Nana’s Paczki (Polish Donuts) are as authentic as it gets! Tender, chewy, and filled with juicy jam, these traditional Fat Tuesday treats are absolutely worth the work you put into them!
How about we nom on some incredible homemade Polish donuts today, friends?
Pączki was one of the first Polish words I ever learned, since it was an annual event in our house when I was a kid.
My Nana spoke fluent Polish, but I never really picked up a ton of it. I suppose I was too young, yet I still remember a few useful phrases.
Paczki, of course. “Tak cię kocham” (A personalized I love you) and “daj mi buzi” (give me a kiss). Not that I’ve had a ton of opportunities to use those with anyone who also speaks it.
I also might have committed some of the curse words to memory.
Only because I like to have foreign language options when I get angry.
This page includes step by step instructions, as well as tips and notes. If you’d like to skip all that, feel free to scroll down to the full, printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Let me introduce you to my Nana’s paczki recipe.
You’re gonna fall hard for these fluffy things.
And I won’t blame you at all if you can’t stop yourself from eating them straight out of the fryer. I sure as hell did.
What Are Paczki?
Pączki are basically the best kind of donuts in the world. Originating in Poland way back in the Middle Ages (when they were savory!), they make their appearance right before Lent.
In Poland, they are eaten in observation of “Paczki Day” on Tłusty czwartek (“Fat Thursday”), the week before Ash Wednesday. Americans (especially those in the Midwest and Northeast) generally consume them on Fat Tuesday, the DAY prior.
Traditionally, this day is part of an effort to use up all of the sweets and fats in the house before Lenten fasting begins.
Paczki dough is fairly ordinary, except that it’s made especially rich using extra eggs, lots of butter, sugar, yeast and milk. They are deep fried, then filled with all sorts of jams, marmalades, and creme fillings.
After being filled, paczki are then glazed, or coated in some type of sugar.
How To Pronounce Paczki
Poochki? Punski? Punchki?
Polish is a fun language, with some very odd looking characters that can be challenging to pronounce.
Pączki is the term for multiple items, and is pronounced “poonch-key”. The singular term is pączek, pronounced “pont-chek”.
However you say it, though, don’t call it just a donut.
What’s The Difference Between Donuts and Paczki?
A pączek is way more than just a jelly donut.
The ingredients for paczki and donuts are mostly the same. Eggs, butter, milk, and some grain alcohol (which helps absorb the oil during frying) are transformed into a sweet yeasted dough that is kneaded, proved, cut into circles, proved again, then deep fried and filled.
Paczki also have a chewy texture that is unlike anything else in the world of donuts.
The most notable difference, which is hidden unless you do some calculating, is the calorie count. Donuts are not health food, but one paczek will usually set you back between 400-500 calories – double what most regular donuts contain.
(For the record, these guys come in at just under 300 cals, so make some sacrifices if you have to.)
What Do You Fill Paczki With?
Traditionally, paczki are filled with prune or rose hip jam, but really they can be filled with just about anything. Popular filling flavors include raspberry jam (like these here), custard, lemon curd, apple jelly, and even Nutella.
As far as the garnish on the outside, they are often coated with powdered or granulated sugar, or glazed.
How To Freeze Paczki
Paczki taste the absolute best warm, right out of the deep fryer. They can last at room temperature for a few days, but should ideally be eaten the day they’re made.
This recipe makes over 2 dozen paczki, so unless you’re feeding a crowd, you might want to freeze some!
When freezing paczki, do not coat or dust with powdered sugar. Place the paczki in a paper lunch bag, then place that in a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag. Freeze as needed.
To enjoy from the freezer, remove the amount you’d like to eat and thaw them in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Dust with powdered sugar or glaze if desired.
How To Make Paczki
- First, scald milk to between 110-115 degrees F. Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm milk, then mix in 2 cups of flour to the bowl until the mixture resembles wet pancake batter. Cover the bowl and rest for 30 minutes in a warm place until bubbly.
- Meanwhile, cream together butter and sugar 3-4 minutes. Add egg and egg yolks, vodka (or vanilla), and salt, beating until well combined.
- Next, add the remaining flour in 3-4 batches, alternating with the now risen milk-yeast mixture. When a shaggy dough begins to form, fit the mixer with a dough hook.
- Mix for 5+ minutes until a soft, smooth, sticky dough comes together. Add another ¼-½ cup of flour if the dough is too soft.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Dust the surface of the dough with flour, then punch it down to ½-inch high.
- Cut rounds using a 2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter (or drinking glass) and transfer them to baking sheets. Re-roll excess dough and cut as many as possible. Cover the sheets loosely allow to rise for 25-30 minutes, until again doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of oil in a Dutch oven to 350-360 degrees F. Carefully drop the dough rounds in, top side down, a few at a time. Fry 2-3 minutes until golden brown on one side, then flip them and cook another 1-2 minutes until golden. Remove them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and dry.
- Finally, glaze hot paczki or roll them in granulated sugar. You can also allow them to cool completely before filling and dusting with powdered sugar. Serve immediately and enjoy!
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Paczki (Polish Donuts)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 ½ teaspoons instant yeast 2 packages
- ½ cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour divided, plus more for dusting
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 large egg
- 4 large eggs yolks
- 2 teaspoons vodka or vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Neutral-flavored cooking oil for frying
- 2 cups raspberry preserves for filling
- 1 cup powdered sugar for dusting
- In a small saucepan, heat milk to between 110-115 degrees F. Pour the milk into a large bowl and add the yeast, stirring to help it dissolve. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 cups of flour to the bowl, mixing until combined and resembling a wet pancake batter.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place (or in an oven with a proofing feature) until the mixture has risen and is very bubbly.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and remaining sugar until fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add egg and egg yolks, vodka (or vanilla), and salt, beating until well combined.
- Still using the paddle attachment, add remaining flour in 3-4 batches, alternating with the milk-yeast mixture. When a shaggy dough begins to form, fit mixer with a dough hook. Mix for about 5 or more minutes (or knead for 8 minutes by hand) until a soft, smooth, sticky dough comes together. Add another ¼-½ cup of flour if the dough is too soft.
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
- Turn dough onto a generously floured surface. Dust the surface of the dough with flour, then punch it down until it is about ½-inch high. Use a 2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter (or drinking glass) to cut out rounds. Carefully transfer the rounds to parchment lined baking sheets. Re-roll excess dough and cut as many as possible.
- Cover the baking sheets loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 25-30 minutes, until again doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of oil in a Dutch oven to 350-360 degrees F, keeping an eye on it while frying (if the oil gets too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked).
- Carefully drop the dough rounds in, top side down, a few at a time. Fry 2-3 minutes until golden brown on one side, then flip them and cook another 1-2 minutes until golden. Using tongs, remove them from oil and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and dry. Test one to make sure it is completely cooked, and adjust your temperature and cook time accordingly.
- If coating in granulated sugar or glazing, do so while the paczki are still warm. For powdered sugar coating, roll them when they are cooled, or dust after filling. Place a straight piping tip in a pastry bag, then fill with raspberry jam (or your preferred filling). Cut ½-inch hole into the side of each paczki with a knife, then pipe 1-2 tablespoons of filling, avoiding overflow.