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Glazed pączki
Alternative nameskreple, ponchik
Place of originPoland
Region or state
Main ingredientsYeast-based dough, grain alcohol, confiture or other sweet filling, powdered sugar, icing, glaze, or bits of dried orange zest

Pączki (Polish: [ˈpɔnt͡ʂkʲi] ; sg.: pączek, Polish: [ˈpɔnt͡ʂɛk]; Kashubian: pùrcle; Old Polish and Silesian: kreple) are filled doughnuts found in Polish cuisine.


A pączek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened ball and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing, glaze, or bits of dried orange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally rectified spirit) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough.[1] Pączki are commonly thought of as fluffy but somewhat collapsed, with a bright stripe around them; these features are seen as evidence that the dough was fried in fresh oil.[2][3]

Although they look like German berliners (bismarcks in North America) or jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar, yeast, and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and can be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidła (stewed plum jam) and wild rose petal jam[1][4] are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple.[5]

Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz wrote that during the reign of Augustus III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.[citation needed]

Etymology, spelling, and pronunciation[edit]

The Polish word pączek [ˈpɔnt͡ʂɛk] (plural: pączki [ˈpɔnt͡ʂkʲi]) is a diminutive of the Polish word pąk [ˈpɔŋk] "bud".[6] The latter derives from Proto-Slavic *pǫkъ, which may have referred to anything that is round, bulging and about to burst (compare Proto-Slavic *pǫkti "to swell, burst"), possibly of ultimately onomatopoeic origin.[7][8] From Polish the word has been borrowed into several other Slavic languages, where the respective loanwords (ponchik,[a] ponchyk[b] or ponichka[c]) refer to a similar ball-shaped pastry.[9][10][11]

English speakers typically use the plural form of the Polish word in both singular and plural. They pronounce it as /ˈpʊnki, ˈpʊnʃ-, ˈpʌn-, ˈpɒn-/[d] and often write it as "paczki", i.e., without the ogonek (hook-shaped diacritic).[12][13][14][15] This should not be confused with the unrelated Polish word paczki [ˈpat͡ʂkʲi], which is the plural form of paczka [ˈpat͡ʂka], meaning "package" or "parcel".[16]

Pączki Day[edit]

Fat Thursday versus Fat Tuesday
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Poland Fat Thursday
(Tłusty Czwartek)
Friday Saturday
Sunday Monday United States Fat Tuesday
(Pączki Day)
Ash Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Carnival Lent

In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.[17] The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Christian fasting practices during the season of Lent.[citation needed]

In North America, particularly the large Polish communities of Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and other large cities across the Midwest and Northeast, Paczki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. The date of this observance merges with that of pre-Lenten traditions of other immigrants (e.g., Pancake Day, Mardi Gras) on Fat Tuesday. With its sizable Polish population, Chicago celebrates the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday.[18] Pączki are also often eaten on Casimir Pulaski Day. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, St. Louis, South Bend, Louisville, and Windsor, Pączki Day is celebrated on Fat Tuesday.[citation needed]

The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's Day.[citation needed] In Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade,[5] which has gained a devoted following. Throughout the Metro Detroit area, it is so widespread that many bakeries attract lines of customers for pączki on Pączki Day.[19] In suburban Cleveland, Eastern European bakery Rudy's Strudel hosts a large indoor and outdoor Paczki Day party in conjunction with neighboring record store, The Current Year. It is called "the Mardi Gras of the Midwest".[20]

In some areas, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

These pastries have become popular in the United States as a result of Polish immigrants and marketing by the bakery industry. Sold in bakeries mainly on both Fat Tuesday and Fat Thursday throughout Detroit and Chicago, they are particularly popular in areas where there is a large concentration of Polish immigrants: Milwaukee, Northcentral and Southeastern Wisconsin, Chicago, Northern Illinois, Northwest Indiana, Metro Detroit, Greater Grand Rapids, Mid Michigan, Greater Buffalo, New York, Greater Rochester, New York, Toledo, Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Northern and Central New Jersey, Central Connecticut, and Western Massachusetts.

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Russian: пончик.
  2. ^ Ukrainian: пончик, Belarusian: пончык.
  3. ^ Bulgarian: поничка.
  4. ^ Respelling: PUUNCH-kee, PUUNSH-, PUNCH-, PONCH-.


  1. ^ a b Strybel, Robert & Strybel, Maria (2005). Polish Heritage Cookery. Hippocrene. p. 270. ISBN 9780781811248.
  2. ^ Karolinas. "Skąd wziął się Tłusty Czwartek? Skąd wziął się Tłusty Czwartek?". Tipy.pl (in Polish). Grupa Interia.pl. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  3. ^ Anna Hudyka (2009-02-18). Magda Głowala-Habel (ed.). "Tłusty Czwartek". Interia360.pl (in Polish). Grupa Interia.pl. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  4. ^ "Pączki? Hard to say, culinary Lenten treat made by nuns". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Pazcki day- eat and celebrate". City of Hamtramck. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008.
  6. ^ Żmigrodzki, "pączek".
  7. ^ Bralczyk (2014), p. 127.
  8. ^ Derksen (2008), pp. 416–417.
  9. ^ Ushakov (1940), пончик.
  10. ^ Boldyrev (2003), p. 514.
  11. ^ Georgiev (1999), p. 517.
  12. ^ Dictionary.com, paczki.
  13. ^ American Heritage Dictionary, paczki.
  14. ^ Barber 2004, paczki.
  15. ^ Edge (2006), chapter 7.
  16. ^ Żmigrodzki, "paczka".
  17. ^ Barbara Ogrodowska (1996). Święta polskie: tradycja i obyczaj (in Polish). Alfa. p. 124. ISBN 9788370019488.
  18. ^ Lukach, Adam (23 February 2017). "Paczki day specials from 33 Chicago restaurants and bakeries". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 26 February 2017. Whether you celebrate Paczki day on Fat Thursday or Fat Tuesday, or both, area bakeries are ready with thousands of the filled treats.
  19. ^ "Fat Tuesday Can Be Paczki Pandemonium". Southfield, MI: WWJ-TV. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  20. ^ "Rudy's Strudel announces 2022 Paczki Day details". Cleveland, OH: Cleveland.com. Retrieved 27 February 2022.

General and cited sources[edit]

External links[edit]