Dessert/ little desserts/ Polish Recipes

Pączki Recipe (Polish Doughnuts)

5 February 2022 | Last Updated: 11 May 2022 By Aleksandra

Pączki are a classic Polish dessert usually made on Fat Thursday but also eaten all year round. These deep-fried fluffy yeast doughnuts are filled with jam (or with other delicious fillings) and glazed with icing or dusted with powdered sugar. It’s hard to eat just one!

Paczki donuts on a white plate on a blue background.

What are pączki

Paczki are deep-fried yeast-based round pieces of dough that are filled with different types of fillings and glazed with icing or dusted with powdered sugar.

In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek, and yes Thursday not Tuesday!), the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent. It’s a moveable feast and usually falls between the 4th-28th of February. In 2022 it will be celebrated on the 24th of February. Fat Tuesday / Paczki Day in the US / Mardi Gras falls on the 1st of March in 2022.

The traditional reason for making paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, butter, eggs, and fruit in the house because their consumption was forbidden by the Catholic church during the season of Lent. Traditionally, Lent was 40 days of fasting, meaning one meal a day and full fasting on Friday. Any rich foods were not allowed. The tradition of eating paczki is known since the XVI century.

Pronunciation: you can hear here how to pronounce pączki. Pączki is already plural and singular is one pączek.

What is the difference between paczki and American donuts?

Besides the lack of the hole in the middle, the paczki dough is more rich, especially in egg yolks. Many Polish recipes call for many egg yolks (even 8 egg yolks for 500g of flour), you rarely see recipes that call for whole eggs only. What’s also unique about Polish paczki are their fillings and toppings.

Signs of great paczki: bright stripe around paczki (it means that the dough has properly risen), they must be light, airy, and delicate.

Paczki calories: yes, paczki are deep-fried and when you see all that oil in the pot you may think that paczki have an enormous amount of calories but when fried properly they don’t soak up lots of oil. The number of calories will depend on the filling and glaze but in this particular recipe (jelly-filled paczki), 1 paczek has 435 calories.

Types of paczki

The most popular type of paczki that you will see in every bakery/grocery store on Fat Thursday are paczki that are filled with wild rose jam, glazed with icing, and topped with chopped candied orange peel. They are called “pączki z różą”.

Other than that, there are SO MANY kinds of paczki filled with so many different types of fillings.

  • The most popular filling is jam filling (this is usually a thick jam or marmalade): wild rose jam, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, apricot jam, plum jam.
  • Other popular fillings: vanilla pudding, eggnog cream, dulche de leche cream (kajmak), nutella/chocolate pudding, apple pie filling.
  • Paczki with no filling are rarely seen, with the exception of tiny mini paczki. You also don’t really see paczki that are coated in granulated sugar.
  • Glaze for paczki: most popular is icing or dusting with powdered sugar. Chocolate glaze is also popular.
  • Paczki toppings: most popular is chopped candied orange peel. Other: chopped nuts or shredded coconut.
  • Variations on paczki dough: there is dough made with mashed potatoes or with beer!
  • MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PACZKI: are filled with vanilla pudding and glazed with chocolate ganache – there are no better paczki than these. When you think about it these are identical to boston cream donuts that are popular in the US but the paczki with vanilla cream and chocolate glaze that I have been eating all my childhood in Poland have always had a long oval shape (not sure why).

Other popular Polish desserts that are eaten on Fat Thursday:

  • faworki / chrusciki (chruściki) – the name of this dessert vary in different regions of Poland
  • oponki – cheese pączki – look exactly like American donuts so with a hole in the center, but the dough is made with Polish twaróg cheese (farmer’s cheese)
  • mini paczki (also often made with cheese), they are similar to donut holes but slightly bigger
  • French crullers – they are called in Poland ‘gniazdka‘ (means tiny nests) or Viennese donuts
Paczki on a white plate on a blue background.

Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make delicious Polish doughnuts:

  • In Poland, fresh yeast is most often used, they can be found in every grocery store. Yeast dough made with fresh yeast is rising faster but the yeast flavor is more pronounced. I used instant yeast for this recipe.
  • Paczki dough is known for the use of many egg yolks, I used only 3 and I think it’s enough but you can use more (or less) if you wish. The dough made with more egg yolks will need more time to rise.
  • Brandy/rum is optional – it adds flavor and helps the dough to not soak up fat (it’s not that important if you’re checking the temperature of the oil with a thermometer).
  • You can use a different kind of filling for this recipe: any kind of jam that you like, any cream that you like (eg pastry cream), vanilla or chocolate pudding, nutella.
  • Glaze: dust the paczki with powdered sugar or make icing: just stir powdered sugar with liquid (milk or water or water+lemon juice) until thick but pourable. For 1 cup of powdered sugar (120g) add about 1 teaspoon of water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • Oil for frying: use high-smoke point vegetable oil (suitable for frying in high temperatures) such as canola oil or refined coconut oil.
  • You may notice that there is only a small amount of sugar in the dough (resist the urge to add more!). More sugar in the paczki dough will cause that the dough will brown too quickly while frying which can cause that your paczek will have raw dough in the middle. Paczki are sweeten mainly with sweet filling and sweet glaze.
  • From leftover egg whites you can make Polish cookies kokosanki (coconut macaroons).

Regular readers may notice that this recipe is very similar to German donuts (Krapfen) – this is true, all types of donuts in the German-speaking countries, Poland, Ukraine (and other neighboring countries), are very similar. You can also use this Krapfen recipe to make paczki if you prefer it. What distinguishes Krapfen from paczki is just the filling (for Krapfen, apricot jam is more traditional while for paczki it’s rose or plum jam), and toppings (Krapfen are usually dusted with powdered sugar while paczki are most often glazed with icing).

How to measure flour

In the recipe card at the end of the post, I provided all possible measurements for paczki – by volume and by weight. I’m always using a kitchen scale to make paczki (and generally to develop the recipes on my website). If you’re weighing your ingredients on a scale your results will be very consistent and the same as mine. It’s really easier, quicker (you don’t have to clean all the measuring cups), and a kitchen scale is super cheap!

You can measure all the ingredients for this recipe using measuring cups but I would recommend weighing flour.

Measuring the flour with measuring cups is unfortunately very inaccurate. 1 US cup of flour can weigh from 120g-140g, depending on how you’re filling your cup (1 US cup is 240ml, a European cup is 250ml). 20g is a little over 2 tablespoons of flour, so when this recipe calls for 4 cups of flour, you could have added 8 tablespoons more flour which is 1/2 cup! This will result in dry and chewy paczki. Check the consistency of the dough – it should be soft and rather loose, it should not be dense.

If you’d like to measure flour with cups you need to:

  • Fluff the flour by stirring it in the bag/flour container with a spoon.
  • Spoon the flour and sprinkle it into your measuring cup.
  • Sweep off the excess flour with the back of a knife.

How to make paczki step by step

Yeast is being added to a milk mixture. Eggs and flour in a bowl.

STEP 1: Add butter into a medium saucepan and heat until melted. Add the cold milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to the pot, stir until combined, then take the pot off the heat. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl, make sure the temperature of the liquid is between 100-110°F (38-43°C) (pleasantly warm to your finger) then stir in the yeast (adding yeast into a warm liquid will make them rise faster). After about 1-2 minutes you should see the yeast is starting to ‘bloom’ (will be frothy/foamy). You can omit this step and simply combine all the ingredients together in a bowl when using fast-acting instant yeast.

STEP 2: Add lightly beaten egg, egg yolks, brandy/rum, salt, and flour into a large bowl.

Yeast mixture is being added to bowl. Roughly combined ingredients for paczki dough.

STEP 3: Add the yeast mixture.

STEP 4: Stir with a spoon until roughly combined.

Paczki dough in a metal bowl.

STEP 5: Continue kneading by hand or with a stand mixer using a dough hook attachment. Knead the dough until soft, elastic, and no more sticky. It will take 7 minutes on speed 2 in Kitchen Aid or about 15 minutes by hand. If kneading the dough by hand you can find the mixture too sticky, try not to add too much additional flour.

After 7 minutes of kneading with a mixer, you will see that the dough starts to clean off the sides of the bowl, it will be very soft and a little bit sticky. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl with a spatula and knead it by hand for a minute. After this time the dough should be smooth, soft and should no longer stick to your hands. If you have used a kitchen scale to measure out the flour you can trust the recipe and use the exact amount written in the ingredient list but if you’re using measuring cups you have to assess the texture of the dough and add more flour/liquid if necessary.

STEP 6: Form a smooth dough ball, put it back in the bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic foil.

Risen dough for paczki. Rolled out dough with cut out rounds.

STEP 7: Place the dough in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume (I’m putting it in a turned off oven with a light on).

STEP 8: Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured rolling mat/counter and roll it out to a thickness of 4/5 of an inch (2cm). Cut out rounds using a 2 3/4 to 3-inch biscuit cutter (I used a 2 3/4 which is 7cm). You can knead the leftover dough into a ball, roll it out, and again cut out rounds. You can also simply divide the dough into 80g-pieces, and roll each piece of dough into a ball.

Paczki dough ready to be fried on a piece of parchment paper.

STEP 9: Place pieces of dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, about 2-inches (5cm) apart.

STEP 10: Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Paczki are being fried in a pot.

STEP 11: Heat the oil in a large pot (preferably shallow and wide) until the temperature reaches 350°F (175°C). It’s best to use a candy thermometer which can be attached to a pot or a digital grill thermometer to check the temperature for the whole frying process. The amount of oil will depend on the size of the pot (I used 6 cups), you should have at least 1 1/2 inches (4cm) oil in your pot.

Fry paczki in batches (3-5 paczki, depending on the size of the pot). Gently lower the paczki into the oil, I like to slide them off of a lightly floured bench scraper.

STEP 12: It’s important to control the temperature of the oil – if it’s too hot, paczki will brown too quickly and will be raw in the middle, if it’s too low, they will soak up fat and be dense and greasy.

Paczki are being fried in a pot. Paczki are being filled with jam.

STEP 13: Fry paczki for about 1.5 – 2 minutes per side or until golden.

Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

STEP 14: When paczki are cold enough to handle, fill them with your filling of choice using a piping bag and a long piping tip.

If you’re planning to glaze them with icing it’s best to do that when they are still slightly warm but if you want to just dust them with powdered sugar, let them cool first.

Enjoy!

Storage

Paczki taste best right after they have been prepared, but they will also be good for the rest of the day. They are a little worse the next day but still good. I’m keeping them in the fridge. Bring them to room temperature before serving.

More Polish dessert recipes you may like

Overhead photo of paczki in a loaf pan on a blue background.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Pączki Recipe (Polish Doughnuts)

Pączki are a classic Polish dessert usually made on Fat Thursday but also eaten all year round. These deep-fried fluffy yeast doughnuts are filled with jam (or with other delicious fillings) and glazed with icing or dusted with powdered sugar. It’s hard to eat just one!
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Polish doughnuts paczki on a white plate.
Print Recipe

RATE THE RECIPE

(click on the stars)

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings 14 paczki
Calories 435kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the doughnuts:

  • 6 tablespoons butter (85g)
  • 1 cup milk (240g)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (50g)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon instant yeast (11g)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon brandy or rum optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/4 cups flour (530g) spooned and leveled not scooped

additionally:

  • 4-6 cups frying oil
  • 2 cups thick jam or other filling of your choice
  • powdered sugar for dusting paczki, or make icing

Instructions

  • Make the dough: Add butter into a medium saucepan and heat until melted. Add the cold milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to the pot, stir until combined, then take the pot off the heat. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl, make sure the temperature of the liquid is between 100-110°F (38-43°C) (pleasantly warm to your finger) then stir in the yeast (adding yeast into a warm liquid will make them rise faster). After about 1-2 minutes you should see the yeast is starting to 'bloom' (will be frothy/foamy). You can omit this step and simply combine all the ingredients together in a bowl when using fast-acting instant yeast.
  • Add lightly beaten egg, egg yolks, brandy/rum, salt, and flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture.
  • Stir with a spoon until roughly combined then start kneading by hand or with a stand mixer using a dough hook attachment. Knead the dough until soft, elastic, and no more sticky. It will take 7 minutes on speed 2 in Kitchen Aid or about 15 minutes by hand. If kneading the dough by hand you can find the mixture too sticky, try not to add too much additional flour.
  • After 7 minutes of kneading with a mixer, you will see that the dough starts to clean off the sides of the bowl, it will be very soft and a little bit sticky. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl with a spatula and knead it by hand for a minute. After this time the dough should be smooth, soft and should no longer stick to your hands. If you have used a kitchen scale to measure out the flour you can trust the recipe and use the exact amount written in the ingredient list but if you’re using measuring cups you have to assess the texture of the dough and add more flour/liquid if necessary.
  • First rise: Form a smooth dough ball, put it back in the bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic foil, and place in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume (I'm putting it in a turned off oven with a light on).
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured rolling mat/counter and roll it out to a thickness of 4/5 of an inch (2cm). Cut out rounds using a 2 3/4 to 3-inch biscuit cutter (I used a 2 3/4 which is 7cm). You can knead the leftover dough into a ball, roll it out, and again cut out rounds. You can also simply divide the dough into 80g-pieces, and roll each piece of dough into a ball.
  • Second rise: Place pieces of dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, about 2-inches (5cm) apart. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  • Fry paczki: Heat the oil in a large pot (preferably shallow and wide) until the temperature reaches 350°F (175°C). It's best to use a candy thermometer which can be attached to a pot or a digital grill thermometer to check the temperature for the whole frying process. The amount of oil will depend on the size of the pot (I used 6 cups), you should have at least 1 1/2 inches (4cm) oil in your pot.
  • Fry paczki in batches (3-5 paczki, depending on the size of the pot). Gently lower the paczki into the oil, I like to pick them up and slide them off of a lightly floured bench scraper.
  • It’s important to control the temperature of the oil – if it’s too hot, paczki will brown too quickly and will be raw in the middle, if it’s too low, they will soak up fat and be dense and greasy. Fry paczki for about 1.5 – 2 minutes per side or until golden.
  • Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
  • When paczki are cold enough to handle, fill them with your filling of choice using a piping bag and a long piping tip.
  • If you’re planning to glaze them with icing it’s best to do that when they are still slightly warm but if you want to just dust them with powdered sugar, let them cool first.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • You can use a different kind of filling for this recipe: any kind of jam that you like, any cream that you like (eg pastry cream), vanilla or chocolate pudding, nutella. My favorite filling for paczki is vanilla pudding.
  • Glaze: dust the paczki with powdered sugar or make icing: just stir powdered sugar with liquid (milk or water or water+lemon juice) until thick but pourable. For 1 cup of powdered sugar (120g) add about 1 teaspoon of water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • How to measure flour: I’m using the “spoon and level method” so 1 cup of flour in my recipes weighs 125g. Fluff the flour by stirring it in the bag/flour container with a spoon. Spoon the flour and sprinkle it into your measuring cup. Sweep off the excess flour with the back of a knife. Use a digital scale for measuring flour for perfect and consistent results!
  • Calories = 1 pączek (1/14 of the recipe). This is only an estimate!
Course Dessert
Cuisine polish
Diet Vegetarian
Tried this Recipe? Rate the Recipe and tell us what you think in the Comments!

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Ken Czubaj
    6 February 2022 at 15:23

    5 stars
    Recipe looks great but my wife can’t eat deep fried foods, can these be baked in an oven and at what temperature & time. Publix in Madeira Beach Fl bake all their donuts.
    Thank you

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      6 February 2022 at 15:32

      These can sure be baked, at 350F for (I estimate) 15-20 minutes, but I’m not sure if it’s a good recipe for baking – for baked paczki I would increase the amount of butter. Paczki baked from this recipe would be a little bit too dry. Sorry, I can’t be more helpful, I haven’t tried baking paczki yet.

  • Reply
    Gail
    6 February 2022 at 06:04

    Hi, I grew up with a prune filling and my grandma did use granulated sugar for topping. I definitely miss them!

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      6 February 2022 at 08:31

      I’m sure your grandmother’s paczki were delicious, thank you for sharing!

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