If there is one dish that epitomizes Lisbon it has to be the Pastel de Nata Lisbon, the Portuguese egg tart known around the world. I quickly fell in love with these pastries and found myself eating them at least once a day (or more) during our first trip to Portugal years ago. Now that we’ve visited Lisbon at least a half dozen times, I consider myself a bit of an aficionado of Lisbon custard tarts.
In this Lisbon food blog, I will share our knowledge on what is a pastel de nata and how to order them in Portuguese. I will also recommend our top places to visit to find the best Lisbon custard tarts. We visited a lot of Lisbon bakeries to come up with this list. It was worth the sacrifice!
What is the Pastel de Nata Lisbon
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The Portuguese egg tart is a round, puff pastry filled with an egg-based custard. The custard is made with egg yolks, sugar, cream or milk, and other seasonings including cinnamon, vanilla, or lemon zest, depending on the recipe from the bakery.
When warm the filling should be creamy and a bit runny, but even when cold there should be a softness to the custard. The custard should be darkened on the top from the oven, but not burnt. Normally there are shakers of cinnamon or sugar on the counter to top the pastry. Go for the cinnamon!
Most claim that the original recipe dates to the 16th century when nuns at local convents would make them. Now, you can find them all over Lisbon. Although most locals enjoy a pastel de nata for breakfast, they are eaten throughout the day.
They make a perfect mid-morning or pre-dinner snack as well. My rule when traveling in Lisbon is to eat pasteis de nata early and often.
Normally a pastel de nata costs between €1-1.15 per custard tart. Some cafes might charge a few cents more to sit down. This makes them a snack that is easy on the budget.
What Makes a Great Lisbon Custard Tart?
Obviously, everyone likes something different when it comes to Portuguese custard tarts. We visited a lot of Lisbon pastry shops this trip, sometimes eating several pasteis de nata in one day.
We found our favorite, which I will share below, but quickly learned how to tell the difference between a good and a not so good Portuguese egg custard cup.
Crust: The Lisbon custard tart should be light and flaky, not soggy, with a taste of butter. The bottom should also be light, and not doughy.
Filling: Thick and creamy, not too sweet, and a little runny when warm. Some are more yellow-colored when more eggs are used.
Top: Dark and caramelized but not burnt, although you can ask for one that is more burnt, which tastes like caramelized sugar or toasted marshmallow.
Where to Find the Best Lisbon Custard Tarts
Although the pastel de nata can be found at pastry shops, or pastelarias, across the city. Over the years, we’ve eaten these pastries at some of the best and most well-known bakeries in Portugal. We’ve also eaten them at whatever neighborhood baker or bar that was close to our hotel or apartment rental.
Chances are that even if you don’t track down one of these famous spots for pasteis de nata you will find some good ones. Many of the spots below should have them warm as well. This is more difficult for a traditional mom-and-pop neighborhood cafe.
If you take a Lisbon food tour, you are almost guaranteed to try a Lisbon custard tart. Food tours are normally run by local food experts, and they can probably recommend even more places to eat pasteis de nata in Lisbon.
Lisbon Food Guide Pro Tip: Know the lingo!
Portuguese is not an easy language to learn and people often confuse words, pronunciation, and grammar with Spanish, a language more travelers are familiar with. When it comes to these famous Portuguese tarts remember:
Pastel de nata: one, singular egg tart
Pastéis de nata: the plural, meaning multiple egg tarts, as in “dois pastéis de nata” to order two egg tarts
Pasteles de nata: not a thing, but often used by travelers who try to make a plural the same way you do in Spanish
Pastéis de Belém Lisboa
Although we’ve traveled to Lisbon multiple times, up until the latest trip we never trekked out to Santa Maria de Belém to try these particular Portuguese custard tarts.
It’s only a half-hour away, but when there are plenty of perfectly good Portuguese desserts in the city center, it seems unnecessary. But, we’ve heard so many stores about these particular pastel de nata that we had to make the journey.
Why are the Pasteis de Nata Belem so well-known? First, the bakery was established in 1837 making it one of the oldest continuously running bakeries in Lisbon. They began baking the original Pastéis de Belém based on a secret recipe handed down to them from the nearby Jeronimos Monastery.
Second, this recipe remains a strictly-guarded secret. They make the pastries daily in a “Secret Room” although you can see the production through big windows. Not sure where they do the secret stuff. In fact, these tarts are known as a Pastéis de Belém (a trademarked name) and not a pastel de nata.
Is Pastéis de Belém Worth The Trip?
So, is it worth the trek? Maybe. I would recommend it for the experience, but would not say it was my favorite tart. We had five between the two of us (!) along with a glass of port, which was nice. The bottom of the tart was too hard and crunchy for me, although the filling was nice.
The cafe is huge! There are several lines, some for take away. There is one line to grab a seat in one of the dining rooms, which collectively hold up to 400 people. The price is about the same and after the trek out there, it’s nice to sit and relax.
Where To Find Pastel de Belem Lisboa
Pasteis de Belem Lisbon is located at Rua de Belém, 84-92. The shop is outside the center of Lisbon, close to the monastery that provided the original recipe.
There are several buses that run along the water from the Praca do Comercio. The journey takes about 30 minutes. They are open from 8 am to 11 pm seven days a week.
The Belem district is actually a nice, historic neighborhood to wander. Be prepared to cue on weekends and during the summer. If possible, try to visit mid-week. We visited midday on a Friday and walked right into a table with no problem. Or, if choosing takeaway, enjoy it in the park or along the waterfront just a few blocks away.
They’ve won best nata in Lisbon several times over the last few years. Their original location in Campo de Ourique opened in 1943 but now they have a few locations in Lisbon. Their original was a good 30-minute walk from our apartment in Principe Real, which means it’s a good 45-minute walk from where many travelers stay.
But, lucky us, they opened a new location in Chiado during our visit. I think we actually stopped by on their very first day. They were still doing construction on Friday, but by Saturday, they opened.
These were good. Aloma served the pasteis a little cold, the crust was flaky on the sides, but a little dough-like on the bottom. The custard had a good consistency, not too yellow, and slightly sweet. Good, but not my favorite.
Pasteleria Aloma’s original location is on Rua Francisco Metrass. We visited the location at Largo do Calhariz 2, which is open from 7 am to 8 pm.
Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata
Manteigaria in the Chiado neighborhood is a pastel de nata factory. All day, every day, you can see bakers in the background making some of the most famous egg tarts in Lisbon. supposedly, when a hot batch arrives at the counter they ring a bell. We never heard the bell ourselves, but every time we visited the tarts were warm.
Even the building itself is lovely, with Art Nouveau architecture, although the shop itself is relatively new and modern. We’ve visited their second location as well, located in the Time Out market (Mercado da Ribeira). Marcelo took care of there, serving up some egg tarts with a little personality.
The Lisbon custard tarts are just as good, but it is missing the atmosphere of the original location. As for the original location, head toward the back of the shop to see the pastry chefs at work.This was hands down my favorite Portuguese custard tart we tried. It was the first of this trip, but we also returned at the end to make sure.
Manteigaria serves them warm. The custard was light and sweet. The pastry was flaky, without being crunchy, and not at all doughy. To me, this was the best pastel de nata in Lisbon, hands down!
Where Is Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata
Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata is located at Rua de Loreto 2. They are open from 8 am to midnight seven days a week. This shop is small, with no tables. They only offer takeaway, or you can stand at the counter. If you only have one day in Lisbon, this is the must-eat pastel de nata!
A pastel de nata chain shop that bears mentioning. They’ve been open less than 10 years, but now have locations in some unique destinations. Supposedly they worked with some “pastel de nata masters” to perfect the recipe that is used at each location.
Historic? No. Consistent? Yes. They have two locations of Nata Lisboa in Lisbon, one on Rua de Sta. Cruz do Castelo and the other is in the Saldhana neighborhood.
Where Else to Eat Pastel de Nata Lisbon
Did I mention how many Portuguese custard tarts we’ve eaten to research this post? We visited a few other places that often are on people’s must-eat in Lisbon list.
Some of these are newer and some are ancient Lisbon bakery establishments. I am mentioning them because we visited, but would not say they are my favorite places for pasteis de nata in Lisbon.
Fabrica da Nata
Fabrica da Nata is on Praça dos Restauradores 62-68, in a very touristy part of town. They have plenty of seating, both indoor and outdoor, and they make an easy introduction to the Portuguese egg tarts. We tasted their tarts warm, so that was pleasant. They had a good flakiness to them but were still a little doughy on the bottom.
Confeitaria Nacional on Praça da Figueira 18B, is one of the oldest Lisbon pastry shops, founded in 1829. I would recommend visiting because of its prime location, and its historic feel. Perhaps try one of their many other Portuguese pastry options. I would say they were some of our least favorite pasteis de nata.
Chiado Caffe on Rua do Loreto 61, is a good spot to grab a coffee. We visited to do just that and tried one of their pastel de nata because we happened to be there. Their pasteis de nata was some of the more yellow, egg-heavy of the pasteis we tried. It also was a little doughy and served cold.
Pastel de Nata Recipe
Yes, the pastel de nata has to be the most famous of Portuguese pastries. It’s a pastry I would love to learn how to make at home. I haven’t tested out a pasteis de nata recipe, but I would recommend a Portuguese cookbook to learn. I did some research to find a Portuguese custard tart recipe that wasn’t too difficult.
All of the recipes I reviewed had the same ingredients in common: eggs, sugar, milk, and cinnamon. Some, like this one, used store-bought pastry sheets, making it even easier to make these pastries at home.
While traveling in Lisbon, it might be worthwhile to book a cooking class to learn how to master a Portuguese egg tart recipe at a real Portuguese bakery.
Check out our recommended Lisbon Food Tours And Cooking Classes.