When you hear about Portuguese pastries, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a pastel de nata (AKA Nata), one of those creamy custard tarts. And while these are indeed delicious treats, Portuguese patisserie has much more to offer your taste buds and each city has its own specialty. Here we will share with you a selection of the best pastries in Portugal from North to South.
Natas are typically associated to Lisbon even though they can also be considered the national pastry. This is likely because Lisbon is home to the famed Pastel de Belém, very similar but not the same as pastel de nata, which was created by monks in Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, an imposing monastery in Belém.
Not far from the capital in the quaint village of Sintra, you can taste the travesseiro – which means pillow. This is a pillow-shaped cake made from puff pastry and filled with egg and almond cream, and the best place to eat them is Piriquita, in the old town. Be sure to stop by when you visit the romantic 19th century palace Palácio da Pena. Oh, and the queijada de Sintra at Piriquita is great too!
With a shape similar to the delicacies from Sintra are pampilhos, a local pastry from Santarém, located in the heart of the horse and bullfighting region of Portugal, Ribajtejo. These cakes are long pieces of dough filled with egg and cinnamon cream, created to honor the Campinos, traditional cattle herders from Ribatejo who carry long poles called pampilhos.
But not all Portuguese pastries are egg based. Original from Torres Vedras in the Lisbon district, pastel de feijão is a unique sweet tart made from white beans and almonds with a lightly crunchy shell. The most iconic brand offering these convent-made treats is Casa Brasão, which has many selling points in in Lisbon and western Portugal, known for the thrilling surf hotspots Peniche and Nazaré.
The Portuguese islands of the Azores and Madeira are also home to delicious traditional pastries that use molasses as their main ingredient. Broa de mel, from Madeira, is a small brownish molasses cookie that despite having honey in its name (in Portuguese, mel) contains no honey. In turn, Queijadas D. Amélia from Azores, are molasses tarts dusted with confectioner sugar. Both these recipes are also done in a bigger cake format.
A very underrated pastry is brisa do lis, named after the river that crosses Leiria, in the Centro region. Like most of Portugal’s patisserie, these sweets were created by convent monks and use only three main ingredients: an egg yolk and sugar dome sitting on a ground almond base. The most famed version can be found at Café Colonial, in downtown. Eating a brisa do lis with the medieval Castle of Leiria as a backdrop definitely sounds like a good plan.
A few miles North, in Aveiro - also known as the Portuguese Venice due to the canals and typical moliceiro boats, you can find ovos moles (literally soft eggs). These are very sweet pastries also made of egg yolks and sugar. The filling is put inside thin rice paper shells shaped with marine motifs, such as fish and sea shells.
Last but not least, the South of Portugal also offers many regional pastries using typical products. Morgadinhos from the Algarve are sweet spheres made from almond, squash jelly and egg cream, covered in sugar glaze. They are offered in pastry shops all over the region, so be sure to try one after coming back from the beach.
As you can see, the vast majority of Portuguese pastries are egg and sugar based but there are a number of different recipes and variations to taste. So, grab a map and have a sweet tour of Portugal!