The Only Portuguese Custard Tarts Recipe You'll Ever Need (2024)

Few pastries have won over as many hearts (and tastebuds) as Portuguese custard tarts.

Visitors line up outside popular bakeries for them. Locals have strong opinions about which places make the best.

The treats in question are Portuguese custard tarts, or pastéis de nata. What came about as a result of some 18th-century monks doing laundry (yes, really) has grown into one of the most iconic pastries in the world.

While eating a pastel (or multiple pastéis) de nata in Lisbon is understandably a bucket-list dream for so many people, there’s no need to wait until you’re able to travel to Portugal to try them. With this Portuguese custard tarts recipe, you can bring Lisbon’s most beloved pastry to life at home.

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The origin of a Portuguese favorite

Remember those laundry-washing monks we mentioned earlier? Let’s go back to them for a second.

Said monks lived at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, a seaside neighborhood west of central Lisbon. It was common for them to use egg whites to starch their clothes when washing them, but they soon realized that they had a lot of leftover yolks to deal with.

So the monks did what most people had been doing with egg yolks in Portugal for ages: used them in baked goods. Soon, the first pastéis de nata were born.

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In 1820, the Liberal Revolution in Portugal cut off funding to religious institutions. In order to raise money to keep the monastery afloat, the monks began selling their pastries, which before long became a hit.

However, it wasn’t enough, and the monastery ended up closing anyway. When closing up shop, the monks sold their Portuguese custard tarts recipe to the local sugar refinery and called it a day.

Knowing that they had a winner on their hands, the owners of the sugar refinery opened their own bakery just down the street from the old monastery. The bakery is still there today, and if you’ve visited Lisbon, you may have even been there: the original Pastéis de Belém.

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Where to eat Portuguese custard tarts in Lisbon

The original Portuguese custard tarts recipe at Pastéis de Belém has become so iconic that many people simply refer to the treats as pastéis de Belém. But it’s not the only place in Lisbon with tarts worth trying.

On our , we cap things off with a pastel de nata at Manteigaria in the Chiado neighborhood. Here, they’re always served warm, and it’s fascinating to be able to watch the bakers hard at work.

Another standout spot is Confeitaria Nacional, Lisbon’s oldest and most storied traditional pastry shop. Not only are the custard tarts themselves unbelievably good, but the place itself is visually stunning with a gorgeously preserved 19th-century interior.

READ MORE: The 4 Best Places to Try Custard Tarts in Lisbon

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Ready to try these beauties for yourself (and too impatient to wait until your next trip to Portugal)? Let’s make some pastéis de nata!

Portuguese custard tarts recipe

Makes 12 custard tarts


  • 280 grams (1 1/3 cup) white sugar
  • 80 milliliters (1/3 cup) water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon peel, cut into strips
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 355 milliliters (1 1/2 cups) whole milk
  • 43 grams (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • One 250 gram (8.5 oz) sheet pre-rolled puff pastry
  • Ground cinnamon and powdered sugar, for dusting on top (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 290 degrees Celsius (550 degrees Fahrenheit). Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Add the sugar, water, vanilla extract, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring until a thermometer reads 100 degrees Celsius (220 degrees Fahrenheit).
  3. In a separate pan, thoroughly whisk together the milk, flour and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. When the mixture is well combined and the milk has thickened, remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Once the milk mixture has cooled, whisk in the egg yolks. Remove the cinnamon stick from the sugar syrup and pour that into the milk mixture as well. Mix until well combined, then strain into a measuring jug.
  5. Cut the pastry sheet in half across the longer side. Stack the two pieces of dough on top of each other and roll tightly into a log from the short end. Cut the log into 12 evenly sized pieces.
  6. Place one piece of pastry dough into each of the 12 cups of the muffin tin. Dip your thumb into cold water, then press down into the center of the dough and press outwards to form a small well. Repeat for all 12 cups. The top edge of the dough should extend just barely past the top of the muffin tin.
  7. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way to the top with the custard filling.
  8. Bake until the custard starts to caramelize and blister and the pastry crust turns golden brown, about 10–12 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with powdered sugar and ground cinnamon sprinkled on top if desired.
The Only Portuguese Custard Tarts Recipe You'll Ever Need (2024)


What is the famous Portuguese tart called? ›

Pasteis de nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, with their signature flaky crust and sweet custard filling are world-famous, and incredibly delicious.

What is the difference between a custard tart and a Portuguese custard tart? ›

British tarts use the less flavoursome shortcrust pastry, which doesn't provide as much textural contrast with the smooth custard. They are also topped with nutmeg, which fails to bring the custard alive as Portugal's cinnamon does. Worse, they are now almost all mass-produced with palm oil-based pastry.

What is a famous Portugal custard? ›

The most popular sweet is Lisbon's pastel de nata, otherwise known as pastéis de nata or pastel de belém (or, as some foreigners simply call them: custard tarts in Lisbon). Indeed, pastéis de nata are custard tarts filled with sweet egg cream and covered in flaky pastry dough.

What is the difference between pastel de nata and pastel de belem? ›

But the simplest explanation is that pastéis de nata is the generic term, whereas pastéis de Belém has become popular due to the prestige of this particular pastry shop. Although the latter technically refers to the ones made here, it's often used to talk about Portuguese custard tarts in general.

What is the oldest Portuguese tart? ›

Originally discovered by Portuguese nuns at Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, the sweet treats soon became popular and spread across the world. Pastéis de Belém is the original place that started selling Portuguese egg tarts, dating back to 1837.

What is the most famous Portuguese tart in Lisbon? ›

A specialty all over Lisbon, pasteis de nata are the famous Portuguese egg tart pastries. They have a flaky crust with a custard filling and are best enjoyed topped with a dusting of powdered sugar & cinnamon!

What are the 3 types of custard? ›

There are three types of custard: baked, stirred, and frozen. Baked custards include bread pudding, flan, and cheesecake, and are prepared by baking in an oven or water bath. Boiled Custards include beverages like eggnog. Puddings, creme anglaise (krem on-GLAYZ), and pastry cream are some examples of stirred custards.

What is the famous Portuguese tart in Portugal? ›

No trip to Lisbon is complete without eating a pastéis de nata (or a few!). These Portuguese egg custard tarts are the perfect anytime-snack and really satisfy any sweet cravings you may have.

Do you eat Portuguese tarts hot or cold? ›

They can be enjoyed warm or cold. If you've made a batch but don't want to eat them all they will freeze well. Just place a few in a tupperware box and freeze for up to 3 months. You probably won't need to though as they will all disappear pretty sharpish!

What is the most famous dessert in Portugal? ›

Perhaps the most famous Portuguese dessert, Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belém is a custard tart pastry with a crisp, flaky crust and a creamy custard filling. This is a true icon when it comes to dishes to try in Portugal.

What drink is Portugal famous for? ›

Port wine is famous around the world, a treasure that comes from the Duoro Valley in northern Portugal. Most of the time, port is considered to be a dessert wine for its usually sweet taste and more viscous consistency.

What is Portugal's national breakfast? ›

A typical Portuguese breakfast, or "pequeno almoço", is quite simple and light compared to other Western countries. It usually often consists of a bread roll (papo-seco) or toast (tosta) with butter, jam, or cheese, and a strong coffee (bica) or milky coffee (galão).

Are egg tarts Chinese or Portuguese? ›

The egg tart (traditional Chinese: 蛋撻; simplified Chinese: 蛋挞; Cantonese Yale: daahn tāat; pinyin: dàntǎ) is a kind of custard tart found in Chinese cuisine, derived from the English custard tart and Portuguese pastel de nata. The dish consists of an outer pastry crust filled with egg custard.

What is a Portuguese egg tart called? ›

Pastel de nata (Portuguese: [pɐʃˈtɛl dɨ ˈnatɐ]; pl. : pastéis de nata; Portuguese: [pɐʃˈtɐjʒ ðɨ-])) or pastel de Belém is a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry, optionally dusted with cinnamon.

Why are pastries in Portugal yellow? ›

A lot of Portuguese sweets are egg yolk (and cholesterol) rich: pastéis de nata (Portuguese Tarts), leite-creme (lemony custard), pastéis de Santa Clara, ambrosia, fios de ovos (the "angel hair" seen in the link above), etc... The main reason is that many of these recipes were developed by nuns in convents.

What is the most famous Portuguese pastry? ›

Other than the most famous Portuguese egg custard pastry, Pastel de Nata, some popular pastries also include French-inspired Palmiers, Napoleões (Napoleans) and Croissants (albeit more brioche in style), as well as interestingly-named pastries like Pao de Deu (Bread of God), Jesuita (Jesuit) and Pata de Veado (Deer ...

What is the iconic Portuguese pastry? ›

Perhaps the most famous Portuguese dessert, Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belém is a custard tart pastry with a crisp, flaky crust and a creamy custard filling. This is a true icon when it comes to dishes to try in Portugal.

What is the best Portuguese tart in Portugal? ›

Pastéis de Belém

It's the most famous spot in Lisbon to eat pastéis de nata, and is an absolute must when you visit. Since 1837, locals and tourists alike have been lining up to snag a box of custard tarts to eat in the café or on the go.

What is the most popular Portuguese pastry? ›

Pastel de Nata are the most famous Portuguese dessert. They are deliciously irresistible. The combination of blistered, caramelized custard and flaky golden brown puff pastry is a match made in heaven.


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