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Struffoli: Fried ‘Honey’ Balls [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Struffoli are little fried dough balls that are topped with honey and sprinkles. The warm honey makes them sticky so they can be arranged into the shape of a Christmas tree and then decorated with the colorful, festive sprinkles.

If you live anywhere near an Italian bakery, you've seen these goodies. They are usually tall and wrapped in colored cellophane with a bow. They make a great centerpiece on the table. Tradition says that you can leave the Struffoli out, uncovered, and they will last for weeks…or as long as it takes to eat them all. They taste even better the next day.

Of course, to make my own vegan Struffoli, I had to make a couple of substitutions. First, the honey, I was going to just use agave nectar but then I ordered a bottle of Bee Free Honee which is made from apples. It’s delicious. It tastes better than honey with the notes of apple. Yum!

Then I got to making the Struffoli.

Struffoli: Fried 'Honey' Balls [Vegan, Gluten-Free]


Wet Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. flaxseed + 6 Tbs. warm water
  • ¾ cup soymilk
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 Tbs. vegan butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting OR
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour OR
  • 4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Zest of ½ an orange
  • 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • Topping
  • 2 cups agave or vegan honey
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup vegan sprinkles


  1. Mix the flaxseed with the warm water in a small bowl or cup and let sit for 10 minutes until it is thickened and gelatinous. Mix the flax gel, soy milk, apple sauce, melted butter and vanilla together in a small bowl.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon and zest. Make a well by pushing the flour mix to the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry in the well. Work the flour into the well and mix well until you have a dough that is smooth and evenly blended. Gather it into a ball and transfer the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 4 minutes, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour.
  4. After the hour, remove the dough from the plastic wrap. Pull a plum size piece of dough from the main dough. Roll the piece into a ball and then roll the ball into a long, thin rod, approximately ¼ inch thick. Cut the long rod into small pieces about ¾ of an inch . Roll the small pieces into balls. Repeat until you have used all the dough. Dust the balls with flour.
  5. Heat the oil in a heavy pot until it reaches 350 degrees or until bubbles form around an inserted wooden spoon. Add the balls using a spider, about 10 at a time, shaking off any excess flour, and let fry until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
  6. In a large pot, heat the vegan honey or agave, sugar and water together over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. It will foam; it’s supposed to. Let cook about 7 minutes until it thickens a bit and the color darkens. Don’t cook it longer than this or it will turn into caramel. Have a small bowl of cool water nearby.
  7. Remove the honey mixture from the heat and add the balls immediately. Mix until the balls are covered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the honey balls to a serving platter. Dip your hands into the cool water before touching the balls because they are really, really hot. Arrange the balls in a pile to resemble a tree. Add sprinkles by…well, sprinkling them over the balls. Serve.




When Rhea became vegan, there were no places in her Bronx neighborhood to eat so she had to learn to cook, mostly by watching TV cooking shows, especially Christina Pirello and Rachael Ray.  That led to the creation of The "V" Word website which focuses on vegan versions of favorite, familiar foods. Rhea has written several e-cookbooks which are available on her web site. It is Rhea's hope that she can spread the "V" Word to bring more compassion into the world and it is her dream to become the vegan Rachael Ray.



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22 comments on “Struffoli: Fried ‘Honey’ Balls [Vegan, Gluten-Free]”

Click to add comment
Sally Jones
2 Years Ago

gluten free means no wheat , rye or barley flours

Adrienne Pass
2 Years Ago

Bee Free Honey... Hmmm let us see... FLAX, WATER, SOY MILK, APPLE SAUCE, VEGAN BUTTER, VANILLA EXTRACT... Nope... NO HONEY. Reading is fundamental.

Avril Simms
2 Years Ago

HONEY is NOT vegan !

Kailey Miller
15 Dec 2013

That is why the word HONEY is in QUOTES. Read the recipe. There is no honey in the recipe. The recipe is completely vegan.

Adrienne Pass
2 Years Ago

Loukoumades :). So fry it in coconut oil, use faux apple honey and use your spidey-sense when shopping for ingredients. Make it as healthy as possible or I agree you have a choice to not make it. Offer something constructive not disruptive.

Dawn Douville
2 Years Ago

So none of you eat a single cookie, bite of cake or pudding? Get off your high horse. Not everyone eats like you, nor do they have to. While I avoid a lot of junk food, I still eat it, and I often modify it to make it healthier. Takes this recipe and modify it if you want or just skip it. Don't berate others because they choose to indulge once in a while.

Marjorie Marshall Chandonais
2 Years Ago

It's a treat. A tradition in some cultures. Nobody said that it's health food, simply that it's vegan. The recipe specifically says "no bee honey" so, clearly, it's not real honey. It would be nice if, for once, people could read the recipe thoroughly before posting. If you question an ingredient look again at that specific item to see what it says. Not everything vegan or vegetarian or any type of food for that matter has to be health food for cripe sake! Sometimes people want a sugary fried mess of a treat. If you don't, great for you, but isn't the world a negative enough place already without having to add negative comments to somebody's recipe? If you don't like it, don't make it.

Dawn Douville
15 Dec 2013

Thank you!! I am so tired of people bitching about what other people eat, even other vegans. I get flak all day from non-vegans, why do I need it from vegans too? If I choose to eat an unhealthy snack, it is my business. Especially because I rarely eat junk food.

Bonnie Bowling
2 Years Ago

This isn't health food - it is crap!!! GMO flour! Fried, sugared...crap!!!So what if it is honey when you pour that much on anything it is junk food. NOOOOOO LIKE!!!

Dawn Douville
15 Dec 2013

So don't make it. But stop your complaining because no one but you has to eat the way your do. I choose to indulge every once in a while and that doesn't make me a bad person or an unhealthy person.

Angela Gipson
2 Years Ago

this is an Italian tradition. My grandmother used to make these at Christmastime.

Ken Weingard
2 Years Ago


Paul Darwin Picklesimer
2 Years Ago

I'm vegan and refrain from consuming honey, but let's not forget that more bees are exploited by bee farmers for use in the production of our produce than for honey.

Dawn Douville
15 Dec 2013

Did you not open the link for the recipe?? No bee honey. Made from apples. And in this day and age of colony collapse disorder and other things plaguing the bees, I would imagine we have to move past the issue of exploitation. We have always exploited bees, but I have talked with a lot of apiarists and they have all talked about how things have changed both on the small and commercial bee farms.

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