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Italian Holiday Cookies

Many of our holiday traditions center around the foods my mother made while I was growing up. These cookies, which we called "Strufoli", bring back wonderful memories. —Sue Seymour, Valatie, New York
  • Total Time
    Prep: 20 min. Cook: 15 min.
  • Makes
    about 15 dozen


  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Oil for deep-fat frying
  • 1 cup honey
  • Candy sprinkles


  • In a bowl, combine sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Add eggs and 2 cups flour; mix well. Turn onto a floured surface and knead in remaining flour (dough will be soft). With a floured knife or scissors, cut into 20 pieces. With hands, roll each piece into pencil shapes. Cut "pencils" into 1/2-in. pieces. In an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 350°. Fry pieces, a few at a time, for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Place in a large bowl. Heat honey to boiling; pour over cookies and mix well. With a slotted spoon, spoon onto a serving platter and slowly mound into a tree shape if desired. Decorate with candy sprinkles. Cool completely.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • In addition to these "Strufoli", we have other Italian Christmas cookies, including pizzelle and holiday biscotti.
  • Consider making these unique Christmas cookies for an around-the-world theme.
  • Nutrition Facts
    1 cookie: 18 calories, 1g fat (0 saturated fat), 4mg cholesterol, 8mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.

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    • suefalk
      Jan 19, 2020

      Yummy! It's not really a cookie, but more a pastry. The recipe refers to 'Struffoli' from Italy, but in Sicily it's called 'Pignolata.' Same yummy holiday treat, different name. The recipe can vary slightly, but they're all good. This recipe is traditional, but my Sicilian relatives add pine nuts.

    • Rose
      Dec 11, 2018

      Can you make this ahead a time

    • cmille9209
      Dec 22, 2014

      I've been making this since I was a little girl. We only made this on Christmas Eve for dessert. Keep in mind that some of these balls can get very hard. (Watch your teeth) The only difference with my mom's version is that we did not add lemon peel. We also added almonds to the honey and shaped ours into a wreath shape and sprinkled almonds and sprinkles on top. Try to serve warm if possible they taste sooooo good! As with every version, depending on where you are from the ingredients can change so make the basic version and add your own twist.

    • msbigbaker
      Dec 22, 2014

      Almost exactly the way it should be made, but a couple of key ingredients are missing. Before heating up the honey, 1 to 2 cups of candied fruit should be added, as well as Cinnamon to taste. Also, many Italians add either slivered almonds or walnut pieces to this as well. When heating the honey, to the one cup of honey add 2/3 cup of sugar and 1 tbs of lemon rind and heat over a low flame, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is clear in color at this point. Now you can pour this honey mixture over the Struffoli and mix with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a plate and with hands that have been moistened with cold water, shape into a tree shape, if desired. Having wet hands keeps the Struffoli from sticking to your fingers and it is easier to work with them. Lastly, sprinkle the non-pareils over the whole pyramid. Cover with clear plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator if you prefer a hard honey or keep in a cool place such as the garage for a softer honey coating. I put mine in the garage and it works well.I have been making these for 55 years now and it is my Mom's recipe which was carried down to her by my Grandfather who was a Pastry Chef in Italy. I hope you will enjoy these as much as we do, as it is just not Christmas without STRUFFOLI.

    • Lucille29
      Dec 13, 2010

      No comment left

    • luvbug14
      Dec 22, 2007

      i was so excited to find this recipe and can't wait to try it. My grandmother always made these at Christmas time and this recipe is a little me "exact" than her " a little of this" and a "pinch of that"! Hopefully this will give me great results!!)