If you’ve been introduced to Portuguese food, lucky you! You already know that Portugal has a wide variety of delicious foods – and Portuguese desserts aren’t the exception! Some are meant to be eaten warm, others nearly ice-cold; some are better suited for chocolate lovers, and most will surely satisfy your taste buds.
Whether you’re planning to visit Portugal soon or you’re looking to give Portuguese sweets a go, here are the 24 best Portuguese desserts!
Typical Portuguese desserts
1. Pastel de Belém
Undeniably most famous pastry in Portugal, the Pastel de Belém was created in 1837 by monks. These Portuguese custard tarts are best enjoyed with a dash of cinnamon and powdered sugar, accompanied by a nice espresso. And as it’s customary to enjoy coffee after a meal, Pastel de Belém definitely falls under the category of desserts.
Although the original formula remains a secret, here’s a recipe for Pastel de Nata, the cheaper, more easily found version of the pastry – which tastes just as good!
2. Arroz Doce
A dessert for religious holidays and wedding days, this rice pudding will make you feel at home (even if you’re not from Portugal). It’s cooked risotto-style with whole milk infused with citrus. There are a few variations as this sweet is made throughout the whole country, with or without gems, although always sprinkled with cinnamon.
Here’s a nice recipe so you can enjoy this Portuguese rice pudding wherever you are.
The queijada, or Portuguese milk tart, is a sort of small cake made out of cheese or requeijão (a ricotta-like cheese), eggs, milk, and sugar. Similarly made sweets also share the same name, even with assorted fillings (almond, orange, eggs).
Why not make some tasty milk tarts in just 40 minutes? Follow this recipe and enjoy!
Serradura is a Portuguese dessert which became famous in Macau. It’s a common dessert in the former Portuguese colony, also found in Hong Kong, Goa (another former colony), and many Portuguese and Spanish-speaking countries.
It’s essentially layers of whipped cream and crumbled bolacha Maria (a popular Portuguese biscuit). So, the name serradura is Portuguese for “sawdust”, which describes the biscuits’ appearance in the dessert.
Here’s an easy recipe that you can prepare with the kids!
5. Natas do céu
Literally “cream from heaven”, natas do céu are an upgraded version of serradura. The main difference? A mouthwatering rich egg custard covering layers of fluffy cream and crumbled biscuit.
You can find it in most Portuguese restaurants. Some even nickname it “dessert of the house”!
Learn here how to prepare yours.
6. Baba de Camelo
I’m sure you won’t need a translator to figure out that “camelo” probably means camel. Well, this name’s dessert literally translates to “camel drool“, but let me assure you that the unappetizing name really doesn’t do justice to this quickly whipped up wonder.
It requires only two ingredients: eggs and condensed milk. Smooth, rich, and lightly golden. Here’s an easy recipe to try it out.
7. Toucinho do céu
Toucinho do céu, literally “bacon of the heavens” (notice a pattern here?), is a traditional Portuguese dessert. It’s made out of eggs, almonds, and sugar, hence its intense yellow color. Like other desserts I mentioned above, toucinho originated in a convent, which explains the biblical denomination of the collective of sweets.
It’s made all throughout the country, but the most famous is from Guimarães, Murça, and Trás-os-Montes region.
Check out this recipe and try this godsend dessert!
8. Pudim de Ovos
A staple in most Portuguese tables, pudim de ovos (egg pudding) is undoubtedly irreplaceable. This simple three-ingredient dessert is actually served all year round!
Many people have successfully put their own twist on the original recipe. If you’re a cheesecake fan, check out the cheesy version of pudim de ovos here.
9. Bola de Berlim
Bola de Berlim a traditional Portuguese dessert similar to the German Berliner. The recipe was brought to Portugal during World War II by Jewish refugees and it became an instant success. Like its German cousin, it’s sprinkled with powdered sugar, but while Berliner is filled with essentially red jams (strawberry, raspberry, etc.), bola de berlim is stuffed with a sweet egg custard.
You can find it in most Portuguese pastry shops, which sometimes also sell them unstuffed. During the summer, vendors will walk along beaches from north to south of the country selling them.
Nowadays, as the product became increasingly popular, new flavors have surfaced, but nothing beats the original.
You may confuse it with the French “original” crème brûlée, which actually originated from England. It was called burnt cream and it’s a very old English recipe, flavored with vanilla pods. However, there is a difference between the Portuguese leite-creme and crème brûlée: it’s cooked on a stovetop and stirred constantly, while the brûlée is made in the oven in a water bath.
Leite-creme is one of the most popular and common desserts of any restaurant, from the simplest to the most exquisite. Here’s an easy recipe so that you can try it yourself!
The brigadeiro is one of the most famous traditional Brazilian sweets but it’s also appreciated all over the world, and Portugal is no exception. From north to south of the country, the number of specialized confectioneries keeps multiplying. It’s now a popular Portuguese dessert, often appearing on birthdays and sometimes even weddings!
The traditional version is made with only condensed milk and chocolate, but nowadays you may find brigadeiros of several flavors and with various ingredients. Check out this yummy recipe!
12. Bolo de Arroz
There isn’t a café or pastry shop in Portugal that doesn’t sell the popularly appreciated rice cake (also called rice muffin or rice cupcake).
Although traditionally it’s most commonly eaten for breakfast, accompanied by a warm latte, it may be eaten at any time of the day, even as a dessert.
Here’s a recipe for the Portuguese rice muffins with a hint of lemon and a delightful sugar crust.
13. Salame de chocolate
Salame de Chocolate (literally chocolate salami) is a sweet typical of Portugal and Italy. One of the favorite desserts of the little ones, but also irresistible for adults. It’s made with chocolate, biscuits, butter, eggs, and sometimes port wine.
It is not made from meat, unlike traditional salamis, after which this version is modeled. Chocolate and biscuit pieces replace the meat and fat found in a traditional salami. Some variants also contain chopped walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.
In Portugal, it is common to find chocolate salami in pastry shops and supermarkets, but many people also choose to make it at home.
14. Ovos moles
Ovos moles (literally soft eggs) is a creamy sweet made with egg yolks and sugar syrup, usually featured in desserts, ice creams, and cake fillings, such as pão de ló and walnut cake. This sweet belongs to the category of Portuguese conventual sweets, characterized, mostly, by large quantities of sugar, egg yolks, and almonds.
Aveiro city‘s ovos moles are especially famous, as it’s where they are considered to have originated, in Aveiro’s Monastery of Jesus. The nuns used the egg white to iron their habits and made the yolks the basis for the sweet-making so that they would not be wasted. Once the convents were extinguished, the production of ovos moles persisted, thanks to ladies educated by the nuns.
Learn here how to make ovos moles like they do in Aveiro.
15. Pastel de feijão
Pastel de feijão is a typical Portuguese sweet, produced in Torres Vedras since the late nineteenth century. Although the recipe varies a little depending on the manufacturer, its basic ingredients are almonds and white baked beans.
The amount of sugar, eggs, and almonds in your recipe indicates that pastel de feijão must have a conventual origin. But in actuality, it was an inhabitant of Torres Vedras who started to make them frequently, gaining fame as the news of the sweet spread through the country.
The blend of ingredients is unusual: after all, the appearance of beans in typical Portuguese sweets is not very common. Either way, the result is surprisingly delicious! Learn here how to make these wonderful bean pasties.
16. Bolachas Húngaras
Húngaras (literally Hungarian cookies, though no one really knows why) are very tasty and easy to make. They’re ideal to bring to a friend’s house as a snack or to put on the table at birthday parties. The best thing about these cookies is that they combine delicious butter biscuits with chocolate, and who can resist a good chocolate cookie?
My godmother used to treat me and my brother to a dozen of these every Sunday morning! Even though I never had much of a sweet tooth, I’d still manage to eat them all before lunchtime.
Make your own by following this recipe!
17. Pastel de Tentúgal
The Pastel de Tentúgal is a conventual typical Portuguese sweet, created by the Carmelite Nuns of the Carmel of Tentúgal and made since the late nineteenth century. This sweet was one of the finalists for the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy.
The confection of the pasties is very sensitive and its properties are altered, depending on the characteristics of the flours, eggs, and atmospherical conditions, as well as the human component in which the art of the pastry maker has a primordial influence in all its confection.
If you want to try to achieve the perfect pastie, then follow this recipe carefully.
18. Pão de Ló
Pão de Ló, also called spongy cake, is a cake (sometimes can be regarded as a sweet) created by the Genoese cook Giovan Battista Cabona. His original recipe uses eggs, sugar, and wheat flour, without any yeast or syrup. In Portugal, it was made by nuns, therefore, very heavy on eggs.
The recipe was taken to Japan in the sixteenth century by the first Portuguese sailors. As it was called Pão de Castela at the time, the Japanese adopted the recipe and adapting the name to Kasutera, still one of the most typical cakes in Japan.
In Portugal, there are modified versions of the Pão de Ló recipe which became symbols of their regions, especially that of Ovar, characterized by its ovos moles filling.
Try the traditional Pão de Ló after following this recipe!
Portuguese Christmas desserts
Rabanadas is a guest of honor of many Christmas tables in Portugal. It’s a sweet made out of wheat bread slices (loaf, baguette, or others) that are soaked in milk, sometimes wine (port wine works best), and dumped in eggs to then be fried or baked. Usually served with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, and maple syrup or honey.
In the United Kingdom and in English-speaking countries, as well as in Japan, a similar version is known as “French Toast”.
Make it as a Christmas dessert, breakfast, or just any time you feel like having a sweet treat.
Aletria is, in fact, the name of a fine-yarn pasta used to make soups and sweets. It was most likely brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the eighth or ninth century. It prevailed in Portugal and was incorporated into Portuguese cuisine, going on to become homonymous with the mass of those very same thin yarns, with which is prepared a typical Christmas sweet, present in almost all regions of the country.
In each location, aletria shows particularities – greater or lesser amount of mass, with or without yolks, solid or runny consistency. But there’s one rule most seem to respect: always sprinkle the aletria dish with cinnamon creating a grid pattern.
Click here to find out how to make it.
The undisputed king of the Christmas season, the bolo rei (king cake in English) is rich in ingredients and flavor, a true must-have at any Christmas table. It symbolizes the arrival of the three wise men and their gifts: the golden hue of the crust represents gold, the aroma represents incense, and the fruits represent myrrh.
Shaped like a crown, it’s made of a fluffy white dough mixed with raisins, dried fruits, and candied fruit. In the past, there was also a dry fava bean and a small metal token inside the cake. Anyone who found the fava bean in their slice would have to pay for the next bolo rei, whoever found the token would be bestowed with good fortune for the following year.
Follow this step-by-step and learn how to make your own homemade bolo rei!
Likely originating from France, bolo rainha (queen cake) is a great alternative to the traditional bolo rei, for both Christmas and King’s Day celebrations. This version only contains dried fruits and is therefore especially appreciated by those who aren’t big fans of candied fruits. Bolo rainha is increasingly in demand and is already a Christmas season tradition.
It’s light, airy, and simple to make. Learn how to, here!
Filhós are also known as Christmas fritters. They are sweet pastries, made with flour and eggs, sometimes also with pumpkin and orange zest. They are fried in olive or vegetable oil and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Their dough is very thin, crunchy, tasty, and surprisingly not oily. Popular throughout Portugal, but they originate from the Beiras region.
Christmas day means a full table, so it’s naturally a busy day in the kitchen. A lot of people get up early to do whatever it takes to have a full, showy table. This is the kind of sweet that is even better in the following days, so it should be done one or even two days before the date of consumption.
Here’s a great recipe for pumpkin filhós.
Sonho de Natal (meaning Christmas dream) or simply sonho is a typical sweet of Portuguese cuisine, traditionally consumed during the holiday season.
These are fried and molded in a round shape, and they display an orange outer hue and a yellowish tinge inside. Its ingredients include milk, lemon peel, salt, wheat flour, eggs, and oil, for frying.
The dough is prepared in several steps, involving the boiling of the milk with the lemon peel and the flour and the addition of the eggs. Then follows the frying, by placing spoonfuls of dough in hot oil, molded in the form of a ball, that must fry evenly throughout. During frying, sonhos usually turn on their own.
They may be served sprinkled only with sugar, with a combination of sugar and cinnamon, or with syrup. Check out this recipe to learn how to make this festive Portuguese dessert.
25. Tronco de Natal
Tronco de Natal (meaning Christmas log, similar to Yule Log) is a Portuguese dessert typically served during the Christmas season, likely based on the French wintertime dessert called Bûche de Noël. As the name implies, the cake is commonly prepared, presented, and garnished so that it resembles a genuine piece of wood about to be burned, like in the ancient winter solstice fire festivals.
The traditional log is made from pão de ló; usually cooked in a large, shallow baking sheet, then frozen, rolled up in a cylinder, and frozen again from the outside. The most common combination is a basic yellow sponge cake, frozen and stuffed with chocolate and buttercream; however, there are many variations of the original recipe, which may include chocolate cake, ganache, and espresso, along with various flavors of frosting, and fillings. These cakes are often decorated with a refined sugar to look like snow; while tree branches, seeds, and mushrooms are made of meringue.
Check out this easier version of the recipe, so you can try it at home even if you’re not a pastry chef.
Are there any other Portuguese dessert that deserve to be on this list? Share it in the comment box below!