Zeppole are one of the great Italian-American festival foods we grew up eating. Balls of dough are gently fried until golden and tossed with powdered sugar, and are meant to be consumed immediately, and in many cases straight out of the bag! Zeppole are easy to make at home and are such a treat!
Growing up on Long Island, Jim and I are no strangers to zeppole.
Along with sausage and pepper heroes, these golden balls of fried dough would show up at nearly every street fair we went to, and eating them straight out of the bag while you walked around with your friends was a must.
While zeppole can mean a variety of different things depending on where you’re from, our zeppole recipe is the one enjoyed here in the New York metro area.
Zeppole can also be known in other regions as pizza fritta, fried dough, or as my dad would say, sfinci, because his mom was Sicilian.
These are not to be confused with the pastry cream-filled, cherry-topped zeppole di San Giuseppe that are typically served on St. Joseph’s Day.
No matter what you call these incredible nuggets of fried dough, we call them magical as they have the power to take us back to a time when things were less complicated.
How to make New York-style zeppole
First, make the dough
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Heat 1 1/4 cup of water to 105-115f. Using an instant-read thermometer is recommended. Just don’t make the water scorching hot or you will kill the yeast.
- In a large bowl combine the warm water, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 pack of active dry yeast. Wait until the yeast begins to froth, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place.
- Wait at least 2 hours for the dough to rise before beginning the frying process.
After at least 2 hours, fry the zeppole
- Fill a large heavy pot or Dutch oven with enough vegetable oil to fill the pot 3 inches high. Heat the oil to 370f. We recommend using an oil or candy thermometer if you are not experienced with frying. You can see in step 1 below the little bowl of vegetable oil. You can dip the two spoons into it so that the zeppole won’t stick.
- Once the oil reaches 370f you can begin to fry the zeppole. Using either oiled hands, or two spoons dipped in oil gather two tablespoons worth of dough.
- Use one spoon to push the dough gently into the oil.
- Fry the zeppole a few at a time (5-6 fit nicely into my 6-quart Dutch oven) and be careful to not overcrowd the pan. After about 1 1/2 minutes, use a spider or slotted spoon to flip the zeppole over.
- After another 1 1/2 minutes the zeppole should be golden and you can remove them from the oil using a spider. Place the zeppole onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet to allow them to drain. Note: 3 minutes is a rough estimate. Fry the zeppole until golden brown.
- Repeat the process with the remaining dough. This recipe makes about 18-22 zeppole.
- Place 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar into a large bowl and add the warm zeppole, giving them a toss to coat with the sugar.
- Place the zeppole on a parchment paper-lined tray until ready to eat, or for tradition’s sake, place the zeppole into a brown or white paper bag with a bit more sugar. Fold the top, shake well, and eat right out of the bag for that New York Italian-American festival experience!
- Water and yeast. Be sure to warm the water temperature as instructed in the recipe. If the water is too hot, it can kill the yeast.
- Oil. We used vegetable oil for frying but you can use canola, peanut, or any neutral-flavored oil that holds up well to high heat. We strongly recommend using an oil or candy thermometer to check the temperature, and when frying anything, take extra care to not splash yourself.
- Sugar. We used powdered sugar for this recipe but zeppole are also great tossed with granulated sugar, or a combo of sugar and cinnamon.
More sweet treats
- Reginelle cookies – these sesame-covered biscuits are also great to eat straight out of the bag.
- Cannoli – fried cannoli shells filled with cream and topped with chocolate chips, pistachio, or candied orange peel.
- Pignoli cookies – soft and chewy cookies studded with pignoli and dusted with powdered sugar.
If you’ve enjoyed this Zeppole Recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.
- 1 1/4 cups (283g) warm water 105-115f temp water
- 1 pack active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 1/4 cups (300g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (170g) powdered sugar
- vegetable oil for frying, see notes
- Combine the warm water, sugar, salt, olive oil, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Wait until the yeast starts to froth (about 10-15 minutes) then add the flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place. Wait at least 2 hours before frying.
- Fill a large heavy pot or Dutch oven at least 3 inches high with vegetable oil. Heat oil to 370f. Best to use an oil thermometer.
- Once the oil reaches proper temp begin to fry the zeppole. Either oil hands and grab about 2 tablespoons worth of dough and gently place into the oil or use two spoons. If using spoons, simply grab 2 tablespoons worth of dough and push the dough into the pot with the other spoon.
- Fry zeppole until golden brown on both sides (about 3 minutes total) then remove with a spider or slotted spoon to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Work in batches and do not overcrowd the pot when frying.
- Place the powdered sugar into a large clean bowl. Add the warm zeppole to the bowl and toss well to thoroughly coat. For tradition, place a few in a paper bag along with a bit more sugar. Fold the top and shake well. Now you have the perfect snack! Enjoy!
- You may need up to 1 gallon of oil for the frying process. This will depend on the pot you’re using to fry as you’ll need enough to fill with 3 inches worth of oil.
- Granulated sugar can be used instead of powdered sugar. They both work well.
- A bit of cinnamon mixed with the sugar is great!
- Zeppole should be eaten immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.