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What Are Paczki and Why You Need Them in Your Life

Filled with jelly and coated in sugar, paczki are a treat worth seeking out on Fat Tuesday.

Photo: Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker


When it comes to Fat Tuesday—or Mardi Gras if you prefer—I am here for it! Bingeing on sweets, pastries and all things good? Sign me up! Or just mix up a few of these Mardi Gras favorites. King cake, beignets and candies aside, Fat Tuesday, for me, isn’t complete for me without paczki (pronounced poonch-key).


Here’s the Skinny On This Fat Tuesday Tradition

If you live outside the Midwest (or other parts of the country with large Polish-American populations), paczki might be a new phenomenon to you—and you’re in for a real treat!

Paczki are traditional Fat Tuesday snacks that originated in Poland. Much like donuts, paczki are made from a sweet, spongy, yeasted dough, filled with jelly, fried and then rolled in sugar or dusted in powdered sugar. I know what you’re thinking: that’s just a jelly donut. Well, there’s one additional ingredient—an especially Polish one at that—that helps separate paczki from plain ol’ donuts: a touch of vodka! A little alcohol added to the dough helps prevent the donuts from soaking up too much oil from the fryer. Plus, this little bit of tipple keeps these donuts extra light and airy, which, if you’re like me, means you have room for more paczki!


Paczki Day Pandaemonium

Outside of Poland, you’re likely to only find these treats on Fat Tuesday and the few days prior, which is what contributes to an annual frenzy and long lines many a bakery—it’s also why many Midwesterners refer to Fat Tuesday as Paczki Day. Most folks are looking to get that last good sugar fix before Lenten fasting begins, however there is a bit of Polish superstition that might play into this as well! It’s been said that if you don’t indulge in paczki on Fat Tuesday, you could face bad luck for the rest of the year!

For a sweet lover like me, I don’t think that will be a problem. And if you’re worried about a bit of bad luck (or are just craving a good Fat Tuesday treat), you can mix up a batch of these five-star donuts, a close cousin to the paczki.

Try These Favorite Polish Recipes

Ice Cream Kolachkes

Slow-Cooked Sauerkraut Soup

Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Homemade Polish Pierogies

Grandma's Polish Cookies

Classic Cabbage Rolls

Kielbasa Cabbage Skillet

Polish Poppy Seed Loaves

Mushroom Barley Soup

Mom's Potato Pancakes

Grandma's Potato Dumplings

Cherry Cheese Blintzes

Roasted Cabbage & Onions

Slow Cooker Golombki

Old-Fashioned Fruit Compote

Cranberry Rugelach

Creamy Dilled Cucumber Salad

Hearty Hunter's Stew

Kielbasa Hot Potato Slaw

Cool as a Cucumber Soup

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a writer with a knack for baking and crafting. A lover of Midwestern cuisine, she embraces all things cheesy, beer-battered and made with heart.