Rows of Portuguese Custard Tarts on a wire rack. – Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pastel de Nata)

Rows of Portuguese Custard Tarts on a wire rack.

Hi Bold Bakers!

After one bite of a Portuguese custard tart, you know you’re in trouble! Who can pass up an irresistible, creamy custard is surrounded by a crispy pastry? The flavor and the textures are simply super yummy, and there’s no other way for me to explain it. There’s no mystery why these tarts are popular all around the world.

This Portuguese custard tart, or pastel de nata, recipe is filled to the brim with that addicting thick egg custard, and I love how rustic the tarts look. You can even make this recipe even better by using store-bought puff pastry—it works just as well as homemade

I love making these for a crowd. Everyone gets the perfect serving size, and I haven’t met a single person who they didn’t blow away! Plus, this is my latest in my recent Bold Baking Worldwide series, where I bring you recipes and flavors from around the world. Check out some of my latest worldwide recipes: Maamoul, Bananas Foster, Irish Apple Amber.

Top-down view of my Portuguese Custard Tarts recipe, after baking.

What Are Portuguese Custard Tarts?

Portugues custard tarts, also known as pastel de nata, are a super popular dessert that (can you guess it?) originated in Portugal. These wonderful tarts were first created way back before the 18th century by Catholic monks.

Back then, it wasn’t unusual to use egg whites to starch friars and nuns’ habits, which left the question: what do you do with all those leftover egg yolks?! Of course, make cake and pastries. The monks at the Hieronymites Monastery started to sell their pastel de nata at a nearby sugar refinery. In 1834, when the monastery closed, they sold the recipe to the refinery. The owner opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837, and it is run by the descendants! The recipe is kept hidden in a secret room, and only a few know it.

And here it is! 

Just kidding, this is my own take on the delicious dessert.

But they’re not just popular in Portugal. These desserts have traveled. They’re loved in other parts of Europe, Asia, and Brazil. Portuguese traders heavily influenced Japanese cuisine, and pastel de nata has become a super popular dessert there! KFC (yes, the chicken chain restaurant) even sells Portuguese custard tarts in China and Taiwan!

What You Need To Make Portuguese Custard Tarts

How To Make Portuguese Custard Tarts

These beautiful, rustic egg custard tarts are so simple and so delicious! Here is how you make Portuguese custard tarts (and don’t forget to get the full recipe with measurements, on the page down below.):

  1. Preheat your oven to 500°F (250°C). (These bad boys need it HOT.)
  2. Add the sugar, water, and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and set it aside.
  3. In a separate saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and cream. Bring it to a simmer and then remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool down.
  4. In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, whole egg, vanilla extract, and cornflour. Whisk until it is fully combined with no lumps.
  5. Temper the egg mixture by introducing the hot milk to it, whisking as you go.
  6. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and place it over medium-low heat. Whisk it continually until the mixture thickens. This should take around 3-4 minutes. Remove it from heat once thickened.
  7. Whisk in the cooled cinnamon sugar syrup, discard the cinnamon stick, and set the custard aside.
  8. Lightly flour a work surface and cut puff pastry into 14 equal rounds using a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter. 
  9. Light grease a muffin tin and push each piece of puff pastry down and up into the sides of the muffin holes until it is evenly distributed.
  10. Pour the custard into each pastry, about three-quarters full.
  11. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

A close up of the interior of my Pastel de Nata recipe.

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips For Making Portuguese Custard Tarts

  • Make this recipe with my homemade puff pastry; make this recipe even easy by using store-bought puff pastry. 
  • Make the custard the day before and pop it in the fridge. Then, bake them off fresh the next day.
  • Don’t be shy with the vanilla extract! It gives your custard a lovely flavor. 
  • If you aren’t getting that delicious burnt top, don’t worry! Put the tarts under the broiler for a few seconds to get that iconic egg custard burnt top.
  • Use whole milk for this custard! More fat means more flavor!

How Do I Store Portuguese Custard Tarts?

Portuguese custard tarts are best eaten the day they are baked, but you can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

Make More Pies & Tarts!

And don’t forget to buy my Bigger Bolder Baking Cookbook!

Full (and printable) recipe below!

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