20 Best Portuguese Sweets and Pastries

Portuguese people love pastries and bread! We love it so much that we made an art of it. You will find an opportunity to try Portuguese sweets and pastries everywhere. Even in small towns, there are several pastries and bakeries, where people eat breakfast and have an afternoon snack. It is in our culture to frequently go to a pastry shop, drink a coffee or a galão (coffee with milk) and eat something sweet.

Besides the abundance of bakeries and pastry shops, Portugal has a big variety of pastries and sweets. You can be easily overwhelmed with the variety and quantity of different cakes and sweets when you go to a bakery. To help you choose and understand we gathered a list of the 20 best Portuguese sweets and pastries. But, before we need to explain a few things about the history of the traditional Portuguese pastries.

History of Portuguese Pastries

The history of Portuguese pastry started mainly in convents by nuns in the 15th century. There are hundreds of these sweets and pastries which are usually made with egg yolks. They are often designated as “Doçaria Conventual”, which literally means sweets from convents.

In convents, there was an abundance of egg yolks because egg whites were used to starch the nun’s habits. To sweeten the pastries nuns initially used honey, but later on, after the Age of Discoveries, they started to use sugar from the sugar canes that came from colonies like Brazil and Madeira island.

Egg whites were also needed in the process of filtering Port Wine. Producing a constant surplus of egg yolk that is used in Portuguese sweets. With the passing of time and with the dissolution of all religious orders, recipes passed from mothers to daughters and granddaughters.

So, don’t be surprised by the abundance of egg yolks in the Portuguese pastries.

20 Best Traditional Portuguese pastries

Portuguese custard tarts (pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belem)

Pastel de Nata is Portugal’s staple pastry, the most well known and most popular in Portugal. This famous Portuguese dessert is simply delicious, if you haven’t already tried it yet, you simply must.

It is a crunchy tart made with a delicious egg cream that is roasted in the oven and topped with cinnamon and/or icing sugar. Portuguese eat pastel de nata for breakfast with an expresso or simply when they crave something sweet.

The origin of the Portuguese custard tart is in Belem, Lisbon in the nineteenth century. This pastry was invented in the Jerónimos Monastery by monks. With the dissolution of all religious orders in Portugal, the pastry started to be sold next to the monastery and later on in the Antiga Pastelaria de Belem.

Only the chefs of the original bakery knew the recipe of Pastel de Belem. So the recipe is a well-kept secret that only this bakery in Belem knows. Thus, a Pastel de Belem is only sold in Belem in the Pastel de Belem pastry, while the Pastel de Nata is sold all over Portugal. If you want to learn more about the differences between pastel de Nata and Pastel de Belem read this post.

The best Traditional Portuguese pastries
Portuguese breakfast pastel de Nata with an expresso

Where to eat the best Pastel de Nata

Pastel de Nata are sold all over the country, but you should try to choose a bakery that sells fresh pastry and bread to ensure the quality of the Pastel. Note that Pastel de Nata is best when it’s freshly made and preferably still hot.

In Lisbon, we advise trying Pastel de Nata in Pastelaria Santo António they have one of the best Pastel de Nata of the country. Pastelaria Alcoa and Manteigaria also offer great Pasteis de Nata. These pastries are located in downtown Lisbon or close to tourist attractions so they are easily accessible to anyone.

In Porto, you can find the best Pastel de Nata in Manteigaria, Nata Lisboa e Natas D’Ouro they have freshly made and delicious Pastel de Nata.

For Pastel de Belem, as we said before, it is only sold in the Pastel de Belem pastry in Belem, Lisbon, and they are definitely worth the visit.

Best Portuguese Sweets and Pastries
Pasteis de nata from Pastelaria Santo António

Pao de Ló – Sponge cake

Pão de ló or sponge cake is a fluffy humid cake made with eggs, flour and sugar. Portuguese simply love this cake but it is particularly traditional in Easter and Christmas. It can be eaten as dessert after lunch or with tea or coffee. Pão de ló cake dates back to the 1700s and it used to be known as Pan de Castella. When the Portuguese traveled to Japan they influenced Japanise cuisine and inspired them to create Kasutera the famous Japanese sponge cake.

There are several versions of this cake, nearly every city has a version of Pão de ló, but the most iconic and the one we think is the best is Pão de Ló of Ovar. Pão de Ló of Ovar is even more humid than the normal Pão de ló, and it is made with plenty of egg yolks, more specifically, 18 egg yolks, and 6 whole eggs. It is so humid that the interior of the cake is liquid, making it simply divine. The traditional Pão de ló of Ovar is cooked in a special cake pan (caçoila) lined with a special parchment paper (papel de almaço).

Where to eat

Ovar is a city in the center of Portugal near Aveiro and it is the best place to find Pão de ló. Besides Ovar, you can find Pão de ló de Ovar all over the country.

But there are other famous Pão de Lós like Pão-de-Ló of Alfeizerão, Pão-de-Ló of Margaride, Pão-de-Ló of Arouca, of Alfezerão, and Bolinhol. Yet, Pão-de-Ló of Ovar is clearly the most well known.

Portuguese Pastries
Traditional Pão de Ló from Ovar

Doce de Ovos – soft eggs

As we said before Portuguese pastry use abundantly egg yolks but this dessert consists only in egg yolks and sugar. This is due to Portugal’s history as we explained above.

Doce de Ovos is a sweet that consists of egg yolks and sugar. The dessert can be eaten with a spoon like a pudding in a typical miniature barrel, or like a candy enclosed in a very thin wafer with the format of shells and fishes. It is incredibly sweet and rich but very good. Some people may find it too eggy or too sweet… but not us!

Portuguese sweets
Ovos moles – sweets with the format of shells and fishes

Where to eat

The best place to eat Ovos Moles is in Aveiro in the center of Portugal. You will find them in every pastry of the city. They stay fresh for long periods of time, so you can buy them as souvenirs and If you buy the barrels they’ll also serve as a souvenir after eating them back at home.

What to eat in Portugal
Traditional miniature barrel with ovos moles

Travesseiros of Sintra

Travesseiros of Sintra is a fluffy and delicious pastry made with puff pastry covered with sugar and filled with an egg and almond cream. The name of the pastry means pillow in Portugues because of their format, they resemble one.

This pastry originally from Sintra, near Lisbon, more particularly a bakery called A Piriquita founded in 1862 that still exists today, but the complete recipe of the filling is still a secret. Portuguese love so much this pastry that they go on purpose to Sintra just to eat Travesseiros. But you have many more reasons to visit Sintra, don’t forget that Moors Castle, Quinta de Regaleira, and Pena Palace are all in this village.

Where to eat

As we said this pastry has to be eaten in Sintra, especially in the bakery A Piriquita.

Fidalgo

Fidalgo is a simple cake. It’s only made with layers of sweet eggs yolk – it is the pinnacle of conventual sweets. It is so good and rich. You will want to eat the entire cake, though the best option is only eating one slice.

Fidalgo is typical of the region of Alentejo, but it isn´t a well-known cake, plenty of Portuguese don’t even know about its existence. Neither is it easy to do or to buy, it requires plenty of technique and time. Though, it’s so freaking good that we just couldn’t leave it out.

Where to eat

In the region of Alentejo in its major cities like Elvas, Beja, Evora, but eve there, you may not find it easily as it’s only available in some restaurants. You can also find it in Summer fairs around the country,

Best Portuguese desserts
Traditional Alentejo cake- Fidalgo

Pastel de Tentugal

Pastel de Tentugal is a crispy pastry made with filo pastry and filled with egg cream. This pastry is also classified as Conventual Pastry as its origins are from the Convent of Our Lady of Carmo in Tentugal, Coimbra.

This is one of Portugal’s most delicious pastry as the soft sweet egg cream contrasts against the crunchy fine filo pastry.

Where to eat

Although you can find this pastry all over the country it is more typical in Coimbra, in the center of Portugal, where it was originated.

Top Portuguese sweets
Pastel of Tentugal from Coimbra

Pão de Deus

Pão de Deus means God’s bread and that tells us something about how good it is… This is a sweet bread covered with coconut, sweet egg yolks, and sugar. Portuguese simply love it for breakfast an espresso or coffee and milk. It can be eaten simple but sometimes with butter, ham or cheese. It is best eaten hot. Though, we need to note that the quality of a Pão de Deus varies a lot… when it’s good it’s amazing, but if it’s not on spot it’s only an average sweet.

Where to eat

The best place to eat Pão de Deus is in Lisbon, nearly all bakeries have them, but in Manteigaria they are especially good. In the rest of the country, it is possible to catch them in Bakeries, but many times they aren’t as good.

Desserts you must eat in Portugal
A delicious Pão de Deus in Lisbon

Bolo de Mel da Madeira

Bolo de Mel da Madeira (honey cake of Madeira) is like no other cake in Portugal. First of all, it doesn’t have a sweet egg cream and secondly, it uses spices that aren’t typical in Portuguese cuisine (besides cinnamon). It is a traditional cake of the Madeira Archipelago, so you won’t find it easily in the rest of Portugal.

The cake is made with Honey from the sugar cane (molasses), chopped nuts, almonds, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and Madeira Wine.

This is like a fruit cake which is typical during Christmas. It should be cooked on the 8th of December, on the day of Our Lady of Conception, marking the beginning of Christmas. Another tradition related to this cake is that you shouldn’t cut the cake with a knife but by hand.

Where to eat

You will probably only find this cake on the island of Madeira. It is traditional at Christmas, but you will find it all year around.

Best Portuguese Sweets and Pastries
Bolo de Mel of Madeira

Torta de Azeitão

Torta de Azeitão is a small swiss roll filled with egg cream. The small tarts are really good and fluffy with a delectable rich sauce which sometimes includes lemon and cinnamon.

They were originally produced in 1901, in Azeitão in a pastry called O Cego (“The Blind Man”), due to the owner being blind. Thankfully it is the owner’s wife that is the creator of the cake which maintains delicious along time.

Where to eat

They come from Azeitão, as the name suggests, that is a town in Setubal near Lisbon. But they are famous all over Portugal and can be found widely around the country in supermarkets and pastry shops.

Bola de Berlim – Berliner

Bola de Berlim (literally Berlim Ball) is a fried sweet dough filled with egg cream covered with sugar. This isn’t an original Portuguese sweet, it comes from Germany, particularly Berlim, that’s why we call it “Berlim Balls”.

In Germany, they are called Berliner, but are slightly smaller and filled with red fruit jam. The Berliner was introduced in Portugal during the 2º World War by Jew refugees. Of course, being Portuguese we decided to fill them with egg cream and make them bigger. After all, bigger is always better, right? and what cake isn’t better with an egg cream?

Although they aren’t originally ours, Portuguese adopted (and adapted) them! We simply love Bolas de Berlim, they are especially popular during the Summer on the beach. When sunbathing on the beach you will notice vendors screaming “booolaaa de Berlimmmm” selling them on the beach. The sun and the salty sea, make it even better, for some reason… Trust us, give it a try!

Where to eat

You are able to find Bola de Berlim in nearly all pastry shops in Portugal. Some people say that the best Bola de Berlim is sold in Viana do Castelo in a pastry named Natário, but it is debatable. Well, not if they are very good, but if they are THE best.

It is also particularly easy to find them on the beach, you just have to pay attention to a person screaming Bola de Berlim holding box on the beach.

sweet food that you must eat in Portugal
Bola de Berlin with Egg cream

Pastel de Feijão

Pastel de feijão is a pastry made with white bean paste. It may sound weird at first but it is very satisfying. The recipe was created by Joaquina Rodrigues from Torres Vedras in the 19th century. Everybody liked it so much that her family started selling them, even created a Factory.

This pastry is made with shortcrust filled with a paste made with cooked white beans, almond flour, egg yolks, and sugar. Don’t worry about the white beans you won’t feel the taste too much. You probably wouldn’t even guess it has beans if nobody told you.

Where to eat

Although they were created in Torres Vedras, in the South of Portugal, you are able to find this pastry all over Portugal. Every bakery in Portugal sells Pastel de Feijão.

But if you are planning to go to Torres Vedras, try Pastel de Feijão from the Fabrica da Coroa, the original factory that makes this wonderful delicacy.

Queijadas

Queijadas is a fluffy and delicious sweet made with fresh cheese, egg, milk, and sugar. This sweet dates back to the Middle ages and was used as a form of payment. One of the most famous Queijada is from Sintra, but Madeira, Açores, Évora, Oeiras, and Pereira also have well-known Queijadas. Anyway, you can’t go wrong with this fresh cheese with sugar and eggs sweet. It is simply a mouthful of flavor and texture.

Where to eat

You can eat Queijadas all over Portugal it is very easy to find them and they are simply a must. But the most famous Queijadas are from Sintra, Madeira, Açores, Évora, Oeiras, and Pereira.

20 Best Portuguese Sweets and Pastries
Simple traditional queijada

Brigadeiro

Although Portuguese eat plenty of Brigadeiros and you will find them frequently, this another sweet that isn’t typically Portuguese. It comes from Brazil, in particular Rio de Janeiro. This sweet was created during the election campaign of the candidate Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes. It was named Brigadeiro in his honor and offered during the campaign. Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes didn’t become president but his sweet clearly won the heart of the brazilians and then the portuguese.

Brazilians love it as do the Portuguese (probably more). It is made with condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter covered with chocolate chips. It doesn’t have eggs, but again it isn’t truly Portuguese! But it is good, very good!

Where to eat

Nearly every Portuguese bakery and pastry shop sells this Brazilian delicacy.

Best Portuguese Sweets and Pastries
Chocolate Brigadeiro

Patas de Veado

Patas de Veado means deer hooves in Portuguese due to the format of the sweet. The deer hoove consists of a sponge cake filled with sweet egg cream, rolled in the form of a swiss roll, and then sliced in the diagonal. Each slice is then covered with egg cream and coated with desiccated coconut and decorated with a line of cinnamon.

The date or the place of the creation of Patas de Veado is not clear, but it is one of Portugal’s staple sweets. It is a delicious cottony cake that tastes like sweet egg, coconut, and cinnamon.

Where to eat

Patas de Viado is not as common as other sweets in this list, but it can be found all around Portugal.

Pampilhos

Pampilho is a rectangular cake made with an uncooked and dense dough, filled with sweet egg yolks and cinnamon. The uncooked toasted dough gives a specific taste to the cake making it decadent.

The cake is originated in Santarém and it was created to homage the campino of Ribatejo. A campino is a cattle herder typically found in the vast Ribatejo meadowland. Campinos work on horseback, using a long pole called pampilho that they use for herding the region’s bulls. They also use characteristic clothing, green and red stocking cap with a tassel, white shirt with full sleeves, red vest, short dark trousers, and white stockings.

Where to eat

Pampilho was created and it is very typical in Santarem – one of the most famous bakeries that produce the cake is Bijou. But you are also able to find the cake in many other bakeries in Portugal, as it is wildly appreciated.

20 Best Portuguese Sweets
Pampilhos from Santarém on the left and Patas de Veado on the right

Bolo de Arroz

Bolo de Arroz is a classic of Portuguese Pastry. It is a fluffy mixture between a muffin and a cupcake made with rice flour. Because it uses rice flour it is called rice cake, but it doesn’t have anything to do with those crispy rice crackers. Due to the rice flour, it is humid and soft in the middle with a buttery flavor. On top of the rice cake, it is crispy and browned, and sprinkled with sugar.

Where to eat

You will find Bolo de Arroz in every pastry and bakery in Portugal. All Portuguese love them especially the kids. Only I know how many of those I ate at school without my parents knowing…

Best Portuguese Sweets and Pastries
Bolo de Arroz

Cavacas

Cavacas are dry sweet cakes made with flour, egg, brandy, olive oil, and sugar, and coated with an egg white and sugar paste. Although they are very dry, it’s good cake to eat with tea or coffee and milk.

The most well-known and characteristic Cavacas are from Coimbra, but there are other types of famous Cavacas. Yet. they are quite different between them. You have Cavacas of Margaride that look like cookies made with flour, eggs, and sugar covered with a paste of egg whites and sugar. And you also have Cavacas de Resende that are sponge cakes covered with a paste of egg whites and sugar.

Although the Cavacas of Coimbra are the most famous, don’t be surprised to find very different variations. The cake is usually associated with Easter, people used to offer them as gifts during that time.

Where to eat

These cakes are easily found in fairs and popular festivities, where they are sold in street stalls. But you are also able to find them in bakeries in Coimbra, or the other versions in Margaride, Felgueiras and Resende, Viseu.

Jesuitas

Jesuitas is a pastry that is named after the religious order of the Jesuits. Furthermore, the shape of the pastry resembles the habits worn by the Jesuit priests. The cake is made with buttery puff pastry layered with sweet egg cream and topped with crispy icing. It is crispy and soft at the same time, it’s delicious and full of texture.

Its origin is from a pastry in Santo Tirso (near Porto) called Moura, where a Spanish confectioner worked and brought this recipe from Bilbao. So you will also find a similar pastry in the North of Spain, but it is wildly known because of the Portuguese version.

Where to eat

The Jesuita is a specialty of Santo Tirso in particularly of the Moura pastry. You will easily find Jesuitas all over Portugal, but they are clearly better when they come Moura pastry shop. There are also some variations, with almonds on top or with slightly different fillings.

20 Best Portuguese Pastries
Jesuitas from the pastry Moura in Santo Tirso

Churros and Farturas

Churros are crispy sweets made with flour, eggs, water and butter that are deep-fried and covered with sugar and cinnamon. They can be eaten simply with sugar and cinnamon or dipped in chocolate.

They are an Iberian sweet, normally people associate them with Spain but they are extremely famous in Portugal. Actually, its origin is not clear, there are two stories involving the origin of churros. One is that the recipe was brought from China by the Portuguese during the age of discoveries. The churros were based on Chinese Youtiao. Although the format of the churros is a star and the Youtiao are pulled (and salty). Another version, states that churros we’re created by Spanish shepherds, that cooked them in the mountains and eat churros for breakfast.

You should know that in Portugal there’s a second kind of churros. The dough is the same but it has an inner cavity that is filled with chocolate, egg cream, or anything you want really. Portuguese normally eat them as street food during festivities and locals fairs.

Besides churros, Portuguese fairs have another traditional sweet, Farturas. They made with flour, baking powder, butter, and sugar. Farturas are best when eaten hot, with icing sugar and cinnamon on top. If you have them cold, they aren’t nearly as good.

Where to eat

Churros and farturas are frequently sold in food trucks during festivities and fairs around Portugal. You may find food trucks selling them outside these fairs, but it’s difficult to find them anywhere else.

Pastries you must eat in Portugal
Churros filled with with chocolate, egg cream or anything you want really

Portuguese Christmas sweets

There are other Portuguese sweets, cakes, and desserts in Portugal that usually are eaten during Christmas festivities. Some of these desserts are Rabanadas, Bolo Rei, Pão de ló, Aletria, and Rice pudding, discover more in Traditional Portuguese Desserts.

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