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March 9, 2023

Must Try: Pasteis de Nata Pastries in Lisbon, Portugal

One of our favorite culinary experiences in Lisbon, Portugal, is savoring a delicious pastel de nata, the city’s iconic pastry. These traditional Portuguese tarts have a thin, flaky crust filled with a rich egg custard that’s dusted with cinnamon.

Artisans of Leisure arranges for travelers to sample the best pasteis de nata (the plural of “pastel”) at historic bakeries and cafes throughout Portugal, including the specialty bakery in Lisbon where they originated—the famed Pasteis de Belem.

The monks in the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon’s historic Belem neighborhood devised the original recipe for the egg custard treat. When the monastery closed, the monks sold the secret recipe to the owners of Pasteis de Belem, which began making pasteis de nata in 1837.

Pasteis de Belem still makes pasteis de nata by hand using the original recipe, with the chefs creating the pastry and fillings in a secret room. According to locals, every pastry chef at the shop must sign a contract stating they will not disclose the recipe.

The tarts are cooked at very high temperatures, which caramelizes the top layer but makes the recipes challenging to replicate at home. For this reason, most locals buy their pasteis at neighborhood bakeries.

We take travelers on our private Lisbon tours to enjoy the famous pastries in the historic Pasteis de Belem cafe, which is adorned with traditional blue-and-white azulejo tiles. Locals typically accompany a warm pastel de nata with a bica (a smooth, strong espresso).

While Pasteis de Belem is the home of the original pastel de nata, other bakeries around the Lisbon region produce their own custard-y treats. Sintra, a charming historic town in the hills near Lisbon, has its own popular dessert that’s similar to the pastel de nata–the queijada de Sintra (Sintra cheesecake). Believed to have originated in the Middle Ages, queijadas de Sintra are made with sugar, cheese, flour, egg and cinnamon.

Contact an Artisans of Leisure specialist to begin planning a private tour of the Lisbon region that includes our favorite culinary experiences and insider cultural touring.

Destinations:  Europe, Portugal

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