If you are headed to Portugal, your trip won’t be complete without devouring a couple of Pasteis de Nata. The dangerously delicious little custard tarts are literally everywhere you go in Portugal, and locally they are eaten all day long.
The Portuguese cuisine offers a wide range of excellent food. With nearly 1,800 kilometres of coastline, fish is plenty of course. Portugal also produces some of the best cured meats and cheeses in the world. Just think of Porco Preto, the equivalent from world-famous Spanish Iberico ham.
Yet when asked about traditional Portuguese food, most people will be quick to name Pastel de Nata (pasteis de nata in Portuguese).
That’s no big surprise. When travelling to Portugal, you will quickly realize these little custard tarts will turn up literally everywhere. From your hotel’s breakfast buffet to cafés, restaurants, and pastry shops, pasteis de nata in Portugal are something like a national anthem.
Dangerously delicious with a high risk of addiction, Portugal owns their pasteis de nata the historic Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, just outside of Lisbon, where they were first made over 300 years ago. When the monastery closed in 1834, the original recipe was sold to Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The bakery opened its doors in 1937 and today is the most famous place in Portugal for pasteis de nata.
Today the café is crowded at any time of the day except maybe during the winter months when visitor numbers to Lisbon are more moderate (speaking of normal times, obviously).
Though it might be fun to head there and have one or two pasteis at their place of origin (nearly), if I am totally honest, the long lines with wait times of sometimes 30 minutes and more for a table are not really worth it. Any other café in Portugal will have pastais de nata on sale as well, and they will taste equally delicious.
That said, when visiting Lisbon, you should definitely include Belém to your itinerary. The place is home to several museums along with several notable national monuments including the famous Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and Belém Palace.
Whilst Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém claims to be the only place making the little custard tarts according to the still secret original recipe, you can make these little delicacies easily at home. They will be the hit at any diner party; or make them just for yourself.
Pasteis de Nata recipe
Makes 8 pieces
4 sheets (200 g) puff pastry
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons food starch
400 ml milk
120 g sugar
zest of one lemon, finely grated
powders sugar and ground cinnamon for garnishing
Cut 4 sheets of puff pastry in half, then roll out and line 8 wells of a greased muffin tin. Refrigerate until needed.
Preheat oven to 200°C.
In a saucepan, mix egg, egg yolk, food starch, sugar, and lemon zest. Slowly whisk in the milk very thoroughly.
Over medium heat, bring to a boil while stirring constantly until the mixture starts to thicken.
Take from the heat and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes to let out steam. Set aside to let cool for another 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent skin from forming.
Remove muffin tin from refrigerator, fill each well to the top with the custard.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden-brown and the top starts to blister and caramelize slightly.
Let cool slightly and dust with powder sugar and cinnamon.
Serve still slightly warm.
Let me know how you liked the tarts in the comments.