Pączki Are the Stuffed Polish Doughnuts You Need to Know About

updated Feb 10, 2021
How To Make Pączki (Filled Polish Doughnuts)

Pączki or Polish large deep-fried doughnuts are traditionally filled with homemade plum marmalade or wild rose petal jam, and topped with a powdered sugar glaze and candied orange peel.

Makes21 doughnuts

Prep1 hour

Cook7 minutes to 8 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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someone is pulling apart a packzi to see the inside
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman: Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Pączki (filled doughnuts) are what Polish people indulge in on “Tłusty Czwartek” (Fat Thursday). The large, deep-fried pieces of enriched yeast dough are traditionally cooked in lard, filled with homemade plum marmalade or wild rose petal jam, and topped with a powdered sugar glaze and candied orange peel. Do I have your attention yet?

Tłusty Czwartek is the Polish equivalent of Fat Tuesday, except it’s celebrated on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, just before the beginning of Lent. But it doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or not — everyone in Poland, and many Polish people living abroad, too, celebrate Tłusty Czwartek. Because no matter your beliefs, we can all agree that stuffing yourself with doughnuts is a good thing.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman: Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

These days, you have to get up early if you want to buy pączki on Fat Thursday, as the queues outside bakeries start forming in the early hours. In my family home, we made pączki ourselves, a tradition that we continue to this day.

I can still remember my Nana standing in the kitchen, adding ingredients “by eye” (as a professional confectioner she can “weigh” everything by hand, a skill I truly envy), kneading the dough, and forming and then frying lots and lots of pączki — the smell in the air was truly unforgettable! And she always filled them with her plum marmalade.

Because my Nana can’t make them anymore, it’s my dad (her son) who makes them now, and myself, too. By continuing our family tradition while living abroad in Ireland, it makes me feel a little bit closer to my family and introduces our Polish culture to my daughters.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman: Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Making the Pączki Dough

You’ll start by whisking together the egg yolks with the flavorings: sugar, salt, vanilla, and alcohol (my Nana would always pour a shot of plain vodka into the dough; this recipe calls for dark liquor for flavor). Why the booze? My Nana said it ensures the doughnuts don’t turn out greasy — many Polish people put a small piece of peeled potato in the frying oil for this same reason. If you want to omit the alcohol, swap in water to keep the same ratio of liquid to flour.

When the mixture is pale and fluffy, whisk in warm milk, pour that mixture into the dry ingredients (flour and instant yeast), and begin to knead. You’ll add oil and butter at the end of the kneading process, once the gluten is already partially developed. (If you add the oil and butter at the beginning, the fat “sticks” to the flour, preventing proper gluten development). You’ll know the dough is ready when it forms a fairly smooth, firm ball, and the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

At this point, you’ll refrigerate the dough for about three hours or until doubled in size. Chilling the dough gives the butter a chance to firm up, which will make the dough easier to handle. The rest in the fridge also extends the proofing process, which deepens the flavor of the dough. You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but if you want to go that route you’ll need to reduce the amount of yeast by one third.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman: Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Frying, Filling, and Topping Pączki

When the dough is ready, you’ll divide it into small pieces, roll each one into a ball, flatten them, then let them rise again. This process gives the paczki their signature pillow-like shape (similar to a Boston cream doughnut). Then, working in batches of five to six pączki (they puff and expand a lot), gently place each one upside-down in the hot oil and fry until dark golden-brown, about 3 1/2 minutes per side.

As for filling and topping, you can keep it simple or go as over-the-top as you please. Every year on Fat Thursday, bakeries come up with new flavors and sometimes new shapes of pączki, but in my opinion there’s no need to change something that’s already pretty perfect. In my family, pączki are either enjoyed plain with just a dusting of powdered sugar, filled with jam using a piping bag, or simply cut in half and filled with jam, chocolate spread, or whipped cream. If you don’t have the traditional plum or wild rose petal jam, feel free to use whatever you like or have on hand. My kids’ favorite filling is strawberry jam.

After filling, you can top the doughnuts with a simple powdered sugar glaze and some chopped candied orange peel. Enjoy immediately, and don’t be shy: one of the more recent traditions of Fat Thursday is a competition between family members, friends, and even coworkers to see who can consume the most pączki in one day. And that’s a tradition I can get behind.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman: Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk
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Here's how to make pączki.

How To Make Pączki (Filled Polish Doughnuts)

Pączki or Polish large deep-fried doughnuts are traditionally filled with homemade plum marmalade or wild rose petal jam, and topped with a powdered sugar glaze and candied orange peel.

Prep time 1 hour

Cook time 7 minutes to 8 minutes

Makes 21 doughnuts

Nutritional Info


For the dough and filling:

  • 7 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 5

    large egg yolks

  • 2/3 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons

    water, dark rum, bourbon, whiskey, or brandy

  • 1 1/3 cups

    plus 1 tablespoon milk

  • 5 1/3 cups

    all-purpose flour (700 grams)

  • 4 teaspoons

    or 2 tablespoons rapid rise or instant yeast

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable or canola oil, plus more for greasing the bowl

  • 1 1/2 quarts

    vegetable oil, for deep frying

  • 1 1/2 cups

    jelly (if you plan to pipe the filling) or jam (about 12 ounces)

Topping options:

  • Glaze: 3 cups powdered sugar plus 1/3 cup hot water

  • Finely chopped candied orange peel

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  • Mixing bowls

  • Plastic wrap

  • Stand kitchen mixer with a dough hook (although the dough can be kneaded by hand too)

  • Whisk

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Scale

  • Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, for deep frying

  • Parchment paper

  • Paper towels or wire cooling rack

  • Deep-fry or candy thermometer

  • Chopstick, paring knife, or serrated knife

  • Piping bag and 1/4-inch round piping tip


  1. Soften the butter. Cut 7 tablespoons unsalted butter into 14 pieces and let sit on the counter at room temperature until softened.

  2. Mix the eggs and flavorings. Place 5 large egg yolks, 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons water or alcohol of choice in a medium bowl. Whisk until pale and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Add warm milk. Heat 1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk in the microwave (about 30 seconds) or on the stovetop until lukewarm. Add to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.

  4. Mix the dry ingredients. Place 5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (700 grams) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 2 tablespoons instant yeast if doing a same-day rise, or 4 teaspoons if doing an overnight rise, and whisk to combine.

  5. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Pour the egg mixture into the flour. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on to the lowest speed and mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated, the dough clears the sides of the bowl, and is smooth, tacky, and stiff when poked, about 6 minutes. Don’t be tempted to add any additional liquid, the mixer will be working hard!

  6. Mix in the oil. Mix in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, one tablespoon at a time, about 3 minutes.

  7. Mix in the butter. Keeping the mixer on the lowest speed, add the softened butter one to two pieces at a time, letting each piece fully mix in before adding the next, about 13 minutes total. Stop the mixer occasionally to push the dough off the hook. When ready, the dough should form a fairly smooth, firm, and not sticky ball, and the sides of the bowl should be clean.

  8. Let the dough rise in the refrigerator. Remove the dough from the bowl, lightly coat the bowl with vegetable oil, and place the dough back in. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until at least doubled in size, 2 1/2 to 3 hours (or overnight if using 4 teaspoons yeast). Meanwhile, prepare the parchment paper squares.

  9. Cut parchment paper squares. Cut 21 (4-inch) parchment paper squares.

  10. Divide the dough. Transfer the dough to a work surface (don’t knead or fold it anymore) and divide into 21 pieces (each about 65 grams).

  11. Form the dough balls. Working with one dough ball at a time, fold the sides in towards the center and pinch together. Place seam-side down on the work surface. Using the palm of your hand, roll and press it lightly against the surface to form a smooth, tight ball. Let rest uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes.

  12. Flatten and let rise again. Place a ball on a parchment square. Flatten with your palm into a 1/2-inch thick disc that’s about 3-inches wide. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until at least doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

  13. Heat the oil. About 15 minutes before the end of the rising time, heat 1 1/2 quarts vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot until 340ºF. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels or fit a wire rack over the baking sheet.

  14. Fry the pączki. Working in batches of 5 to 6 pączki (they will puff and expand a lot), gently place each one upside-down in the hot oil and peel off the parchment. Fry until dark golden brown and the center registers 193ºF, about 3 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat frying the remaining pączki, taking care to maintain an oil temperature of 340ºF.

  15. Filling option 1: With a piping bag. While still warm, take a chopstick or paring knife and poke it through the side about halfway into the pączki. Wriggle the chopstick or knife inside a bit to hollow out space for the filling. Fit a 1/4-inch round tip onto a piping bag, then fill the bag with 1 1/2 cups jelly. Pipe about 1 tablespoon jelly into each pączki through the hole in the side.

  16. Filling option 2: Like a sandwich. While still warm, halve each pączki horizontally with a serrated knife. Open them up, place 1 tablespoon jam or jelly on the bottom half of each one, then close with the top half.

  17. Top the pączki (optional). If desired, dust with powdered sugar before serving. Another option is to glaze the filled pączki (let them completely cool first): whisk 3 cups powdered sugar with 1/3 cup hot water in a medium bowl until smooth, then dip the top of each pączki into the glaze. Top with chopped candied orange peel if desired and let the glaze set, about 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. They will harden slightly, which doesn’t take away anything from their taste, but I doubt that they will last that long!

Filling options: Traditional jam flavours for filling are plum and wild rose petal, but feel free to use whatever you like or have at hand, my kids favorite filling is strawberry jam.