Grandma’s Zeppole Italian doughnuts are the easiest way to satisfy your donut cravings – light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the onside. This zeppole recipe is so easy to make with a few simple ingredients. No finicky yeast required!
When I’m craving for sweets, I often whip up a quick dessert such as Oreo Cheesecake Bites, Chocolate Pudding, or these fabulous Italian donuts.
What is zeppole?
Zeppola (plur. Zeppole) is Italian doughnut, which is also called Saint Joseph’s Day cake. There are various shapes of this sweet snack: twist logs, clam shell, or ball shape (similar to donut holes).
There are a few different ways to make the zeppole batter. My version is the easiest but the most delicious one: it uses a pate choux dough and no yeast or ricotta cheese required! This is my favorite quick dessert recipe as the ingredients are so simple and I always have them on hand. Just mix, fry and eat! Dust them with powdered sugar before serving, and they are so cute and delicious. The best donut you can eat in one bite!
Ingredients for zeppole recipe
Grandma’s zeppoles are so light and fluffy – it’s our family’s favorite way to make Italian donuts! There are only 6 simple ingredients to make the zeppole batter:
All-purpose flour, eggs, water, unsalted butter, sugar, and salt!
Once you’ve made the batter, you’ll need vegetable oil for frying and powdered sugar for dusting!
How to make Italian donut zeppole (step-by-step photos)
Making zeppole batter/dough: Add water, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat. Cook until butter melts completely, and then add flour. Mix until combined.
Remove from heat, and let the dough cool off slightly, then add eggs, one at a time. Beat the eggs with the dough using a hand-mixer. Make sure your dough is not too hot before adding eggs, otherwise the eggs will scramble when added to the dough.
Now the mixture is much thinner with a consistency more like batter, rather than a dough.
Frying the zeppole: Add 2-inch oil to a large pot, and heat up to 375˚F (190˚C). Once the oil is ready, use a small spoon to spoon out the batter, then use another spoon or spatula to scrape the batter into the oil. Make sure to lower the spoon into the oil gently so that you won’t splash the oil onto yourself. Cook in batches and don’t overcrowd the pot. Let them fry for 4-5 minutes until golden brown. You’ll need to turn them over from time to time to make sure all side gets cooked properly.
When they’re done, remove them from oil using a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel lined plate. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
What oil is the best for frying?
Vegetable oil such as peanut oil or canola oil is the best when it comes to deep frying, as it has a high smoke point. Heat the oil to 375˚F (190˚C). The temperature will drop slightly when you add in the batter. Adjust the heat and make sure to keep the temperature between 350-375˚F. I recommend getting a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature closely.
How to store leftover zeppole
Once you’ve fried zeppole, let them cool slightly to reach room temperature. Then place them in an airtight container.
How long do zeppole donuts last?
These donuts are best when warm, but they’ll last up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Make ahead instructions
If you want to make zeppole ahead of time, set the dough aside by covering and refrigerating for up to 3 days, or freezing for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to make the zeppole, let the dough warm slightly and proceed to frying.
I love the simple zeppole that’s dusted with powdered sugar, but you can try other toppings, or add fillings to your personal taste.
Toppings ideas: Besides powdered sugar (a traditional look), you can dust with regular granulated sugar or cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon). You can also dip them in melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles.
Filling ideas: You can fill them with pastry cream, custard, or jam.
How to pronounce “zeppole”?
The correct pronunciation of the Italian word zeppole is “zeh-po-ley”.
Can I freeze zeppole?
Instead of trying to freeze zeppole directly, you’ll get better results freezing the dough for zeppole and then frying them before serving.
How to reheat leftover zeppoles
You can reheat zeppole by placing it on a microwave-safe plate and microwaving for 30 seconds per piece on 50% power, i.e. 2 minutes for 4 pieces. Alternatively, reheat in a 350°F oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
More Italian Dessert Recipes
Grandma’s Zeppole Italian Doughnuts
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- vegetable oil for frying
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Add 2-inch oil to a large pot and heat to 375˚F (190˚C).
- In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, add water, butter, sugar and salt. Cook until butter melts completely.
- Lower the heat and add flour. Use the wooden spoon to mix vigorously until well combined.
- Transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl. Let it cool off slightly, about 3-5 minutes, then add eggs, one at a time. Mix the eggs with the dough using a hand-mixer or wooden spoon. (Make sure your dough is not too hot, otherwise the eggs will scramble when added to the dough.)
- Check the temperature of the oil, if it’s ready, it’s time to fry the donuts. Use a small spoon to spoon out the batter, and then use another spoon or spatula to scrape the batter into the oil. Make sure to lower the spoon into the oil very gently so that you won’t splash the oil onto yourself.
- Cook in batches and fry 10-12 donuts at a time. Fry for 4-5 minutes for each batch until they turn golden brown. You’ll need to turn them over from time to time to make sure all sides get cooked properly.
- Remove cooked zeppole from the oil using a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel lined plate.
- Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
- It’s important to monitor the oil temperature during frying process, and make sure the temperature stays between 350˚F and 375˚F.
- This recipe yields about 36 to 40 zeppole donuts depending on the size of your balls.
Types of zeppole donuts
When it comes to zeppole donuts, there are several types: some recipes use yeast to make the dough. Yeast donut has more chew and denser than cake donut. It also takes much more time as you need to rise the dough. (I tried pizza dough to make zeppole, but were disappointed with the texture as they’re too chewy and heavy!)
Another type is cake donut, which uses baking powder to rise the sweetened dough. You don’t need to wait around for the dough to rise, and they’re fluffier and soft.
This version tastes similar to the ones you’ll find at many Italian pastry stores. It’s similar to cake donut, but you don’t need to use baking powder. It produces the fluffiest donuts and is my favorite!
Rika Viljoen says
There is no rising agent (baking powder/ baking soda in Grandmas’s zeppoles)
Hi Rika, there are different versions for the zeppole recipe. This is the version from my family and I love it!
Lorraine valentina says
Great receipe , however I used 2 medium eggs and 2 jumbo eggs and they came out raw inside or I should say moist.
Very light and would definitely make again but can you tell me if using to different size eggs caused the dough inside not to fully cook?they looked delicious .
Hi Lorraine, you can remove a bit of the egg if using jumbo ones. The doughnuts are supposed to have a very soft center. If you think yours are not cooked enough, you can lower the temperature and let them cook slightly longer. Hope this helps.
Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.
I think I made these too big, because they were still very soft in the middle, and they deflated pretty hard after cooling, but otherwise, this was a great recipe! I’ve made choux pastry before, so the technique was at least familiar. I will definitely save this recipe to try again, because the flavor was great!! Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph!
Love your Italian donuts. My mom made these often. Your version was spot on. My wife was reading the instructions to me and thought you should take out the ( depends on the size of your balls ). Especially funny for a 70 year old man. We had a good laugh.
Carly Dallas says
I had my oil cooking (on an electrical stove) eventually the oil started to burn, smoke up. The o Italy batch came out well, but once the oil started to burn up it didn’t come out well. Why is that?