How to cook like an Italian

Zeppole, a holiday tradition

Zeppole is a dessert that is traditionally made for New Year’s Eve, but it is so delicious, you can make it any time of the year!  It is a favorite of Southern Italians and you often find it on the holiday menu, but the trick is to deliver them into people’s hands while they are fresh out of the frying pan.  You can’t go to an Italian Festival, like the San Gennaro in New York City’s Little Italy, without finding several booths with these kinds of signs:

Since Zeppole are deep fried, they will often make other fried food favorites like calzones at the same booth.  You may have to wait in line to get one of these sweet and doughy treats, but take my advice, wait for a fresh batch as once they sit around a while, they aren’t as good.  If you want to make them at home, they’re actually pretty easy to do!  And if you happen to be in New York City when the festival is NOT going on, you can stop by one of my favorite shops called Led Zeppole (too funny!) which specializes in Zeppole, Funnel Cakes, Cannoli and all of the other Italian favorites that you would normally find at a street fair booth.

Here’s my recipe for Zeppole, adapted from Dom Deluise’s cookbook, Eat This, It’ll Make You Feel Better, which is a statement I really can’t refute.


Makes about 15 zeppole


  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 cups vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting after frying


Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Put the remaining water in a large pan and add the flour all at once, beating vigorously. Beat in the yeast and quickly turn the dough out onto a marble slab or pastry board. Knead with greased hands until smooth. Put the dough into a bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

In a frying pan, heat 3 inches of oil and fry golf ball-size balls of the dough until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Make your holiday special with this recipe and others from our Holiday Guide!

7 Responses to “Zeppole, a holiday tradition”

  1. Valeria says:

    Such a simple yet great recipe, I love zeppole!
    I would like to specify though that while zeppole are a common traditional festive sweet in Southern Italy, there are hundreds of different recipes and occasions in which they are eaten!
    Apart from this one, which is made during Christmas time (and not necessarily for New Year’s Eve, especially in Campania), the most well known zeppole are prepared in March (for St. Joseph) and during Carnival.
    Thank you for posting and for reminding me how good zeppole are! :)

  2. Karen Davis says:

    WE call these Doughnuts down here in the South, and we also add other things to them like cinnamon and ice them with chocolate icing and throw on some sprinkles. The only difference we use a cutter to shape them pretty and round.

  3. kim zito says:

    can’t wait to make these…as a child i would help my grandmother make these every year for the holidays (she was from southern italy) i wasn’t able to get recipe from her before she passed, tho she did live to 106, she never wrote any of her recipes down all memory…. but was very excited to get one a few years ago. we own a restaurant and used a deep fryer what a great memory!

  4. Angie says:

    Hi Rachel,

    i was looking for a place to post, as to not interrupt the flow of your site, but i couldn’t find one so please forgive me :(
    i accidentally bought country style boneless pork ribs the other day. I’m not much of a rib fan, and i don’t want to throw it away because those are some nice sized chunks of meat. But now i don’t know what to do with them. i was thinking of marinating them…but then what? I’m a single mom of an 11 month old, and he gets bored quickly so i can’t spend too much time in the kitchen. Do you have any ideas of what i could do with it, without me or my kitchen getting too messy? (lol)
    I love rich and hearty meals.

    By the way, I “liked” the gerber page and think its great what you’re doing. I often try and help where i can, even something so effortless like that. :)

    Wish best regards, and hoping for an answer,
    Angie and her baby Zach

  5. candy says:

    I love your show and recipes. Most of the time I have to take some of the really hot spices out because i can’t eat them anymore, but i love them. I would like to get the recipe for cauliflower soup that a guest made on your show. The show aired on 12-21-2010. I get yours from your web site, but I would really like it if I could get the recipe for the soup from you.

    I hope you’re show is on for a long time to come.

  6. Joan Crosby says:

    Christmas Fruit & Nuts – My dad would shop at this great produce market in downtown Buffalo which supplied restaurants with their fruits and veggies. Everything was top quality. He had to have fresh pineapple, pomegrante, tangerines, grapes and prickly pear in the house for the holidays. Also, chestnuts and other nuts in their shells as an accompaniment for coffee. Chestnuts were first methodically crossed with a sharp knife and roasted with a little water or red wine in an uncovered pan in the oven. The chestnuts were easily peeled opened and eaten best when warm. Buon natale !

  7. Kristan says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Zeppole, a holiday tradition < Loved it!

Leave a Reply