Top 10 Portuguese desserts
Originally written by Anna in December 2019 and updated by Natalie in June 2021
In this article, I will be sharing with you my top 10 Portuguese desserts! If you’ve read the article I wrote about the Portuguese dishes you should try, you know that the Portuguese have excellent taste when it comes to food! After eating the main course, you will need to know what a good Portuguese dessert is.
In Portugal, food is always an excellent excuse to gather family and friends. The Portuguese love to eat and to enjoy their time with dear ones. I know that from my own experience, when a family or friends reunion happens, people spend hours at the table, enjoying starters, main courses, desserts, coffee and digestives. Food is a serious matter in Portugal! Since I’ve wrote an article about Portuguese dishes, I thought it was important for me to introduce you to some of the best Portuguese desserts too! Enjoy!
The one and only: Pastéis de nata
All these desserts don’t necessarily have to be eaten after a main course. They are so good, they can be savoured anytime of the day! Pastéis de nata, in particular, can be enjoyed as a “snack” with a coffee. This famous pastry is commonly known as “Pastéis de Belém”, because they originally come from Belém. Join our tour to discover this emblematic neighborhood of Lisbon!
Pastéis de nata are common in Portugal and can be bought anywhere in the country. They are kind of similar to a pudding. Made of puff pastry and a cream made with milk, flour eggs, maize starch and sugar syrup, it is not advised for vegans. However, it still is one of the most popular desserts in Portugal. The locals love to have one or two with their coffee. It’s definitely one of the Portuguese desserts you should try while in Lisbon. They are usually best to be eaten on site, when they come straight out of the oven with a little bit of powdered cinnamon on top of it.
Simple but delicious: Pão de ló
The recipe of the Pão de ló was born in the eighteenth century. The Genoese cook Giobatta Carbona was sent to Spain and presented to the Spanish King, during a banquet, a very light cake named “Pan di Spagna” in honor of the Spanish court. It was originally prepared in a water bath, but this method was later abandoned.
Every household has its own recipe. The Pão de ló has traveled several generations. Some regions also have their own, such as Ovar and Arouca. This cake is usually served after a main course, also with a coffee. If you’re interested in the original recipe, it’s really easy to make at home and it’s great for breakfast!
A traditional one from Sintra: Queijada
Next on my top 10 Portuguese desserts is the Queijada, which is originally from Sintra. If you’re staying in Lisbon for a few days, you should take one of these days to go to Sintra. You can read this article, if you need some help planning your trip!
If you like cheese and pastries, this dessert is perfect for you! It is make with cheese, cream cheese, eggs, milk and sugar. The filling can also contain almonds or chips of orange fruit. You will love visiting Sintra and you will love the traditional Queijadas!
Served at every table: Pudim de ovos
Whenever my family organizes a family meal, my mum always makes a Pudim de ovos. It’s a traditional Portuguese dessert and one of the best, because it definitely gathers relatives. Most people love it, because it’s simple to make and so delicious! It’s the same as a pudding with a few variations.
There are also many many recipes for the traditional Portuguese Pudim! But, in my opinion, the simplest is the best!
The tasty dessert made with angel hair: Aletria
Aletria is definitely one of Portuguese favourites desserts, especially for Christmas’ eve. Not a single table in Portugal goes without a dish of Aletria. It is made with vermicelli pasta, also known as “angel hair”, milk, sugar, yolks of eggs, cinnamon and chips of lemon or orange. It’s also very simple and easy to prepare, but very tasty and perfect if you want something different from usual!
A must for Christmas season: Rabanadas
Next on my top 10 Portuguese desserts are the popular Rabanadas. They are a must for Christmas season. They are sold almost everywhere because, in general, they are very appreciated!
Rabanadas are slices of a loaf of bread that are soaked in either milk, wine or sugar syrup, then also in eggs, then fried with sunflower oil. There are several ways to serve this dessert. For instance, you have chocolate ones, and ovos moles ones which is a sweet from Aveiro made with eggs yolks and sugar. I’m not quite sure about the recipe for ovos moles, but the Portuguese love it! It’s used in many other desserts, especially in the northern regions of Portugal.
A quick dessert for those who are in a hurry: Baba de camelo
Do you want to know one of the quickest Portuguese desserts to make? It is the baba de camelo! The name is pretty funny, it means “camel’s drool”. The story says that when a certain Senhora Valentina had last-minute visits, she used to make a dessert out of the few things she had in her fridge. One day she only had a few eggs and condensed milk, so she made a dessert with these two ingredients. But the quantity for the guests was very poor, so she named it “baba de camelo”.
It is one of the easiest desserts ever! First of all, you need to separate the egg whites from the yolks and whisk the egg whites until stiff. Pour the yolks through a strainer. Mix the condensed milk with the yolks and mix well. Blend the whites with the milk and keep it in the fridge. It has to be served cold. That’s basically it for the baba de camelo! This Portuguese dessert is served in most restaurants, so I think you will easily find it in the city of Lisbon.
The best of the best: Leite creme
Leite creme is a little similar to the French “crême brulée”. But Portuguese people have unique cooking skills. Leite creme is boiled while the crême brulée goes to the oven. The ingredients are also slightly different. You will have to try the Portuguese leite creme, and decide which one wins your heart!
This dessert is served all around the country. As the other desserts I’ve mentioned, it is very popular and appreciated by the locals!
The one you cannot afford to miss: Natas do céu
Natas do céu is one of the best Portuguese desserts you will get to taste. While in Lisbon, you will have to try this one at least once, since it is so good!
Composed of many layers, it has kind of an egg “jam”, which is similar to the ovos moles but the preparation is differents, as a top layer. In the middle, as a second layer, you have a mixture of cream, white eggs, sugar. And as bottom layer, you have shredded Maria biscuits. These biscuits are my favorite for this dessert! I’m not absolutely sure for the recipe, because, unfortunately I’m not an excellent cook and I’ve never made it on my own, but my mum is! I usually watch her bake some of these desserts and have the chance to eat them! If you like good food and have a sweet tooth, you will love all these Portuguese desserts!
Comes in all flavours: Semifrio
Semifrio is very common in Portugal! You have yogurt semifrios, strawberry semifrios, biscuit semifrios, coffee semifrios, and many others! It all depends of your preferences.
I think you will usually fint it in any pastry stop, in restaurants and even at the supermarket. Like most Portuguese desserts, it’s really easy to make but doesn’t lose quality and taste for it.
Bonus: If you have a sweet tooth: Bola de Berlim
I’m feeling inspired and a little hungry because of all the pastry suggestions I’ve shared with you! So, the list goes on! Let me introduce you to a few more Portuguese pastries you need to know about and try while in Portugal.
Next on my top 10 Portuguese desserts are the Bolas de Berlim. These are sold in all pastry store and bakeries around the country, and you will also find them on the beaches during spring and summertime! So, if you’re coming to Portugal during the warmer months and spend a few days at the beach, don’t miss the opportunity to get your bola de berlim, they usually have regular ones and chocolate ones and only cost around one euro each!
It’s a simple pastry filled with a delicious custard cream! They are very similar to the German doughnut.
Bonus: A little chocolate snack: Brigadeiro
The brigadeiro is originally from Brazil, but it is so popular in Portugal that I had to include it on my list. You will find all kinds of brigadeiros in all the pastries while in Portugal. Make sure you try a few!
It is super easy to make. All you need are four ingredients: a can of condensed milk (it can be plant-based to make a vegan version), dairy-free margarine, powdered chocolate, and granulated chocolate. So if you feel like making brigadeiros at home, you actually can since the recipe is so easy to follow and there are countless ones available on the internet.
This dessert is found in several flavours in pastry stores. From nuts ones to white chocolate ones, there’s a brigadeiro for every taste!
Bonus: The perfect choice for teatime: Chocolate-covered bolachas de manteiga
Next on my top 10 Portuguese desserts
are the popular chocolate-covered bolachas de manteiga, which simply are butter biscuits covered with chocolate.
These Portuguese pastries are found in all houses for teatime! They are very appreciated by the Portuguese as a dessert or as a snack around 4 or 5 pm. If you go to a pastry store to have a coffee, ask for a bolacha de manteiga com chocolate. They are usually half-moon and star shaped.
Bonus: The most famous around Christmas time: Bolo-rei
The Bolo-rei is as important in Portugal as the Panetone and the galette des rois are in Italy and France. The Bolo-rei start being seen at bakeries and pastry stores from the beginning of December until mid-January. Its name means “king cake” in English and it refers to the Three Wise Men, known as the Reis Magos, which are celebrated on January, 5th.
Its round shape with its hole in the middle, covered with nuts and candied fruits are iconic and emblematic of Christmas time in Portugal! You won’t have any trouble finding it around the country. The dough is very soft, fluffy and the fruits and nuts on top of it give such a yummy flavour to the cake. It goes great with a glass of Port wine, a cup of coffee or tea.
Where to Eat the Best Portuguese Desserts in Lisbon
Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon
Come hungry, and come ready to queue. This cafe is an institution in Lisbon, and has become world renowned as the best place on the planet to try the legendary pastel de nata desserts.
This is the most traditional factory for pastel de nata in the city, and you’ll get them fresh and hot out of the oven. The store has been here since 1837, and bakes (and sells) an astounding 20,000 pastel de nata pastries every single day.
They are definitely the best pastel de nata that I’ve tasted in Lisbon, however I did find that the pastries in the coastal village of Cascais were perhaps a little more tasty? Perhaps it was just the added bonus of enjoying them by the beach, but nevertheless these are both dessert spots worth trying.
OPENING HOURS: MONDAY TO SUNDAY – 8am to 8pm
ADDRESS: R. de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Train STATION: Belem
Chocolateria Equador in Lisbon
You simply cannot leave Lisbon without sampling some authentic Salame de Chocolate at some point during your visit. Salame de Chocolate quite literally means chocolate salami.
The dessert holds a distinct aesthetic resemblance to traditional salami sausage, given its loaf like body, thin sliced portioning and chunky, grainy interior. This is a much loved dessert for children in Portugal; it’s considered the treat of treats.
If you’re in the city center, Chocolateria Equador has some of the best Salame de Chocolate in the city. They also have some wonderful pastel de natas, so two birds with one stone, perhaps?
OPENING HOURS: MONDAY TO SUNDAY – 11AM TO 8PM
ADDRESS: R. DA MISERICÓRDIA 72, 1200-334 LISBOA, PORTUGAL
METRO STATION: BAIXA-CHIADO
Bastardo in Lisbon
Also in the city center, Bastardo is a classic hotel eatery with wonderful local dishes. It’s in this unassuming restaurant that I enjoyed the most memorable ‘arroz doce’, or rice pudding, of my life.
As we know, the the Portuguese hold this dessert near and dear to their cuisine, and every region prepares it in a different way.
The entire dining experience at Bastardo is worth the visit, just be sure to leave room for this Portuguese treat at the end!
OPENING HOURS: MONDAY TO SUNDAY – 12PM TO 11PM
ADDRESS: RUA DA BETESGA, 1100-422 LISBOA, PORTUGAL
METRO STATION: ROSSIO-LISBOA
BONUS: The Beaches Near Lisbon
Only in Portugal would the beaches be one of the best places to find local desserts. On the shores near Lisbon, such as the beaches of Caiscais, the locals tend to walk the sand selling none other than the delectable ‘Bola de Berlim’.
These pillow-like cakes filled with egg cream are a customary standard throughout Portugal, and you need to try one before you leave the country! So head to the sand and be on the lookout for one of the local vendors.
You now know the top 10 Portuguese desserts, according to a local! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that it has opened your appetite. I’ve introduced you to some of the best desserts, but there are plenty more. Feel free to share your favorite ones! As you’ve seen, these desserts contain eggs and milk, so it’s not suitable for vegans, but if you want to enjoy vegan versions of these, check our article about Lisbon for vegans!
A good way to discover Alfama is by joining a walking tour. You will see the city like a local and see the best attractions in Lisbon.
Established in 2010, Discover Walks runs free walking tours in Lisbon every day at 11am & 4pm. This Alfama Tour starts right in front of the Castle’s entrance and lasts a relaxed 90 minutes. You can visit our website to book your spot and walk with us!
If you want you can also join our food tour in Lisbon! Also, if you happen to go to the beach and see someone yelling and selling “bolas de berlim“, buy one! You won’t regret it! There are many wonderful beaches around Lisbon, make sure to visit them. See you soon!