The Food Guy: Paczki – A Fat Tuesday Tradition in Chicago's Polish Community

From passionfruit to custard and chocolate, plenty of different paczki are offered at Delightful Pastries bakery in Jefferson Park

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Paczki, pronounced "punch-key," are deep-fried sweet treats - not to be confused with donuts.

And while a Jefferson Park bakery fries them up year-round, they're especially in high demand on Fat Tuesday, appropriately referred to by some as Paczki Day.

"Paczek means one, paczki means many," explained Dobra Bielinski, who runs the Delightful Pastries bakery along with her family.

Bielinski says the tradition of paczki stems from a medieval Polish king.

“Before Lent started, you had to use up all the fat in the house, all the sugar, eggs and things like that because people didn’t eat that during Lent," she told NBC 5's Food Guy Steve Dolinsky. "Everything got fried, everything got used up."

Typically, people eat paczki for the dough - not the filling, she said.

"Traditional Polish fillings have plum butter, and then we have briar rose which we make into rose petal jelly. Whatever fruit you had you made a jam; that’s what you filled it with," she said.

In recent years, due to competition and her own creativity, bakers like Bielinski have added many options including whipped cream and strawberry, passionfruit, custard and chocolate.

Many times paczki are dusted with powdered sugar, which is certainly not traditional. Bielinski says the days leading up to Fat Tuesday are like her own sort of Polish, fried, sweet Super Bowl.

The community will typically stop coming after Fat Tuesday because they’re fasting, but since Delightful Pastries continues to make paczki year-round, Dolinsky says you’re in luck if you happen to miss March 1.

Here's where you can go to get some paczki of your own:

Delightful Pastries

5927 W. Lawrence Ave.


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