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Sfingi also known as Sicilian Sfinci or Zeppole are delicious fried Italian ricotta donuts that are rolled in sugar. In Italy, they are usually made to celebrate a special occasion like La Festa di San Giuseppe (Father’s Day), Carnevale, Easter or Christmas. 

But truthfully, no matter what the occasion, it is always a good idea to make my Sfingi recipe!

Fried sfingi dusted with powdered sugar scattered on a paper cover board.
A guaranteed crowd pleaser!

What’s not to love about tender, fried dough balls dusted generously in sugar? Absolutely nothing! After taking just one bite into a warm, sugar-coated sfingi, I know you’ll find every and any excuse to make these Italian ricotta donuts!

The addition of ricotta to the dough, means Sfingi have a rich and creamy flavor, which balances perfectly when they are dusted with powdered sugar. But for even more decadence, you can follow the lead of Sicilian pastry shops and fill these Italian doughnuts with a ricotta or pastry cream filling. 

Just like my Italian Cream Puffs, you’ll love that Sfingi are rich enough to make a decadent dessert, but also simple enough to serve as a simple sweet snack. I’m sure that you’ll be going back to my Sfingi recipe again and again. 

Why you’ll love this Sfingi recipe:

  • The ricotta in these Italian doughnuts makes the texture on the inside so pillowy and soft!
  • Sfingi are Italian ricotta donuts rolled in sugar – what’s not to love?! 
  • Italian ricotta donuts are a guaranteed crowd pleaser for adults and kids alike.
  • Unlike some fried desserts, Sfingi are still delicious the next day. 


Ingredients for these ricotta donuts viewed from above.
  • Flour – Regular all purpose or plain flour is used in this Sfingi recipe. I’ve never tested this with gluten free or other flours so I can’t recommend any substitutions.
  • Baking Powder – A little baking powder for rise and puff. You’ll see it at work in the hot oil.
  • Salt – The natural flavor enhancer to these Italian ricotta donuts!
  • Ricotta – Use full fat, creamy ricotta for best results.
  • Sugar – I like to use superfine sugar (also known as castor sugar) because it dissolves so easily but regular white sugar will also work.
  • Milk – Whole milk please! We’ll be frying the Sfingi in oil so let’s not worry about fat content!
  • Eggs – Buy good quality for the best flavor.
  • Vanilla Extract – Please don’t use vanilla essence – you’ll be disappointed!
  • Sunflower oil – for frying at a high heat.


This sfingi recipe is so quick, you’ll want to heat the oil before starting the dough.

Eggs, sugar and ricotta in a bowl.

Whisk together the ricotta, eggs and sugar in a large bowl.

Milk being added to batter from a cup.

Add milk and vanilla extract to the ricotta mixture

Lumpy batter in a glass bowl being mixed with a whisk.

Stir the combined flour, baking powder and salt into the ricotta mixture.

Donut balls frying in hot oil.

Fry spoonfuls of batter in hot oil for about 5 minutes until the sfingi are well browned.

Drain on paper towels then roll in to serve.

Hint: Make sure that the oil is hot enough that when the batter goes in the sfingi start cooking immediately. This prevents the oil soaking into the batter which end up making oily donuts.


  • Instead of sunflower oil, you could fry in peanut oil, grapeseed oil or vegetable oil that has a high heat tolerance. 


  • You can add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the Sfingi batter for extra flavor. 
  • If you’re after a citrus hit, why not add orange zest or lemon zest to the Sfingi batter.  
  • Instead of rolling the hot Italian ricotta donuts in just sugar, you could roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or dust with powdered sugar. 


For best results, a cooking thermometer helps to regulate the temperature of the hot oil and ensure the Sfingi are cooked perfectly.

But if you don’t have one, you can still make this recipe! You’ll find all the tips for success below.


As with most fried pastries, Sfingi are best served fresh. However, I find these Italian ricotta donuts are still very enjoyable the following day if stored in an airtight container. The sugar on the outside might melt, but you can always roll them into more!

Tips for Success

Overhead view of browned donut balls dusted with powdered sugar on a white paper covered board.

If this is your first time deep frying don’t panic! It’s all in the preparation. I recommend setting up your frying station before you begin. This includes filling your chosen pan with oil (not too full), preparing a plate lined with a paper towel for draining off any excess oil from the deep fried Sfingi and having your required utensils on the bench next to you. I like to alternate between a slotted spoon and forks.

I recommend using a thermometer to monitor the heat of the oil, but if you don’t have one don’t panic! Dip the end of a wooden spoon into the hot oil and press it against the base of the pot. If you see bubbles forming, your oil is ready to fry. 

Once you begin, only deep fry a few at a time so you can monitor them properly (or maybe find a frying companion to help you). If the oil becomes too hot, turn off the heat or carefully move the pan off the hot burner.


What is the difference between sfingi and zeppole?

Sfingi and zeppole are both traditional Italian fried donuts. However, there are a few differences between the two. Sfingi are Sicilian donuts that are often made from a dough of flour, sugar, eggs, and ricotta. Zeppole, on the other hand, are a Neapolitan donut that is made from a dough of flour, yeast, and water. Both are usually served on Saint Joseph’s Day (La Festa di San Giuseppe), Easter, Christmas, Carnevale or other festive celebrations.

What does Sfingi mean?

Sfingi is the name of a type of Italian Doughnut. However, it is believed that the Sicilian word, Sfingi, is Arabic in origin and means sponge. In Italian, it translates to sphincter which could relate to the circular shape of this delicious Italian ricotta donut. 

What are Italian donuts made of?

There are so many different types of Italian donuts and they are not all made the same. My recipe for Italian ricotta donuts uses a dough made from flour, baking powder, ricotta, eggs, milk and sugar. But have a look at my Frittelle recipe if you’re after a different kind of Italian donut. 

Serving Suggestions

Close up of Italian ricotta donuts with one cut in half.

Sfingi are first and foremost celebration food! So I love to serve them alongside other celebratory desserts like my Sourdough French Toast, Ricotta Pie or Pastiera Napoletana.

Fried sfingi dusted with powdered sugar scattered on a paper cover board.

Sfingi Recipe

Sfingi are a delicious fried dough treat dusted generously in sugar. These are made with ricotta and are absolutely amazing. 
5 from 88 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings:50 sfingi
Author: Marcellina


  • 2 large bowls
  • 1 large pot suitable for deep frying
  • 1 oil thermometer optional
  • assorted utensils



  • 2 cups (250 grams) plain all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (250 grams) fresh ricotta cheese well drained (See Note 1)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 mls)whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For frying

  • 3 cups sunflower or peanut oil for frying

To coat sfinge

  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar


  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot and attached a deep fry thermometer to the side. Heat the oil to 320ºF/160ºC.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In another large bowl, whisk the ricotta, eggs and superfine sugar until smooth.
  • Gradually whisk the milk into the ricotta mixture and then the vanilla.
  • Gently whisk the ricotta mixture into the flour until combined.
  • Prepare a tray lined with paper towels ready to drain the sfingi.
  • Once the oil is at the correct temperature, use two teaspoons to scoop and push the batter into the hot oil. Don't overcrowd the pan. Fry for about 4-5 minutes until the sfingi are well browned using two forks to turn.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the sfingi and drain on the paper towels. Allow to cool then dust with powdered sugar before serving.


  1. Make homemade ricotta cheese with my easy recipe.
Tips for Success
  • Prepare your frying station before you begin.
    • Fill the pan with oil. Not to full because you don’t want it to overflow.
    • Line a plate with a paper towel.
    • Have the required utensils on the ready. I like to alternate between a slotted spoon and forks.
  • A thermometer is great to monitor the heat of the oil, but if you don’t have one don’t panic! Dip the end of a wooden spoon into the hot oil and press it against the base of the pot. If you see bubbles forming, your oil is ready to fry.
  • Once you begin, only deep fry a few at a time so you can monitor them properly (or maybe find a frying companion to help you). If the oil becomes too hot, turn off the heat or carefully move the pan off the hot burner.
This recipe has been adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 76kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.001g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 32mg | Potassium: 37mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 39IU | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

This updated and improved recipe was first posted on April 11, 2013.

Food safety

  • Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
  • Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
  • Wash hands after touching raw meat
  • Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
  • Never leave cooking food unattended
  • Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
  • Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I just made these, and we loved them. The recipe was very clear and easy to follow. I’ve never had sfingi, but these came out wonderful…crispy on the outside and so delicate on the inside. I love that the ricotta raises the protein content while lowering the carb count.
    I left out the salt because I always leave out salt in desserts. I did add both lemon and orange zest (the zest from one lemon and one clementine). I served the Sfingi with a little dish with a teaspoon each of brown sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar, and cinnamon because we wanted to try all the options. Finally, I tried stuffing a little raspberry jam into each one & sprinkling with a bit of granulated sugar because I like the crunch. Next time I’m thinking of adding some finely chopped apple to try these as apple fritters. This is definitely a keeper!

  2. 5 stars
    Sfingi is a nostalgic dessert for my husband. We made this together and it came out wonderfully. It is so light and fluffy.

  3. Hello Marcellina,

    Love the sfingi, my mother used to make them exactly the same only instead of ricotta she used pumpkin, a little rosemary and sometimes chopped raisins, also delicious.


  4. This little ricotta treats sound and look delicious Marcelina…and love the sugar and cinnamon layer.
    Have a great weekend 🙂

  5. What a delightful treat! These look delicious and just beg to be tried. I hope your weekend is off to a great start. Have a good day. Blessings…Mary

  6. Dear Marcellina, These are a wonderful achievement. I remember my mother making these. She was wonderful.
    I compliment you, I have never tried to make these. They look like perfection.
    Thank you for your visit and taking the time to leave a kind comment. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  7. Marcellina, thanks for introducing me to this wonderful treat, it really did make my mouth water. In Brazil, there is something very similar but without the ricotta. I wonder how much better this one must be! thanks for sharing, love your post!