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Portuguese desserts have religious connotations. Many were invented and come from convent and monasteries, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Eggs whites were typically used to starch the religious clothing. Left with many egg yolks, nuns at convents, started using them for baking.
Each convent strived to make the best desserts using centuries old and secret recipes. As a result, the tradition of making the most delicious and famous desserts in Portugal was born.
Known as conventual desserts, these Portuguese sweets are eggy, naturally rich and yellow in color.
While exploring the local specialties in Portugal, we encountered many tempting Portuguese desserts.
From Pastéis de Nata to Pao de Lo, discover a range of tantalizing authentic Portuguese desserts oozing with goodness.
1- Pao de Lo – Portuguese Sponge Cake
Pão de Ló, also known as Portuguese sponge cake, is one of the most famous desserts in Portugal.
While originating from Spain, this sponge cake has since travelled the world and each country has adapted it to its cuisine.
The Portuguese sponge cake was traditionally made by the nuns from the convent of Cós in the center of Portugal.
It is said that the Portuguese sponge cake as we know it today was born from a cooking mistake.
During the King’s visit, in the 19th century, the nuns rushed to serve him. As a result, the sponge cake was taken out too early from the oven.
Everyone praised the taste of the cake, which turned out moist and filled with a delicious egg cream.
Since then, this traditional Portuguese dessert has been prepared the same way.
Pao de Lo is very soft, sweet, and eggy. Made with eggs, egg yolks, flour, and sugar, it’s the perfect complement to afternoon tea or coffee.
Where to Eat Pao de Lo – Portuguese Sponge Cake in Portugal
This is a traditional cake you will find in different regions of Portugal.
In Lisbon, we had it at Cantina da Estrela, the restaurant of Hotel da Estrela.
Located in the Estrela district, this quaint historic hotel is a great stop after a day of sightseeing in Lisbon.
Enjoy your Portuguese sponge cake at the restaurant which overlooks the beautiful garden.
2- Salami de Chocolate – Portuguese Chocolate Salami
Salami de Chocolate is one of the most intriguing Portuguese desserts we enjoyed in Lisbon. Contrary to its name, this Portuguese sweet does not contain any meat in it.
Although put off by the name, it was love at the first bite. Its crunchy texture combined with the rich dark chocolate was a taste of heaven.
Each slice of the Portuguese chocolate salami has white pieces of Maria Biscuits coated in the dark chocolate.
Its shape and form resembles meat salami, which explains the name of this traditional Portuguese dessert.
You can also find variations of this chocolate cookie with almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, or pistachio.
Where to Eat Salami de Chocolate – Portuguese Chocolate Salami in Portugal?
Salami de chocolate can be found at bakeries and some restaurants in Lisbon.
We had it for dessert while listening to Portuguese Fado music at Mascote da Atalaia.
This was a delightful treat to savor at the intimate and local venue.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Maria biscuits are a favorite in Portugal and used in many dessert recipes. Serradura, another Portuguese sweet is a no-bake Portuguese dessert that uses Maria biscuits. This Serradura recipe is easy to make with only four ingredients. Simply stack up crushed Maria cookies, condensed milk, whipping cream and vanilla extract for a tasty traditional Portuguese dessert.
3- Bolo de Chocolate – Portuguese Chocolate Cake
Besides eggy conventual desserts, Portugal chocolate cakes have their place on every dessert menu.
On a Lisbon food tour in Campo de Ourique, we discovered “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World”.
We stopped at MBCM, a small shop dedicated to bolo de chocolate or chocolate cake in the Campo de Ourique district.
Located across Campo de Ourique market, you will find this tiny shop selling only two types of chocolate cake.
A traditional Portuguese chocolate cake made with milk chocolate. Or, a dark chocolate cake, made with about 70% cacao.
Both cakes are made with a light chocolate meringue combined with a rich chocolate mousse.
Decadent and rich, the chocolate in these cakes infuse the mouth with intense and deep cacao tastes.
The meringue topping adds crispness and lightness to this bolo de chocolate.
Our favorite was the dark chocolate cake, which was less sweet and more refined than the milk version.
Where to Eat Bolo de Chocolate – Portuguese Chocolate Cake in Lisbon
MBCM is the best place to satisfy your chocolate craving.
Another great local restaurant in Lisbon is Carvoaria Jacto. There, you can enjoy a delicious bolo de chocolate amongst a great offering of local desserts.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: To sample some of the Portuguese desserts and traditional Portuguese foods in Lisbon, check out this Campo de Ourique food tour. This food tour to an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood will take you to taste the best of Portugal but also discover the city’s foodie district.
4- Pastel de Nata – Portuguese Egg Tarts – The Most Famous Portuguese Desserts
If there is one dessert that best represents Portugal, it is the Portuguese egg tarts or Pastel de nata (Pastéis de natas in plural).
These iconic desserts in Portugal or pastéis de natas are little egg tart pastries. The outside is crispy and flaky and the inside creamy and sweet.
The dough is similar to puff pastry made with lots of butter folded into the layers. This is what gives the shells their crisp, crackling texture.
“Nata” is cream which translates to “pastry of cream.”
You’ll find these famous Portuguese egg tarts everywhere. Every Pastelerias or pastry shop has their own version of pastel de nata.
They are cooked in a very hot oven and then dusted with cinnamon. Pastel de nata is served warm with a small strong cup of Portuguese coffee, called bica in Lisbon.
These crispy, creamy sweet Portuguese egg tarts are to die for They are addictive and quite simply perfection in two delightful bites.
Where to Eat Pastel de Nata – Portuguese Egg Tarts in Lisbon
Like many famous desserts in Portugal invented in monasteries or convents, pastéis de natas were made by monks in the1800s.
Monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém sold pastéis de nata to raise money for the monastery. The monastery eventually closed in 1834 and the recipe was sold to the eventual owners of Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem.
Today, Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém continues to make the Portuguese egg tarts using the same traditional recipe.
Baking over 10,000 Portuguese egg tarts a day, these little treats delight visitors from all over the world.
After eating many pasteis de nata, our favorite ones were the original ones from Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém.
To truly savor the best pastel de nata in Portugal, there’s only one place to go. Make your way over to Belem and get intimately acquainted with this amazing Portuguese dessert.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If traveling to Portugal is not on your horizon, you can still taste Pasteis de Nata at home. Join Joao, a fifth-generation baker in Lisbon for a virtual pastel de nata cooking class. Follow along from the comfort of your kitchen and enjoy creamy and delicious egg tarts at home. This cooking class is open to all levels, even if you don’t have baking experience.
5- Queijadas de Sintra – Portuguese Cheese Tarts and other Queijadas
The name queijadas comes from queijo, which means cheese in Portuguese. The queijadas are simply cheesecakes or cheese tarts made using fresh cheese or requeijão, eggs, sugar and flour.
These delicious little pies are famous across Portugal. You will find different varieties in several regions of Portugal notably in Sintra, Evora, Madeiras or Acores.
The most famous queijadas are the Queijadas de Sintra. These small round cakes despite their deceiving tiny look are heavenly tasty.
With a crusty shell and a soft filling, they have a fresh and mild cheese flavor and a rounded sweet taste.
These are culinary masterpieces that intertwine flavor and texture.
Where to Eat Queijadas de Sintra – Portuguese Cheese Tarts from Sintra
The best place to have the Queijadas de Sintra is in Sintra, its birthplace.
Located about 50 minutes away from Lisbon, Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site worth visiting.
It is said that during medieval times, Queijadas de Sintra were used as a form of payment.
With excellent pastures and an excess of fresh cheese, the Sapa family started making these heavenly cheesecakes.
Their store, Fábrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa, has been making these famous pastries since 1756.
Don’t hesitate to order at least one of each flavor offered like almond, milk, or orange.
Another great spot for Queijadas de Sintra is Casa Piriquita. This fifth-generation family-owned and popular local pastry shop carry some of the most delicious desserts from Sintra.
Where to Eat Queijadas de Evora – Portuguese Cheese Tarts from Evora
Evora, in Central Portugal, is proud of its own version of queijadas known as Queijadas de Évora.
You can taste these delicious cheese tarts at the pastry shop, Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala.
6- Travesseiros de Sintra – Portuguese Puff Pastries
The Travesseiros de Sintra are another sought after sweet in Sintra.
This delicious Portuguese sweet is made from a puff pastry, covered with sugar and filled with egg and almond cream. As the name implies, the dough is rolled up into a long slender “pillow”.
Travesseiros de Sintra is absolutely heavenly. The light puff pastry is filled with almond cream and other secret ingredients.
With just one bite, your taste buds will go wild. This is one masterpiece you’ll never forget.
Travesseiros de Sintra are a gastronomic reference of the region and a Portuguese dessert you absolutely cannot miss.
Where to Eat Travesseiros de Sintra – Portuguese Puff Pastries from Sintra
Sintra was a popular destination for Portuguese royalty in the summer months. Travesseiros de Sintra comes from Casa Piriquita, a pastry shop that has been “fattening up” royalty and visitors since 1862.
Look for the yellow-tiled Casa Piriquita in downtown Sintra and stop in for some of the most amazing Portuguese desserts.
Where to Eat Travesseiros de Sintra – Portuguese Puff Pastries in Lisbon
If you’re not able to visit Sintra on your travels to Portugal, you can savor Travesseiros de Sintra in Lisbon.
Time Out Market in Lisbon, a food hall with a variety of Portuguese food, drinks, and desserts has them available.
Simply wander around the market and find your way to the traditional desserts in Portugal section. Spoil yourself with Travesseiros de Sintra as you savor every bite.
READ MORE: How to Eat Your Way in Sintra in One Day
7- Tarte de Amêndoa – Portuguese Almond Tart
Portugal is one of the top producers or almonds in Europe. Northern Portugal and in particular the valley of the Douro accounts for about 60% of almond production.
Not surprisingly, almonds are much loved by the Portuguese and found in many Portuguese sweets.
Tarte de Amêndoa or Portuguese almond tart is one of the most popular desserts in northern Portugal.
This lovely tart has a flaky crust that pairs incredibly well with a sweet filling topped with chopped almonds.
There is no almond paste in the filling which makes it light and crisp. The divine almond flavors come from the chopped almonds on the crust.
This is an unbelievable traditional Portuguese sweet dessert packed with almond flavors. A real treat for sweet lovers.
Where To Eat The Best Tarte de Amendoa – Portuguese Almond Tart in Porto
Confeitaria do Bolhão a bakery of more than 100 years is one of the most important pastry shops in Porto.
The Art Deco decor takes you back in time, while the breads and sweets are among the best in town.
Confeitaria do Bolhão is the perfect spot for breakfast or a snack after sightseeing. All the ingredients are fresh and the Portuguese sweets are made in house.
For the best tarte de amendoa, this is your spot in town.
You’ll see many melt-in-your mouth desserts to choose from. Give in to the temptation and stop by more than once on your stay.
8- Toucinho Do Céu – Portuguese Almond Cake
When you translate the name Toucinho Do Céu, it means “bacon from heaven” in English. While the name may not sound appetizing, it is a popular and delicious Portuguese almond cake.
This wonderful Portuguese almond cake originated in the north of Portugal. And, it is available around the country in slightly different variations.
Toucinho do Céu gets its name from the fact that the original recipe was made with lard instead of butter.
The fact that it was also made by nuns in a convent, also adds to its divine references.
Strangely enough, this Portuguese almond cake does not have any pork taste. Instead, it is smooth and packed with almond flavors.
This is one of the most popular and traditional desserts in Portugal worth seeking out.
Where to Eat Toucinho Do Céu in Porto & Northern Portugal
Although, Toucinho Do Céu is made throughout Portugal, the most famous is from northern regions of Guimarães, Murça and Trás-os-Montes.
If you are in Porto, the gateway to northern Portugal, you can savor the delights of Toucinho Do Céu at Café Santiago.
This is a popular restaurant for traditional food including Porto’s famous francesinha sandwich.
9- Sericaia or Serica – Portuguese Egg Pudding from Alentejo
Sericaia is a traditional dessert from Alentejo. This beautiful region spans from the south of Lisbon all the way to the Spanish border on the east.
Also known as serica, this Portuguese dessert was born in the convent of Elvas, a city east of Evora, Alentejo’s capital.
It is an egg pudding dessert made with flour, sugar and egg yolk. With a smooth texture and perfect sweet finish, it has an “eggy” taste, typical of Portuguese conventual desserts.
Notwithstanding, it was definitely one of our favorite Portuguese desserts while visiting Evora.
Where to Eat Sericaia – Portuguese Egg Pudding in Evora
The menu features inventive regional cuisine working primarily with small local producers.
You will find local recipes and the conventual Portuguese desserts from the region including a delicious sericaia.
10- Encharcada de Evora – Portuguese Convent Egg Sweet from Evora
Evora and the Alentejo region has a rich gastronomy and desserts take center stage.
Encharcada de Évora is an egg-based dessert, creamy and soft, served with cinnamon on top.
Like many Alentejo desserts, this Portuguese dessert originated from a regional convent.
The ingredients consist mostly of egg yolks and sugar. Easy to make, the egg yolks are simply battered and mixed with water, then cooked in a pan.
Served with some cinnamon on top, each bite is full of egg and sweet flavors. A dessert we enjoyed but would eat in moderation.
Where to Eat Encharcada de Évora – Portuguese Convent Egg Sweet in Evora
We had the opportunity to taste Encharcada de Évora at Cafe Alentejo, one of the best restaurants in Evora.
An old tavern from the 16th century, this unique Evora restaurant has preserved the exceptional ancient architecture.
The cuisine is traditional from the Alentejo and is homemade, using local and regional products.
They offer encharcada de Evora as a single dessert or as part of a trio of typical Portuguese desserts from the region.
11 – Tibias de Braga – Portuguese Puff Pastry from Braga
Braga, in the north of Portugal is known for its religious heritage and is considered the religious capital of Portugal.
Equally, culture and innovation play a big role and Braga has become an innovation hub for Portugal.
Tibias de Braga or Portuguese puff pastry is one of the most traditional sweets in Braga. It is said to have been sold in the city for at least six decades.
They are called tibias because of their elongated shape, which resembles the tibia bone.
This Portuguese pastry has a crunchy dough filled with a sweet cream. The delicious dough is sprinkled with sugar and has a crispy bite.
Tibias de Braga are sweet and best enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. The fillings vary from hazelnut, caramel flavors to fruit flavors like raspberry, pineapple and more.
These famous Portuguese treats are signature conventual pastries of Braga and are not to be missed.
Where to Eat Tibias de Braga – Portuguese Puff Pastry in Braga
While you will find Tibias de Braga sweets at many Braga shops, there are two places that are particularly popular.
Pastelaria Lusitana, a famous pastry shop in the old town of Braga is where we enjoyed these local Portuguese treats.
Another pastry shop also recommended by locals is next to the Arco da Porta Nova, the arch in the historic center.
The cafe, named Tíbias de Braga, aims to tell the history of Braga through the local Portuguese sweets.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Consider a day trip from Porto to Braga with a local guide. On this Braga food tour you’ll visit the main sites in town and taste the Braga food delicacies.
12- Fidalguinhos – Portuguese Biscuits
Fidalguinhos from Braga are another conventual Portuguese dessert. These are traditional biscuits which are thin and dry with a curious shape.
Their configuration resembles two intertwined two-crossed legs. Their shape was to mock the legs of ancient hereditary nobles.
This was satirical of nobles who didn’t have to work or go to great lengths to get what they wanted in life.
Fidalguinhos originated in the Convent of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, the first convent in Braga.
These Portuguese biscuits are crunchy with a touch of cinnamon and quite addictive. They are very popular at Easter and pair perfectly with Portuguese coffee.
Where to Eat Fidalguinhos – Portuguese Biscuits in Braga
One of the famous pastry shops in Braga to try Fidalguinhos is Pastelaria Lusitana. This beautiful cafe in the old town of Braga, is just a short distance away from Jardim de Santa Bárbara.
Don’t miss strolling around this gorgeous garden at the Archbishop’s Palace of Braga after your stop at Pastelaria Lusitana.
Eating Portuguese desserts is a journey through Portugal’s history and traditions.
These authentic desserts in Portugal are old recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Many of them are secret recipes and their preservation is keeping Portuguese traditions alive.
While this list of Portuguese desserts is not exhaustive, starting with these 12 desserts will surprise and delight you.
As you travel through Portugal take this as an invitation to taste Portuguese sweets from each region you visit.
Back at home, try your hand at making some of these delicious Portuguese desserts. With this easy Portuguese cookbook, taste Portugal from the comfort of your kitchen.
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Claire, ex-engineer, is a digital nomad and content creator at Authentic Food Quest. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, they travel the world in search of the best local food experiences. Their mission is to help you enjoy the best local specialties on your travels or via recipes in your home kitchen. Favorite country for food: Vietnam. Favorite local dish: Hainanese Chicken Rice. Favorite way to keep fit: Cycling. Claire is responsible for the website and the fun food & travel videos on Youtube. She is also co-author of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon.