Portugal’s Prized Pastry

pasteis de belem

I love a warm chocolate croissant as much as the next girl, but Portugal’s Pastel de Nata is a pastry that makes me swoon just as much. There are many imitations of this sweet  concoction but the only place where you can get the real thing is at Pasteis de Belem in the tiny town of Belem in Lisbon.

Blue awnings welcome you into the bustling store of customers  standing around waiting to get up to the counter to order their pastries. The employees at the register and in the kitchen hustle fast because they know these customers will want more than one of these treats.

My friends and I finally made our way to the counter and each ordered two Pastel de Natas to go. They were inexpensive costing a couple euros each. The employees placed them in a box along with packets of cinnamon and powdered sugar and we proceeded outside to the park across the street, found a bench to sit down on and enjoyed our pastries. Each Pastel de Nata is a warm little bowl of flaky dough with a golden brown top. The inside is filled with a buttery and creamy egg custard. It is essential to pour cinnamon and powdered sugar on top so that they melt with the custard in your mouth. I quickly ate each one in just a few bites and was sad when it was all over. I could have eaten ten more Pastel de Natas.

pasteis de belem
Courtesy of Meg Zimbeck

As we ate, the park was full of people enjoying the day as well as having picnics with family or playing soccer with friends. Besides visiting Pasteis de Belem, there is so much to do in the town of Belem itself. My friends and I spent the day ambling through the tiny town exploring the isolated Tower of Belem and the beautiful and vast Jeronimos Monastery. If you are ever in Belem though, I would make a Pastel de Nata your first stop of the day.

Tower of Belem

Jeronimos Monastery

6 thoughts on “Portugal’s Prized Pastry

    1. Haha, I think we have! I love your pictures. If you do go back, the tower is unexpectedly fun. It doesn’t seem like there is much to it but my friends and I spent a lot of time there just walking around and sitting staring out the windows at the water.

  1. I have lived in Lisbon now for 30 years and last Autumn did make a return trip to the famous Belem cake shop on one of my tours, on a day that you could get in sit down and enjoy – God it’s worth it, although I can have impostors in any Lisbon cafe, these really are the BEST. Did you know that they do a competition every year to find the best “other” pasteis in Lisbon – in 2009 it was a coffee shop in the Lapa district near the Basilica Estrela on the 25 tram route Crystal I think, not tried them yet. Who knows they may even have a confraternity for the famous and ooh soo good little custard cakes, definitely something you should eat before you die!

  2. Wonderful article – brings back some great memories. Did you make it up to Sintra? That castle is probably the most amazing I’ve seen up close.

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