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Belem or Nata Pastries recipe

Belem or Nata Pastries recipe

by Maria Pacheco


The Story behind Pasteis de Belem a.k.a. Nata

The origin of Pasteis de Nata, also known as Portuguese custard tarts, can be traced back to the 18th century in Lisbon, Portugal. It is said that the recipe was developed by Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery in the Belém district of Lisbon. The monks used egg whites to starch their clothes, and the leftover yolks were used to make custard tarts to be sold to support the monastery. The recipe was eventually sold to a nearby sugar refinery, which opened a pastry shop called “Pasteis de Belem” near the monastery in 1837. The shop still exists today and is considered to be the home of the original Pasteis de Nata.

Pasteis de Belem - Traditional Portuguese pastry

Pasteis de Belem – Traditional Portuguese pastry

The recipe for Pasteis de Nata consists of a crispy, flaky pastry shell filled with a rich and creamy egg custard. The custard is made with egg yolks, sugar, cream, and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. The tarts are baked at a very high temperature, which causes the custard to caramelize on top, creating a deliciously sweet and slightly burnt flavor.

Today, Pasteis de Nata are a beloved pastry in Portugal and can be found in bakeries and cafes all over the country. They have also become popular in other parts of the world, and many pastry chefs and home cooks have put their own spin on the classic recipe. However, the original recipe from the Jeronimos Monastery and the Pasteis de Belem pastry shop remains a treasured piece of Portuguese culinary history.

By the way pasteis (pastries) is plural for pastel (pastry)

Pasteis de Belem or Nata Recipe

Note: This recipe makes about 18-20 pasteis de Belem.


For the pastry:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the custard filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Lemon zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C).
  2. In a saucepan, combine the milk, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest. Heat until just simmering, then remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the chilled butter and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together. Knead lightly until smooth, then cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
  6. Strain the cooled milk mixture to remove the cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
  7. Pour the custard mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  8. Roll out the pastry dough on a floured surface until very thin. Cut the dough into small circles that are slightly larger than the cups of a muffin tin.
  9. Grease the muffin tin with butter or cooking spray, then press the pastry circles into the cups. The dough should come up to just below the top of the cup.
  10. Pour the custard filling into the pastry cups, filling them about 3/4 of the way full.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the custard has a slightly caramelized top.
  12. Let the pastries cool slightly before serving. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon, if desired.

Yam, yam enjoy e bom proveito!

Joe Portugal - Chef