Irresistible Italian Donuts with Chocolate Hazelnut Filling

Can you picture golden-brown, airy pockets of dough delicately flavored with hints of vanilla and citrus and filled with a decadent hazelnut cream?

Have I triggered your appetite yet?

Well, these Italian doughnuts, also known as zeppole, are so rich and creamy that they will teleport you straight to the heart of Italy.

italian donuts piled up with milk

If you’re looking for more deep-fried dough recipes, be sure also to check out Homer Simpson Donuts, Banana Puff Puff, and this Fried Apple Rings, which are just as easy as they are pleasant to make.

What Are Italian Donuts?

Italian Donuts with hazelnut filling, also known as “Bomboloni alla Crema di Nocciola,” is a mouth-watering twist on the classic donut.

These delightful Italian desserts, dating back to ancient times, are often associated with festive occasions and religious celebrations.

They can come in various forms, but the classic rendition involves a light and airy dough that is either fried or baked to perfection.

Traditionally, they are dusted with powdered sugar, drizzled with honey, or filled with various sweet delights.

Italian Donuts with Hazelnut Filling clos up.

How Do Italian Donuts Differ From Traditional Donuts?

While the term “donut” might remind you of the classic American treat – round, sweet, and often glazed – Italian donuts present a huge difference to this familiar image.

Italian donuts are typically lighter and airier, with a dough that achieves a delicate balance between crispiness on the outside and a soft, pillowy interior.

The flavors often include hints of citrus zest, hazelnut, or vanilla, giving them a distinct taste that sets them apart from the sugary glazes of traditional donuts.

Because they focus on achieving a subtle sweetness and a variety of flavor profiles, Italian donuts make a unique and delightful experience for the palate.

Italian Donuts Differ From Traditional Donuts

Italian Donuts Ingredients – What You Need


  • Milk
  • Active yeast
  • Bread flour
  • White granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Vanilla extract
  • All-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • White sugar (rolling doughnuts in after frying)

Hazelnut Cream Filling

  • Hazelnut chocolate bars, finely chopped
  • Heavy cream
  • Unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • Hazelnut extract
italian donuts ingredients

Variations of This Italian Donuts Recipe

While the classic Italian donuts are a joy on their own, introducing a hazelnut filling takes them to new heights of indulgence. However, for those eager to explore, consider trying these variations:

  • Ricotta-Stuffed Italian Donuts: Elevate the dough with ricotta cheese for a creamy, rich filling.
  • Orange-Blossom Honey Glaze: Enhance the citrusy dough with an aromatic orange blossom honey glaze.
  • Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Drizzle: Add a contrasting sweet and salty dimension with dark chocolate drizzle and a hint of sea salt.
  • Amaretto-Infused Filling: Swap the hazelnut filling for a smooth amaretto cream, adding a refined taste.
italian donuts piled up with milk

How to Serve Your Italian Donuts

The art of serving Italian donuts lies in creating a delightful experience for those lucky enough to indulge. Here are some serving suggestions you can try out:

  • Dusting with Powdered Sugar: The classic approach involves dusting the freshly fried or baked Italian donuts with a generous amount of powdered sugar, which adds a touch of sweetness and enhances the visual appeal.
  • Drizzling with Honey: For an extra layer of sweetness and a hint of floral notes, drizzle the donuts with honey, which will add to your donuts’ flavor profile and create a glossy finish.
  • Pairing with Fresh Berries: Serve your Italian donuts alongside a selection of fresh berries, such as strawberries or raspberries. The natural sweetness and juiciness of the berries complement the richness of the hazelnut filling.
  • Hazelnut Crumble Topping: Take the hazelnut experience to the next level by sprinkling a hazelnut crumble on top, adding an amazing crunch and intensifying the nutty flavor.

As a bonus tip, think about displaying your Italian donuts on a decorative platter or individual serving plates to make them look more elegant and indulging.

italian donuts with sugar

Tips for Making Italian Donuts

  • Consistent Oil Temperature: Key to even cooking and achieving that beautiful golden-brown hue. Invest in a kitchen thermometer for perfect frying results.
  • Quality Ingredients: Essential for flavor and texture, especially for the hazelnut filling. The hazelnut spread’s quality dramatically influences the overall taste.
  • Seal the Filling Well: Ensure the dough is properly sealed around the hazelnut filling to avoid leaks during frying. A well-sealed donut keeps the delicious hazelnut surprise intact.
  • Enjoy When Warm: The magical contrast between warm, soft dough and creamy, slightly melted hazelnut filling is an experience to cherish. Best savored fresh and warm.
italian donuts fried

FAQs on Italian Donuts

What’s the best hazelnut spread for the filling?

The best hazelnut spread for the filling depends on your preference. While you’re using a homemade Hazelnut Cream Filling made with finely chopped hazelnut chocolate bars, heavy cream, unsalted butter, salt, and hazelnut extract for a unique and rich flavor, Nutella is also a popular and convenient choice for a simpler yet delicious alternative.

Can I make Italian donuts without frying them?

While traditional zeppoles are often fried, you can make a baked version for a slightly lighter alternative. Bake the donuts until golden brown.

Can I freeze Italian donuts?

While it’s best to enjoy Italian donuts fresh, you can freeze unfilled donuts and hazelnut filling separately. When ready to serve, thaw the donuts, fill them, and warm them in the oven for a few minutes.

What’s the secret to achieving a perfect airy texture in the donut dough?

You need to allow the dough to rise adequately to achieve an airy texture. Follow the rising times specified in the recipe, and ensure the dough has doubled in size before shaping and frying.

Italian Donuts with Hazelnut Filling
Italian Donuts close up.

Italian Donuts with Hazelnut Filling

Experience the irresistible combination of flavors in these Italian Donuts with Hazelnut Filling. Easy to make and delightfully delicious, each bite offers a heavenly blend of soft, pillowy dough and rich, creamy hazelnut filling. The perfect harmony of sweet and nutty tastes makes these donuts an absolute treat for any palate.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Resting 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 37 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine International
Servings 12
Calories 399 kcal



  • ½ cup milk, warmed and divided
  • 2 ¼ tsp active yeast
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • ¼ cup white sugar (rolling doughnuts in after frying)

Hazelnut Cream Filling

  • 16 ounces hazelnut chocolate bars, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp hazelnut extract


  • In a small bowl, mix warm milk with yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes to activate.
  • In a stand mixer bowl, combine bread flour, sugar, and salt.
  • To the dry mixture, add eggs, activated yeast, butter, and vanilla extract. Start kneading with the hook attachment on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes, scraping down the sides if needed. Halfway through, add all-purpose flour.
  • Once the dough is combined and slightly tacky, knead it briefly by hand, then place it in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it proof for 2 hours until it triples in size.
  • Heat heavy cream until steaming. Mix with chopped chocolate bars, let sit, then stir until smooth. Add hazelnut extract, butter, and salt, continuing to whisk. Let this mixture cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for 1.5 hours.
  • After proofing, roll the dough on a floured surface and use a cookie cutter to cut out donuts, placing each on parchment paper.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan. Test the oil temperature with a small piece of dough. Fry the donuts in batches until golden brown on each side, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  • While still warm, coat each donut in sugar.
  • Once cooled, fill each donut with the chilled hazelnut cream using a piping bag.
  • Enjoy your freshly made Italian Donuts with Hazelnut Filling!


Calories: 399kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 8gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 20gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 164mgPotassium: 261mgFiber: 3gSugar: 28gVitamin A: 741IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 86mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    These donuts were deliciously rich and decadent…and also much easier to make than I would have guessed….I’ll be making these again for my next dinner party.

  2. YES please….I would love one right now with my coffee. What a great treat. I know the whole family would love these for sure.

  3. 5 stars
    I love donuts, they’re so soft and delicious. I eat them with apple filling regularly, but never had them with hazelnut chocolate. Definitely going to put them on my bucket list.

  4. Italian donuts looks delicious I need to try this with sourdough.

  5. 5 stars
    These hazelnut doughnuts turned out perfectly and were eaten in the blink of an eye. Delicious! Thank you!

  6. 5 stars
    I admit I started drooling by just looking at the picture and reading the title. And the finished donuts did not disappoint! Amazing treat for a Sunday and so much better than store bought. I might try making them with sourdough next time.