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


  • 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 original Portuguese tart? ›

Initially produced in Belem, Lisbon, the origin of the pastel de nata is sacred and spiritual, known as the pastel de Belem. This delicacy was created before the 18th century by Catholic monks in the Jeronimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.

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 Portuguese custard tart? ›

Pastel de nata
The typical appearance of the pastel de nata in Lisbon, Portugal
Alternative namesPastel de Belém Pastries of Bethlehem 葡撻 (Cantonese)
Place of originPortugal
Region or stateBelém, Lisbon (originally); produced worldwide within the Lusosphere
Created byReligious of the Monastery of the Hieronymites
6 more rows

What is the most famous Portuguese egg tart in Lisbon? ›

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 shelf life of Portuguese tarts? ›

Portuguese Tart
  • Dimensions: 75mm x 35mm.
  • Serving Size: 80g.
  • Store at: Store in a cool, dry area.
  • Shelf Life: 3 days.
  • Download printable document.

Are custard tarts Portuguese or Chinese? ›

No. It's not technically a Chinese native, however. Custard egg tarts have been a British confectionary since the medieval times andPortuguese pasteis de nata have been around since the 18th century, first made by Catholic monks in Belém,Portugal. How does pastel de nata differ from the Portuguese-style egg tart (葡撻)?

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.

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.

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 do you drink with Portuguese tarts? ›

Pair with: Cream

Looking to neighbouring Portugal from Spains's sherry triangle provides a perfect pairing, CREAM or MEDIUM OLOROSO sherry with a gorgeous creamy eggy custard tart is the business!

What is the most popular 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.

Does Costco sell Portuguese tarts? ›

Allie & Sara's Kitchen Portuguese Custard Tarts, 12 x 60 g | Costco.

What is a Portuguese tart called in Portugal? ›

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 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.

Is an egg tart the same as a Portuguese tart? ›

The main visual difference between the two tarts are the color of their fillings and the structure of their crusts. The filling of Portuguese egg tarts is partially caramelized and has puffed up, blackened areas, while the fillings of Hong Kong egg tarts are smooth and evenly yellow.

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 most famous 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.

What is the most popular tart in Lisbon? ›

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).

Who invented Portuguese tarts? ›

They have religious roots

Pastel de nata were invented in the 18th century, by monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Santa Maria de Belem.

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