The adventures of Polish Luther

If Polish Luther sees its shadow on Fat Tuesday that means six more weeks of Lent.

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Read Time: 6 minutes

A Luther burger is just a regular cheeseburger, EXCEPT you change out the common, everyday bun for a fried yeast doughnut that has been split in half. Seems perfectly normal and fine, right?

Often a Luther burger will have a couple of slices of bacon and sometimes there’s an egg on top of the patty to make the whole thing feel like more of a breakfast-focused menu item. No matter the toppings, this is an indulgent, high in calorie burger that combines sweet flavors with savory ones.

There has been a tiny bit of drama surrounding the invention of the Luther burger. According to this Eater.com article, ex-Food Network butter fan, Paula Deen might have tried to take credit for the invention of a burger with doughnuts as buns. But eventually one of her sons debunked that claim. At some point in the early 2000s, Paula Deen did have a “Lady’s Brunch Burger” available on at least one of her restaurant menus, but it seems to have been removed. She does still have The Lady’s Brunch Burger recipe on her website though. Her recipe doesn’t slice the doughnut, she just doubles up and uses two instead.

Mulligan’s, a pub in Decatur, Georgia, added a Luther burger to their menu in 2005. Soon after, on a January 2006 episode of an animated TV series called the Boondocks, the Luther burger got a nationwide mention (this is a Binging by Babish youtube link where he makes a Luther burger).

At some point, it has become accepted that the Luther burger was named after R&B singer/songwriter and producer, Luther Vandross. Even Snopes.com seems to confirm the burger was named for Vandross.

My homemade Luther burger

I’ve never seen a Luther burger on a menu at a restaurant that I’ve visited, but I did make one at home once. Below are two photos from that experience.

I was attempting to recreate Krispy Kreme’s mainstay doughnut.
The only regular Luther burger I’ve ever made or eaten.

Luther burgers are easy to make at home if you can find a good yeast-risen, glazed doughnut. Split that doughnut on the horizontal and put a cheeseburger in the middle. If it’s a glazed doughnut, you can make the eating process a little less messy by flipping the doughnut slices so that the cut sides are on the outside, which means your fingers won’t be right up against the sugary glazed exterior.

If you don’t care about your waistline or slowly hardening arteries, you can add some slices of bacon as well. Some versions apparently have a fried egg in there as well.

But what about the Polish Luther burger?

Here we go. Back on track.

The original Polish Luther

The original Polish Luther was invented on Fat Tuesday of 2014 (Tuesday, March 4th, 2014) by my friend (and co-worker at the time) Jenny Pfäfflin. Here’s JP’s Instagram post of the first Polish Luther the world had ever seen. Follow JP on twitter (link above) or instagram (below). She’s cool.

2014: the first-ever appearance of the Polish Luther.

Our office at that time always ordered a dozen or more paczki to be picked up on Fat Tuesday and JP decided to use one as the buns sandwiching a burger that she bought and brought back to the office from a diner down the street.

She sliced it up and shared it. Lunchtime that day was exciting, to say the least.

This is my photo of the original Polish Luther from 2014. It looks pretty much exactly like JP’s photo above.
And here’s a gif of several co-workers documenting JP making another Luther Burger a few years later.

After 2014, we continued the process of making a Polish Luther for at least three or four years. When the pandemic hit, I decided it was up to me, to make my own from scratch.

What the heck are paczki?

Pączki is pronounced like “pownch-key.”

Paczki are traditionally served prior to the start of lent. If you’re not familiar with Fat Tuesday, it’s the day before Lent officially starts and it is supposed to be the last day of indulging in fatty/rich foods before the traditional 40-day fasting prior to Easter. During the days leading up to lent, Polish Catholics would try to use up some of their more indulgent ingredients at the time like eggs, sugar and butter.

And it turns out that a batch of paczki contains all three of those ingredients.

Pączki is the plural and pączek is the singular. I don’t always do a good job respecting plural vs singular in my writing, but I am trying to be better about that.

pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar, yeast and sometimes milk”

wikipedia

I made my first ever batch of paczki in 2021, but I have been making my own yeast-risen doughnuts (think Krispy Kreme) for a few years prior to that.

Plum preserves and lemon curd are the fillings in these two.
Paczki prior to powdering with sugar or even filling with preserves. If you’re eating these soon after frying, you will want to dust with powdered sugar before the frying oil dries on the outside of the paczki.
Paczki typically have a lightly colored line around the middle since they float in the oil when they fry. So, some parts in the very middle don’t get fried as much.
Lemon curd is a fantastic doughnut filling. I made these yesterday.

A pro tip: if you are making more doughnuts than you can eat, they store better without powdered sugar or glaze on top. So, you should powder them as needed. Simply grab a doughnut, brush a tiny bit of neutral cooking oil on top and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.


Paczki recipe

My paczki recipe is a combination of a Krispy Kreme clone recipe that I have been making for a few years, but with added enrichment from milk and egg with the addition of liquor in the dough. I have compared it to a lot of other paczki recipes out there and it’s close to the ones that claim authenticity.

2 hours and 30 minutes
Paczki (Polish doughnuts)

Paczki are yeast-risen fried pastries from an enriched dough that are traditionally filled with fruit preserves or a cream filling. This recipe will set you on the right path to Fat Tuesday happiness!

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A big batch of plum preserves paczki.
The close paczek is filled with strawberry preserves and the one in the back is plum filled.

My versions of the Polish Luther

I’ve only made Polish Luther burgers from scratch four times. That’s one-time last year and three times this year in preparation for this blog post, but they’re simple enough to make. The only hard part is nailing the dough for paczki and even that isn’t that difficult unless you’ve never fried anything before.

If you want to buy your own paczki/jelly-filled doughnut and put a cheeseburger in it, then this whole process is even easier.

Here are two of the Polish Luther burgers that I’ve made:

Simple quarter-pound cheeseburger between a split strawberry preserve-filled paczek.
2021’s Luther burger was a double smashburger between plum preserve split paczek.

And here’s a super easy recipe for Polish Luther burgers that you can make yourself. The combination of a super savory burger and the sweet preserves is really a thing of beauty. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of mixing savory and sweet and this nails that combination. The paczki dough isn’t very sweet on its own, and you end up with pockets of preserves inside the doughnut. Some bites are sweeter than others, which gives the whole experience a bit of excitement.

Also, you’re eating a doughnut and at the same time eating a burger. What a time to be alive.

Polish Luther burger (Paczki burger) view printable page for this recipe

A decadent and indulgent burger perfect for Fat Tuesday. Slice a paczki and shove a big cheeseburger in there and you've made it!

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by Jenny Pfafflin

Ingredients:


Directions:

Slice your paczki and set aside.

Divide your ground beef and form it into 2 quarter pound patties.

Pre-heat a medium pan over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add your beef patties to the pan, they should be sizzling when you add them in. 

Cook for 5 minutes and then flip. 

Once you have flipped the burgers, cook for another 4 or 5 minutes. 

When there's less than 2 minutes left on the cook time, add your slices of cheese and cover the pan if you are able. If you do not have a cover that perfectly fits the pan, you can cover it with a sheet pan. Covering allows the cheese to melt. 

Once the burger is fully cooked and the cheese is melted, add your burgers to your paczki and serve.

Notes:

You can use jam/preserve filled doughnuts if you're unable to find paczki where you live.

Here are some other Polish Luther burgers I’ve made

Watch my twitter, instagram or facebook for tomorrow’s Polish Luther. It’s going to happen.

Grape jelly isn’t traditional, but it was in the fridge when I was working on a test batch. I added melted roasted garlic white cheddar and French’s fried onions for a fantastic Polish Luther burger experience.
Close up on Polish Luther’s fruit hole.
2022 is the year of 2 Polish Luther burgers

An extra recipe

Ground beef, melty cheese, pickles, doughnuts, powdered sugar – all good. Sometimes when making these blog posts I feel like Joey Tribbiani.

Over the weekend, I came up with an idea to cut out the middleman and fill a paczki with beef and cheese and then fry it. Then I made some and wrote the recipe yesterday. It’s basically just my paczki recipe from above but fried with ground beef and cheese inside. It’s delicious.

2 hours and 40 minutes
Cheeseburger filled paczki (doughnuts)

Do you like your savory flavors mixed with your sweet ones? This cheeseburger filled doughnut recipe is just the thing you should try!

Get Recipe

Make more Polish Luther burgers!

If you ran a marathon last week and have extra calories to burn, boy, do I have the sandwich idea for you. It’s a Polish Luther burger!

Make one so that I can justify writing all the words in this blog post.

Otherwise, check back next week when I’m most likely writing about chicken-based sandwiches, but as long-time subscribers know, this might or might not come to fruition. Maybe I should just make a salad.


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