What do early 19th century Portuguese Monks do when they need to earn a steady income? They learn to bake and sell pastries. And none is so famous as the Pastéis de Nata egg pastry that may be found in nearly every bakery and coffee shop in Lisbon. Crispy on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside, the pastel de nata is a local treasure. Hot out of the oven they are at their best. Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar and cinnamon, the monks knew centuries ago that they had stumbled on to something divine.


cuisine Portuguese
difficulty Moderate
season Year Round
serves 6

Ingredients for the Pastry

  • 14 ounces quality puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Custard

  • 8.5 ounces (250 ml( whole milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 strips of lemon zest, each 1/4" wide
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large egg yolks

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 strips of lemon zest, each 1/4" wide

For Serving

  • Powdered sugar & ground cinnamon, for dusting

Directions for the pastry

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. and place the oven rack on the highest shelf.
  2. Brush six individual tartlet pans (or use the 6 center holes of a 12 hole muffin tin) with the butter.
  3. Place the puff pastry on the counter and roll until it is 1/8" thick.
  4. Begin rolling the puff pastry up lengthwise until it measures 2" thick (trim any extra length of puff pastry from the roll).
  5. Slice 6 discs 3/4" thick from the puff pastry roll and press each disc into one of the tartlet tins (the puff pastry may need to be tugged at and stretched to fit) until the pastry is just below the top of the tin. Place, covered, in the refrigerator until ready for use.

For the Custard

  1. Add 3/4 cup of milk, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 strips of zest, salt and 1/2 tablespoon butter to a small pot. Turn the heat to medium and bring to just under the boiling point. Let this mixture infuse for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the zest and cinnamon stick from the pot. In a small bowl, mix the flour and the corn flour and gradually add the remaining milk, stirring constantly to make a lump free paste. Pour the flour mixture into the custard mixture and cook, stirring gently, over low heat until the mixture is a thick cream consistency, about 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk in the remaining butter and the vanilla, and remove the mixture from the heat.

For the Sugar Syrup

  1. Put the sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest into a pot with 1/3 cup water and cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Lower the heat and continue cooking (without stirring) until the mixture is a light caramel color.
  3. Carefully add another 1/3 cup water and gently heat to dissolve any solid caramel, then strain into a heatproof bowl. Pour half of the syrup into the custard mixture and whisk to fully incorporate.

For Assembly

  1. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator.
  2. Pour the custard into a 2 cup glass measuring cup and stir in the egg yolks. Add a splash of milk if needed so the custard measures to the 1 1/4 cup mark.
  3. Pour the custard into the tartlet mold and bake for 10 minutes, or until the tops are dark golden brown, rotating halfway through to insure even coloring across the tarts.
  4. Remove the tarts from the oven and brush with some of the leftover sugar syrup. Leave the tarts to cool until they can be removed from the tins and placed on a wire baking rack to set. The custards should still be creamy and soft in the center when served. Just before serving, dust with a bit of powdered sugar and cinnamon.