Fat Tuesday is a traditional Christian celebration. On this day they gear up for lent which is a season of fasting for Christians around the world. They do this by eating a lot of fatty food. This is how the term ‘fat’ Tuesday arose.
The fat Tuesday ritual is seen in different parts of the world and it has its own different names and terms. For example the popular Mardi Gras festival is actually French for fat Tuesday. Carnival is another similar celebration that takes place prior to lent.
In Poland, we celebrate fat Thursday and not fat Tuesday. The celebrations are essentially centered around the start of lent. It is just that the Poles choose to celebrate it on a Thursday. That is why in this article we will be using the term fat Tuesday and fat Thursday interchangeably.
Why Fat THURSDAY not Tuesday?
Tłusty Czwartek or the Pączki Day is celebrated before the beginning of Lent. It’s the way of saying goodbye to the carnival by eating fatty food, usually donuts.
According to tradition, people are allowed to have fun and eat a lot during the carnival. They should be fasting and living an ascetic life for the 40 days of Lent until Easter Sunday.
When you look at this from a pragmatic perspective, it makes a lot of sense. Carnival is in the middle of the winter. It’s really cold in Europe, so people simply needed to eat caloric food to survive.
Lent begins right before spring when the temperature is not that low anymore. After months of eating unhealthy food, it’s good to fast and cleanse the body.
Pączki Day is pretty much the same in Christian communities all over the world, however, Poles celebrate this day on THURSDAY, not Tuesday.
I have been trying to find an answer to why people in Poland eat pączki 6 days before Ash Wednesday. In the beginning, it didn’t make sense to me. Celebrating one day before Lent is more understandable.
The more time I spent on reading about the history of Tłusty Czwartek, the more I realized that it makes perfect sense to start celebrating on Thursday.
You see, Poles LOVE celebrations. Most Polish weddings still last for 2 days, in the past people could spend the entire week on a single wedding.
So, why limit yourself to celebrating Pączki Day for only 24 hours? It’s so much better to have an entire week of fun!
Thursday is the first day of the last week of the carnival. Even though it’s not clear why Poles start celebrating so early, for me (I was born and raised in Poland), the answer is simple- Poles just couldn’t resist the temptation to have fun for a little bit longer.
The other interpretation says that Tłusty Czwartek is a continuation of the tradition called Comber Krakowski.
Polish Fat Tuesday Recipes
1. Rogaliki Polish Rugelach Cookies
If you haven’t tried the Polish Rugelach cookies then you are really missing out. These crescent shaped delicacies are filled with a jam center. One truly can’t just call them a cookie. They are actually a cross between a sweet croissant and a cookie. This is because it has the dough like consistency of a cookie while simultaneously maintaining the flakey texture of a croissant.
Like most dough and yeast based recipes, the Polish rugelach cookies also take some time to prepare. They however can be prepped for in advance. You can then just place the formed rolls into the oven 30-35 minutes before you want to serve them.
The sweet jam center compliments the buttery flaky cookie base. This makes it one of the best Polish fat Tuesday food that you can make at home.
2. Racuchy Polish Apple Pancakes
Racuchy Polish apple pancakes are another favorite when it comes to Polish fat tuesday food. Interestingly enough, racuchy can be made with other fruits. Apples however are easily available, delicious and cheap. They are also very easy to use in this recipe.
If you haven’t tasted racuchy yet, know that it’s something of a cross between a pancake and a fritter. They are soft, light and easy to make. A big bonus is that they don’t use a lot of ingredients.
One of the reasons why people love to make racuchy for fat tuesday is because they can make a big batch of batter and then just rapidly fry the racuchy just before serving. They taste amazing when served hot and are popular among both adults and children.
3. Krepliki Serowe Silesian Donuts
Would you believe that donuts are one of the favorite fat Thursday food in Poland? I’m not kidding. The krepliki serowe silesian donuts are traditionally made between New Year’s eve and carnival.
The pipping hot donuts are great when the weather is cold. They are usually served with cream cheese. Krepliki serowe can be stuffed with jam too. You will find that the kids love these versions. You can use any kind of jam you have at hand when making krepliki serowe. Many adults also prefer these without the stuffing.
The great part about making the krepliki serowe silesian donuts for fat Thursday food is that you can make a variety without too much hassle. All you need to do is make the dough and keep a number of different types of stuffing at hand!
4. Pączki Kujawskie Kuyavian Potato Pumpkin Donuts
Potato pumpkin donuts are a twist from the regular American donuts that are available. The donuts are not made from flour. Instead they are made using boiled potato and pumpkin. The potato and pumpkin are mashed well and used as the dough.
The potato and pumpkin are a great healthy alternative to refined flour and they taste really really good. The potato pumpkin donuts have a different texture when they are made too.
Traditionally the recipe calls for a wild rose jam filling. That however isn’t always easily available. Instead of wild rose jam, you can use any jam that you have at hand. A berry jam pairs really well with the potato pumpkin donut base.
When served hot, the potato pumpkin donuts are usually inhaled on Fat Thursday. They are a local favorite especially with the children.
5. Kolacky Cookies
While kolacky cookies are really popular during Christmas, they make a really good fat Thursday food too. These cookies are really easy to make.
Cut out squares of dough and place a little bit of solid jam in the center. Pinch the edges of the dough to form the characteristic shape and put them in the oven. That’s it!
The best part about kolacky cookies is that you can use a number of different types of jam. That way when you place it on a platter to serve for fat Thursday, it looks really colorful and gives you a variety to choose from.
6. Bałabuchy Polish Deep Fried Buns
Balabuchy are very like donuts. These Polish deep fried buns actually originated from Ukraine. A big difference between the balabuchy and donuts is that unlike donuts they don’t have anything in the center.
Balabucky is made from a yeasty dough. This gives it that lovely springy texture once they are made. Normally they are sweet and are served with a bit of icing sugar on the top. Some people however prefer the savory version.
Balabucky is very easy to make and is considered one of the best fat Thursday food. You will probably find it in most of the Polish households, especially those closer to the Ukraine border.
7. Róże Karnawałowe Polish Carnival Rosettes
The Polish carnival rosettes are extremely popular fat Thursday food. In fact, they are a specialty of the season. They got the name rosette because they are shaped to look like a rose.
Intriguingly enough, the Polish carnival rosette recipe is designed to finish the lard, eggs and sugar that you have in your home. That way your kitchen is cleared out and ready for the Lenten season of fasting.
While the Polish carnival rosettes may look complicated to make, they are actually pretty easy to shape. I’ve explained the technique in detail in my Polish carnival rosette recipe. When people make this pastry for just adults, they sometimes add a bit of vodka in the dough too!
8. Rurki Z Kremem Polish Cream Horns
If you haven’t tried the Polish cream horns yet, then you are seriously missing out. Don’t be surprised if you catch a child sitting quietly in a corner trying to lick off the cream filled center! These little delicacies are loved by children and adults too.
Polish cream horns require a bit of work but they are really worth it. The conical cream horn has to be shaped over a roll shape. The cone is then filled with either a heavy cream filling or a custard. As you can imagine, it is a really rich dessert. This makes it perfect as a fat Tuesday food.
9. Chruściki Polish Angel Wing Cookies
There is nothing quite like Polish angel wing cookies for fat Tuesday food. Intriguingly enough, they have been part of the Polish fat Thursday menu since the medieval times. It should not surprise you though. Polish angel wing cookies are light, crispy and a perfect snack for the day. Plus they are really easy to make. All you have to do is roll the dough into the shapes and then fry them.
If you are looking for a healthier version of the Polish angel wing cookies, you can choose to bake them instead. These cookies are served with a generous dusting of sugar.
10. Pączki Traditional Polish Donuts
You’ve probably noticed that donuts are a popular food for fat Tuesday. Another great recipe on the same lines is the traditional Polish donut. These donuts require a long resting time but a short cooking time. That is why you really need to plan your schedule accordingly. They are, however, really worth the effort.
A perfect pączek is brown on both sides with a white ring in the center. They are stuffed with a variety of different fillings. Popular fillings that are used include jams, pudding, plum butter and Nutella. Many people even choose to cover these with a glaze before they are served.
11. Oponki Polish Cottage Cheese Donuts
If you love Polish donuts then you definitely have to try the Oponki or the Polish cottage cheese donuts. These donuts are made of dough that contains farmer’s cheese. While they do look a lot like the ring shaped American donuts, they taste very different.
Polish cottage cheese donuts are light, fluffy and have a mild tang to them that comes from the cottage cheese in the dough. These are usually served with icing sugar dusted on top. Some people even add lemon or orange zest to the dough to give the oponki a different flavor.
12. Rozetki Polish Rosette Cookies
Another very popular rosette shaped cookie that is served as fat Tuesday food is the rozetki. These popular cookies have a Scandinavian origin but versions of them are seen in many different cultures across the world.
The Polish rosette cookies are light and fluffy. The batter used is very similar to the naleśniki.It is however a little thicker in consistency. They are quick to make. All you need is the dough, the molds and hot oil. Once you get started, you will find that you make dozens of these Polish rosette cookies in no time.