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Pignolata – Italian Fried Honey Balls

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Pignolata is one of the most simple and delicious treats typical for Christmas and Carnival season. These slightly crunchy fried dough balls coated with honey and lemon zest they are simple irresistible.

Depending in the region, you might also know them by the name Struffoli (Napoli, Campagnia), Cicerchiata (Abruzzo, Marche, Molise), Sannacchiudere (Taranto, Apulia) and even castagnole.

All these names mean small fried dough balls covered with honey.

Curiosity: The name Pignolata comes from the shape of small dough bites that arranged together look like a pinecone or “pigna”  in Italian.

In Sicily and Calabria regions you’d exactly hear it by this name – pignolata 🙂

Both kids and adults simply ADORE these fried lemon and honey bites.

With few really simple ingredients and unsophisticated preparation it’ll sure become one of YOUR favorite Italian Holiday desserts.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps:

Dough Preparation

Pignolata Dough

Rolling and Frying

Pignolata {Step By Step}

Pignolata Shape

Pignolata - Italian Fried Honey Balls {Recipe}
Pignolata - Italian Fried Honey Balls {Recipe}

Pignolata – Italian Fried Honey Balls

Slightly crunchy fried dough balls coated with honey and lemon zest makes pignolata simply irresistible.
Print Pin Rate / Comment
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8


For decoration:


  • In a large bowl add sieved flour, softened butter, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest. Mix with your hands until you get crumbly texture.
  • Add 2 beaten eggs, mix again until the dough comes together. Knead with your hands for a couple of minutes. As a result you should have a dough ball that is not too soft but not crumbly either.
    NOTE: If the dough is too hard to knead add a tablespoon of warm milk or water. If it’s too loose, add some more flour.
  • Cover the dough with a plastic wrap.
    Let rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours or even overnight. If you let the dough sit overnight remove it from the fridge an hour before starting to make pignolata.
  • Once the dough is rested, lightly flour the work surface. Cut off a piece of dough and roll it with your hands into ⅓ inch thick rope. Then cut the rope again into ⅓ inch pieces.
  • At this point you can leave the dough “pillows” as they’re, slightly irregular shape, or you can pass each piece quickly between the palm of your hands giving it a round shape.
  • Preheat vegetable oil for frying in a deep pan to 340F – perfect temperature for frying.
  • Make sure to heat the oil on medium heat and use enough of it so that the dough floats and not touches the bottom of the pan.
    If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer you can test if the oil is hot enough but simply deeping one ball once you think the oil is hot enough. If it start to sizzle almost immediately and come up floating, the oil is good to go.
    Attention: Oil should NOT be smoking or burning and reduce the heat to low once it reached the perfect temperature.
  • Deep pignolata dough in preheated oil, small portions at a time to prevent the oil from cooling too much. Fry for approx 4-5 minutes stirring continuously.
    Once ready discard fried dough on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
  • Once all the dough is fried, transfer it in a deep bowl and top with honey. Mix well.
  • Arrange on a plate forming a ring shape or a pinecone shape.
    Decorate with sugar sprinkles and lemon zest.
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Pignolata - Italian Fried Honey Balls {Recipe}

Try to experiment and squeeze some lemon juice on top of the honey before mixing pignolata in the bowl.

This will give pignolata an incredible lemon and honey flavor that’s both delicious AND healthy.

Happy Holidays!

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Recipe Rating


Tuesday 29th of December 2020

For the 2 cups of flour, you have (10oz) written next to it, but 2 cups is 16oz, not 10...which is it?

Italian Recipe Book

Tuesday 29th of December 2020

Hello Sandra, thank you for your question. Measuring ingredients by weight and not by volume is always the best choice, especially in baking. This pignolata recipe requires 10 oz flour. Step by step pictures will help you understand the dough consistency. Let me know if you have any questions and if you make it how it goes. Happy Holidays!

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