Pastel de Nata

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

pastel de nata (pl. pasteís de nata), perhaps the most ubiquitous of all Portuguese sweets, is an egg custard tart. The pastel de nata can be found in every pastry shop in continental Portugal as well as on Madeira and the Azores Islands, where the tarts are commonly referred to as queijadas de nata.

The pastel de nata originated sometime prior to the seventeenth century in the Santa Maria de Belém quarter of Lisbon. Pastry production provided religious orders with supplemental income, and the monks of the Monastery of the Hieronymites first created these tarts to help offset monastery expenses. The tarts were made from yolks left over from eggs whose whites were used to starch clothing and purify wines. See egg yolk sweets. Following the Liberal Revolution of 1820, Portuguese religious orders were closed; as a means of survival, the Hieronymite monks contracted with a nearby bakery to produce and sell their tarts. These particular pastries became known as Pasteís de Belém, and the monks’ original recipe was patented and registered. These tarts continue to be made and sold at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, Lda., their recipe still a closely guarded secret.