FARAH’S INSIDER GUIDE TO PORTUGUESE PASTEL DE NATA
As Portuguese wine, food and textile importers, our team at Farah Trading Co is split between the US and Portugal - with lots of travel in between. Our team members on the ground in Portugal have put pen to paper to give you Farah’s Insider Guides to Portugal. From visiting Lisbon to the beaches of the Algarve to the wineries of the Douro Valley - we have you covered!Author Joana Rute Carmo / Category Travel / Published: August-28-2021
Joana here, Farah Trading Co’s local travel writer, sharing with you my pastel de nata 101 - what exactly is pastel de nata, the history behind the treat and my favorite spots to enjoy pastel de nata in Lisbon.
Once you land in Portugal, you will start seeing “pastel de nata” everywhere – hotels will have them featured for breakfast, coffee shops display rows and rows by their front windows and some restaurants will feature them them for dessert. So what exactly is this pastel de nata wonder pastry that is a fixture of breakfast, lunch and dinner across Portugal!?
Pastel de nata is a typical Portuguese pastry - the base consists of flaky pastry filled with a soft and creamy egg custard that is cooked in the oven until golden. They are bite size and can be eaten warm or cold, with or without a touch of the customary cinnamon.
PORTUGUESE PASTEL DE NATA 101
PASTEL DE NATA’S ORIGINS
Many of Portugal’s most famed pastries finds their origins in the kitchens of the convents and monasteries that dot the country. The original pastel de nata is the Pasteis de Belém which was created by monks during the 19th century in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos , the Jerónimos Monastery, just a short tram ride outside of Lisbon’s Historic center.
THE 180 YEAR OLD ORIGINAL RECIPE FOR PASTEL DE NATA
At the time of pastel de nata’s creation, egg whites were used for a variety of reasons in monasteries - to starch nuns’ clothing and to act as a fining agents for wine (the latter is still done today!) - this left the monasteries and convents with surplus egg yolks, which - you guesses it - were then used in experimental pastries in the kitchen. It is no coincidence that most of Portugal’s top pastries today are egg based.
The Portuguese recipe from Pasteis de Belém, the original “pastel de nata”, dates back to 1837. The story goes that today only six people in the world know the recipe of the original Pasteis de Belém – three bakers and three members of the management team. They can be found in the “Oficina do Segredo” or the the Secret Office, which is really just the bakery where thousands are made everyday.
HOW AND WHEN TO EAT PORTUGUESE PASTEL DE NATA
Almost everywhere in Portugal, you will be offered cinnamon and powdered sugar on the side of your pastel de nata. I would suggest trying it with both. It’s customary to have a “nata” with an espresso. If you’re not a fan of the bitter flavor of Portuguese coffee, you can enjoy them with tea, milk, juice or even a glass of Port wine – they are delicious as a dessert.
Many of Portugal’s most famed pastries finds their origins in the kitchens of the plethora of convents and monasteries that dot the country.
The Best Places to Eat Pastel de Nata in Lisbon
These are some of my favorite places to eat Pasteis de Nata in Lisbon!
PASTÉIS DE BELÉM
The originals. Once you get there, you'll most likely need to get in a huge line to go inside or to grab and go. You'll wonder: "Is it worth it?" Let me tell you right now, yes it is! The pastéis are served warm, so they will be extra crispy and extra creamy and the building alone is a monument filled with Portuguese blue tiles, so eating inside is an experience in itself!
These are my top favorite and every time I'm around I have to eat one right then and there and buy and buy a box of 6 to bring home. One of my favorite things is that you can see the kitchen through the glass and watch every step.
Aloma is a crowd favorite and has won the Lisbon competition "best pastel de nata" many years in a row, so if you see one, go in and try them out! The great thing about Aloma is that there are many locations to choose from while you're exploring the city.
FÁBRICA DA NATA
The store is gorgeous. It reminds us of the old classic Lisbon and invites you to stay and slowly enjoy a pastel de nata and a coffee. It is on Praça dos Restauradores, right in the heart of the city so it will be hard to miss!
If you don’t have time to make it to one of our Pastel de Nata recommendations in Lisbon, there is a great shop in the international terminal food court at the Lisbon Airport - look for Padaria Portuguesa - where you can get a six pack to go to enjoy on the flight.
We hope you enjoyed these insider tips!
Cheers - The Farah Team