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Sfingi di San Giuseppe

Sfingi is a traditional sugar-coated Sicilian fried pastry that is served during the feast of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph, March 19th). These puffy pastry balls are the perfect dessert to enjoy with a cup of espresso.

Closeup of sfingi covered in sugar
Sicilian Sfingi

What are Sfingi di San Giuseppe? 

Sfingi are light airy fried Sicilian pastries sometimes described as Italian doughnuts.  They are usually only served for special occasions such as Saint Joseph’s Day and at Christmas time.

Originally sfingi were simply served coated in honey or with granulated sugar. Eventually, some pastry shops in Sicily started filling the sfingi with a cannoli cream filling (sweetened ricotta with chocolate chips).  And still, other versions are more savory and may be filled with potatoes. I have never tried either of these versions but they sound delicious!

As with many recipes, Italian families have their versions.  The dough for this recipe is the same dough we use to make cream puffs. The main difference between the two is that cream puffs are baked and sfingi are fried. As the dough fries in the hot oil, the air bubbles in the dough expand and puff up creating a hollow center in the pastry.

Sfingi Are a St. Joseph’s Day Tradition

Every year my mother coordinates a St. Joseph’s day table at her church and makes about 300 sfingi for the event. 200 are served at the table and about 100 are reserved for all of the volunteers. This is Mom’s thank you for all of the work everyone does to help her with her devotion to the patron saint of Sicily. 

This event is such a special occasion for us and it has become a much-loved tradition at her church.

Sfingi ingredients on a black background: Butter, Oil, flour, sugar and eggs.

Ingredients You Need 

Many sfingi recipes that I have reviewed, use yeast in the dough and add different flavorings. My mother’s recipe doesn’t have any of that. To make this sfingi recipe you only need a few ingredients; water, butter, all-purpose flour, and large eggs.  You will also need vegetable oil for frying the sfingi in.

When the dough is dropped into the hot oil, it begins to form air bubbles and as the bubbles expand, the dough puffs right up, so there is no need to add any yeast in this recipe.

How to make Sfingi

1. Make the Dough

  • Heat water and butter in a saucepan. When the butter has melted add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball of dough. 
  • Transfer the dough to a medium bowl and let it cool down for about 10 minutes. When the dough is no longer hot, add eggs one at a time, and beat with a mixer until each egg is fully incorporated. The dough should be creamy and smooth.

2. Fry the Sicilian Doughnuts

  • Fill another saucepan with several inches of oil and set it to medium heat.  You can also use a deep fryer. 
  • Drop the dough into the hot oil in half tablespoon-sized dollops.
  • Cook the sfingi for 8-10 minutes or until they are golden brown. 
  • Prepare a large bowl and line it with paper towels to receive the sfingi coming out of the oil.  The paper towels will absorb the excess oil from the sfingi.
  • Remove the sfingi from the oil using a slotted spoon and set them on the paper towels to cool.

3. Coat Them in Sugar

  • Prepare another bowl with granulated sugar.
  • Roll the cooled sfingi in the sugar, coating it completely.
  • Make yourself a cup of espresso and enjoy your perfectly golden sfingi!
A pile of sfingi with one on top cut open to show how light fluffy and hollow it is.
Light and fluffy St Joseph’s Day treat.

Tips for Best Results

Start with room temperature eggs so that they blend easily into the batter.

For best results use fresh oil for frying the sfingi. This will ensure a light golden color and fresh taste.

The oil should be hot enough to cook the sfingi all the way through without turning the dough too dark in color. 

You can add several dough balls to the oil at one time, but don’t overcrowd the pan. The dough needs 

room to spin and flip as it puffs up

A pile of sfingi in a towel lined basket.
Soft, sweet and light as air!

How to Store Sfingi

These amazing fried pastries are best eaten soon after being made. You can store them in a airtight container and enjoy them the next day. The sugar coating will likely have melted away and they may not be as crispy as they were the first day. But you can roll them in sugar again they they will still be delicious.

What is the Difference Between Sfingi and Zeppole?

In our family, we have always served sfingi rolled in sugar and enjoyed in it’s simplest form. There are some parts of southern Italy that refer to the sfingi as a zeppole. They are actually two different desserts. The difference is that zeppole are doughier and denser then a sfingi.

Other St. Joseph’s Day Recipes:

Sicilian Fried Artichoke Hearts in Pastella

Easy Pasta Con Le Sarde

Cannoli Shells

Cannoli Filling Recipe with Ricotta

Recipe

Closeup of sfingi covered in sugar

Sfingi Di San Giuseppe (Sicilian Donuts)

These fried puffy pastries are a traditional Sicilian dessert that is made in celebration of St. Joseph's Day. Sfingi are light, airy and sweetened with sugar.
4.56 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 48
Calories 437 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cup Water
  • ½ cup Butter
  • 2 cup Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 8 Eggs Large
  • 2 quarts Vegetable Oil
  • 2 cups Granulated Sugar

Instructions
 

  • Mix the baking powder with flour and set aside. Combine water and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  • When the butter is completely melted, mix in the flour and stir until a ball of dough forms, then remove it from heat.
  • Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and allow the it to cool until it is warm about 10 minutes.
  • While the dough is cooling heat the vegetable oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add eggs to the dough one at a time and beat with a mixer until each egg is incorporated. The dough should be smooth and creamy.
  • To test the heat of the oil, drop a tablespoon of dough into the oil. The oil around the dough should sizzle and after a minute or so the dough should start to puff up and expand.
  • When the oil is ready drop the dough in half spoonful size dollops into the sauce pan. Depending on the diameter of your pan you can add several dollops at a time. Just don't over crowd the pan, you want the dough to have enough room to spin and turn as it puffs up.
  • Allow the dough to cook for about 10 minutes. The sfingi should be golden in color but you don't want them to be too dark.
  • Prepare a bowl and line it with paper towels.
  • When the sfingi is done remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon and place it in a bowl lined with paper towels. Allow the sfingi to cool on the paper towels for a few minutes.
  • Prepare another bowl with granulated sugar. Just before you are ready to serve them, roll the sfingi in the sugar to completely coat them

Notes

Scroll up to see Tips for Best Results.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 437kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 2gFat: 44gSaturated Fat: 35gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 46mgPotassium: 18mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 163IUCalcium: 7mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Sfingi, fried dough, sicilian dessert, italian pastery
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Easy Pasta con le Sarde -
  2. My grandmother used to make these at Christmas time, they were much larger and honey was the coating they ended iup with light airy with plenty of bubbles inside delicious.

    1. Diane I am sorry that this recipe was not what you were expecting. This is the Sfingi that we grew up with. I would love to hear what your family’s sfingi were like.

  3. 5 stars
    Your recipe looks like the type of sfinge my mother and her sisters made. They are airy inside like a cream puff. We loved them as kids we ate them as soon as they came out of the kitchen an. I’ve tried to make them a couple times and I don’t think I get the oil at the right temperature because either they cook too fast or they don’t open up as much as they should. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Maria
      It sounds like the oil temperature is either too hot or not hot enough. Before frying all of the sfingi, try just testing with a little bit and see if that puffs up. If it doesn’t then turn the heat up a bit. It does take a minute or so for the dough to open up. My mom also suggested adding a little baking powder to the flour if you are having a problem. I added that to the recipe in case anyone else is having the same problem. I hope this helps.

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