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 Tastes & Traditions of Lisbon food tour, 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

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  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)

FAQs

What is the most famous Portuguese tart? ›

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.

What is the original Portuguese tart? ›

Pastéis de nata tarts are pastries inspired by an original recipe called Pastéis de Belém, which were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Hieronymites Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) in the civil parish of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, in Lisbon.

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

The Portuguese tarts rely more on egg yolks to impart richness, whereas a standard custard relies more heavily on milk or cream. Using that many egg yolks is what gives these little parcels their rich flavor and luscious texture.

What are the ingredients in Costco Portuguese tarts? ›

Ingredients. Water, wheat flour (gluten), sugar, butter (milk), egg (5%), skim milk powder, glucose-fructose syrup (from maize), corn starch, salt, lemon peel.

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 is a famous custard tart in Portugal? ›

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 best Portuguese tart in Portugal? ›

Portuguese Custard tarts are available worldwide but to really try the best in the world (and there's very little debate about it once you try one), you need to pay a visit to Lisbon. The most famous place to buy them is Pastéis de Belém on Rue de Belém.

Are custard tarts Portuguese or Chinese? ›

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 the oldest Portuguese tart in Lisbon? ›

The first-ever version of Pastel de Nata was baked over 200 years ago. The Pastéis de Belém have been in operation since 1837, and it is believed that the first-ever version of this dessert was baked over 200 years ago in the very same spot by nuns at the nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

Which country is famous for custard tarts? ›

Portugal & Macau

Outside Portugal, they are particularly popular in other parts of Western Europe, Asia and former Portuguese colonies, such as Brazil, Mozambique, Macau, Goa and East Timor.

How long does a Portuguese custard tart last? ›

Because the tarts are made from eggs, cream and milk, it's important to store any leftovers in the fridge, where they can be kept for up to three days. That said, these tarts are at their peak when they're served fresh, still warm from the oven.

What are the ingredients in La Vie Portuguese custard tarts? ›

Ingredients. WATER, WHEAT FLOUR, CANE SUGAR, BUTTER (CREAM [MILK], NATURAL FLAVORS), EGG YOLKS, SKIM MILK POWDER, GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE SYRUP, EGGS, CORNSTARCH, SALT, LEMON, CINNAMON STICKS. CONTAINS MILK, EGG, WHEAT. MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF SOY, ALMOND, COCONUT, WALNUT.

Can you buy frozen Portuguese tarts? ›

4 Frozen puff pastry cases with a custard filling. Our tarts are made in Portugal to an authentic recipe and have a crumbly pastry with a velvety custard filling. To be enjoyed warm, fresh from the oven. Ready to Bake Portuguese tarts with a velvety custard filling.

What is the most popular Portuguese pastry? ›

Pastel de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tart)

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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