6. Cook the Zeppoles for about 3 minutes each, regularly turning them in the oil. You are looking for them to turn golden brown.
  7. Remove them from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with Nutella.

 

Do I have to deep fry the Zeppoles?

While we love deep frying these yummy treats, you can absolutely make them in an air fryer if you are looking for a slightly healthier version. We say slightly healthier because they are still dough balls, after all!

Using an air fryer is a great way to avoid the grease from the oil! And you also eliminate the risk of burning yourself while cooking these zeppoles.

You will follow our recipe exactly as is, and when it comes to frying just follow the directions on your air fryer. Every air fryer is different, so there isn’t a standard cooking time. But you should be able to figure out the perfect cooking time easily.

We recommend laying down a piece of parchment into the basket of your air fryer before scooping the dough into your air fryer to prevent the dough from sticking. When they are ready, serve with powdered sugar and Nutella!

Zeppole Recipe (Easy Italian Donuts)

Alia and Radwa
Our easy Zeppoles are about to knock your socks off! This traditional carnival snack has the fluffiest texture. Serve with powdered sugar and a side of Nutella!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 22 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 16
Calories

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 th cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Nutella

Instructions
 

  • Crack eggs into a medium mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the eggs until air bubbles start to form.
  • Add pancake mix, baking powder, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat together with the eggs until the mixture is crumbly.
  • Next, scoop in the ricotta cheese and fold the mixture until it is smooth.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a deep dish pot or a dutch oven over medium heat. When it is hot, you are ready to start frying!
  • Use an ice cream scooper make dough balls and gently drop the balls of dough into the hot oil. *see note below.
  • Cook the Zeppoles for about 3 minutes each, regularly turning them in the oil. You are looking for them to turn golden brown.
  • Remove them from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  • Dust with powdered sugar and serve with Nutella.

Notes

  • Note: You want to drop the balls into the oil right at the surface. The higher above the oil you are, the more likely you are to make a splash. Be very careful with this step to avoid burns!
Keyword easy zeppole, homemade donut holes, homemade zeppole, nutella zeppole, zeppole
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